Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Korea has massive insects

I was walking home from lunch the other day and I saw a moth the size of my hand laying on a drain. I tiptoed carefully so as not to scare it. When it didn't move, I nudged it with my toe. Completely nonreactive, I was nearly convinced that it was fake. I looked around for cameras thinking I might be like those poor suckers on a reality TV shows who are duped somehow or another for the benefit of an audience sitting comfortably on their cushy couch laughing at the stupidity of the one caught on camera. "Candid Camera" came to mind and I was really perfect for the role. I scare, scream and faint at the drop of a hat. Seriously, Kyle can terrify me in our own home by the element of surprise even when I know he is home. Dozing in my own private day dream movie, all he has to do is appear in my line of sight where I don't expect anything but a coffee table to be, and I have all but left my skin behind and probably frightened the neighbors with my shrieks. As I stare down at this ginormous moth, I almost expected a string to be attached waiting for it's victim to follow to an embarrassing moment, but hilarious for onlookers. It was the largest insect I have seen in my life and it looked too big to be real. After determining the things authenticity, I tentatively touched it. There was no movement.

Lifting, without damaging the poor creature was a difficult task. Yellow dust particles flew off as I carried him towards our house. Kyle was sick at home and I knew if anyone would appreciate a moth made in the image of his sci-fi books, it would be my husband. We kept him long enough to take his picture, as I couldn't just pass up the opportunity to document such a large insect. He is not the only mammoth size insect Korea has. They also have alarmingly large bees that look at least three times the size of a normal bee, about the size of a thumb. But nothing is quite as disarming as the spiders with webs at least four feet wide with bodies half the size of my palms.

I am happy as long as he continues to eat the annoying insects such as mosquitoes and gnats, but he seriously makes me think of the spider monster in Lord of the Rings. I just hope she doesn't start to catch teachers in her web. I'd be Okay if she caught a few of the administration though. In fact, I might lure them to her web for her.

A beetle just hanging out on our towel!

Friday, August 27, 2010


Judging by the titles of many of my recent posts "obsessed" "fan death" "paranoid" you would think I was sometype of crazy who needed to be locked behind padded bars. And maybe I do? Who knows. (Evil laugh mwahahahaha)

So what am I paranoid about? Winter.

I know it's only the end of August, but August is at the begining of the slippery slope towards that icy Mongolian wind blowing through this penisula and making everything shivery to the touch.

I really hate winter here.

I hate cold weather, and Korea has really cold winters. If I had been born an Eskimo I would have been thrown to the bears for all of my yammering and complaining if I didn't freeze to death first of course.

But I am so paranoid that the other day, someone was talking about how the heat wave back at home where they will be next week I litterally couldn't remember that we were still in the middle of a very hot Korean summer.

"Heat wave" I asked? "How hot?"

"106-107 degrees about?"

In my head, I thought, wow that is hot for winter. A few years ago we had 90 degree weather in Febuary, but I don't know that it ever got that hot in the middle of winter. And then I looked outside and did a mental slapping of my forehead.

"It's not winter!" I said outloud to my stunned converser.

"uh.. no it's summer" he said, a little confused.

I don't know when I got so mixed up. Maybe it's because we have been spending so much time planning for our return home, and prematurely looking for our next job that I just forgot to keep myself in the present. But either way, I am cowering in the corner afraid of the big fat cold boogie man also known to some as winter. I feel like I just happily packed up those winter clothes and now in just a few short months, because really the months are FLYING BY, it will be upon us and once again, I will be bundled up from head to foot dreaming of summer, pools and sweat. Yes sweat. I love sweat. It makes me happy. It means that I am warm.

Here is an old picture of us in Santiago. I may have a smile on my face, but look at that body posture. I am cold and not liking it!

Here's to being a lunny and paranoid!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mud festival video

Some of you may be so tired of hearing about Mud festival you feel like you have mud bleeding out your eyes, but alas, I have one more article to share. Yes, that is right, I took video. This is much shorter than most of the videos we upload as we could only use it responsibly while not muddy ourselves. We went to the festival to film before changing into our clothes that we were prepared to get muddy. The screen has water droplets on it from the rain only an hour before.

The opening scene is the mud wrestling followed by a scene of jumping children excited by the mascots of the festival. Yes, this was also a family event surprisingly. In all honesty, I thought there would be much more alcohol consumption but everyone was having so much genuine fun, I guess it wasn't really needed. No excuse to act silly, it was the whole point of the festival.

At the end of the video notice the amount of cameras and when I talked about the "paparazzi" in the previous post, I meant crowds of photographers MUCH larger than this one.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thoughts on Korean Business Culture (by Kyle) part 1

For those of you that have been following us for a while (wink to family) you may recall that a few of my posts from our time in Chile were simply reflections on some of the things that I found...interesting about Chile. The reception I got from you guys was quite good but more importantly I found it to be a very therapeutic activity. After this week, I am in desperate need of therapy. Furthermore, a certain female that I spend 98% of my time with who shall remain nameless has been pestering me to be more active on our blog. In fairness to said pest, I do always feel quite happy having posted something and in general I think you guys deserve to hear a bit more from me so without further delay here is Part One in my Non P.C. and Completely Biased Thoughts on Korea. Enjoy, I know I will ;)

Actually, I should probably preface this with a small disclaimer; I LOVE South Korea for all of it's beauty, it's quirky culture and rich past. No matter how many things I find about them that irritates the hell outa me, the people are truly amazing. They are welcoming, respectful and proud and no matter how backwards they may be doing something, they do it with vigor and know how to have a good time when the work is done. SO what follows is a series of rants but please bear in mind that it's all coming from a place of admiration and love of all the things they do right that make the crazy things stand out all the more.

On Korean Business Culture:

Of all the things for me to rant about, this one is rather unique as it seems to be the root source of some of the other things that irk me about Korea. Perhaps the reason is because Korean Business culture is not isolated to just the work place. As is true with a lot of Asian countries, socializing and more importantly drinking with your colleagues is an essential part of Korean Business life. In fact, most Korean men believe that you don't really know a person till you've gotten wasted with them. This perception is so permeating that it's rather common for potential employers to treat prospective employees to a meal just to decide if they're the right kind of drunk to hire. So this part isn't what irks me, but you can see how right from the start, things are very, very different from how we do things in the west.

Korea's Business culture and it's societal standards are very closely knit. The more important you are in your business, the more important you are socially. Not that different from the west in that regard, however the way Koreans conduct themselves in the office is vastly different. It is incredibly important to show your superiors the respect they "deserve" for being older and earning more money than you and you do this by never complaining and working long hours. Essentially, what this does is it allows Korean businesses to be inefficient, repressive, and marginally successful for a generally short amount of time. The few Korean companies that have managed to do well globally are the ones that have taken a more "global" approach to their business cultures. So why am I whining? As a coordinator I get to see first hand just how dramatically the two conflicting approaches to doing business can clash. Westerners expect issues to be brought up and resolved in a very timely and efficient manor. Koreans expect things to move slowly but in a very respectful direction through the appropriate chain of command. The way this plays out is as follows;

Mon. 8:35am - Teacher Brandon: Hey Kyle, our apartment has some mold growing that's getting a little out of hand. Could you please talk with someone to get it treated?
Kyle: Sure thing. Apparently we had the same issue this time last year so I'm pretty sure they won't be surprised.
(to director Peter): Hey Peter, some of the apartments are having mold issues. Would you please ask maintenance to come out and treat it?
Director Peter: Uhhhh, mold? Like behind the couch?
Kyle: Well, mostly near the ceiling. It grows on the wood trim around the ceiling, but some of us have it on the carpet as well and on some of our clothes. I think the rooms are too humid without the AC working.
Director Peter: Ok, well...did you submit a maintenance request on the website?
Kyle: ...Ya, Teacher Brandon put one on there about a week ago and the mold just keeps growing. Could you please call Maintenance and just ask them to go take care of it today? Katherine is in the apartment most of the day and I don't think it's good for a pregnant woman to be exposed to mold for long periods of time.
Director Peter: Ok, well you should leave the windows open and have the fans going in the rooms to keep the mold from growing.
Kyle: Uhh...I um... I'm pretty sure that the reason we have the mold is because it's so humid outside and we can't keep the humidity out without AC. The apartments that don't have mold issues are the ones with de-humidifiers and the ones with working AC. But anyways, can you call maintenance to have them come kill the mold that is already in the apartments please?
Director Peter: Ok, I will call.

ONE MONTH LATER....after multiple conversations covering the same information.

Kyle: (to director Peter): Peter, any progress on the mold?
Director Peter: You still have mold?
Kyle: ....Yes Peter, we still have mold. No one has come out to treat it. Every time we wipe it off it just grows back. The rooms are just too humid and we don't know what to use to kill it.
Director Peter: Are you keeping the windows open?

And this is no exaggeration.

Kyle: (To the President of English Village) Excuse me, do you have a second? We are having a serious mold issue in a lot of the apartments. (Shows the president our mold covered jackets, bags, etc.) Would you please ask the maintenance staff to do something about it today? It's been a month and a half and no one has come to take care of it.
President: Ohhhhh... that's a very bad problem you have.
Kyle: Yes, yes it is. Would you please help us get it taken care of. We are getting very desperate and it's very unhealthy.
Presidnet: Yes, that is serious. Are you on the first floor?
Kyle: Yes we are and the AC is set too high so our apartment stays humid and warm all the time now. Will you please do something about it?
President: Yes, I think you should move into an upstairs apartment.
Kyle:.....But MANY of the apartments have mold in them. Ours is bad but other people are having problems too, even the upstairs ones.
Presidnet: Other apartments have mold too?
Kyle: Yes, here's a list of all the apartments with mold.
President: Wow, this is a serious problem!
Kyle:......yes it is.......so will you have the maintenance staff fix it please?
President: Yes of course! Did you submit a request on the website?
Kyle: .....sigh.....yes, a month and a half ago.
President: Ok, you should keep your windows open.
Kyle:..............ok, thanks. (Walks away before loosing it.)

So I think I will stop here for now, but to give you a taste of whats to come, here's a list of the topics I will be covering in our series. Please comment to let us know which one you would like me to write about next. We might even have a poll on the side. We want to know what you are interested in learning more about.

On Korean Religious Culture (which could probably be extended to all Religious Culture but I'm railing on the Koreans right now):

On Korean Weather: That which may never be understood

On Korean Dollar Jumping, Penny Pinching: The new fad for Korean Businesses

On English Villages and their Koreanization: How to take a great idea and make it mediocre.

On Good Ol' American efficiency, God bless it!: Nuf said

On the Korean Generational Divide:

On Korean Food and a little thing called Variety:

The Stunning Secret World of Underground Fashion:

On Piracy in S.K. Arrrrrr they wrong to do it?:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mud-fest part 2

Mudfest part 1 can be read here...

Our first goal was to be painted in colored mud for pictures so that we could take pictures and safely put away the camera for when we really got messy. The line was disorganized and long. While we waited, a few of us got free face paintings. After 45 minutes of waiting, the lines merged into a mob. Those who were doing the painting, had decided that they needed a break. I believe in breaks as much as the next person, but that is why you have shifts. We had waited in a very long line, wasted a lot of time only to have them tell us to come back in thirty minutes. The crowd went berserk, jumping on the tables, smearing any left over colored mud which could be found on their bodies. We slowly backed away from the mob scene only to walk into an impromptu mudball fight. Cars, I'm assuming of the unfortunate workers, were being used as barricades. Mud balls contrary to what one might think, are not as soft as snowballs. Not even close.

On our way out of the festivities, I decided that we should jump in the mud pit. A Korean woman dressed in pink and standing ridiculously in high heels in mud stood outside of the plastic swimming pool, speaking roboticly into a microphone repeating, "Please be careful. For your own safety please listen to me. Excuse me, be careful." The players within the mud pit ignored her complacent pleas. The situation was extremely laughable. She held no authority, nor any passion for what she said and the wrestlers continued to play as they liked. Our mistake was thinking that if we got in the mud pit, that we would be left to our devices. I had no desire to wrestle with the crazy guys in the middle, but to stand in the side splashing in the mud. That misconception was a blunder. We were thrown face down in the mud as soon as we entered the pool. "Please be careful" was barely audible amongst the chaos. We exited about a minute later soaked and unrecognizable, even to Kyle who had left to put away the camera.

That evening we had hamburgers, a fantastic treat in this kimchi loving country. Fireworks filled the air as we sat along the beach enjoying the evening breeze.

The next day, the sun came out swinging and no sign of rain even hinted in the air. Immediately upon entering the park, an adjuma (old lady) grabbed me by the wrist and began painting me with the soft, cool mud. The paintbrush tickled my skin and I squirmed a little as she painted. Kyle painted war paint on his face as photographers shot away.

We stood in the colored mud line successfully this time. I choose blue with red, yellow and green splattered across my body and face while Kyle decided to go Lord of the Rings Ork-like with a hand print smack in the middle of his face. Our choices were a hit with the photographers, or the paparazzi as I nicknamed them as they swarmed in on us, placed us in front of a black background and shot like crazy. Literally hundreds of photographers were adorning their huge expensive cameras taking pictures of all the crazy foreigners, but for the moment, we were the “it celebrities.”

One of the last things we did was to make a clay bowl on a spinning wheel. I, with the clay pottery maker, formed the clay bowl. Kyle then carved into it, "Mudfest 2010." A memento for us to always remember the festival by.

We cleaned as best we could by jumping in the ocean before getting back on the bus to head home. The ocean could only clean so much however, and I continuously found mud in odd locations throughout the next couple of days. Before going to mud fest, I had learned once upon a time, that pigs use mud as a sunscreen to protect their lightly pigmented skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Mud festival proved that mud can also be used on humans’ skins with excellent protection qualities. Unfortunately, when the adjuma painted my legs, she missed a few sections, mostly on the backs of my legs. So not only did I go home with mud in my clothes and behind my ears, but also a plague-like sunburn on my calves.

We are definitely going back to Mudfest next year. It was a blast!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mud fest part 1

The rain thrummed down on the roof of the bus like an African drum beat. The gray sky, and abnormally florescent green plants illuminated by the rain drops foretold a dreary weekend. I watched gloomily out the windows as we passed beautiful Korean countryside. The rolling hills glistening in droplets were beautiful and yet depressing. We were on our way to the famous, or infamous, depending on who you ask MUD FEST and it was raining. "Rain makes more mud" was what one of my friends had said before we left. "But it also makes me shiver!" I retorted.

The bus parked alongside the road in Boryeong, the location of the festival and the bus driver impatient with our hesitance to leave the bus while rain pounded down on the unfamiliar streets shooed us out.

"what do we do now?" I asked Kyle.
"Walk in the rain? Let's try and find our friends." was his response

The umbrella did little to prevent the diagonal rain from attacking our rain magnetized bodies. We eventually, after finding our friends in the rain, parked under a tent for drinks while attempting to wait out the rain. I should just say that had it been warmer, the rain wouldn't have been such a deterrent, however accompanying the rain, a significant drop in temperature created a discomforting stage.

But as luck would have it, our entire weekend would not be plagued with the disarmingly cold rain. After lunch, the sun broke through the overcast sky, shoving the clouds from their menacing positions and smiling on all the party goers of the weekend. We quickly changed into our swimsuits and clothes that we didn't mind getting dirty- possibly permanently and headed out to the festivities.

(shopping in a convenient store)

Walking through the mud deified gates, I realized that I had walked straight into an anthropologists dream. Mud covered humans, barely distinguishable from mud covered pigs, ran, slid and jumped into mud. Ghosts of humans walked past, each and everyone dripping in mud, laughing. A large slide made out of the same material you would find in a moon-bounce, stood erect in front of us. Screams of delight echoed in the air as passengers slid down the muddy slide. A prison in which people voluntarily submitted to being splattered in mud was at the front of park. A mud pit with mud wrestling gleamed behind it. When we had signed up for a mud festival, I hadn't imagined this. (a very strange old man dressed as a woman who didn't play his instrument well)

(He was a man posing as a statue)

(A mud slide)

(the mud prison where you got sprayed with mud)

(Mud wrestling although this pool was mostly water at this point)

(mud fighting)

Korea, by all measures is a country that idolizes cleanliness to such a degree that when you ask just about any Korean why they liked traveling to a specific country, their answer is almost always "it is clean." Why do they not like China, "because it is dirty." Singapore, a country that has made chewing gum illegal for cleanliness sake, is a favorite of Koreans for that sole reason. And Korea, this clean-obsessed nation, has created a festival surrounding the idea of getting muddy in public. And the goal isn't just to get a little muddy. No. The goal of this festival is to be covered in mud from head to toe your entire weekend. A nation of clean freaks are getting down and dirty in the mud, on purpose. As I stood in the background with my mouth agape at the muddiness of it all, a thought struck me. It is not in our nature to be clean. When children play in the mud, and they are reprimanded, they are socialized to be clean. But after witnessing this event and the exalting of the mud, I have come to the conclusion that our nature is not to be spic and span as is accepted in polite society, but to be dirty if allowed. That if being dirty was part of society, we would relish it. Maybe my theory has flaws, and maybe you disagree, but after witnessing and participating in the Boryeong mud fest, this is the conclusion I have come away with. It should be noted however, that although this began as a Korean festival, it has become so popular amongst the foreigners, it has nearly been taken over. I have been told that the Koreans mostly go during the week while the foreigners swarm to it on the weekends.

To be continued...

Monday, August 16, 2010

A tale of a cricket

I recently found a new home away from the wild outside. Mountainsides seem too rugged, the sidewalk too hazardous, but an apartment with two bedrooms is small and yet doable. I adventure outside occasionally for food, but because this apartment is as alive as a jungle in the middle of South America with mold, fruit flies, spiders and normal flies, I actually have quite a buffet inside to choose from daily. I was so excited when I stumbled upon this cricket heaven I couldn't keep myself from gloating to a couple of my other cricket friends. I was trying to keep this hidden gem a secret, but because of me and my big mouth, there are now or were a few of us. There's a reason I don' t live in Seoul. Overcrowding and no personal space is not my bag baby.

The humans are rarely home and when they are, at least in the past, they have been relatively kind, moving me from the shower before they turn the water on, or shooing me off the bed before they lay their head down to rest. Reasonable requests in my opinion. But the other night however, I don't know what happened to their normally sweet demeanor. But something, which I have yet discovered did occur, and it caused them to flip their lid and go after me and my kind.

It all started when I caught sent of a lovely cricketess. She had evidently chanced upon my humble abode a few days past, and somehow we had yet to encounter one another. I may have powerful legs, but there is no need to waste precious energy indoors away from my predators. Her name was... well.. I don't know. I called her Ms. lovely, but we never officially met. I don't know if the humans particularly didn't like my one and true cricketess or if something else offended them, but whatever occurred, they went off the deep end. And I mean that. They went absolutely bonkers. I have never seen such rage before and I am an old man, as crickets go that is.

When I caught the scent of Ms. Lovely I called out to her. The humans had just begun to lay in their bed. I, snuggled in my pile of dirty clothes in the corner of the room and sang my sweetest serenade. I rubbed my legs together with the passion of a latin lover, producing, in my humble opinion some of the greatest and most skilled chirping a male cricket has ever made. To my surprise however, she refused to reply and instead, another male replied. I am convinced that she was playing hard to get and not blowing me off as others have suggested. The male however astounded me with his bravodo. I mean seriously, coming into my house, and going after my woman, the nerve of some crickets. I continued my song reaching octaves way above his unskilled monotone legs, until the lights flashed on. Kyle, I believe is the human's name was wielding some sort of metal object, maybe a spatula. His hair was disheveled and his eyes were red and slitted. He was looking for something, but what, I have no idea. They were normally sleeping by this time, so why he began stomping around carrying a kitchen utensil, I couldn't fathom.

And then I see him, my competition hopping across the room attempting to escape Kyle and his spatula. It was his chirping, I'm sure of it. He really couldn't carry a tune poor fella. Kyle carried him out of the apartment and threw him back into the wilderness where he belongs. Good riddance, is all I could think. The lights flipped back off, and they slipped into stillness once again.

I had just begun my love ballad when the lights flashed back on. "What could it be this time?" I thought. A flash of pure beauty, and my one and only cricketess skips in front of my pile. Vanessa is chasing her with a shoe. "No!" I scream silently into the t-shirt surrounding me. "Not my darling, my sugar muffin. She is my beloved, my angel. I know I don't know her real name but I can't live without her." And bam, with that last thought, the shoe falls on my darling mysterious cricketess, smothering that shining light forever, never to be seen again. I stood, flabbergasted in my cushy home, unbelieving the events unfolding before me. One minute she was prancing by, waving her hips like a trained beauty queen and the next she has disappeared without a trace. Well, there is kind of a trace of her on the carpet, but lets not talk about such disturbing things.

After that monsterous woman Vanessa had crawled back into bed, my shock wore off, and I could do nothing but weep. My weeping inspired a new song, a tragic song of sorrow and lost love, but before I was able to finish my musical ingenious creation, the lights once again flipped on, and I felt my bundle of clothes being moved. "Two AM in the morning." I heard her mumble. If this isn't the last one, I'm gonna go crazy."

She couldn't figure out where to put me and finally settled on the second bedroom and closed both the door to her bedroom and my new one. I continued my song in solitude until the wee hours of the night, but I didn't hear from them again that evening. I am afraid my home has been ruined for me now. I haven't decided whether to leave or to make my home back in the bedroom with the bipolar couple.

Maybe I shall try singing them a song. Yes, a dedicated and specially written song to the home owners will do the trick. Tonight, I shall sing them a lullaby as they rest their heads. Whatever caused them to turn into monsters in the night will all be assuaged with this masterpiece croon, I am sure of it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


After long talks about our leave date, our two weeks of vacation days, and what our options were, it has been approved by the powers of English Village that we may use our vacation days to come home for most of the Christmas holidays. When these talks first became serious, and previous to any plans actually being confirmed, my nagging adventure-loving cricket that sits on my shoulder giving me advice played his song of sorrow for our lack of upcoming vacations.
"Be quiet" I told him, "we will have plenty of opportunities to travel later."
Sorrowful violin playing followed
"We will be home for Christmas." I added, "doesn't that make you excited?"
a note was broken for a brief moment as he he pondered this, and then went on wielding his instrument in affliction.

Later however, it came to our attention that what is considered "Korean Thanksgiving" Chusok has three national holidays right smack in the middle of the week.
"We could work overtime and get compensation days instead of pay and go on a vacation." Kyle explained to me excitedly.
"We could go to the Philippines!" I added feverishly, "Let's look at tickets now!"
And it was decided that we would actually go on a vacation. I have discovered something about myself, but in general I think that this is probably true of many people. The thought of something fun and exciting in your future invigorates the mind and soul. It doesn't necessarily breed more productivity at work...., but I have a pep in my step now as I walk to work. I imagine daily my week in the Philippines. This daydreaming is augmented by my obsessive behavior when in comes to trips.
Obsessive? Vanessa? NEVER! But alas, it seems a trait that runs in the family when it comes to particular projects of interest. Our minds just cannot help but run over and over and over, and over the same topic until it has been flattened and completely smoothed over by our obsessive and occasional feverishly insane behavior.

Last Sunday I spent literally my entire day looking up hotels and places to go in the Philippines. I made plane charts with prices. I made hotel charts according to their location and price. I felt exhausted by the end of it, and a little wasteful spending an entire day working on it, but I had gotten a lot done.

I wish I could say that was the end of my obsessive story, but it didn't stop there. We couldn't decide. So I continued to look. I found a website with nearly 11 pages of hotels listed. Some people may not be aware of this, but I am often considered cheap. This vacation will be a sort of anniversary celebration, so I am willing to splurge some, but I also have to know that I am getting the best deal possible with the most included in order to make a decision. Which means that it was necessary to go through all 11 pages to determine, I was getting the right deal. Wiki travel is pretty awesome and seems to provide a good amount of information.

I told myself at work the next day that I would only spend an hour on it. On hour stretched to two hours which stretched to the next day as well. On about the third day of obsessing I found the agoda website. I normally prefer to go straight through the hotel, but after comparing prices, I found that it was possible to get a better deal for some of the hotels though some of the travel agent sites. Ten pages of notes later, I handed my list to Kyle and said, pick your top 5 favorites and we will choose from there.

Partially what took so long was the fact that we had to convert each amount from Philippino pesos to dollars. It isn't an easy conversion so glancing at the number basically didn't help unless I put it into a converter. I also had to look at trip advisor for how people reviewed the hotel. I also had to make a list of important quailities of each hotel. Does it have a pool, are the rooms ugly or cute? Do they have a terrace? Do they over look the ocean? Is it a beachfront property? So many questions to answer.

And normally I cease when I find the PERFECT place, but non of them were perfect, unless of course we wanted to spend boucoups of money. We aren't rich. We have saved quite a bit of money, but so far, all of that money has a place it has to return to eventually whether it be a credit card debt, a parental debt or a savings account, but either way, although I have expensive tastes, and I prefer imagining myself as wealthy, we have limited money and so we must make choices. Spend more money on our hotel, or on activities. And personally I prefer the activities.

Hopefully my obsessive behavior will pay off in the end, but if we don't have the perfect hotel after hours upon hours of researching, one of us will be very frustrated. Lets all hope for Kyle's sake, that the right decision is made in the end :)

Monday, August 09, 2010

When we are old

I hope this is us when we are elderly. This is just plain adorable! Watch here

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Jellom nam do - video

Any explanation you could EVER want for this wonderful video can be found in one of the THREE posts about this trip. If you aren't tired of reading about it already, here is some more eye candy for your senses. Sometimes I am a little prolific to an extreme, but if your not into reading so much you can watch the movie version :)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Lost in translation

Walking to the morning meeting last week, all I could think about was swimming in the school pool after work. Swimming laps certainly beats hitting the treadmill in the non-air conditioned gym, but I had a problem, I didn't have goggles. No goggles, don't be a baby, you might say... and for most people it isn't, but someone who is infamous for swimming across all four lanes in a swim team contest the summer before high school needs goggles. I am significantly stronger in my right side, and without the use of my eyes can never tell if I have started swimming off in the wrong direction. In our neighborhood pool a few years ago, I was swimming laps with Kyle and once again, predictably, I veered. I grabbed onto who I thought was Kyle's hairy arm, but once opened after wiping the chlorine from my eyes, I found that instead in my grip was a random strangers arm. I am not afraid to be silly or make a fool of myself, but swimming into strangers is just plain embarrassing. And doing it more than once, well... I don't even know the word for it.

To combat this predictably embarrassing moment, I asked a fellow Korean co-worker if she had goggles.
"yes" she said
"Do you think Kyle and I could borrow them?" I asked sweetly
She stopped for a moment and thought. Her face was one of consternation. Thinking I had made a culture faux pa I quickly added,
"If you aren't comfortable lending them to us, it is perfectly fine. I really don't mind if you say no."
"No, no" she said, "I will bring it after lunch"
"Are you sure?" I asked. Asians often will not say "No" even when they desire to, so I wanted to make sure that this was not something that she really didn't want to let us borrow.
After lunch I walked into the office to speak with the hubs. Kelly, the co-worker, sits across from Kyle's desk.
"What you asked for is right there." Kelly said pointing to Kyle's desk.
I glanced and saw a container filled with blue liquid, but as I was in a hurry and didn't have time for chatting, I thanked her and ran back to class.
After work, however, I was able to get a second glance at it. I had thought maybe these were special goggles kept in liquid but as I stared into the blue, I could see nothing.
Smiling, Kyle explained, "She thought you said 'gargle'."
"That's why she looked at me so strangely?" I asked
"She said she thought it was a strange thing to ask for but she brought it anyways."
It has become the current office joke. "gargle!"

Lost in translation round 2

We have had 6 weeks of Russian students. Four of the six of those weeks, I have been their teacher. The way our programs work is that morning time is grammar and nitty gritty study time, while the afternoon is typically all theme classes. One of the theme classes is called INSECTS. It sounds boring or gross depending on your reaction to insects, but it is a favorite because the activity involves drawing on a plastic film, melting and shrinking said film in a toaster over to a small hardened key chain. The kids love it. However as we were going through the names of the different insects, a picture of a lady bug came up. One kid yelled out "flying cow!"
"Seriously?" I asked "This looks like a flying cow?"
"No!" another kid corrected him "God cow."
It turns out, that is the direct translation for ladybug in Russian.

Another strange and rather fitting translation is "flying rat," which I would have assumed referred to a pigeon, but it is actually the name for "bat" in Russian.

Living in Korea certainly provides for many mis-communications and mis-translations, but never a dull moment.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

This past weekend

We did a little shopping in Seoul this past weekend. We were looking for a new camera lens with a longer zoom on it than our what the shop keeper called a "cheap" kit lens. We didn't buy anything as they were all quite pricey and we decided to do a little more research before making such a steep purchase. The area of town that is known for camera shops is called Namdaemun. Korea has this interesting concept with shopping. When you need to buy something specific you go to a particular area of town where every vendor specializing in that product can be found. In Namdaemun, if you aren't shopping for cameras, camera lenses or extra camera products, I don't why else you would really be in the area. Every other shop literally for blocks and blocks is nothing but camera shops. And it is the same in Yongsan, which is called the electronics market. The strange thing about this is that they are all selling the EXACT SAME things without competitive prices nor are they ever really willing to bargain. The setup seems so strange to me. I don't understand how any of them stay in business this way.

Either way, it was a fun outing. The downfall to outings into Seoul, however are that the travel time often sucks up so much of the day, I never want to make the effort. Public transportation is awesome in Seoul, but we are not exactly in Seoul. We are countrified Seoul, meaning that we are urban enough to warrant the last subway stop on the line, but our subway only comes twice, sometimes three times an hour if we are lucky. And then, you have to get into Seoul, add on another hour to two hours for that. Plus you have to take into consideration the return trip because for some strange reasons the trains stop running around midnight, which means we have to be back on a train no later than 10:30pm. Blah bla, bla. All that to say, going into Seoul for a little outing is more hassle than it's worth most of the time.

But we have been working A LOT, 6-7 days a week for the past two weeks, so we needed to get our before we went absolutely stir crazy. And while we were out, we took some interesting photos of this little country we live in, I thought you might enjoy.

Kids were playing in this river. Seoul is basically a sauna the entire summer.

Namdaemun away from the camera shops.

Fruit displayed in an interesting fashion

Old men passing away the time.

I am pretty sure this is ginseng

Koreans love their ginseng