Monday, March 31, 2008

Samsung Children's Museum

Last Wednesday we bundled up our children and buckled them into two rather large rented busses to take them on their first field trip of the new school year. It took a long time; much longer than usual. We normally get the kids back in Suwon by 1:20 PM but this was a special occasion- we went all the way to Jamsil (an area in Seoul) to let the kids run wild in the Samsung Children's Museum. I am usually quite critical of our field trip locations, but in this case I actually had a really good time. My kids have finally settled into our routine and they were really well behaved. I was totes happy.

My seat partner, David (I swear I don't play favourites...)

Bright Kim, with his usual camera face.

I felt bad I wasn't able to offer David the fun times involved with sitting with one of his classmates (who speak the same language) so I let him listen to some of my tunes. He gave me his thumbs up. I always knew I had great taste, but it feels good to have it confirmed by a five year old.

There were all these huge screens around the museum that you can take pictures with. Here's me and Thomas K. So much fun.

Bright, concentrating.

Teaching Partner Jessica and me with our whole class.

The kids were on TV! "Under The Sea" from the Little Mermaid played in the background while the kids played with the blue screen.

Blue screen area.

Many valuable learning oppotunities, including "All About Grandma" and "Puberty: Time to Change". I'm just glad my kids weren't really paying attention to the learning aspect of the field trip.

My favourite part: the water room!

Daniel caught Su-chang off guard on the bus. This kid totally cracks me up.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Costco: a Magical Place for the Foreigner in Korea

I am generally not picky when it comes to grocery shopping in Korea. Mainly, my largest complaint concerning food or food preparation is the lack of an oven in my apartment (or any apartment, for that matter). However, when it comes to stovetop skills I've been doing pretty alright, managing to find the closest equivalents to meat, vegetables, and spices to what I am used to cooking in Canada and creating (mostly) edible versions of my favourite meals.

There are some things that one simply will not usually find in your average Korean grocery store, though. For example, a can of stewed tomatoes. Limes. Marshmallows. Vanilla extract. Whole wheat bread, or whole wheat anything. Cilantro. Decent cheese (unprocessed). Unprocessed cold cuts, or any normal cut of meat like a steak or a ham. Real butter (debatable). Skim milk. Fruit that is out of season. Spices- any spices. Most herbs, like dill and thyme. Anything fairly traded. And the list goes on. Anyway, my point is you learn to live without a lot of stuff you're used to.

Some things you'll always find in a Korean grocery store? Well, bean and chili paste. Soy sauce and vinegar. Soft tofu. Weird cuts of pork, heavily marbled with fat (delicious, actually). Little chunks of beef, I assume for making soups and jiggae. Frozen mandhu. Ramyeon (instant noodles). Special breadcrumbs for making donkass (fried pork cutlet). Get my point? You pretty much need to learn how to cook in a more Korean way, which has left me rather delighted as I've created some interesting fusion dishes. But sometimes there's just a void in my soul for something that comes in a box with English on it, and to make myself whole again I go on the monthly trip to Costco in Gangnam with Jay.

Ahh, here you will see that Kerri has found a massive bag a trail mix with the Kirkland logo on the front. You know you're getting quality, mass produced food when it's Kirkland. I'm sure you all agree.

Me and Kerri usually go splits on a box of cinnamon buns, but they didn't have any at the bakery last weekend. Gah! The donuts sufficed... THIS time.

I have a slight obsession with Indian food, so I was pretty happy to find premade Bombay Potatoes and Madras Lentils. However, I have since tried these curries and will not recommend anyone buy them in the future. Bland, bland, bland.

And finally, Tracy's all like, "Where the hell are the mixed nuts?!". I don't think she even found them in the end.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

This Just In:

Ha Jin and Somi have stylish new collars with itty, bitty pink bells. Maybe I should have thought the purchase through more carefully; they are now jingling around my apartment every night whilst I try to sleep.

Oh well. I always say, fashion before comfort!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

St Pat's Take Two, otherwise known as "The Different Phases of Drunk Tristan".

On Saturday, while still recovering from my night before at Now Bar, I took the subway into Seoul for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade as well as to meet up with some Acadia people (some of whom I haven't seen in ages). I managed to down a lot of gatorade and was feeling pretty ok when I got to my final stop, near City Hall in the centre of the city where the parade was being held. When I got there, my friends somehow found me and we made our way to the square where the famous, beautifully restored Cheonggye Stream runs through the city (sorry, no pictures today...someday, though....). We thought we had missed the parade altogether as we were all running late, but we totes lucked out and it came back through the same way it started!

It was interesting: there were lots of drunk Irish people, drunk Koreans, Koreans on big motorbikes, Korean academics (as per usual, the academics were the drunkest), random Koreans dressed in costumes that had nothing to do with the holiday, four different marching bands (including one traditional Korean marching band), and many, many blow up guinnesses and leprechauns. 'Twas marvelous. Enjoy the pics.

The square was absolutely packed with Koreans and non-Koreans alike. Music was blaring and there were television cameras everywhere. In fact, one television camera started to interview some of us, but Tristan dropped the F-bomb and the cameraman walked away in disgust. Way to go, Tristan!

Some people were more creative with their St. Paddy's Day dress than others.

I thought this was a dragon and couldn't figure out why everyone was saying "No, Janine. It's an effing snake." I was like, "We're in Korea, it's a DRAGON." I now realize my friends were correct. Excuse ME for forgetting that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Can you say blonde moment?

One of the many marching bands. At one point Tristan whipsered in my ear "Hey...Janine... do you, like.... REALLY like marching bands?", to which I replied " why?", to which HE replied "Aw, crap. I really am the lamest person I know."

This guy was all riled up. As were many.

So yeah... a prime example of "Why are you dressed as an anime character on St Patrick's Day?"

After the parade: the line up at the Seven Eleven was the largest I've ever seen. Everyone was buying beer to drink in the street. While waiting in line we had some great discussions as to what exactly the "Sound of Vitality" is and why it would be the slogan of a beer such as Cass.

Acadia reunion! Except for the guy in the back. Who is he anyway? Left to right: James McBain, Tristan (double fisting), Scott Hearn, Genevieve Allen, and moi.

We eventually made our way to a Western bar across the street where we ordered some lovely fried food and pitchers of beer. We also got into balloon fights with the other table.


At this point James, Tristan and I decided it would be a great idea to call my brother in Canada. It was approximately 4AM where he lives. He was so happy to hear from us; especially what Tristan had to say: "You complete me. I love you. Ok, bye."

Super serial faces.

More super serial faces. As you can see, Tristan hasn't quite grasped the concept.

"This is my drunk face."

Dear Tristan: It is 6 PM. I love you. Thank you for telling me I should star in a full motion picture. Don't worry, I won't put any of the videos of you on my blog.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

St. Patrick's Day Take One

Of course no St Patrick's Day would ever be complete without going to my beloved Now Bar. Don't take the "beloved" part the wrong way, either. I'm not an alcoholic or anything. I just feel the same way as nearly every other foreign teacher in Suwon!

The bar was dazzling with green decorations everywhere and the ambience was decidedly Irish. Only in the past few weeks have I realized how many actual Irish people live in Suwon. I could have sworn we were all Canadian with the odd American thrown in! Ok, no. I'm not that much of a bigot. But this was definitely the first time in my history of celebrating St Paddy's that I actually partied with real-live Irish people, and to think, I had to come all the way to Korea to do it. How...ironic?

No Guinness, but plenty of Cass! Possibly the worst beer in the universe... no wait; second worst. Hite, which is the other beer you can get in Korea, is the worst. Anyways, everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves. As if we ever don't enjoy ourselves on the weekend, but whatevs. Most of us were wearing green, at least!

My dear friend Tim, discussing something very important with me. Or so it would seem. I think at one point he asked "What are you?", to which I replied "I'm a libra-scorpio." He was actually asking about my heritage, but I believe on St Patrick's that question is redundant since everyone is Irish. So there, Tim.

Tim brought some friends and we all hung out at the same table. Totes fun.

This is the best picture taken that night. It really captures how delicious Korean "nacho" chips really are.

My friend Veronica and her pal Michelle showed up looking very festive. I was pretty jealous of their awesome outfits.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Vietnamese in Suwon

The other day some coworkers and I went out for Vietnamese and some manditory payday shoe shopping. While it isn't always easy to find clothes in Korea (clothes that I would actually wear and not feel stupid in, that is) if you have feet sized in between 5 and 7.5 you will have absolutely no trouble finding a lot of funky shoes at extremely good prices. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to be able to buy two pairs of shoes at once and to have hardly made a dent in my monthly earnings. Really!

Anyway, I thought I would take some shots of the Vietnamese restaurant chain that I like to frequent for their delicious noodle soups. They have other stuff, too, but the soup is their specialty. I've never had Vietnamese food before coming to Korea, since there are few Vietnamese people in my part of Canada, so please excuse my ignorance if you've had numerous Vietnamese experiences. It's still quite a novelty to me!

The restaurants themselves are very chic. They serve you tea instead of water when you are first seated and you drink it in classy glass cups. Just as I imagine one does in Vietnam, no?

My delicious, massive bowl of Pho. The broth is almost sweet with hints of nutmeg or cinnamon or something... then, of course, l0ts and lots of noodles and large slices of steak with green onion garnish. This soup is definitely good for the soul.

My coworkers and I generally cannot resist the urge to get the appetizer platter as well. It comes with some chicken wings (Vietnamese? I'm not entirely sure...) as well as curried dumplings filled with shrimp, shrimp rolls, spring rolls, and some fresh veggies. I am quite partial to the dumplings.

So the worst feeling in the world is when you think you have mastered something, like using chopsticks, only to go to a restaurant where they give you big honkin' plastic ones that make it impossible to eat slippery noodles. And I thought the stainless steel ones were hard to use when I came to Korea almost eight months ago. They're really nothing compared to the plastic ones. Needless to say, I made a mess at the table.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The New Kids

And just like that, winter in Korea is over.

Today and yesterday have been sunny and really warm; like, it's not even jacket weather. It went from being extremely cold to comfortably warm with little to no transition period. I've been thinking of my family and friends in Canada who are still battling snowstorms and freezing rain and I really feel sorry for them (suckers).

Here are some pictures of my new kids! I'm finally starting to get to know them and already have picked my favourites. I'm such a bad teacher. At least I don't overtly show my favouritism, they're just my favourites in my head...

David is such a sneaky kid. He's always smiling like he knows something I don't know...

This is Jason, but he likes to call himself Henry after a character from Thomas the Train or some crap like that. The kids here are crazy about Thomas. Incidentally, Thomas is a very popular English name for a little boy to take. I have two in my class alone!

Making self portraits. You can see Miss Janine's self portrait lying on the table... I had to show them how to do it, right? I have way too much fun doing arts and crafts sometimes. At this table are Thomas K. and my only girls: Sally and Sonya.

At this table: the other Thomas, Thomas J. as well as Kevin, Alex and Jason/Henry.

Alvin and Daniel on the carpet for the puzzle centre.

Su-chang! I love this kid. He's such a tough guy, but the second you tickle him he's such a softie.

David, Toby and Miss Janine.

Bright Kim and Miss Janine.

Whoever gave Kevin his English name was totally on the ball. I mean, doesn't he look like a Kevin?

Dear Thomas J: I like you a lot, but please stop practicing tae kwon do on your classmates. They are all smaller than you. That is all.