Friday, January 27, 2012

A Trip to the Dentist

I had an interesting experience here in Korealand today.

I went to the dentist.

We went to the Fine Dental Hospital here in the grand little city of Changwon.

Fine Dentist Hospital
This is where Jesse goes for her dental work.  She had an appointment today and cleaning (or scaling as it’s called here) doesn’t require an appointment.  So, Casey and I met Jesse in front of Lotte at a about 1130. 

I was there first (about 1100) so I went and wandered around the grocery part of Lotte.  Saw one my Genesis students (Sharon) there with her Kindergarten class.  They were doing some sort of shopping lesson thing, it was adorable to see them carrying the shopping baskets around.  You have to understand that the shopping baskets are large enough for the kids to fit inside of.

Jesse ended up showing up and about two minutes later Casey arrived on a bicycle.

We wandered down the street a couple of blocks until we were at a rather large and impressive building. 

At the dentist office Casey and I had to fill out some paperwork.  It was in English and a LOT simpler than the forms in Korean.  I wonder what they left out on our form.

Casey and I chilled in the waiting room for about twenty minutes.  We played a game on my cell phone and looked at the Korean magazines.

Classic Magazines
The waiting room was rather full of people and eventually they moved us down to the floor below where there was another waiting room and receptionist desk.  At this point Jesse was in her appointment so Casey and I were dealing with the clinic’s main English speaker, who spoke about as much English as Michael B. speaks Korean.  A fairly nice amount, but just enough to get by and nowhere near fluent. 

That was fine though.

The waiting room was really nice.  It wasn’t as cozy as my dentist back in Niceville, but is very nice.

Waiting Room and Receptionist Desk
Coffee Machine
Free Computers with Internet
Huge Television
After a couple minutes we were lead back to the dentist chairs.  I got a nice view out a huge window; Casey got to stare at a pillar. 

Not that I got to enjoy the view for long.

The dentist came and looked at my teeth with the pick and the mirror.  He said my teeth were good, but I needed to floss a little more often.  That’s the same thing Dr. M used to tell me back in Niceville.  I’m very good at brushing two to three times a day, but not so good with the floss…

I really, really need to work on that.

And, yes, I know by saying that here I’m going to have at least Kay-Kay asking me if I flossed every time I talk to her on Skype.

After the dentist looked at my teeth the hygienist cleaned my teeth.  She used this really, really painful water thing to clean them.  Before she did this she put a heavy towel over my face.  It had a hole in the middle of it for my mouth.  I’m pretty sure it looked ridiculous on me because I saw Casey when he still had his on.

That was the most painful cleaning (scaling) I’ve ever had.  I seriously was about to cry.  My gums have always been sensitive, so the dentist has never been exactly pleasant, but this was worse.  I think it’s because she went so fast…

Whatever it was I was so glad when it was over.

Once she was done I got to rinse and then was done.

That was it.

Basically, for ₩ 60,000, my teeth got pressure washed and I was told I had no cavities. 

I can see why people don’t go to the dentist as often here as they do in the states.

My teeth felt a lot cleaner when I left, but they didn’t have that squeaky clean felling I always had when I left Dr. M’s. 

We left the dentist about 1240 and headed straight to work.  Casey had to run by his house first to get his laptop, so he was a little late to work.

I got to work and Sophie handed me this:
Nice and Large.

I could only laugh at how large Aunt Diana wrote ‘South Korea’.  Jesse saw it and wanted to know if she was afraid it would go to North Korea.  I said, “No, that’s just my Aunt Diana.”  (Don’t worry Aunt Diana, I love you!) 

Inside the package was a really nice 100% wool sweater.  I’ll try it on when I get home, but it looks super warm and comfortable.

Those were the big things in my day.  Tomorrow we’re going on a field trip to this park here in Changwon.  The name of it translates basically to: “Changwon House”. 

It should be really fun and interesting.

So, to end this lovely entry here’s just a few more things about the dentist:
  • The sink:
    • In the US of A the sink is not connected to the chair.
    • It’s also not really awesome and weight activated.
  • The Dentist:
    • In the US of A the dentist looks at your teeth AFTER the hygienist cleans them, not before.
  • Face Cover:
    • In the US of A the face cover is not a towel, it’s a disposable paper thing.
  • Hanger:
    • In the US of A there’s no awesome hanger and hook for your bag and jacket.
    • Also, the hygienist won’t help you put your jacket on afterwards.
  • The Cleaning:
    • In the US of A (Dr. M’s at least) they clean your teeth with a sand blaster thing and then go over them all with the pick.  Scraping off whatever got missed.
    • It also feels a lot more thorough than it did here in Korealand.
  • Waiting Room:
    • Waiting rooms in the US of A do not typically have huge flat screens and computers for you to use while you wait.
    • They also don’t have coffee machines.
Addendum:  SK is informing me that his dentist does not have a sink attached to the chair and also uses the paper face covers.  So I guess the one I went to is unusual...

So, that was my trip to the dentist.  Hopefully I don’t have to find out what a trip to the doctor is like here anytime in the future.  I like being healthy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Year of the Water Dragon

Happy New Year!

That is, Happy Lunar New Year.  

If you didn't know, according to the Chinese zodiac the years come in cycles of twelve.

Year of the Rat - 2008
Year of the Ox - 2009
Year of the Tiger - 2010
Year of the Rabbit - 2011
Year of the Dragon - 2012
Year of the Snake - 2001
Year of the Horse - 2002
Year of the Goat - 2003
Year of the Monkey - 2004
Year of the Rooster - 2005
Year of the Dog - 2006
Year of the Pig - 2007

I sent out some Lunar New Year Cards to people in the states.  I don't know how many will get there, or when.  I do know the one to my grandparents, sister, dad, and aunt have arrived.  If you get one then let me know, I really have no clue how reliable the mail system is, though it was insanely cheap.

Some of the Cards

I'm off work right now.  We have Monday (23rd) and Tuesday (24th) off for the holiday.  It's so nice to have extra days off.

I spent the weekend with MY, but he and every other Korean I know are with their families now, so I'm spending time alone.  Looks like a good time to feed my need to play some computer games or do some writing.  Basically I'm just going to be lazy.

Hope all of ya'll have a great Year of the Dragon!  For myself and several other people I know - this is our year, as we were born in 1988!

Go 88ers!

Gift from Esther and Donald for the Lunar New Year.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Is this Real?

Every day I wake up, roll out of bed, start the electric tea kettle, get ready, eat breakfast, surf the web, and then head to work.

I have a daily routine, which seemed next to impossible when I first got here.

For all intents and purposes Korea is my home now.  It's my home for at least another nine months and, if I can do it, it will be my home for even longer.  I enjoy living here and I want to find out more about this fascinating place.  I want to learn more Korean.  I want to work here and take my Masters online while I'm working here.

I'm making friends, learning the routines and way of life, loving the food, and just having an adventure every week.

I came over here not entirely sure if I'd want to stay here after one year, but right now I'm really thinking I will.  

Will I still feel this way come this Fall?  


Does that mean I won't go back to Niceville to visit?


Thing is, as each day goes by I slowly stop thinking of Niceville as my home, I see it more as my hometown.  Always there, a place I can return to, but a place I don't think I'll ever live again, at least not on a permanent basis.

Despite all of this though I still sometimes think: "Am I really in Korea?"  

I just can't believe that I'm on my own and that my nearest family members are a twelve hour flight away.  It's just sort of unreal to me at times.

Life here is becoming ordinary in a way for me.  Work has good days and bad days.  Traffic lights hate me just as much here as they do in the States.  Customers at Lotte annoy me almost as much as customers at Publix.  It's just becoming ordinary, and I love that.

I know I still get stared at wherever I go, especially if I'm with MY (you don't see many Western girls with Korean guys, the other way around is more common), but I'm barely aware of it anymore.

At first I didn't notice the stares, then I did and it made me a little self-conscious, after awhile it began to anger and annoy me, but now it's just sort of "whatever".  I can't do anything about it, so why worry?

I still have trouble reading things in Hangul quickly enough, but I'm getting faster.  It's also getting easier for me to pick up new words in Korean, though I'm horribly slow at it.  With my phone and wallet I can get anywhere in Korea and do anything, in many ways even easier than I could in the States.

Despite all of this, I still have those rare moments where I think it's all a dream.  That I'll wake up in a second and be in my bedroom at Apple Jack and Kay Kay's house.  With my iPhone alarm telling me that I have to be at Publix in an hour and a half.

So, yes, it's real, but sometimes I can't really believe it.  I guess this is what happens when change happens (good and bad) and a lot of dreams and wishes are fulfilled all at once.

Even if I do wonder sometimes, I'm glad this is real.

Really, really glad.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Open Market

All throughout the year the teachers here at CNS give out and take away points to the students.  These points are given and taken based on the students’ behavior and participation in class, as well as other little random things.

It’s basically our system for giving out punishment and rewards.

Well, after the students spend all year collecting as many points as they can earn they finally get to spend them.  At the end of December every year CNS holds an Open Market.

Beautiful archway Sophie and I made

Our little Christmas Tree!

Esther and Jesse before the chaos occurs
It’s where we sell food, drink, toys, random things, and stationary to the students for their points.
This year the cheapest thing was a Hershey Kiss for 10 points.

The most expensive thing was a stuffed Angry Bird for 1,500 points.  We had three of those (red, black, and yellow) and we sold two of them (red and yellow). 

Here are pictures of the tables of goodies for sale:



More Stuff!

All the Stuff!
Casey and I were also in charge of some English games in an extra classroom for the friends and siblings of our students.  These games served a dual purpose:  They advertised how we taught and also gave the visiting children a chance to earn a few points to buy maybe one or two small things – just enough to make them want more.

Rather sneaky I thought, but it makes sense.

Here’s a couple images of the games Casey designed.  I’m being honest when I say he was the mastermind behind this part.  We were told about it the day before and in the span of thirty minutes he came up with all of this and implemented it.  I just cut out the pictures and glued them to the different colored paper.

The Name the Picture Game

The English Speaking Countries Game
We only did the games for about half an hour.  The rest of the day was spent in minor chaos as students ate, bought, talked, watched a movie, and just had fun.

Images of the chaos:

Chaos at the beginning of the event. 
Amid the chaos with our student helpers

So many students!

Pure chaos!  Oh, and my snowman!

Chaos in the middle of the event.

Claire and Joseph

What happens when I let one of my middle school students play with the camera.
Semi-chaos as students slowly leave
We finished up at about 1730 and then spent half an hour taking down the decorations and making the school look normal again.  At about 1820 the bus came back from taking the students home and we took it downtown to a buffet restaurant Esther and Donald like.

The bus driver joined us for the dinner.  He’s a middle aged manly man.  Now, I’ve never been comfortable around manly men, I just don’t get them.  This made sitting next to an unknown manly man that only spoke Korean even more uncomfortable. 

The food was good, though it was odd to see cereal and milk right across from caviar, marshmallows next to nachos, and five different types of odd punches next to six different types of Chinese noodles.  The meat and sushi were amazing though.  I liked the different soups and the (kimchi) selection was awesome, though no cucumber kimchi…that made me sad.

After the somewhat awkward but tremendously delicious dinner we all left.  Esther and Donald were going to take us all back to City 7 (we were downtown), but we all sneakily said we were going to Kyobo (big bookstore chain), which was in the basement of the building we ate in.  I’m not sure if Esther and Donald believed us entirely (probably not), but it would’ve been rude to say we wanted to go out and drink and such considering their personal beliefs about that.

We chilled in the bookstore for about thirty minutes and then headed to an imported beer place.  It cost ₩9,000 ($8) for a glass of beer from the tap.  That’s insane here in Korealand.  But, the beer was better than normal, so I guess it was worth paying for once in a blue moon. 

Here’s the only picture in existence of Claire, Jesse, Casey, and myself all together.  We got the waiter to take it and I think it turned out pretty well.

Sporting our awesome headbands!
While there MY showed up so Claire, Jesse, and Casey got to meet him.  Jesse and Claire drilled him in Korean (which was the most Korean I’d ever heard him speak) and found him to be a good guy and acceptable.  Not that I needed their approval, it was just nice to hear my thoughts on him confirmed.

All of us went to a노래 (Noraebang) and at one point Jesse was singing a song in Korean I hear all the time and the rest of us were up there dancing to it in a mix of swing and ballroom dancing.  It was just a lot of fun. 

After that we all said goodnight.  For all intents and purposes that was my New Year’s Eve since I spent the actual day of New Year’s Eve being extremely lazy and mellow (played computer games and other indoor antisocial things).

It was a crazy, crazy day, but a lot of fun.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

December Speech Contest

Ah, life’s been so busy!  I just haven’t had time to sit down and write! 

Before I get in to what’s going on right now, let me go back and talk about the Friday before Christmas and what we did here at CNS on that day.

It was a glorious event that I’d been preparing the students for since the beginning of November.

What do you ask was so important?

Why, the semi-annual Speech Contest of course!

For almost six weeks I did very little lesson planning, instead I went over speeches, made corrections and suggestions, and then helped them make improvements, practice, and memorize. 

It was…interesting.

At the time I was about to go crazy, but now I look back upon it fondly, and I’m sort of looking forward to the next Speech Contest, which is in April or May (not sure exactly). 

After all the preparation I did with the students my job on the actual day of the Speech Contest was actually fairly easy – I just had to give out scores with Claire and Jesse.

It was poor Casey that had to do all the work.

This little event took all day.  We had no classes and just did this instead.  It was a long day.

He was handed the microphone and told to be the Host. 

He did so well that he was asked to do it again this past weekend during our promotional event (more on that later). 

He’s definitely better at public speaking than I am (or at least he fakes it better), so I’m rather glad that my duties as the Speaking teacher make me do all the work beforehand.

Here are some pictures of the event, along with Casey’s awesome Hosting abilities (No, Elinore and Nicole, not the Hosting you’re thinking about).

Getting Set up

Me being artistic and killing time

Students waiting somewhat patiently

Claire corralling "The Boys"

Casey leading the first debate

Casey asking the audience questions, and me looking rather serious

There are the pictures; next entry I promise will be about the even crazier Friday before New Year’s and then I’ll be pretty up to date (still lots more to tell though).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Egg Rice and Tofu

I cooked again.  Not that I haven't been cooking since my last cooking post, it's just that I haven't caught it on camera or done something a little out of the ordinary.  Though I did make Chicken Picatta over Christmas weekend - that turned out pretty awesome, though I think my dad's is better.

I really need to run by the bank, as I have almost no cash in my wallet (less than ₩5,000), but my fridge and cupboards are full so finding dinner was no problem.

I just threw some rice in the rice cooker, grabbed my trusty purple frying pan, and started cooking.

First came the onion and garlic (staples in my cooking):
Less garlic this time, I think I'll add more again next time though.

Onions, Green Onions, and Garlic

Firm tofu, Basil, Black Pepper and Chili Powder

Three Eggs added to Seasoned Tofu

Eggs tossed into Onions and Garlic

Eggs are pretty much cooked.

Pretty White Rice!

My Egg Rice and Tofu with my customary Kimchi side dish.  
And there you go, my lovely attempt at cooking.  It was quite tasty, though it isn't much to look at.

I'm getting experimental in my cooking here, but not too experimental.

This is for several reasons:

  • Most of the spices I'm used to aren't available here, so that limits me some.  
  • Also, I'm trying to stick to fresh or basic canned ingredients (corn and tuna mainly).  
    • Partly due to the fact I can't read the instructions on the other things, but also because it's healthier.
  • Add this to the fact that I'm trying to use mainly local ingredients and meat is expensive (so I stick to eggs and tofu most of the time, though the price of pork isn't too bad...).  
The food was very tasty, though I did add a little bit of salt when I served it.  I have enough for dinner tomorrow and possibly even Thursday as well.  Then on Friday it's Mexican for dinner, so I'm all set for the week. 

I'll probably make some Epic Ramyun on Saturday if I'm at home.  If I do that I'll try and take pictures to document how to make Epic Ramyun.

Have a good day!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

First Weekend of 2012

Life's been crazy.

We're busy at work and I have a social life outside of work.  Then I've been obsessed with finishing "The Magicians" and "The Magician King" by Lev Grossman.  That's taken up the rest of my free time that wasn't spent with people, at work, or sleeping.  (If you like fantasy then those books are awesome by the way, I highly recommend them.)

I still need to tell you about those two crazy Fridays at work, and I'll get to them, but for now you get to here about the first weekend of 2012 - the weekend where I finally got up to Seoul.

I've toyed with the idea of going up to Seoul during the past three months.  After all, it's the capital of Korealand and is one of the top five largest cities in the world, but I never really felt the urge to go.

About two weeks ago I decided I'd go up there this weekend.  So, at about 0640 I bought my bus ticket for 0710 on Saturday morning and was soon on the bus and on my way up to Seoul.  It was a little over four hours with a fifteen minute stop at one of the awesome Korean rest stops along the way.

I read my book (on my Kindle) and chatted with my sister and Nicole since they're both back in the US of A and were so actually awake at that early hour.

I actually beat MY to the bus terminal so I wandered down to the subway to meet him.  There we put money on the SIM chip on my phone.  Once we did that I could swipe my phone on any bus or subway and get on it - just like I use my Mybi card here in Changwon or over in Busan.  Having a SIM chip like that in my phone and a Mybi card means I never have to worry about coins or tickets or such when using most public transportation systems here in Korealand.

He took me on a subway ride up to Itaewon (the foreign district).  There we visited an all English book store. I didn't buy anything (my Kindle keeps me happy), but it was still nice to look around and talk about different books with him.

Then we went to this tiny little hole in the wall food place.  They served pasta, burgers, and egg filled breakfast things.
MY's brunch - Southwestern omelet, salad with balsamic vinaigrette and whole wheat toast.

MY's hands and my tea.  I was so happy to see that it was Twinning's Earl Grey!

My traditional English breakfast, minus the stewed tomatoes...
The restaurant could sit fourteen people and at one point it was over half full and MY was the only Korean in there besides the people working there.  That was super weird.  Every other table in there was full of people speaking English and there wasn't a chopstick in sight.  I was having trouble believing I was still in Korealand, especially because there was a big church with stained glass windows across the street from the restaurant.

It was such an odd feeling, I really didn't care for it.  I suppose after three months of getting used to seeing almost no foreigners the shock of seeing them everywhere was unsettling.

I got to see the outside of the Army base in Seoul:

The base is over on the right, behind those trees.
Then MY and I walked from Itaewon, up a mountain, and all the way to Namsam Tower.

Namsam Tower - Halfway through the hike.
There's me about halfway up.  I'm a little tired...
We eventually reached the tower and stopped to grab water at a convenience store.  I swear, water has never tasted so good.  It was freezing out too.  There were piles of dirty snow here and there.  Still, it was really beautiful to me.

Maybe I'm strange, but even a leafless forest in the dead of winter is beautiful.  It may all be brown, but there are so many different shades and textures that's it's just a work of art.

The air was rather smoggy, so we couldn't see much of the city, but I didn't mind.  It was still awesome.  Sort of like climbing Stone Mountain back in Atlanta, Georgia.

At the top of Namsam tower there are a few locks.  There's a legend that if you and your significant other put your name on a lock and leave it there you'll be happy forever.  Or something to that effect.

I'd heard about it from a couple of other blogs I've read, but it was cool to see them in person.

Just a few...
Maybe one day I'll leave a lock there, maybe not, who knows.

After looking around we took a bus off the mountain and then wandered around...somewhere...  It was a shopping district.  We just wandered around there and then went to a coffee shop and just sat and talked for a long time.

That crazy green sign says "Starbucks" in Hangul.
No, we did not go to that Starbucks.  Most of the little coffee shops have better coffee than Starbucks does in my opinion.  Plus, they're cheaper and less crowded - typically.  (I really need to do a post on just the coffee and coffee shops here)

Ended up at a DVD-bang for the first time and finally saw Shutter Island.  It was really interesting and I'm glad I finally saw it.

Sunday was even cloudier than Saturday.  Ate traditional Korean food all day, which was nice.  I sometimes miss food from the US of A, but I really am growing to love Korean food.  A day with out rice, gimbap, kimchi, or ramyun (ramen) feels very, very, odd.

Bought my ticket to come back to Changwon and then ended up at a PC-bang playing Starcraft and then Diablo 2 with MY.

Grabbed some more food (Korean Chinese food, noodles with a black sauce) and then I had to catch the bus back to Changwon.

Got the seat in the very front on the bus ride back.  It's so peaceful to listen to music on my ipod and just watch the lights on the interstate.

Read my book on the way back (on the Kindle) and chatted with SK some (he kept wanting me to help him cheat at scrabble, which doesn't work since I suck at scrabble).  Chatted some with Michael B. too.  Sounds like he, Casey, and I are going to go get Mexican food and listen to Jazz music on Friday.  Claire and Jesse might join us, don't know yet.

That is, this will all happen if I survive this week.  It's time for Open Classes, which means parents can come in and watch us teach.

That starts Wednesday.

I have three classes that are going to be open on Wednesday.  Then I have one that will be open on Friday, and another will be open on the following Monday.

Time to bid all of you a good night/day.  Enjoy my final picture from Seoul and enjoy your day!

Hahaha!  A Rose in Korea found a rose in Korealand!!!