Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

The grand old year of 2011 ends in about six hours for me.

It's been an interesting year, to say the least.  There have been some high points and some low points, but I guess it about evens out.


  • My student teaching
  • Graduating
  • Coming to Korea
  • All the awesome people I've gotten to know
    • From Publix this summer:
      • Barbara
      • Olena
      • Natalaia
      • Christian
      • Slade
    • Here in Korealand: (order of meeting)
      • Esther
      • Donald
      • Casey
      • Jesse
      • Claire
      • Sophie
      • My Students
      • SK
      • Michael B
      • MY
  • My good health
  • Meeting someone special
  • My mother's passing away
  • Derrick's cancer
  • The breakup - I'm glad it happened, but it still hurt to end a long-term relationship.  Since I've now learned he reads this blog occasionally I want him to know that I hope both of us have a much better year and that our lives get better every day.  Even if he did send me a really nasty message just to make himself feel better.  I hope he eventually finds someone.
The positives outnumber the negatives, but the negatives are so much worse than the positives that they ultimately balance out.  Add that to the mixed group and 2011 comes out to be a nice shade of gray.  Hopefully 2012 will be much better.

I suppose what comes next is the New Year's Resolutions.  In previous years I haven't really made any, choosing to not make promises I can't keep, but, since I've already started working on these it can't hurt to continue them.

So, New Year's Resolutions:
  • Continue to save over half of my paycheck every month.  
  • Keep experiencing new things
  • Surround myself with people that make me happy and who I make happy in return
  • Work at becoming a better teacher
  • Continue to exercise and get in better shape.
  • Become a better person every day
I know these resolutions aren't very detailed, but I'm not good at keeping detailed goals, so this is better.  As long as I keep these things in mind I should be able to fulfill them.

I hope everyone else has an amazing New Year's Eve and New Year's Day!

Random:  The year of 2011 is about thirteen hours shorter for me because I'm ending it on a different continent from where I began it.  Isn't that amusing?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Breaking an Addiction

I discovered this week that I have an addiction.

Yes, it's true.

I can hardly believe it myself.

I'm addicted to my computer.

Yes, to you older generation folks out there this sounds silly, but think about it.

Due to my lovely father's interest in computers I first played with one at the grand old age of three.  Sure, I went another twelve years before I got my first personal computer, but the addiction started then.

It crept up on me slowly.

Between the ages of three and nine I only used a computer rarely to play educational games at home or school.  I didn't even know how to type and asking me to navigate a search engine was scary, but I still liked computers.  I also played some non-educational games at home like SimAnt, SimTown, or SimPark.

At the age of nine I watched my dad play Diablo and Age of Empires.  I tried playing Age of Empires on my own, I did horribly, but I still loved it.  At the age of ten I saw my dad begin to play Everquest.  I found it fascinating.  He let me make a character and I stumbled around in that world.  It was at that point I realized that I loved computers and that I wanted one.

Unfortunately they were expensive and neither of my parents had the funds to get me a computer to explore with on my own.  I did have an old one at my dad's that I shared with my sister.  This lasted until I was eleven and my sister and I moved to Florida with our mother, thus cutting off my biweekly access to a computer.

At the age of eleven (almost twelve, months after the move) my mother got a new desktop computer and gave the old one to my sister and me.  It was then we discovered the Sims.  It was amazing.  It was also at the age of eleven that I took an intensive nine week typing class at school.  Needless to say I now know how to type, in fact, I sometimes shock people with how fast I can type and I never have to look at the keyboard anymore either (haven't since I was fourteen actually).

Between the ages of eleven and fourteen I learned to use Microsoft Word and search engines since the computer broke a lot and my mother never left me with much time to be on the computer.

In high school is when my addiction started growing again.  We moved and my dad moved and so we went to his place every other weekend.  About when I was fifteen my dad's condo was built and somehow my sister and I ended up with desktops at his place.  It was then I truly started gaming.  I discovered a world full of endless games either online or not.  At this time my experience with computers didn't go far outside of schoolwork or gaming.

At school I learned more about search engines and Microsoft Powerpoint for projects, Microsoft Word for essays and Microsoft Excel for AFJROTC.  The world of computer was slowly opening up for me.  I also gained a social life online as my classmates also discovered the joys of the computer.  We were all on AIM every night as we talked and avoided homework.  We were also getting into blogging and I regret to say I had a blurty that was nothing more than the idle ramblings of a teenage girl.  It's highly embarrassing and I'm glad it's gone.

Then came college.  This is when my addiction truly became an addiction.  I got my first laptop at the beginning of college.  At first none of my classes really required the internet, though I did have to type things up on occasion.  Slowly though, as the years rolled by, more and more of my education and entertainment revolved around the computer.

If I wanted to watch a movie or tv show, going to Netflix or Hulu was easier than going to the television.  Plus, if it got boring, I could go read an article or something.  As for articles...any news or humorous thing I wanted to read was online.  I can even read books now through the Kindle Cloud Reader on Google Chrome.  If I want to play a game I play it on the computer.  If I want to write it's much easier to type then pull out a pen and paper.

Basically, my life revolves around my computer.  It's been a slow process that's taken two decades, but it happened and I really can't see any way around it.  I need my computer for work.  I need it to talk with all of you back in the states.  I need it to store my pictures and videos.  I need it to store my music.  None of these things can be done physically due to the fact I'm in a foreign country and quite a few of these things I ONLY have in digital format.

I can't see this changing anytime in the future.  So, yes, I'm addicted to my computer, but it's also as necessary to my life as air is in many ways.

This addiction caused me to go a little crazy this week.  I ended up sleeping a lot more, caught up on my reading (on my kindle, so still a computer), or even doing some drawing (something I haven't done since high school).  It was an enlightening experience, but one I don't really want to experience again.

I do think I am going to try and cut down on my computer time in the future though.  Spend more time doing things away from my computer, like reading, but we'll see.  It's not like I can cut it out of my life.

Well, there's my horrible addiction.  I'm sure it's shared by my dad and sister.  Who else shares this lovely addiction with me I wonder?  If you do, do you recognize it?  Are you willing to admit it?



Are you?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Surprises

The morning of Christmas Eve here in Changwon, South Korea dawned with bright blue skys and a biting cold wind.  The streams wer coated in ice and the people bundled from head to toe.

About five hours north of us sat Seoul, a city full of souls all covered in snow.  They got a white Christmas, it's true, but I bet my Christmas was much prettier, even without the snow.

I spent the morning relaxing on my bed, chatting with my sister on Skype, and watching an anime show with her.  It was a great way to spend the morning of Christmas Eve.

Along about mid-afternoon I wandered down to the bus terminal and met my date.  We went on some nice walks, ate italian food, had Christmas cake, and I taught him how to play the card game Speed.

Christmas Day also dawned bright and cheery.  I saw him again, we ate, window shopped, and talked quite a bit.  Then I saw him off and went home to fiddle with my computer, which decided to break sometime between when I finished talking with Elinore on Christmas Eve morning and the afternoon of Christmas Day.

After I gave up on the computer (I got frustrated you see), I made sure I had more backups of my files and then I started to catch up on my reading. 

While working on my computer my phone dinged.  I think it's just junkmail, because that's all I tend to recieve around 1700 in terms of email.  Everyone in the states is sound asleep you see and everyone here sends me messages on texts or through kakao.

I unlock my phone and open up my email, only to see a surprise.  A message from Z tittled "Hello Stranger".  I wonder if he just decided to send me a little Christmas note or something, since we hadn't talked in almost two months and then we agreed to not talk for a year (minimum).  I did send him a message on twitter (because I unfriended him on Skype, Facebook, and almost everything else and didn't want to send an email, where I might be tempted to get too wordy) a little over a week ago.  The reason for this is because we agreed to let each other know when we started dating again (when we broke up we agreed to this). 

I sent:
Just fyi. So you hear it from me, I am moving on. Merry Christmas, hope you're having fun in Utah.
I know it may've been a little abrupt, but really, how are you supposed to talk to the person you dated for almost five years after you break up?  I don't think it was rude though, and it certainly didn't warrant the response I got.  Really, I expected no response, so thought nothing else about him or the message until around 1700 on Christmas Day.

Summary of his message to me:
Some things about the message I sent.

Some really nasty words.

Some compliments.
And a really backhanded compliment. 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
If he expected this message to hurt me, it failed.  It really, truly failed.  I was more shocked than anything.  Shocked that he would write it and shocked that he would send it at the time he did.  He's smart, he knows what time and day it was for me when he sent that.  I tried to go through this breakup without saying anything negative about him at all.  I always said the breakup was mutual and that we had just grown apart over the years.  We'd been crossing paths without really meeting.

The closest I came to negative was a poem and even that wasn't truly negative, more an expression of my feelings and if he read it then that meant he went and visited my fictionpress account on his own, I wasn't trying to get him to read it.

I would've never thought he was capable of writing something like that.  I guess I didn't know him as well as I thought I did and I'm very glad I'm not with him anymore.  I suppose I could say mean things about him, but what would be the point?  I'd just lower myself and he's apparently not worth it.  I am glad though that he's finally figured out what he wants to do with his life.

As for him saying he just wanted to get it off his chest.  Really, that's a very selfish reason to say anything.  Sure, there were things I wanted to get off my chest when we broke up, but I said them to Elinore or Nicole.  They understood, they let me vent, and then I felt better and I didn't hurt anyone to make myself feel better.  Another sign that makes me realize I'm better off now.

So, after that little email I sent it to some of my family members, I was in a state of shock.  I just couldn't believe that he would write that.  After this I read some news online and then pulled out my kindle and caught up on my reading.

About 2330 I got my family on Skype (on my phone) and watched as they went about their Christmas Morning - which included them messing up installing Skyp on my sister's computer. 

Then they put her computer in the white chair in the living room, the one I've sat in on Christmas Morning for the past twelve years and I watched as they opened the gifts I sent them.  Needless to say I got rather teary-eyed as they did their normal banter and opened my gifts. 

I love being in Korealand, but for that one moment I wanted to be back in the US of A.  With a cup of coffee in one hand, wrapped in my fuzzy bathrobe and just enjoying Christmas Morning with the family.

I had a great Christmas, much better than Thanksgiving, and it was rather better than I expected it would be.  I'm sad I wasn't with my family, but I'm glad I'm in Korealand.  I also had an amazing time on my date, he's very sweet and a lot of fun to talk with.
The Surprises of the Weekend:
  • Good:
    • My date
    • Talking with my family
    • The weather
  • Bad:
    • Computer died
    • Z's message
I think the good outweighed the bad.  Z is now out of my life forever, there's no way I could ever be friends with him down the line after an email like that.  My computer is being fixed as we speak, I'll get to pick it up tomorrow morning.  Right now I'm writing this from a PC-bang. 

I'll write about my week without a computer tomorrow.  Right now I'm going to go grab some food and then head on over to work.  We're starting Winter Immersion today so I have no planning time from 1300-1500, instead we have an extra class.  More on that later.

Love you all and Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Questions and Answers Part 1

Most of the following questions are from Aunt Diana, but there are some from other sources.  We'll start with Aunt Diana's though:
From your initial video introduction to your apartment it appears that property owners use their land to grow food.  Is this common?  What would be a normal Korean daily menu?
No, most don't use their land to grow crops.  Typically a house takes up an entire lot.  The empty lots are the ones that become gardens.  I'm not sure if they're owned by someone living in a house next door or what, but I typically see only the same people working in them.  There are also little gardens in the oddest places, like on a hill in a park.  My guess is that the food grown there is for the many people selling fruits and veggies on the street corners or in the market downtown.

A normal Korean menu is quite various.   Typically a breakfast consists of rice, some fruit, and the typical traditional sidedishes (various kimchis and other little things, like pickled radish).  Lunch is usually something hot with rice and kimchi.  Dinner usually includes rice and kimchi also.  If lunch or dinner include noodles the rice is left out, but there is almost always kimchi.
In a city, such as where you live, it seems to me that it is common for places to be open late, as it is in the State.  Is this true for the country side of Korea?  If you have to get up at the crack of dawn to care for livestock I think that the "normal" lifestyle would be quite different. 
Yes, places are usually open until 10pm (name-brand stores and some restaurants), 11pm (grocery stores and some restaurants), 12am (coffee shops and restaurants), 6am or whenever they have no more customers (bars, clubs, noraebangs, restaurants), and never closing (pc rooms, dvd rooms, some coffee shops, Mcdonalds).

I know there are others, but that's all I can think of right now.

I have no idea about the countryside since I don't live there.  I'm pretty sure they have much different hours from people in the cities though.
I also have questions about the schooling system.
I'll talk about the schooling system here at a later date, when I understand it better...
Stay warm.  I always found layering the best.  My solution to cold weather was to wear tights, then long johns or leggings, then pants, and if it was to be terrifically cold or I was to be outside for a long time, then a pair of sweat pants on top of all of that.  Talk about feeling like a Michelin tire man or Pillsbury dough -boy!
You don't wear sweatpants in Korea unless you're out jogging, at the gym, or running from your apartment to the nearby convenience store late at night to grab something.  Even the most sloppily dressed people here are typically very well put together and even fashionable by American standards.

I tend to wear quite a few layers of stockings or leggings, or even both.  I think at one point I had three layers on when I was in Daejeon and as long as I was moving it was more than warm enough.  Plus, my legs still looked good.  (Yes, I'm becoming a slightly vain person and refusing to leave my apartment unless I look my best, this is helped along by the fact that I know people stare at me wherever I go)
Why do you, and other bloggers, say "Korealand" instead of Korea?  What do the Koreans call their country? E.g., Germans call their country Deutschland, Austirans live in Oesterreich, etc.
Hangul (한글) is the Korean alphabet.  Hangukeo (한국어) is the Korean language. Hangook (한국) is Korea.

Though, technically, South Korea is the Republic of Korea.

I think we call it Korealand to show our affection for the country.  Like a pet name of sorts.  Granted, I'm also calling America the US of A.  Just my way of showing affection for these two countries while giving my blog a little bit of personality.  I didn't really think about it, I just started doing it.
Some answers to food questions, please?  You mention various foods that you are eating, and I have no clue what they are and you do not describe them.  Maybe everyone in Korea knows what it is, but this ignorant American is clueless.  Please, describe.
Last post I mentioned:

  • Porridge - I sure hope all of you know what that is.  If not, it's like oatmeal, but thinner and with more hearty and less sweet tastes.  I like the pumpkin one, though the mushroom one is good too.
  • Sandwich - Two slices of bread with yummy things inbetween.
  • Gimbap (김밥) - is pictured in this blog entry.  It's the stuff wrapped in seaweed.
  • Ramyun (라 면) - that's the Korean way of pronouncing ramen. 
  • Ramyun at a Japanese restaurant with Korean sidedishes.
    Cup Ramyun from a FamilyMart.
The rest of the foods mentioned (whole wheat pasta, eggs, capers, tuna, lemon juice, etc) are all found in the United States quite easily.

Oh, kimchi (김치), if you don't know, is pickled and spiced vegetables (usually cabbage).  Similar to German saurkraut, just with a lot more variety and spices.  It's such a diverse and interesting food item that it deserves a post of it's own one day.
Have you started learning much Korean?  How is that coming along?  I suspect it might be hard for westerners as they make different sounds and have different grammar.
My Korean is going slow, though I now know about as much now as I know of German (and that was after four years...yeah, I was a bad student).   The sounds are difficult, but in terms of grammar I'm doing okay.  Probably because the system is SOV (subject-object-verb), like German.  So I'm already familiar with the basic setup.  It does take some getting used to the fact that there are no articles.  I feel like I'm talking like a baby when I say a sentence, even if it is correct.  I'm glad I don't have to learn articles, but it feels weird not to have them.

And there ends all of Aunt Diana's questions.

Here's one from Uncle Bert:
Date, huh?
Yes, a date.  And I quite enjoyed it.

From Aunt Susie:
Got any plans for Christmas day?   
I have plans for Christmas eve, as for Christmas day I have no plans at the moment, but things have a way of just happening here, so we'll see.  I do know at midnight I'll be Skyping Apple Jack's house and watching them open the presents I sent.

From Kay-Kay:
Family up in Michigan are reading your blog.  They all want to know about your date.  Is he Caucasian or Korean?  Anything else?
 He's Korean.  He speaks amazing English and he's been to the US of A and other countries on business.

And that's all for this question and answer session, though I have the feeling I'll be doing more of these and that's why this is labeled 'Part 1'.

I may have another post up before Christmas, but I may not.  If not y'all have a Merry Christmas!  Don't eat too much!  Or shop too much!

Love you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Garlic Pork and Rice

I cooked last night.  I mean, really cooked.  For the first time since I arrived in Korealand.

Not that I've been eating out every night, but even when I ate at home I wouldn't call what I made really cooking.

I've been grabbing porridge or gimbap on my way home from Lotte.  Or a sandwich from Paris Baguette.  Or making Ramyun at home.  Or scrambling up some eggs.  There was one night where I made some whole wheat pasta with tuna fish, capers, and lemon juice, but it wasn't anything special and only required me to dump things in a pot.

Last night I decided to break in my rice cooker and brand new large frying pan (the old one was rusty and disturbing).

So I went by Lotte after work, bought tofu, pork, cucumber, garlic, and onion.  Then I went on home to make some real food.  Though what I made cant be found in any recipe book...
  • ground pork
  • semi-firm tofu square
  • one cucumber
  • one onion
  • nine cloves of garlic
  • can of corn
  • white rice
  • olive oil
  • oregano
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • chili powder
I rinsed the white rice and then put it aside until I was further along with the rest.
I'm not sure what type of rice it was, but it was really small and delicate
My ingredients.  I have left over onion and garlic, which I'll probably use this weekend.

I sliced and chopped the cucumber and onions and threw them in some olive oil in the frying pan.
Still really raw looking
Next came the garlic.  Since I don't have a mincer I just sliced them as thin as I could.
Nine little cloves
I tossed the garlic in the frying pan and soon it began to start cooking.
Beginning to look appetizing.
Now that my veggies were beginning to cook I decided to start the rice.
Looks appetizing, doesn't it?

Yes, my rice cooker is on my window sill, only place it will fit that's near a plug...
Now that the veggies were on their way to epic yumminess I decided to toss in the ground pork and corn.
It's a little raw looking...
It didn't take long though for it to look much yummier.
Almost looks like food here.
This was my first time cooking with tofu so I wasn't quite sure what I was doing with it.  I ended up just crumbling it up and tossing it in.  I also added black pepper, chili powder, and oregano. 
White stuff is the tofu
The rice wasn't quite done yet, which was perfect, so I put my veggie, tofu, and pork mix into the rice cooker.
Mixed it all in with the rice.
Then I let it all finish cooking and sit on warm for a little while.  Didn't take long until it was done.
All done!
Only thing left to do was serve it.

Had enough for dinner and lots of leftovers
I ended up adding a bit of salt at the end since I don't typically add salt while I'm cooking.  It's much healthier to add it after since adding salt while cooking makes it hard to taste, which makes you add more, which is really unhealthy.

It was delicious and I will definitely be making it again sometime.

No, I don't have amounts for the spices I put in.  I never measure them while cooking, only baking.

We'll see what other yummy things I can come up with only using one burner and a rice cooker.  I know some people have made brownies in their rice cooker, so I'll probably give that a try sometime.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Totally Coolness

So, after arriving here I was very sad to learn that Hulu and Netflix won't work over here.  They only work in the United States.

This means I went from having almost any movie and tvshow available at my fingertips to having to slog through shady websites just to get a fuzzy copy of the latest episode of Castle or Panam.

Well no longer!  Mwhahahahaha!!!!

Found a blogger talking about using Anchor Free, to hide their IP Address.  Just downloaded it and tried it out and it works!

Hulu and Netflix are once again at my fingertips and I couldn't be happier!!!  So, Apple Jack, expect your Netflix account to start showing more things watched as I now have access to it again!  Yay!

Can you tell I'm excited?

Fifty-Five Years Ago

On this day, fifty-five years ago, my mother was born. 

A year ago today I took her out for her birthday with my sister.

We took my sister’s car since it was difficult for my mom to get in and out of my little car.  Elinore and I picked our mom up and we went across the bridge to Destin.  We grabbed dinner at the Olive Garden and for the first and only time my mother and I drank wine together in public.  I felt like a true grown-up with her for the first time. 

After dinner we all went over to the Rave at Destin Commons and watched Tangled together in 3D.  That was the first and only time my mother saw a film in the new 3D style.  She loved it and the movie and couldn’t stop raving about it.  For one night she was the mother I remembered from my childhood, making no demands on me or forcing me to feel guilty about things outside of my control.  As we drove back across the bridge, listening to Christmas music, I wondered if we’d ever get to do this again.  I didn’t know where I’d be for her birthday this year, so thought it quite possible I wouldn’t be able to see her, though I assumed she and Elinore would do something together.

Little did I know that this year she’d be at Barrancas and I’d be in Korealand.

Things can change so fast, something that’s easy to forget when your life is the same for so long…

This was the last time I spent all day with her.

From January to April I was too busy doing my student teaching to see anyone.

For the month of May I was out of town, though I did see her when she went to lunch with my sister.

During June, July, and August I talked to her a few times on the phone, but only saw her once.

We met at Whataburger at about 2200 and I bought her a burger.  We just chit-chatted and I showed her some things I had written.  She liked them and ended up giving me a Weird Al CD to give my dad on his birthday.  I paid her back for it.  We parted after about an hour and she gave me some homemade cake.  I didn’t eat the cake because her kitchen wasn’t the cleanest and my sister had gotten sick from eating things at her house before, but I still took it with a smile and a hug and thanked her for it.

That was the last time I hugged her...

That was the last time I saw her alive, or, rather, at all, until I saw her resting in a cherry box no larger than a shoebox.

I carried her to her final resting place and I suppose it’s rather symbolic.  All the years I tried to take care of her, trying to save her from herself, with her fighting me every step of the way, they were finally over.  I hadn’t been able to save her, but I was able to finally carry her.

I walked under the blazing sun, my black dress making me think that I was suffocating, carrying my mother in my arms, with my sister by my side carrying her flag, and I realized that all my efforts had been futile.

I wasn’t able to save her from herself, because the only person that can save you from yourself is you.

A year ago if you had asked me what I would do if I won the lottery, my answer would’ve been simple, after all, it’s been the same wish for years.

I would make sure my mother was taken care of for the rest of her life.  Sure, there were little things in there also, like a new computer or car or something, but those always came after her in order of importance and they tended to change depending on the time of year and point in my life.

And if you ask me now?

I have no idea.  I’d probably just let it collect for awhile and keep living my life as I am now. 

Well, maybe I’d buy myself a new computer and a couple nice clothing items, but not enough to make a dent in the winnings. 

For so many years my mother dominated my life, even when she wasn’t actively in it or on my thoughts and now I suddenly find various parts of my life at loose ends because she’s no longer there.

Is this what’s going to happen when my other family members begin to pass away?  Will the void they leave behind become so large that it consumes me?  Or will I find new people to love and care about to, if not take their place, help fill up some of the void?

I hope so; I can’t imagine living a life without anyone to love or care for.

After all, what is life without people to love?

Yes, I know it's still the 19th in the US of A, but it's the 20th in Korealand.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kim Jong-Il - 김정일

To those of you that don't watch the news or see my posts in Facebook:

Kim Jong-Il, the former President of North Korea, is dead.

There are articles all over the place about it now, but when my phone beeped at a little after 1200 and my CNN International App was telling me he was dead there was nothing yet.  He died on Saturday, but North Korea kept it a secret until now.

A lot of people are wondering what's going to happen and South Korea's military has gone on alert.  I'm sure the US military stationed here is also on alert.

No one knows what his successor, Kim Jong-Eun - 김정은, will do.  Some Koreans appear concerned, but others just shrug and go about their day.  I want to remind you that I'm about as far south as I can get while staying in Korealand.

I'll keep y'all posted and we'll just see what happens over the next couple of months.
Casey and I both agree that the crying in the video in the second BBC article doesn't seem very real.  I'm sure many of them are crying for fear of what would happen if they don't seem sad.

GRE in Daejeon

I had Friday off of work because (due to bus and train schedules) I had to head to Daejeon on Friday for my test on Saturday morning.

I got up at about 0630 on Friday, took a shower, ate, and packed.  Then I headed to the Changwon bus terminal and took the 0900 bus to Daejeon.

There were only about five or six people on the bus with me, rather empty.  I read: "The Great Depression: A Diary" on my Kindle.  Just reading about that time period and all the gives me a chill.  It's also interesting because he spends a lot of time talking about stocks rising and falling and then there are notes from ten or more years in the future comparing them.

The buses here have no bathrooms so we stopped halfway to Daejeon at a rest stop that reminded me a lot of the ones in Europe.  Except that all the foods were Korean and not German or Italian.

I ended up getting to Daejeon at about noon.  Grabbed a coffee from Paris Baguette and then took a taxi to KAIST.  It was about 7000 Won, but was much easier than the bus.  Since I would've had to take two different buses to get there.  Also, I'm not sure what the temperature was, but there was ice in various spots on the sidewalk.

Weather in Daejeon according to a weather site.

I'm really, really glad I had the extra time to look around KAIST in order to locate the building my test was in.    All I had was this:
Only useful thing was that I was looking for building N4...
Walked around campus for forever (it's a huge campus).  Finally found the N buildings and wandered around looking for a sign.  I finally found this one:

Second from the top is the building I was looking for
So I headed off in the right direction and kept walking, looking for either a N4 or the name of the building.  When I reach the athletic center and only saw E buildings beyond it I knew that I was missing something, so I go in the Athletic Center and ask at the Information Desk.  He finds a map and we discover that the building I'm looking for is the one right next door.  There's no N4 on it and this is the name on it:
Was it too much to trust a sign?
I go wandering through the building and finally find the room:
Found it!
I then went and wandered around town some.  Took lots of pictures and even some videos.  I left my camera at work on accident and so took my video camera instead (which can also take pictures as well as film in HD), this led to some awesome videos and pictures for y'all.


The almost impossible to find building...

A view of KAIST
Look!  I found Olive Garden!
Awesome Bridge

More artisitc shot of the awesome bridge


More ice!

For some reason I felt the urge to take pictures of all the ice I saw...

Probably because I'm from Florida.

So spooky and grim, and yet still beautiful to me

Yes, I find this beautiful, maybe I have issues...

Those crazy, crazy birds....I will never understand them!

Okay, y'all are first, first in what?

So much traffic!

I think everyone's heading downtown for some reason...
I ended up wandering inside of an E-Traders, which is like Sam's Club, to get warm and try to find food.  Ended up getting distracted by the pet shop there and the most adorable Yorkie puppy I've seen since Lily.
Isn't he adorable!?!?!?!?!
After I left E-Traders I had some misunderstandings on which bus to take, but ended up getting to the place I was staying at for the night.

I originally planned to just stay in a motel during my stay in Daejeon, but after some time on the Waygook site I discovered Couchsurfing.  So about a month ago I contacted this couple and requested to stay with them.  They're both teachers at public schools in Daejeon and seemed really nice.  She's from Idaho and he's from Indiana.  They met in college, got married, and then decided to come teach in Korealand.  He has an Education Degree and she has an English Degree.  They both teach in high schools here.

They have a two bedroom place and I stayed on the futon in the spare room.  If you remember my talk about bathrooms you'll remember the Wrong Switch type, which is what they had.  And I was right, showering with a sink right next to you is a little awkward.  I definitely prefer my style, even if it means not having a sink in my bathroom.  It was pretty cool though that they had a fan in their bathroom, probably because it has no window.
Christmas tree I slept next to!
Josiah and Jenelle are also big gamers and fantasy fans.  Shes just as much of a Harry Potter lover as I am, if not more.  They have a Wii, xbox 360, and PS3.  We played some Mario Kart on the Wii and Josiah is currently addicted to playing Skyrim on the PS3.

They also have the basic Settlers of Catan game and two expansions.  Needless to say that after Jenelle made a totally awesome spaghetti dish we played Settlers of Catan.  They reminded me a lot of Michael and Kristen.  In fact, the resemblance (in terms of likes and beliefs) was rather eerie.  Maybe that's why I felt so comfortable with them.
Settlers of Catan!
Josiah, Jenelle, and the kitten (Juno).  Jupiter (the older cat) didn't want a picture...
The next morning I woke up really early, grabbed a shower in the Wrong Switch bathroom and left.  I walked downtown and ate breakfast at one of the few coffee shops open early in the morning.  I had a bagel with ham, egg, and cheese on it.  Not my normal cereal, but it was delicious and there's nothing like having a hot breakfast on a cold morning right before a test.

I missed the 604 bus and since the wait was so long I ended up grabbing a taxi to KAIST so I wouldn't be late.  I went straight to the building, grabbed some hot coffee from a vending machine to warm up and proceeded upstairs to my test.

I didn't find the test to be extremely difficult, though there were a couple of questions in the quantitative section I looked at and couldn't even narrow it down to two.  So I guessed.  The new test is out of 170 points instead of 800 for each section.  The total score for the old test was 1600 and the new one 340.
I ended up with:

Analytic: 161
Quantitative: 153
Total: 314

That's more than high enough for the programs I'm looking at.  As far as I or Apple Jack could tell from comparing scores I got the equivalent of a 1400 on the old test.  Or thereabouts.  Not a lot of data yet from which to figure this out with.

I'm pretty happy with my score.  I'll find out the score on the writing section in about a month, but that score isn't typically very important.

After the test I hopped on the 604 back downtown, walked back to their apartment, grabbed my things, said, "Thank you," again and left.

Ultimately had a great time in Daejeon and had a great trip.  I know most people say there isn't much to see there, but even if there isn't much to see, I'd still like to see more of it.

Other random things from the weekend:

  • Saw Tintin - It's a million times better than I expected and I am going to love going to see it again.  Dad you have GOT to go see it!  You won't be disappointed.  Everything about it was great and I really like how they transferred it from a comic book setting to a movie.  There's also lots of extra things in the background that you'll only catch if you read the comics.  I really don't think they could've done a better job.
  • Ate Eudong - Yes, I ate eudong again, I seriously have a weakness for this stuff.
  • Went on a date - y'all are going to be all over this one, I just know it...I will say nothing though, that's all you're getting for now.  So deal with it.  Love you!  
  • Tried cucumber kimchi for the first time - I think I like it even better than regular kimchi!
  • Got snowed on - just little flurries, but still totally awesome.
  • Got mistaken for a Korean - granted I had my hood up and was looking down at my phone while I walked...but blonde hair was sticking out.  They thought I could give directions in Korean...until they saw my Western features that is.  Second time that's happened too and the first time my hood wasn't even up...
  • I also drank lots and lots of coffee this weekend...
Cookies and Cream Coffee.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cooking and Furniture

Well, Aunt Diana sent me another long email (even longer) with lots and lots of questions in it.  So for the next few entries I'll be answering these questions in as much detail as I can.
Do average Korean apartments lack ovens?   Do they have microwaves, or is everything prepared on a stove top? What is a normal Korean living arrangement?  How big an apartment?  How many rooms?  How does it compare to an American apartment?  What type of furniture do they have? 
Yes, the average Korean apartment lacks an oven.  My apartment is a little basic since it has a single hotplate built into the counter.  Most are like Casey's and have a two burner gas range like this one:

Some of the more expensive ones have three burners and even a small little oven that could MAYBE fit a brownie pan.  I've only seen them in stores and some people's apartment tour videos.

The main reason ovens aren't big here is because most Korean food doesn't use an oven and most people here eat Korean food.  If you want something baked you go to a bakery or a restaurant.  It's just the way it is.  There culture isn't one based around bread, it's based on rice.  Rice doesn't require an oven, unlike bread.

I do know that they have real stoves and ovens here, because I see them for sale at the store, but most people don't have them.  I think having one is like having a six-range professional style gas stove back home.

So this in Korealand:

Is equivalent to this in the US of A:

Yes, we have microwaves.  Every convenience store has a microwave.  They love their extra appliances here.  Microwaves, toaster ovens, electric tea kettles, and rice cookers are very popular.  My apartment came with a rice cooker, but I haven't had occasion to use it yet.  I also have a microwave that works really well.

We have a toaster oven here at the school that supposedly belongs to my apartment because the first teacher, Emily, bought it and then just brought it to the school for a lesson, never taking it home.  I'm just fine leaving it at the school since I don't have room for it anyway.

I could get an electric tea kettle, but I have a serious lack of outlets in the kitchen and my tea kettle on the hotplate works just fine, so why waste my money?

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by a normal living arrangements, but I'll give it my best shot.  Land here is very expensive.  Most Koreans marry late and live at home with their parents until they do get married.  That is, if they're still in their hometown.  I know a couple of people that live on their own or have lived on their own or with roommates but they all had to find jobs away from their families.

It's a different way of viewing things and I find that it makes sense, especially with the lack of land here.  Living with your family until you get married or move to another town allows you to save money.  I know this is becoming more common in the US of A with the current economy.

My apartment is a shoebox (as seen here), but it's just fine for only me.  It's not like I'm a huge entertainer, and even if I was, the cities are set up for people to do lots of easy and cheap things outside of your house.  Casey's apartment is even smaller (as seen here).

Michael B. on the other hand has a rather large apartment feels really too big for one person.  The kitchen is twice the size of mine, he has four rooms around the size of my one room and the bathroom is twice the size.  Casey and I were in shock when we saw it.  It takes up the entire second floor of a house, the same area that has four apartments in my house.  I don't have a video of his place.  Maybe I'll get him to let me make a video, I'll ask him whenever I talk to him again.  Or if he reads this blog he can let me know.

The only guaranteed furniture in an expat's apartment is whatever it lists in the contract.  This typically includes: bed, drying rack, and wardrobe.  My apartment also came with a short night table, dining room chair, and a short dining room table (no chair necessary).

Casey's came with a shoe cabinet, short night table, and weird clothing rack thing.

Michael B's came with a desk, desk chair, couch, arm chair, bookcases, a tv stand, and a water cooler.  The water cooler is awesome because it's much cheaper to buy water for it than it is to buy the 2L bottles I use and it also gives you a continuous supply of hot water, as well as cold.  That's what we have at a work and I'd be in heaven if I had one at my apartment.  If I did though I have no clue where I would put it...

I hope I just answered those questions well enough for ya'll.  I'll answer more later.  Right now I'm going to kill fifteen minutes and then go home.  My Monday is almost over and for the folks back home it hasn't even begun yet!

Being in the future is awesome!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Someone Listened!

So, my Aunt Diana listened to me in a previous post and sent me a nice long email today.  Or was it yesterday?  Hold on, my weekend disappeared,  let me go check the timestamp... Ah, she sent it at 0230 my time Sunday morning.

Dear Katie,

I thought that I would drop you a line to let you know how much I enjoy following you blog.  You seem to be having a terrific time and appear to have blossomed into your own.  Although I do envy you your experiences, I am too picky an eater to even imagine myself eating all of the foods that you are eating and enjoying.  I will be forever culturally isolated because of my aversion to new, strange foods.  YIKES!

Can you please send me your address (the school's.)  I would love to be able to send you a card.

I am going to a Christmas party today with the canoe/kayak club that I joined.  I am planning on making "mini" sticky rolls, which I am renaming "sticky pops."  We are supposed to bring finger food and so I am trying to make them into an h'or d'oeuvres.  I will let you know if I am successful.. The plan is to make the rolled out dough very narrow.  As none of the people will know about the real sticky rolls, it is easier to impress.

How is your weather?  What is normal?  How do the Koreans deal with it?  What have you noticed as a "Floridian" that you would not have thought of before?  You could probably write a blog on the topic.  When I worked at McRae's some people would come in to buy winter clothes because they were going somewhere cold for the holidays.  Most choices were inappropriate.  WOOL, cashmere, cotton and always the best.  If a sweater looked bulky, they thought it would be warm.  A thin, woolen sweater is warmer than a bulky acrylic sweater.  

I am sure that you know about Derrick's cancer.  Margret has made a blog so she doesn't have to repeat things.  You have started a family trend!

Uncle Bert had his cancer surgery on Thursday, 12-8-11.  The surgery was successful but it takes 7-10 days for the biopsy results be returned from the lab.  He ended up with a 5 inch  scar on his face and a 2 inch scar on his neck.  He sent me his "Frankenstein" picture which I will forward to you if you are interested in seeing it.  He said he is in no pain, but when I talked to him he had been up for 29 hours.  He is taking oxycontin and a side effect is insomnia.  Who knew?

I love you, Sweetie.  Take care and enjoy yourself.  I have joined a canoe and kayak club.  In the club is a man and his wife who met in Japan teaching at the American schools, and they spent 29 years working in DOD schools abroad, Japan and Germany.  I do not know if that sounds appealing to you, but they were very happy with their lives abroad.

Merry Christmas and Happy holidays if I do not get another chance to write you.

Aunt Diana

Thank you Aunt Diana.  I really do feel like I'm coming into my own here.  I think this is for a lot of different reasons and I'm just glad to be having the time of my life.

Haha, you and the rest of that side of the family are picky eaters.  Luckily I got my taste buds from my dad's side of the family.  Except for the inability to handle extremely spicy food and no interest in big mushrooms and bugs I'll eat pretty much everything.  I may not like it a lot, but I can still handle it.  You'd be fine though, you can find a lot of common American foods here, they're just more expensive than local foods.  And ramyun (ramen) is the cheapest food of all.  And even that can be made into a filling dish by adding an egg, vegetables, or other things.  As seen in this video:

The couple in the video are Simon and Martina from Eat Your Kimchi.  They're a Canadian couple over here that have become minor Youtube celebrities.  Most of the time they're very amusing and informative, but some of their videos show they're getting a big head about their internet fame.  They're in Busan (Pusan).

Ah...sticky rolls....I miss those...and I can't make them here.  My kitchen has no oven and there isn't enough counter space anyway.  As for finding a replacement from a bakery...I don't think I've ever seen anything quiet that decadent and cinnamonny...

Okay, mouth watering now....

I hope they turn out alright for your club.  Even if they don't look the best I know they'll still be loved, because even at their ugliest sticky rolls still look totally awesome.  Let me know how they turn out and send some pictures! (If you took any...)

Well...normal right now is somewhere around 1°C (33.8°F) to 7°C (44.6°F) during the day and -2°C (28.4°F) to 2°C (35.6°F) at night.  When I came out of a club at about 0300 Saturday morning there was ice on the ground where there had been puddles just a few hours previously.  

People here tend to wear layers and big puffy jackets.  I actually very rarely wear pants here.  Preferring to be like most Korean women around my age and wear mini-skirts and shorts or dresses with stockings, leggings, or jeggings (look like jeans, but fit like leggings and are super fuzzy and warm).  When I went out the past two nights I wore two layers of thick stockings (not pantyhose, stockings), boots, short shorts, silk long john top, a turtle-neck, and a jacket.  Plus gloves or hand-warmers (arm socks), a hat, and a scarf.

Here's a picture of me from earlier this week with my new puffy jacket:

And here's one without the puffy jacket:

Yes, I am wearing pigtails.  And yes, that's what I wore to work.  Oh, and yes,  it is appropriate at my school to wear that.  Another thing that makes my job more awesome than teaching at a school in the US of A.

Guys do a little differently, or at least Michael B. and Casey do.  They wear pajama pants under their jeans...

I like my stockings better.  Plus if I really need to I can throw a third layer of leggings on over the stockings and be even warmer while still having freedom of movement and normal looking legs.

Thank you for the link to Margret's blog.  I had heard about Derrick's cancer through a convoluted grape vine that began with an incomplete text from Aunt Marcie to my dad.  I'm keeping Derrick in my thoughts and hoping everything turns out alright.  I wish there was something else I could do, but there's not, especially since I'm halfway around the world.  I did add her blog to my dashboard.  

Margret, Derrick, I love you both and wish you the best of luck right now.  All I can say is be grateful you have each other and your families nearby.

I had no idea about Uncle Bert's cancer biopsy... I did see something on Facebook but wasn't sure what it was.  No one tells me anything....

Oh, Uncle Bert, if you read this then I want you to know something you'll think is neat.  I saw you like the Baltimore Ravens, so I thought you'd find it interesting that I've met Jarret Johnson (#95 Linebacker).  He has a house in Niceville and has two awesome dogs that I took care of a couple of times.  He and his wife were very nice and paid well.

I've thought about a DoD school, but right now I'm leaning more towards ESL and International schools.  I don't know though.  I'm only twenty-three and I still have the rest of my life ahead of me.  We'll just see what happens!

I had a great weekend and to those of you back in the US of A just waking up I hope you have a great Sunday!