Friday, April 23, 2010

Field trips and fish markets

Reunited with two of my former kindergarten students, Kate and Julie. I miss being their teacher!
Kindergarten field trip to the car museum. Jamie looks thrilled to be there!
But Chris, as usual, had a smile the whole day!
Hello, Vicky!
John Chris and Jamie
Britney Teacher's class
Field trip buddies: Vicky and Jamie
Everyone hold hands with your buddy!

SO excited to go into the car museum!

A big ol' tub of fermenting shrimp, at the Noryanjin Fish Market in Seoul

And a big ol' pile of bloody fish...don't worry, you can select the bloody fish of your choice and pick it right up off the dirty floor yourself!

Stall after stall of fish and seafood...dead and alive

Clams, oysters, and shells for sale?

Unidentifiable sealife...
This octopus crawled right over the edge of the tub and slipped onto the floor right in front of us...!!

Giant octopus tentacles and squid-on-a-string!

You can select the live seafood of your choice, watch them chop it up, and then have it prepared in the kitchens and restaurants right behind the fish stalls...we weren't quite that adventurous, though! Why yes, I'd like to buy a whole octopus...

Inside the market

This woman wanted us to either: a)take a picture of her holding the crab, b) buy the crab from her, c) have us hold the crab, or d) throw the crab in our faces to scare us! (we actually had that happen- with some quite close encounters- at many of the fish stalls)

Business deals

You'll see this all over Seoul, little camps of old men and women selling produce....and dried fish...and roots...and other unidentifiable goods

You know you're getting close to the fish market when...the streets become lined with stalls of dried fish on a string!So I have this problem called "Bibimbap Addiction." I guess it's a healthy addiction, though??

Caught a few of the spring cherry blossoms!
Beautiful cherry blossoms!
Eating one of my favorite street foods, a "goldfish cookie." It's like a little Eggo waffle, made in a fish-shaped mold and filled with sweet red beqan paste. You can buy a bag of them, hot off the street, for 1,000 won (about 80 cents)

All-you-can-eat galbi restaurant for London Teacher's birthday: you pick the meats and vegetables you want from a big "buffet," and then cook them all on your table's grill

LCI Teachers (plus London's mom, who was visiting for her birthday!)
Can you find me?? :)
Just grabbing some drinks (at the local 7-Eleven)...and drinking them on the streets...before luxury noraebong!

Showing more Korean love in the subway!

Time is continuing to fly...with every monthly paycheck now comes the shock that yet another 4 weeks have somehow passed...and the realization that our time here has now become a countdown.
Don't be fooled, though...time isn't flying because of the warm, enjoyable spring weather that encourages outdoor activities and exploration...quite the contrary. A few warmer, "springlike" days here and there, but for the most part, overcast skies and North Face jackets only.
I'm starting to feel the pressure that my days are numbered...and it kills me to know that there's still so much of Korea (let alone so much of Seoul) to still discover and explore. Lately I've also been quite worried about the inevitable, gloomy end to my days on the Korean diet...what will I do without my spicy red foods for all meals? Darren was asking me the other day what restaurants I'm excited to eat at when I come home...and absolutely nothing came to mind. I don't want any food from home! (no offense, Mom...please still feed me when I come home). Shauna, Christine and I have quite literally become addicted to bibimbap (, particularly the bibimbap from our favorite little Korean restaurant near school. The owners there, an older Korean couple, know us by name and love, love, love when we come in (which in recent months, has been just about every day). He even knows that Shauna doesn't like mushrooms in her bibimbap...and he will take care to serve it mushroom-less to her each time! I can't bear the thought of never being able to eat his bibimbap again!!

I've come to the recent conclusion that I love my new kindergarten students and am officially attached to them. We had a field trip to a car museum last week, and it was absolutely a blast to see them so excited and willing to explore every last exhibit. They amaze me every day- I just can't believe what personality they already have at this age! I find myself writing more and more about them every week, in the weekly reports to their parents...I feel like a proud parent myself, wanting to document their every clever comment and impressive feat. I can already tell that my last days with them are going to be extremely difficult...not looking forward to that much.
Like the fish market pictures above? Just say the words, and I will gladly send you the more detailed, much-too-disgusting-for-this-blog pictures of slimy, squirmy, unidentifiable sea creatures there. The whole set-up of the market was just insane- row after row of open tanks, buckets, and bins, filled to the brim with splashing sea life, in a giant warehouse. Fish, squid, octopi, shrimp, eels...anything under the sea that you can imagine. And perhaps the most frightening, forward Korean fishmongers that you can imagine! To three American girls, it felt like a giant funhouse...exciting, suspenseful, and disturbingly scary! We felt very much the outsiders, being the only non-Koreans in the entire market, and very obviously just tourists. Every single fishmonger at every single stall definitely attempted one or more of the following with us: a) hold up an octopus for us to look at, and then pretend to throw it in our faces when we actually got close enough to see, b) ask us if we were from Los Angeles (no), New York City, (nope), or Texas (ha!), c) or honestly try to sell us a live eel or whole octopus carcass. Um....did we really look like we were likely to buy an octopus carcass??
Frankly, I'm surprised we made it out of that market alive...intact...and not dripping wet from the splashing tanks, the octopi trying to escape from their tubs, or the fresh blood coating the warehouse floor. Lovely. Next time, not wearing my nicest pair of suede shoes...
This is just a short entry...hopefully more to come soon...but it's pretty late at night, and I have a big day of yet another kindergarten birthday tomorrow! Life is tough these days :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Christine and I at a "Luxury Noraebong" place, for London Teacher's birthday celebration last weekend. Apparently, "luxury" looks like someone's living room!

At the Luxury Noraebong, you take off your shoes and put on these slippers (typical of Korean houses and buildings)- however, they didn't want us foreigners wearing these slippers, so they made us go barefoot. The floors were all glass, with lights and flowers inside. Every door you see is a private noraebong room!

One of my recent meals at lunch: bibim mando. It looks like spaghetti- but don't be fooled! Those are noodles with a spicy hot pepper paste, plus mando (dumplings) and carrots, cucumber, radish, lettuce, and seaweed on the side. You mix it all together... a lot like bibimbap, my favorite Korean meal!

Kindergartner Ray, displaying a coloring sheet designed by Britney Teacher. What fun, phonics and coloring at the same time!!

I love Jamie- I take many pictures of him!
My new kinder class, gathered together for Kelly's birthday!
Me and the birthday girl- don't look too excited, Kelly!
The Post-Brunch meal on Easter, courtesy of Starbucks...
Smiley Egg-in-a-cup, handed out by cute Korean kids dressed in animal costumes. Made my day!!
Of COURSE the eggs would have little bows...just like any Korean baby/girl/woman
Umm, can I take you home with me, please??

Easter chick...I think he gave me all 3 of his Easter gift bags
Naturally, I was partial to the cute little pink bunny...

And this little bunny, too

Look, it's an Easter monkey!

Walked home from the gym just a little while ago...a typical Tuesday night in Suji at 10 pm, with groups of high school students finally walking home, arm-in-arm, still in their school uniform blazers and pleated skirts. Koreans in twos and threes stopping at the food trucks on the streets, huddling inside the plastic sheet "walls" suspended outside the truck to sip their cups of soup broth and nibble on unidentifiable skewered meats and fish sausages (not truly unidentifiable, except to the foreign passerby; the skewers are actually called eomuk, and are a mixture of fish, sugar, starch, and salt that are kneaded, fried, and then soaked in the soup broth before eating). I have watched Koreans consume this "warm and filling snack" (according to one of my guidebooks) all winter long here while walking to and from the gym. Enough, already- where is spring and all its warm weather that doesn't require warm and filling streetside snacks??

Today it snowed. Nothing stuck on the ground, but the sight of thick flurries from our 6th floor classroom windows was enough to make every student, and myself, groan in disgust. Yesterday, it reached the low 60s! The poor cherry blossoms of Korea barely even peaked outside before shriveling up and dying...although I'd like to think they are just huddling back inside, waiting to fully peak and burst with color once the weather truly turns to spring...

The new kinders are finally showing some progress...I've noticed such a difference in the atmosphere of our classroom even within the past few weeks. There's so much more English communication! I'm even hearing full sentences every now and then...granted, those sentences are basically all the same and don't extend beyond the standard, "May I go to the bathroom, please?" But's exciting to be communicating more thoroughly with these kids! Right now we're reviewing the family members and are about to emark upon the potentially hazardous lesson of The Pronouns (I'm actually a bit frightened to tackle this one). We just celebrated our first classroom birthday last week. Kelly, the birthday girl, showed up to school in a pink princess dress and pink furry crown (which she kept on all day, of course). She also distributed hand-written notes to every student (in honor of her birthday?) and to myself, which read: "Britney Teacher, I love you. No go to hospital. Love Kelly" (in reference, I'm assuming, to my illness and doctor visits of the past few weeks).

Easter also came and passed in Korea with noticeably less concern and consumerism than Christmas had. For a country in which 30% of the population is would never have known that it was Holy Week or Easter Sunday. Not that I needed the consumerism and social hype of Easter to be happy (I got all that in a package from my mom, anyways!)...but it was definitely a bit sad. Shauna, Christine and I ventured into the nearby foreign district of Seoul, called Itaewon, following our respective Easter Sunday masses (mine at the International Catholic Church, theirs at the International Lutheran Chuch)...hoping, hoping, hoping to find a respectable Easter brunch option somewhere within the streets of Russian nightclubs, Turkish kebab stands, and bad Mexican restaurants. No such luck...we ended up eating at a "Western" place we usually go out to on Saturday nights, indulging in an overly-priced meal of processed eggs, processed cheese, and a lone Bratwurst on the side of the plate (which apparently qualified as "side of sausage.") Not sure which was more depressing...the fact that I was eating processed eggs, cheese, and Bratwurst on Easter Sunday, or the fact that I was eating Easter brunch within the same bar/restaurant we usually spend our Saturday nights in!!

After "brunch" we hightailed it to the nearby Starbucks...feeling guilty and ashamed of our addiction to a coffee chain we'd all never step foot in at home...feeling guilty and ashamed about spending more money on overpriced Western food and beverages...but feeling just a little happier when sitting down to spend the afternoon with the good friends of a latte and a scone :)
Earlier, when walking into Itaewon from our churches, we had also encountered a streetside situation that made us feel much happier and more thankful: a group of the most adorable, peanut-sized Korean children, dressed up in animal costumes, shyly handing out homemade Easter gift bags to every passerby. Well, that was pretty much my ultimate dream fulfilled right there- I could have scooped up and carried home every last one of those kids (who, by the way, were not only dressed in bunny and chick costumes in honor of Easter...we also spotted a mountain goat, a dalmation, a monkey, and a few cows!). That unexpected encounter brightened our Easter day so much that the later consumption of processed eggs and Bratwurst didn't even least not too much :)