Friday, November 12, 2010

Halloween! Happy...and other spirit week classics

WOW what a super-scary classroom!
Lots o'staples in that there haunted house.

Easy costume idea for the child who wears glasses: tape black construction paper to one lens. Annnddd, pirate. Done.
Crazy Hair day. Fantastic.

Oh boy, isn't carving a pumpkin with ten 6-year olds a thing.

But, instant gratification. They held that pumpkin like champs.

Crazy Hair day awesome-ness.

Tina (and photo props to Nathan Teacher!)

Spiderweb props to Sue Haeg! (and Creative Kidstuff)

Halloween social time. Lets compare princess dresses.

A Dorothy. A pumpkin. And a traditional Korean man?

A Peter Pan and a Dorothy.

Halloween games in Big Gym awesome-ness.

spoooooooky entrance to LCI on Halloween morn...

and an equally-eerie, grammatically-incorrect banner to celebrate an English school Halloween.

Just one of my solid face-paint pictures. Pikachu, no big deal.

Ok, actually it WAS a big deal.
(and more photo props to Nathan Teacher!)

And a non-LCI Halloween, too: Where's Waldo? Somewhere in Seoul, perhaps?

One of my little Disney princesses.

And a little Power Ranger, too.

Ray with his quite-genius creation: Mommy pumpkin to hold the candy, and Baby pumpkin to hold the candy wrappers. Brilliant.

Oops, Waldo is in Suji.

And in the subway!

Never mind that we're well into the next holiday season...these Halloween memories are too great to forgo, despite their belated appearance.

Most of the pictures speak for themselves...but one in particular I hope can truly give you just a glimpse of the particular happiness I've experienced here.

Face-painting, LCI Halloween.
Britney Teacher as Dorothy, surrounded by awestruck, costumed little girls and boys, marveling over the painted artwork on their hands and faces.

Korean kids and painting pictures.
Two key components for absolute bliss.

Quite a memorable moment, of a handful experienced here, when I have stopped to think, "I am in my element." :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Seoraksan, Take 2


Which is more captivating...the colors of the leaves, or the colors of the Korean hikers?

And GOOD MORNING, Korea...

View from our "campsite"

"Mountain traffic."
I have officially coined the phrase.
The inspiration? Hiking in Korea, of course.

Seoraksan National Park. One of the most popular mountains in Korea. Containing one of the highest peaks in Korea. One of the most beautiful sites for fall foliage.

And further: with myself as the witness, one of the most densely populated sites of foot traffic.

"Hey Korea, want to go hiking?
Oh...all 50 million of you?
Um, okay...the more the merrier!"

Disclaimer: this conversation did not actually take place.
Further disclaimer: "the more the merrier" does not actually apply to the activity of "mountain hiking."

This particular weekend trip to Seoraksan shall forever be imprinted in my mind as a mountain march of millions...but it was nevertheless memorable, gratifying, beautiful, invigorating, and containing all the essential elements of a good hike in Korea.

* The sharing of food with other Korean hikers.
But mostly, other Korean hikers sharing food with us.
You can always count on your fellow hikers to generously offer (and persist in offering) any or all of the following: dried squid, dried fish, a bite or two of kimchi, a can of beer, a paper cup of rice wine, or heck- even a shot of soju (liquor). This time around, we were graciously presented with a pot of mandu guk, a dumpling and noodle soup, that other campers at our campsite had just cooked up. Thankfully, Korean culture calls for us to accept such gifts, no matter the circumstances. Best mandu guk ever...and not just because we were the poor, pitiful foreigners without any cooking gear or hot food on the mountain. In return, we presented the kind cooks with my package of candy corn, brought to Korea by Sue Haeg just a few weeks prior. Was it difficult for me to give up? Absolutely- one can surely not find candy corn in Korea. But, I was willing to sacrifice such a treat for the sake of adhering to Korean culture.

*The brilliant displays of color
Not by the leaves and foliage...rather, by the Korean hikers. Nowhere else will you encounter so many label-crazy gearheads. Hardly a single hiker on the mountain sporting anything besides the most expensive, extreme, brand-name hiking gear, in the most extreme (and some might say obnoxious) colors. The splendid greens! The rich reds! The brilliant purples! The screaming chartreuse! The blaze orange! What to look at...the colors of the hikers, or the colors of the leaves?

* The running commentary of other hikers
Silence? On a mountain? Don't be silly- of course a mountain should be loud and boisterous!
I don't think I had a single original thought in my head all day long during the ears were constantly ringing with the greetings, calls, and conversation of those around me. Not to mention the commentary and exclamations directed at us foreigners making our way up the mountain...lots of it, surprisingly positive and encouraging! We accepted our fair share of high-fives, shoulders pats, and thumbs-ups. Although Maria and I caused perhaps the biggest stir in the mountain's history by wearing shorts on our way up the mountain, with the temperatures hovering around the 50s.

With every step, twist, and leap up the rocks, we heard:
"An-chuweo-yo?! An-chu-weo-yo?!"
Translation: "Not cold?! Not cold?!"
Other likely translation: "Not cold?! Shorts? Crazy!"

It was actually quite amusing for awhile to watch the chain reaction of successive hikers winding up the mountain trail, as word spread back further about the crazy American girls hiking in shorts just a ways down. But that, too, got old.

Although this sounds like a criticism of culture, I assure you: it is merely in jest and good humor. And sarcasm. How else can you possibly tolerate- and even enjoy- such an experience of wading through the crowds up a mountain, without a little good humor? :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall fall fall...Finally

Field trip with kindergarten to a farm...where Britney Teacher and Nathan Teacher really enjoyed the hay ride...maybe more than the kids?

Hay ride, wooo!!!

Feed the goats!

The students dug the fields for sweet potatoes- quite fun to see their pride in discovering even the tiniest, ugliest little sweet potato (Example A: Jamie, above)

He was quite the go-getter

Workin' the fields

Good thing you're wearing your mask, so that you don't breathe in the clean, fresh, country air. Makes sense.

Yes, she actually wore those pink bunny ears at school. All day long.
And no- it wasn't for Halloween.

Happy Birthday, Jamie! Cute as a button in his little bow tie

I love my Jamie :)

The birthday paparazzi- Mommy and Lily Teacher

Well, don't you look handsome in your little hankbok, Sean.
Vicky looked like a little American girl doll in her hanbok
Somebody put on their crabby pants this morning...
We made seongpyeon, traditional rice cakes for Chuseok.
Chris was very proud of his.

Making the seongpyeon: all you need are big blobs of glutinous rice and some red beans!
Vicky and Kelly in their hanboks, the traditional dress

" Teacher, my crown seongpyeon!"

Crystal- so very ghetto?

I have cute kids.

Finally- the cold and blustery autumn evening I have been awaiting for weeks now. The perfect autumn evening, in fact. Leaves swirling aimlessly in the wind. A chill that makes you stamp your feet as you impatiently wait at the bus stop and intersection. Rosy cheeks and cold skin upon entering a warm apartment. Good thing I was ill-prepared for such an unexpected autumnal arrival- I was caught in my Birkenstock sandals and little other protection from the biting wind. And yet, I had no problem embracing it. Fall, I love you.

Heat, goodbye- I have had quite enough of you. As a Minnesota denizen, I must experience the coldest, most testing of conditions again in order to thrive. Korea, I know you have that in you. Humidity, good riddance- I will not experience you in Korea again. There will not be another summer here...for me, at least. Henceforth, the cold is all I shall know...for here begins the stretch of my last four months in Korea, a stretch that will carry me through the winter until I leave this frigid peninsula for the equally frigid flatlands of Minnesota in early March (and I do hope for the extended Minnesota winter...I've got my eyes on the prize of squeezing in some Nordic skiing once I return- wait another year to ski again? I think not). How strange to think of my time left now as fitting into this neat little package of months that I can count on less than one hand...a neat little package of a single season. How has time arrived at such a point, yet again?

The fall thus far- or what we have referred to as the fall, despite the lack of autumnal weather- has passed me by in a whirlwind of new friends, new experiences, and even new emotions. Was I naive to think that all new, terrifying, and confusing emotions would surface within the first full year of living abroad? Absolutely. September and October...oh, what you have taught me and where you have brought me. I recently experienced, for truly the first time since being here, an utterly frustrating and defeating sense of annoyance and dislike for Korea: the masses of people, the sharing of personal space, the waiting in lines, the cultural taboos. I always knew it would be inevitable...and honestly, I've been feeling both happy and scared that it's taken so long to finally experience it. the sense that I have wholeheartedly enjoyed discovering and experiencing and living "Korea." the sense that I perhaps loved it too much, that it would keep sucking me in until I finally opened my eyes 5 years later, wondering where the time had gone. So I guess I feel grateful for these dissatisfied feelings...this is my gut, telling me that March is my go on home.