Thursday, November 30, 2006

Another one

Another Seoul saying:

"I just lost my Peppero".

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Because we like to do things cheaply, and because we see no reason in investing a large amount of money in curtains for an apartment where we will only be for a year, we made our own curtains. That's right. It's been two months living with a big window with no coverings, and it makes for sunny mornings with not a lot of sleeping in. So, we bought some material for about 20 dollars, and hand sewed two panels together, and put some loops on. We bought some hooks and voila!

It's okay. You can laugh. I have no idea why they're crooked, but they serve our most basic purpose: keeping out the sun in the mornings. Since we rarely have guests, and our budget is our biggest concern we just don't care! And we are rather proud of ourselves. On one hand I'd like to think my grandma would be proud, but on the other hand, they're pretty ugly curtains, so she might also be ashamed. Ha.

Yesterday was our day off, and after meeting some friends from church for lunch Stephanie and I went on a small tour on double decker bus! This is one thing we've been wanting to do because we rarely travel around Seoul in a vehicle and it seems now we are in our daily routine of seeing our neighborhood, the church's neighborhood, and not much else. It was a really nice ride and I love a double decker! The tour was just along a small stream in the middle of Seoul that was once covered by a main road, but was uncovered in the 1960s and is now a public place where people can walk along the stream. It's very neat. Here are some pictures from the bus ride.

This area is a big shopping district, and so there are all sorts of small stores. In season- Christmas! We are figuring we might come back here to do some shopping.

Pets for sale! (including chickens)

Old and new.

This was our tour guide on the bus. She was really sweet. She gave us each a free pack of postcards, and would come to tell us things in English after she had made the announcement in Korean. Afterward we asked for our picture with her and she was just laughing and looked flattered. It was fun. We also had a guy from Thailand sitting in front of us and he kept offering us things like gum and pineapple candy.

When we went to go meet our tour bus there were a lot of demonstrators outside the subway station. Our Korean friend who was there said it was about the Free Trade Agreement. Where we got off the subway was right across from the US Embassy.

All of the busses are police vehicles.

We thought it was limited to just this area, but then while we walked to our bus, were on our tour, and later after we got off the bus we realized that the Seoul Plaza was surrounded by these busses, and there were large groups of policement EVERYWHERE. They were by the subway exits, outside the US Embassy, in large pockets on street corners. There were hundreds of them. It was certainly a little unnerving, as a white girl, to walk past all of them. Nothing was really happening while we were around (except for one small shouting match in a subway exit), but I read up on it later in the Korean Times. So now you know. We were by City Hall. The neighborhood where the picture is from Myeongdong, a very large shopping area very close to our church (we often eat there on Sundays before or after church).

One more picture, by Seoul Plaza (outside of City Hall).

Just FYI- for every picture you can click on it and it becomes a bigger picture.

This morning (Thursday) there were tiny little snowflakes outside our window :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Things you say in Seoul

So there are things you really only say in Seoul. These have become our catchphrases. The first one would be "That lady just ran into my crackers". That happened on the subway.

The second one would be "We left the rice cooker at the church!"

Our friend Eddy graciously found us a rice cooker from a coworker that was leaving to go home. We've been wanting a rice cooker, but didn't want to spend the money quite yet, and this one was free! So Eddy put it in a plastic bag and lugged it all the way from his residence (which is a long bus ride and subway ride) to church. He handed it over and we were in charge of it for the rest of the day. Stephanie and I carried that rice cooker from the church chapel down to fellowship. After fellowship we killed some time with friends, walking around Myeongdong, and going to a coffee shop. We then carried the rice cooker back into the main sanctuary where we watched a performance of Handel's Messiah in Korean (it was pretty awesome). We went back down to the same place for fellowship, left, and were about a block away from the church when we realized "We left the rice cooker at the church!"

So we walked quickly back to the main sanctuary. Stephanie couldn't find it, and while the last of the people were filing out I put on my best distressed face. I'll admit, I tried to make it dramatic so someone would offer to help us. It worked! A guy came over to ask if we needed help, and we had to ashamedly, and quite humorously tell him that we left a rice cooker in the pews. That's a first.

To make a long story short, we found the rice cooker. One of his friends had picked it up and taken it to a sunday school room. So now we have a rice cooker. phew!

Here are some cool people from 20s group. It was Jonathan's last day, which is sad. He is flying home today.

Christmas is in full swing here!

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Happy post-Thanksgiving to everyone! While we didn't celebrate Thanksgiving in any way, it was nice to be able to talk to some of my family back at home. Some might wonder if I was very homesick for Thanksgiving with my family, but honestly, when you are in a different country that is so far removed from America, you almost forget about it, simply because nothing here is about Thanksgiving. There are no decorations, no television commercials, no "what are you doing for Thanksgiving?" questions. Our hagwon doesn't even talk about holidays, so we didn't make lesson plans about Thanksgiving like many of our English teaching friends did. (Try explaining the Pilgrims and Native Americans to Korean 4 year olds.)

I did, however, talk about it a little bit last night with my middle schoolers. They knew the concept. They've probably talked about it with English teachers past. I said we eat a lot of food, hang out with family, watch football, and the dads fall asleep in front of the tv.

So while all of you are currently, at this moment, snoozing away, I hope that your Thanksgivings were all wonderful. We have so much to be thankful for, and I hope that you counted your blessings, and that you continue to do so throughout the year.

My Thanksgiving was uneventful, except for the fact that I had a sore throat and a class of very bratty, whiny middle schoolers who were mad that I didn't get pizza for their last class with me. Lots of fun! We start new classes on Monday/Tuesday, so that will be exciting. I have a new policy for myself that includes being a much stricter teacher. It's time to lay down the law! No more Miss nice white teacher!

Christmas is in full swing here. There are displays out in the stores, and a huge Christmas tree on our street. There is a big tree at church, and the small choir is presenting the Messiah tomorrow evening. Today I sat in Starbucks, waiting to meet up with Stephanie, and they were playing Christmas carols in English. I love this season!

Stephanie and went over to a university to receive Korean language lessons for the first time, and for only 1000won, which equals about a dollar. We are currently learning the alphabet. We have a lot of opportunity to practice! It was a fun class and I look forward to going again.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

2 months!

In the words of Stephanie, today is my two month anniversary with Seoul. I arrived here on the 22nd of September, and it's November already!

Seoul is a great, great city. This is what I like about it:

-it's relatively clean. For a big city, it's pretty nice. Fairly clean sidewalks, clean public restrooms, clean parks. (smog? not so clean)

-the subway. I am a huge fan of the subway. I haven't even thought about wanting to drive a car since I've been here. The convenience is great.

-the people. Everyone is really nice here. I have not met an unfriendly Korean.

-activities. There's so much to do here in the city. Sometimes it seems almost overwhelming with the possibilities. And that's not even counting the activities outside of the Seoul metro area.

-good friends. we've been really blessed to find some amazing people to spend time with. So a big holla to IWE and the crazies that go to church there.

-Korean bbq. Hello! It's awesome. I can't wait to take some of you out to Korean food when I get home. Korean bbq and kimchi! yum.

While walking around E-Mart the other day I thought about how when I first got here I had no idea about what to do. I knew nothing of the subway, I felt nervous every time I left the apartment. I didn't feel like I knew what I was doing with my teaching. New at the city, new at church, new at work. And now, it all seems so natural, I love it.

In honor of my two month anniversary I will share the sentence Tom made last night. Using the phrase "come(s) out of" Tom intelligently made this sentence: "Jack comes out of Tommy's stomach". I laughed really hard, and Tom assured me, saying "Tommy is mother, Jack is baby!" So thank you, Tom, for that visual.

Seoul Tower, at night, via the Korean village:

Monday, November 20, 2006

Teaching English

I thought that perhaps I should write about my job, and what I am even doing here. I'm sure at least one person is thinking "Does Meghan just hang out with cool friends and go shopping all the time?" The truthful answer to that is yes.

But I also work. I have a pretty cool job where I work (officially) about 24 hours a week, though I spend more time there and more time at home. I work 4 days a week.

To give a little background knowledge: South Korea has a huge market for English schools. They are private schools that are usually after school or on the weekends. Private schools like this are called hakwons (or hagwons). Some students go to many hagwons after school or on weekends. You can go to a hagwon for science, math, english, korean, etc. Apparently these are used as supplements to the public school system. They all cost money for the parents.

So anyway, a big business here is the English hagwon, many whom hire foreign English teachers to come and teach. My company is no different. I work at a fairly small school (6 teachers). My classes are from 4pm to 10pm. yes. I have middle schoolers in my class until 10 pm. Most of them will go home and work on homework from school and various hagwons until maybe midnight or 1am.

So all of my curriculum is prepared for me, and I spend most of my time guiding my students through their work. We do reading comprehension and talking and listening. One of the best parts of my night is with my elementary students (who are upper elementary age). We make up sentences from the key words or phrases provided for us (from our reading). You can imagine that this might turn into chaos, as the kids like to one up each other and make fun of each other in their sentences.

For example: If I tell the students we need to make a sentence with "arrives", we would add a subject, correct the subject-verb agreement, and then add a place.

So, the other night we were doing this, and one boy suggested, as a joke "the girls". The sentence turned into "The girls arrive at the PC room" (which is an internet cafe). It was somewhat humorous because girls don't really go to PC rooms much.

So I decided to help the girls get them back. I gave them the subject of "The (insert class name here) boys" and the girls provided the rest of the sentence, which concluded "The (class name) boys arrive at the girls' bathroom". Uproar ensues. You can imagine that we have a lot of sentences about the bathroom. I also have this funny, entertaining interchange between two boys in one of my classes who love to make up sentences about each other. They mostly revolve around how one of them lives in a box. The other student will try to use "so and so's box" in EVERY sentence. Most of the time I have to tell him it will not work.

That's my evening. Sometimes it can be fun, and sometimes it is a struggle to keep their attention. Some of the time I feel sorry for them because they have been in school all day and then I have them for 3 hours! And I might be the 4th hagwon teacher they have in a week. I am learning a lot about how to discipline with love, which is not the norm here. I have to be firm, but I also want them to enjoy coming to my class.

I am also learning a lot about English and how hard it is to explain the things we say :) My middle schoolers do not generate sentences like mentioned above, but do some pretty in-depth reading on various subjects. I end up having to explain sayings to my students, which becomes difficult. How do you explain the vocabulary word "exist". yikes. It is some good experience, though, because I have thought about teaching ESL, and pursuing that for my Master's degree. It is good to work with students who are learning English. Plus, at least the little kids are pretty cute. Even when they blow boogers on their hands or spill juice all over my floor.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I just have to brag that I have a really great family.

I got these items from Oregon today:

That's right. A homemade felt fall leaf from my 3 year old niece, Hannah, and an "Oregon" magnet from my mom. Made out of Scrabble letters, no less! I love Scrabble letter things! And I also love sequins on my leaves. Thank you Hannah!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Just in case you wanted to know: ships to South Korea. I was very excited to receive four new cds that I ordered.

We went shopping today in Insadong, a street with many shops that include Korean gifts, and some arty and crafty shops. We had a lot of fun. One of the buildings there is having a "Wake Up Andy Warhol" design going on, and so there are a bunch of things in the building that are art in the style of Andy Warhol. I'm not sure about this "thing" I am posing with, but the umbrellas, paintings, and other things were in that mid-century media infused style.

We ran into our friend Angel, out of the blue. It's always a surprise to run into someone you know in this huge city. We had a nice dinner together. Angel said the title of my blog actually makes sense! That made me happy, considering I generated the title with an online translator.

We were cold all afternoon because we didn't dress warm enough. My dashboard says it's 39 degrees out currently, at 8pm.

Monday, November 13, 2006

And Another Thing

Koreans have this different time table from the norm in America. They stay up late and go into work later. Banks and offices usually open at 9 or 10, but people work until 6 or 7, and stay up late. The busiest time of the day at the local store is between 10 and 11 at night, which includes small children.

Went to the orphanage on Saturday and had play time with the kids. Here are two cute little boys. The one with the bob haircut was clingy and cute and I liked him. He shares my love for Pingu.

It's cold and blustery here. Thank goodness for warm shell jackets and scarves and hot chocolate. We went over to a housewarming party with people from church, where Stephanie and I had a omelette cooking competition between us and our Chinese friends. We won, hands down.

You know how at places like Target they sell tents and sleeping bags and on display they have little mini-versions? Well, since it's cold weather season now, seat covers are the item to have, and they have the mini-versions here, too! They're so cute.

Stephanie says she's going to buy one of these and take it on the subway with her. Which, in a mental picture, just induces giggles. I can just picture Stephanie, the foreigner, lugging this thing around and placing it on her subway seat, between all the Korean people.

November was Peppero Day. It's mostly this made up holiday because the dates are 11-11, and Peppero sticks are shaped like the number 1. Long crispy sticks (like a cracker taste) covered in chocolate. Or something. So Saturday was Peppero Day, which I guess has turned into what resembles America's Valentine's Day. People buy huge boxes of Pepperos. I got a few from my students. Funny enough, presents like these (and cookies at snack time) seem to come from the students at whom I am most often mad. I love kids' sixth sense.

Here's my stash:

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Korean Things

I've talked a lot about what I've been doing, which is admittedly a bit boring, but I thought I'd take an entry to talk about some cultural things, and life in Korea.

I think I've said these first couple things before, but I guess I'll say them again. They drive on the right side of the street here, but walk on the left side, for some reason. So when you go down stairs (like to the subway) or up stairs (in the subway) you are supposed to go on the left. It's not just custom, it's written on the floors. Also, when you use an escalator, the one you go up (or down) is on the left. Interesting. So, a couple of times, in a crowded place, I've had to go "oh yeah!" and switch to the other side.

People are very friendly, and often times want to know where you're from. A few times we have run into kids at touristy places and they run up and say hi, or yell hi from a distance. Since we are white it is automatically assumed that we speak English. Most often we get asked "Where from?" A little family talked to us at the Folk Museum last weekend. The mom had two younger kids both by the hand and was encouraging them to talk to us. They asked where we were from, and we said America, then Stephanie jokingly asked "Where are YOU from?" and the mom told them to say "I am Korean!" It was quite cute. I suppose we look friendly enough to talk to.

This also results in some funny situations. We sometimes also get approached by elderly, and often drunk, Korean men who liked to speak English. At a group dinner a few weeks ago, we had a man come up and start talking broken English. He was severely drunk and so it was quite awkward. He actually ended up bowing and smashing his nose on a chair. The proprietor soon ushered him out. Just now, on the way home from a work, another guy came up beside us on the subway and wanted to know where we were from.

Because we are white, there are some advantages. We have quite a few coworkers and friends from church who are Korean ethnically, but were born and raised in, or adopted to, America. Some of them are good with Korean, some are mediocre, and some hardly know any. We also have some friends who are Chinese, and people assume they are Korean. All of these people get approached on the street to buy things, people talk to them in Korean, and for those who don't speak very good Korean, you can imagine it's quite weird to have to say "I don't speak Korean very well".

Well, Stephanie and I have realized that our white skin repels street vendors, wheelers and dealers, and nightclub recruiters. This is a major plus.

We also can drive away question askers. One night in the subway station a lady came up to Stephanie, beside her, and began to ask a question. Stephanie looked at her, the woman looked startled, said something in Korean, and then walked away quickly. One day I stood on the subway train, by a map, and had my headphones on. A lady came up beside me, looking at the map, and I could tell she was asking a question to me, although she never looked at me. I just stood there, waiting for her to turn and look at me. She finally did, I smiled, and she just started laughing so hard. It was hilarious.

As for Korean food, I really like it. I'm not a huge fan of Chinese, or really any other Asian food, but Korean is really very different. Although I like a lot of the food I've tried, the bbq is the best. People share a grill at their table, you place pieces of meat and garlic cloves on it, and then serve yourself. You use a lettuce leaf, place in meat, bean paste, maybe kimchi (?? I don't know, I don't do it), garlic, onions, whatever of the sides you want, then roll it up in a ball and stick the whole thing in your mouth. Yum. It's very good. And as for Kimchi - I'm actually growing fond of it. I always need a glass of water nearby, but I do like it, at least I've liked many of the kinds I've had.

Obviously (I think it's obvious) respect is very large here. I have some students who greet me with a small bow, or hand in papers with a small bow. People give and receive with both hands. You take your shoes off in a house. You should refill your fellow diners' glasses. The national symbol for "no" is to make an x with your arms in front of your chest.

People here usually have enough English skills to help us when it comes to retail, though sometimes they might have to grab another worker. Our area is not touristy at all, so we hardly ever seen other white people when we are in our neighborhood. Elderly Korean people are super cute.

The North Korea issue is really a non-issue at this point, I think, although when it was first talked about it scared us. Everyone's holding a lot of "talks" so it seems to be something governments are working on. I won't deny, though, that sometimes I do feel a little scared, which right now seems unfounded. We have some thunderstorms every now and then, which always seem to happen at night. Last night we had one and Stephanie and I both woke up very quickly and I said "WHAT WAS THAT?" The first thing I think of is "bomb", but it was just the thunderstorm.

That's all I can think of for right now. Last night we used our free passes (Thanks KT!!) to see "The Prestige", a newer movie about magicians. It was very, very good, and I highly recommend it to anybody. A plot that makes you think, a cool period, good acting, all very good. I left the theater and couldn't stop thinking about it. A must see.

Yesterday morning Stephanie and I went down to the river and rented bikes, which was really fun. It was nice and cool outside and we just pedaled our way long the river, back toward town. It was quite nice and carefree. I was going to take pictures and videos, but my batteries died after the first picture. I'm sure we'll do it again. I'll try to get the same rusty, peeling, funny, red cruiser with the cool bell.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cool Seoul

As Stephanie and I prepared to make a run to the store, Stephanie looked at the weather for Seoul, and it said it was currently 34 degrees. Now, we don't have any window coverings, so we have this huge window where the sun beats in. It does NOT feel cold in our room, we haven't turn our heat on yet. Add to this the fact that it's completely clear and sunny, and we said "yeah, right. It can't be 34".

But, as we stepped outside we realized it must have been right. Maybe it was in the upper 30s, but it was really, really cold. When I arrived here in Seoul it was still in the low 80s and mid 70s for quite a while (which I does not qualify as fall), it went into the 60s for a couple weeks, and now we're down much farther, with today's high being 50 degrees.

I guess it's winter in Seoul. It's quite lovely.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday, Saturday

Birthday week was good. I mentioned going out on sunday with our 20s group for our multitude of birthdays. Tuesday my director bought me a cake, which was very surprising, and very cool.

Wednesday morning Stephanie got up and made me breakfast, and went to the store and bought me sharp cheddar cheese (hurrah!) and ranch dressing. That made me pretty excited. Later on in the day we went over to Myeong Dong so I could buy yarn and crochet needles. We went over to our friend Angel's house, where she cooked us both dinner, and we had a nice time of chatting. It was comfy sitting in her room. We just hung out, listened to music, I crocheted, we looked at books, and it was a fun time. Thank you Angel! Her home is a "semi-traditional" (as she calls it) Korean house, where she rents a small studio. Her neighborhood is so quiet, peaceful, and cute - I had to take a picture. Much different than our super-modern, noisy street!

Wednesday night we went to the big mall and watched "The Devil Wears Prada", one of our only choices for an English movie, with some friends from church. All I wanted for my birthday was to sit back and watch a movie and eat popcorn! We haven't had popcorn here, and I love popcorn, so this made me pretty excited.

Yesterday, Saturday, we decided to visit the National Folk Museum. On the way there we passed the U.S. Embassy (found it, Mom!), which had a bunch of Korean policemen outside, which made us wary and we walked by quietly. On a map I noticed the Polish Embassy was nearby as well, but I'm thinking that they probably don't have all sorts of policemen there. Educated guess.

The Folk Museum was really neat. The thing about museums and palaces here are that they are so very cheap! The museum yesterday cost 3,000Won, about 3 dollars. Palaces are usually only 1,000Won! It is very cool because they are always full of people. Most palaces and museums also have gardens, and so people pay to just come and hang out in a nice area. It's something you don't really see in the states.

On the walk to the Museum, this "the palace", which I guess is so great and prominent and important that it is referred to as "the palace", although there are many palaces around the city.

Part of a wall from a fortress? This is still on our walk to the Museum. Most of the wall was destroyed by the Japanese, but this is still intact and now in the middle of a road :)

At the Folk Museum. You go around this large obstacle to either side to enter the museum.

Fall colors.

Tracy demanded more videos. Here is one. I call it "Lazy Saturday". It's not very exciting, so you don't have to watch it.

A brand called millimeter/milligram makes some really cute stationary. We've only seen it at other retail outlets, but we spotted this incredibly cute, tiny store and had to go inside.

We ended our day by going over to our friend Brian's place to hang out with him, and Eddy and Marc. We went out to a great Italian restaurant and played Jenga, which was more fun than it sounds.

One great part about our day was figuring out how things were placed, geographically, in this part of town. We had been to some of these places before, but had only popped up out of the subway, gone to a place, then went back down in the subway. Now it seems like we know the neighborhood, with a few subway stops, where people live, where shops are, etc. It feels good to know a part of the city like this.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Two things are amazing:

1) the internet
2) time zones

It is currently 12:15pm on Saturday, November 4th, here in Seoul. On the West coast it's 7:15pm on Friday, November 3rd. I am currently listening to a live broadcast of the Warner/Sacramento State Men's basketball game.

This makes me so excited.

Edit: It's 7:45pm on the West Coast, and Stephanie and I just listened as a "rowdy" Warner Knights fan got his loud horn confiscated and kicked out of the game. We're betting on Bossio or Etzel. Someone- let us know!