Tag Archives: Zingara Travels

Leaving South Korea:Last Weeks At Chung Dahm

Seven is the number of the month in which I was born, and the number of the month in which we find ourselves in now, this 2010th year AD. But the significance of this number today has to do with the number of weeks left in my contract with Chung Dahm; the number of weeks in which I still have gainful employment.

It means only seven more weeks of Closed Circuit Television and working 4:00 to 10:00 PM with only one or two five-minute breaks and never sitting more than a couple of minutes at at time. Only seven more weeks of lesson planning and grading online essays with their strange and arbitrary set of parameters, e.g. you must make exactly seven comments, each comment must contain 250-350 characters,  include the student’s name, an example and make reference to the in-class lesson.

It also means only seven more weeks to spend time with some pretty amazing students who bring me a great deal of joy and laughter and who have exponentially increased my enjoyment of Korea and the quality of my life’s experiences. Only seven more weeks to interact with these kids and appreciate their unique perspective of the English language and American culture. Only seven more weeks to spend time with awesome co-workers turned friends and fellow writers whose insight and experience will no doubt continue to inspire me long into the future, wherever we may find ourselves.

As in past experiences, as I prepare to move from one geographical area and way of life to another, my experience of and interactions with the objects and inhabitants of this world are more vivid than in months previous. The lines that frame objects and people are sharper, their colors, if not always brighter or identifiable, more noticeable. Even the moisture that sticks to my skin as I move through the humid Korean air is weightier.

I began my countdown the first week I started working for CDI, when I was culture shocked and slightly traumatized by a week-long training session that was quite different from my expectations, despite my efforts to suspend those expectations. I kept counting down through the first awkward, stressful weeks of my first term teaching children who I could barely understand and who arguably didn’t understand me – wondering all the while how anything could be taught or learned in an environment in which the language barrier was so pronounced. And when homesickness pierced my liver and shot through my heart after every American holiday, I counted even more carefully the weeks left in my contract.

Now the acute awareness over every awkward mistake of my early weeks in Korea has begun to give way to acute awareness of momentary perfections, often manifesting in the beautiful faces of my students. My relief over surviving another day now daily metamorphoses into confidence that comes from  perseverance.  I am not longer timid to tell a student he or she is not doing well nor do I refrain from taking their cell phones. I no longer fret over Korean people staring at me on the subway, or the lack of friendly acknowledgments from fellow foreigners on the street. Today, I move through the streets with confidence and teach like an expert. Today, I know these days, at least for me, are coming to an end.

Gary and Lisa’s Travel and Photo Journal for Jeju Island, March 2010

Jeju Island is located south of the Korean peninsula about an hour’s flight away from Seoul’s Gimpo Airport. Gary and I spent four days visiting the island during our vacation from Chungdahm the last week of March, 2010, and even though it was too cool for the beach, we found plenty of fun things to do around the resort area, all of it within walking distance of our hotel.

We stayed at the Jeju Hana Hotel (hana is Hangul for one) located in the Seogwipo-si resort area among a cluster of hotels, golf clubs, and tourist attractions. Our hotel was reasonably priced and had a bath tub, a luxury since most officetels do not have tubs, only showers.

Though the Hana Hotel has a nice restaurant, we were visiting during the off season and the restaurant closed in the evenings. This fact prompted us to explore the area for other dining options. We included in our search all nearby hotels and found Hyatt’s accommodations to be among our best. Of course, being open might have had something to do with that.

The Jeju Hyat is located down the road from the Hana Hotel and has a stunning view overlooking the ocean. Around its grounds are a number of scenic pathways built for strolling and enjoying the local plant life. Visitors can take advantage of these pathways as alternate routes to different parts of the resort compound.

The lobby of Jeju Hyatt also features and indoor koi and goldfish pond with a half-dozen small ducks waddling about. I’m not sure what kept those ducks from flying beyond the perimeter of the indoor pond (their wings did not appear to have been clipped), but they never did. Perhaps they intuited they would get cooked if they didn’t mind their territory.

Many of the other nearby restaurants were also closed for the season, but that didn’t stop us from walking around and snapping a few pictures. Many restaurants on the island offer horse meat and, of course, all types of seafood. Here are a few exterior shots of one traditional-style restaurant near our hotel.

Up the road in the opposite direction of the Hyatt are a number of tourist attractions. We visited the “Sound Island Museum,” which includes in its collection a number of  phonographs (circa Edison vintage), musical instruments from different regions of the world and a couple of rooms filled porcelain nick-knacks and dolls arranged in a kind of diorama. We never figured out exactly why these scenes were on display or their relation to sound and music but speculated that perhaps they are some kind of personal collection belonging to the museum the owners who have no better place to store or exhibit these things. Korean people are, after all, very efficient with space.

Photo courtesy of the Official Site of Korea Tourism

Later, we ambled over to Jeju-do Chocolate Factory, famous for being the only chocolate factory in Asia in the 10 top chocolate factories of the world list. It feature an impressive art gallery consisting of a number of miniatures and “paintings” rendered in chocolate.  It also features a ‘Bean to Bar’ showroom, which shows the entire process of chocolate beans’ transformation into chocolate. Finally, there is a showroom and gift shop where visitors can purchase Jeju Island chocolate. Since the area is also famous for it’s huge, delicious oranges (which adorn trees all across the island this time of year) visitors can also purchase orange flavored chocolate.

Jeju Botanical Gardens: Greenhouse

Jeju Botanical Gardens: Greenhouse

Not far from the Sound Museum and Chocolate Museum is the Jeju Teddy Bear Museum. Korean people have the corner market on cute, and so it’s not terribly surprising that there exists a museum celebrating cuteness as encapsulated by the iconic teddy bear.

The Seogwipo-si area boasts a spectacular botanical garden and is perhaps the best attraction in the area. The indoor compound contains a number of greenhouse gardens that including a simulated desert, water gardens, and a tropical plant and exotic fruit bearing tree greenhouse.

Cacti and Succulents

Kimchi Pots

Kimchi Pots

Banana Tree

Banana Tree

Inside the top

Inside the top

View from the Top

View from the Top

European Gardens

European Gardens

Italian Gardens

Italian Gardens

Japanese Gardens

Japanese Gardens

Korean Traditional Garden

Korean Traditional Garden

Not far from the Jeju Botanical gardens is a beautiful traditional style bridge with a view of a nearby waterfall.  There is also a lovely  Pagoda and fountain nearby, as pictured here.

Good Luck Fountain

Good Luck Fountain

Pagoda Palace

Pagoda Palace

View of Falls from Pagoda

View of Falls from Pagoda

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Falls

The Falls

View of Falls Through Decorative Cutout in Bridge

View of Falls Through Decorative Cutout in Bridge

Perhaps the best part of our vacation was hanging out with Korean tourists. We are used to living and working among Korean people and Korean children and in general doing all the normal daily stuff right along side them.  Our days are made up of the uninspiring stuff that make up daily living, like taking out the trash, getting groceries, taking public transportation and paying bills at the ATM. But we got another glimpse of Korean people while on vacation – Korean people as tourists- and they are a blast. Especially the older folks, who are definitely out to have a good time (the odor of soju on their breath confirms that fact). We were approached several times by folks wanting us to take pictures of their groups. They always offered to take our picture as a return favor. Sometimes people would come up and start a conversation, never mind that we can’t speak the language. They kept talking and explaining things to us even when we gestured  our incomprehension. Really, there may be nothing more endearing in this world to me now than a tour group of vacationing older Korean women dressed in matching pink out to have a good.

I spied one fellow in particular who was dressed elaborately, especially by Korean standards, hanging around the area offering to take pictures for tourists. Koreans are  quiet homogeneous and rather prefer things that way. I mean, they dress alike on purpose and stick together. However, this man was clearly an individual, and I tried several times to take his picture on the sly. None of them came out very well though. I’d given up when he came over and offered to take a photo of Gary and I – it’s the one at the heading of this blog post (it was his suggestion that we put our hands up in the air). After taking our picture, he voluntarily posed for a picture with Gary so even though my previous efforts at capturing his digital likeness was a failure, in the end I was granted the perfect opportunity. Here’s the pic:It’s Gary’s favorite pic of the batch.

Photo Journal: Building 63, Seoul S. Korea

Yook-Sam Buidling 63

Yook-Sam Buidling 63

In March, 2010, my friend Cereba and I spent a day at Building 63, also known as the Yook Sam building. It would be our last “girls day out” before her return home to the states. While it was windy, cool, and as you can tell from the photo, cloudy, we found plenty of fun things to do inside.

Building 63 is a landmark skyscraper in the Seoul area built in 1988 for the Olympics and has, as you may have guessed, 63 stories. These 63 stories distinguished Yook-Sam as the tallest building in Seoul until 2003, when the Hyperion Tower was built. Then, in 2009, the Northeast Asian Trade Tower was “topped-off” and is currently considered the tallest building in Seoul.

Building 63 features “The World’s Tallest Art Gallery” on its 60th floor, an aquarium, wax museum, Imax theater, and myriad shopping opportunities. On a clear day, you can see this golden tower from as far away as Incheon (though, there aren’t many clear days in Seoul).  According to wikipedia, “The 63 Building is an iconic landmark of the Miracle on the Han River, symbolizing the nation’s rapid economic achievement in the late 20th century. 63 refers to the building’s 63 official stories, of which 60 are above ground level and 3 are basement floors.

After grabbing a bite to eat at one of the restaurants in the building’s food court, Cereba and I bought a “three-attraction pass” and headed for the aquarium. Being that is was a Saturday, the place was packed with families and children. In Korea, if you linger in any spot for more than a minute, a crowd will gather – so we tried to keep moving. I joked with Cereba that we should stand near something we did not really want to see, then as soon as a crowd gathered, dash over to whatever exhibit we were really interested in – at least until another crowd gathered.

Aquariums are fascinating and seem fairly harmless to their inhabitants. I mean, fish don’t seem to care where they swim, and, I’ve hear, forget where they’ve been only seconds after being there. I was a little surprised, though, to find that the Building 63 aquarium features penguins, sea otters, and miscellaneous reptiles in addition to all forms of fish. The fellow pictured here is one of the featured exhibits. You can get a sense of how he feels about the whole situation.

The penguins were cute, and seemed content to preen and groom themselves, and were particularly cute and had a pretty interesting set-up, including a number of glassed-in areas between which were suspended transparent tunnels in which they could scurry from one area to another – very entertaining for spectators. There was also a small cut-out in the barrier of the central exhibit where one could feed the otters small minnow-like fish from a nearby freshwater tank. The otters’ antics sometimes humorous, sometimes desperate.

My favorite exhibits were the jellyfish and octopi, whose liquid movements are mesmerizing.

After getting our fill of observing watery creatures, Cereba and I headed for the Sky Gallery on the 60th floor. We had to stand in line and take turns to ride the elevator in small groups. The elevator features an outward facing glass wall allowing passengers to enjoy the view while making their way upward.

While there is a gallery on the 60th floor, it is the view from the 60th floor that is the most impressive thing about visiting. You can see all of Seoul from there and in every direction. While it wasn’t the clearest of days, the distant horizon was still discernible. As is always the case whenever I get a panoramic glance of Seoul, I was impressed and humbled by the size and density of the city.

Pictured here are various apartment buildings, officetels, skyscrapers, office buildings, and different shots of the Hahn River. Very domino-esque.

Cereba and I decided to take a rest at the coffee shop on the 60th floor and to enjoy the view in a leisurely fashion. I had a hot tea with milk and a bit of sugar while Cereba has a smoothie and a container of dippin’ dots. All around us there milled tourists, most of them Korean, but a few European and westerners too. And like at the aquarium, there were a lot of families. One little Korean girl, dressed cute as a play- doll (as all Korean children are) ordered some dippin’ dots too, but just after reaching her chair, she’d dropped the container. Little balls of dry-frozen vanilla and chocolate ice cream scattered all over the black marble floor and began melting almost immediately. The little girl’s eyes grew wide with astonishment, for it was quite a site to see, all those little balls rolling around on the shiny floor.  But she knew she had made a mistake too, so seemed unsure of how to react.  Fortunately,  the coffee counter clerk saw what had happened and came quickly with a pile of paper napkins to clean up the mess, and all was well.

Cereba and I finished our beverages and decided to move on to the next attraction. We made sure to give our table to a group of three senior-aged eastern Europeans who were casting about for a place to sit. They were very gracious in accepting and we felt pretty good about offering.

Last on our itinerary was the Wax Museum. Truly, wax museums are kind of cheesy, but they are a fun kind of cheesy and a good way to spend the afternoon with a good friend, and everything you do with a good friend is fun and interesting.

Meeting Obama in Korea

Meeting Obama in Korea

When standing up close to a wax figure, it’s pretty obviously fake, but they are great for snapshots like this one. Except for the awkward hand gesture, this is a pretty convincing image of Obama – right?

Anyway, we saw all kinds of campy portrayals of famous, semi-famous and downright obscure historical figures. One thing Cereba and I noticed about most of the figures, particularly those of western icons, is that their heads are a bit too large for their frames, and we wondered if this was intentional, or simply how Koreans see westerners.

The highlight of our visit to the wax museum, however, was the “scary, haunted house” exhibit. We were eager enough to accept the invitation to see “scary exhibit” from the young Korean man promoting the attraction and thought it would be a real hoot.

We entered the darkened area and immediately I commented on the fact that this is the kind of situation that begins many horror films – here we are, a couple of confident spectators underestimating the danger of the situation we have just entered.

After a couple of mildly gruesome displays of wax figures being tortured and coming round a few dark corners, we came upon an exhibit that was an obvious set up. Upon the floor and lying across the path was a wax “corpse.” Near its feet a dummy sat in an electric chair. I came to a complete stop and pointed out the obvious set-up to Cereba. If we tried to jump over the corpse, I felt, the corpse would jump up and grab us. If, on the other hand, we walked around the corpse’s feet and near the dummy in the electric chair, the dummy, who I began to doubt was really a dummy at all and figured to be a real person, would be the one to grab us.  I didn’t like my choices, and in a flash had made the decision to run ahead without looking back – consequently leaving Cereba behind.

What Cereba experienced, but I did not look back to see, was the dummy jolting briefly out of its electric chair to the accompaniment of a series of loud pops and bangs. I guess now we truly know the answer to the hypothetical question of what Lisa would do in the event of a zombie invasion (she would run like hell and not look back). Poor Cereba had been abandoned and had no idea where I had gone – and I had GONE.

We both had a good laugh over the incident at the time, but got to laughing  even harder when we realized later that we were probably being watched from CCTV. The operators must have had a good laugh at us while choosing the exact right moment to trigger the dummy in the electric chair.  I wish we had a copy of that tape!

So that was my last “girls day out” with my friend Cereba. Now she is back home in the states and I miss her very much and feel lonely without her. But, we will meet again when I get back home, and for that day I cannot wait!!

Anyang Library: Pyeongchon Branch (South Korea)

Recently I decided to explore the Peyongchon library. It’s only a block away, so an easy walk. It has five stories, including the basement level, where there is  a cafeteria with standard snack bar type food, an outdoor “lounge” on the second floor, which will be a great place to hang out and read when the weather gets a little warmer, and five reading rooms for adults (not including the reading room for children and parents on the ground level). There is also a “wireless internet corner,” a periodicals sections and what looked like a computer classroom (it was empty so I assumed it wasn’t for public use).

As it was Saturday afternoon, the library was very busy and all of the reading rooms were pretty full. Really, they are more like study rooms equipped with cubby-like desks. I took my time browsing around and found a room that was less full than the others. I went in and found a desk to sit at and began reading. About ten minutes later a young Korean girl came down my aisle – I assumed she was going to sit at the empty cubby-desk next to mine. She approached me with a piece of paper. She had her thumb on it and wanted to show me something…I looked closer…everything was in Korean, but I recognized the number ten just above the spot where tip of her thumb was pressed. I looked at her in question and she pointed to the top of my cubby, which had the number ten on it. “ooohhhhhhhh” I said, and got my things together. I told her “sorry,” laughed a little, and made my way out of the room. I was a little embarrassed, could feel my cheeks blushing, but I was not daunted.

I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I left the library and headed to the Acro-Towers Starbucks, where at least I know the rules: buy a chai, wait for a seat, race to acquire it. Under no circumstances be polite and allow others who were there first get the next available seat. It just doesn’t work that way here.

On my way to Starbucks I reflected on my library visit. I thought, “I have no idea of how one goes about reserving a cubby in a study room at the library.” I had noticed an information desk at the front entrance, but the man sitting there looked more like a security officer than someone who would arrange for reservations, and since I really don’t know any Korean, I don’t know how I would even begin to ask him where I could get more information. How does one gesture the words “reservations,” and “cubby?” I didn’t even have the phone with me, which has a dictionary in it. And of course, the signs are primarily in Korean.  I did recall, however, one reading room that had large tables in it rather than cubbies and wondered if that isn’t a general reading room for which one does not need “reservations” to sit and read in. In any event, now that I have collected myself and thought it over, I will have to go back and investigate further.

Funny, every time I mention the library to other foreigners, they all seem surprised and state they did not even know there was a library in the ‘hood, even from those who have lived here for a couple of years. Unfortunate for me because that means they don’t know how it works either and can’t explain it to me. Well, I guess I will have to figure it out myself and be the one to inform them.

Third Term Masters Class, Chung Dahm (South Korea)

It’s hard to believe that I have teaching for Chung Dahm for six months now. I am much busier than expected and have barely enough time keep up with my blog. Everyone I ever talked to before coming to Korea who had taught here said they had a lot of extra time on their hands. All I can say is that they must not have worked for Chung Dahm. Either that, or they were here before the Hogwong industry really took off and became so competitive and high pressure.

With that said, I have to say that my second term here has been considerably less stressful than the first. For one thing, I am more settled  and established now than before, am no longer a newbie, and  feel like I am hitting my stride in terms of teaching. Track “B” is also a considerably more manageable curriculum than Track “A.” It didn’t hurt that I had a great schedule – half-days on Mondays and Fridays. I will miss that.

In other news, next week is the beginning of the new term (no break between terms here) and I will have a new schedule. Though I’ve not received confirmation yet, its about 99% certain that I will be teaching a Saturday class this term from 2:30 to 5:30 PM. But, it is a Master’s Reading class, so I will get to teach literature to high-level reading students, and I look forward to the opportunity. So far, there are only five students enrolled, so I really think it’s going to be worth the trade off. It also means I will get a day off during the week, and it’s so much easier to get to places like Itaewon on the weekdays. Saturdays on the subway is always mayhem. The image of sardines always comes to mind when I consider riding the subway during the weekends, because that’s usually what I feel like when standing in a cram-packed metal subway car.

The Master’s Reading class is in addition to the Master’s Writing class I was asked to teach earlier, so I will need to go through some additional training. Master’s Classes instructor training is scheduled for this Wednesday in Gangnam, which means getting up early to travel on the a fore mentioned sardine container. After training, I will  need to rush back to my branch by 3:00 PM, then teach until 10:00 PM. In other words, it will be a long day.  Since Gary has to attend the first training session with me (he will be teaching a Master’s Writing class next term), and doesn’t teach until 7:00 PM Wednesday, he said he’d wait for me to finish the second training session so we can take the subway back together, as sardines (yea!).

In any event, as I will be teaching what I have know how best to teach, writing and literature, I am very excited about teaching Master’s Level classes this term.

I am thinking of everyone back home and unfortunately blogging is the best way for me to keep in touch at the moment, and even that (I know) is spotty. Please keep checking in whenever you have a minute and always feel free to leave a comment.

The Unexpected in South Korea

1. Dunkin’ Donuts: There’s one on just about every block, and while the donuts look like the ones in America, they are not as sweet. The chocolate frosting is closer to semi-sweet than fudge-y. On Christmas Eve, the Dunkin’ Donuts near Chung Dahm was having a promotion – free hat with purchase of a cake (eating cake is how Christmas is observed here – seriously). I couldn’t resist and bought a strawberry cake (a very delicious strawberry cake, I might add) and got a free, pink fuzzy hat. It has a huge, white pom-pom on top and the ear-flaps feature polar bear faces. As it was extremely cold that night, I wore the thing home.

2. Smoking: People can smoke almost anywhere here, though it is somewhat expected that smokers do so outside. This does not mean people don’t smoke inside, however, and it is not at all uncommon for people to light up in restaurants in the booth or table right next to yours. (Cigarettes are very inexpensive – less than $2.00 USD a pack). I have noticed “no-smoking” signs in public restrooms (which are largely ignored), some non-food businesses, the movie theater, academies and the subway.

3. Easy access to alcohol: Seriously, a person can walk into a convenience store, by a bottle of beer, soju (rice wine) or wine, sit outside sit at the tables and chairs that are in front of most convenience stores here, open the bottle and drink it right out in the open. A person can even do this on his/her lunch hour and return to work. I’ve never, ever, never once been carded.  Further, you can by alcohol any day of the week at any time of day. If the store is open, it’s for sale (and if you there to buy something, the store is be open).

4. No business zones: What I mean is, many different types of businesses inhabit the same city block or even the same building. And when I say different, I mean drastically. For example, in the building where I teach,  several floors are occupied by academies, but there is also a restaurant on second floor, a PC room on the ground floor, and a bar (“Modern Zen Bar”) in the basement. There are “barber” poles advertising “massages” on the same street as all the academies (do not go into a place that has a barber pole and expect a haircut – and if you want a ” normal massage,” make sure to go to a place that advertises SPORTS massage). In the building where we received our training, there was a maternity ward on the fourth floor. The clinic down the street from our office-tel is in the same building as a cell-phone store. Conversely, sometimes identical businesses are located right next to each other. Seriously, there may be a “Buy the Way” convenience store next to a “Family Mart” convenience store,  and both will carry nearly the same merchandise.

5. Speaking of business zones, even though prostitution is illegal, it is highly tolerated. In our small neighborhood alone there are a number barber poles, live bars and hostess bars. In Yongsung, just across the street from  the I-park mall, there is a “red-light district” where one can find several blocks of women standing in glass cases, many wearing provocative clothing – though I saw one woman in a bath robe, slipper and curlers in her hair. From the right angle, you can see bedrooms behind the back walls. I hear that in Iteawon, a district populated largely by foreigners, there is a place called “hooker hill.”

6. Chicken. Yes, chicken. The Colonel has nothing on Korea when it comes to fried chicken – or barbecue chicken or roast chicken, or any other kind of chicken you might think of. Favorite chicken places in our neighborhood include “Chicken and Beer,” where they have the crispest, most delicious fried chicken in the world – and several different flavors – at that. My favorite is “teri-que,” which tastes like they found some way to turn teryaki sauce into a batter to dip chicken in and fry. Their golden fried chicken has just the right amount of curry flavoring and their barbecue is sweet and spicy all at once.

Hot Barbecue

Best Chicken in PC

Another favorite is a place called “Hof and barbecue,” (Hof is German for beer) though we call it “hot barbecue” Their barbecue chicken is savory and spicy and is served with a pan-baked macaroni and cheese. Who’d have thought macaroni would taste so yummy with barbecue sauce? Finally, there’s a place down the road called “Half and” we like to go to when we want chicken to go. It’s a little cheaper than our other two favorite places and a little faster too. We think it’s called “Half and” because each order is one-half of a whole chicken. Another interesting thing about the chicken here is that it is cut into many more pieces than in the states. On average in the states, you get 10 pieces out of a whole chicken (two legs, two thighs, two wings, two halves of the breast, the back and bony piece). Here, chicken is cut into maybe 15 or 20 pieces. And while this might seem like the ideal size for finger food, here in Korea, chicken is served with two forks (and a bucket for the bones). While I am getting better at eating chicken with two forks, I almost always wind up using my fingers before I’ve finished my meal. Still, with all that, there is a KFC in our neighborhood too.

7. Another interesting phenomenon about businesses is that they are apt to change overnight. There will be no “going out of business” sales or even any signs posted to suggest that a business might be closing. Rather it is there one day and gone the next – quite literally. There used to be a place called “Western Hot Dog” a few doors down from Chung Dahm. It was a great place to grab a meal on the go, either on your way to work or home. I tried it one Friday. It’s rather amazing how tasty a run-of-the-mill hot-dog tastes when you haven’t had access to one in a while. The following Monday, on our way to work, Gary and I noticed that “Western Hot-Dog” was emptied and some Korean men were putting up a new sign, “Victory Food.” It was open for business by Wednesday that week and has been busy ever since (busier that Western Hot Dog ever was). We were astounded at how quickly the turn-around was, and a little disappointed to lose something we had just discovered. Anytime I notice a new sign on a building, I can never be sure if it is a sign I have simply overlooked or if a new business has moved in.

8. Street Vendors: Most of the street vendors in our neighborhood(s) (Peyongchon and Beomgye) sell a variety of food from the back of their small-sized pick-ups or wheeled carts.  Available cuisine from street vendors include fruit that is in season, myriads of popped corn and rice snacks, pancakes filled with red bean sauce, waffles, fried squid and octopi, fish and rice cakes, ears of roasted corn, ice cream, milk, peanuts and, if you are at the park during the flea market, cotton candy.  Sometimes vendors set up tables near the public school and along the walkways of the residential areas to sell toys, earrings, socks, brand name knock-off clothing and shoes and other miscellaneous non-food items. In addition to these portable food stands, most restaurants on ground level have a walk up window or table where they sell food to go. In our area we can buy mandoo (dumplings) fried potatoes, squid, octopus and sweet potatoes, rice noodle in red chili sauce and waffles.

Tenacious is a word often used to describe Korean people, and this especially true when describing street vendors. Portable vendors get out there and sell their wares no matter the temperature, no matter the time of day. While the recent record snows did seem to force many away, the walk-up windows were still open and ready for business. Now that the snow is beginning to melt, many vendors are returning to their favorite corners and neighborhoods.

9. LG: I recognize L.G. as a manufacturer of electronics such as televisions and cell phones, and I am aware that they are headquartered in Korea. But what I am surprised by is that there are many other kinds of items with the LG label, like furniture. Take my couch as an example. If you look closely, you can see the LG logo imprinted in its simulated leather-like texture.

10. CCTV is everywhere. The only place it’s not is inside our office-tel, but I can’t be 100% certain about that. There is CCTV in the hallways of our office-tel building, CCTV on the path that cuts through the residential area that we take to get to Chung Dahm, there is CCTV in the building where we work, in the hallways of our floor and in our classrooms. At Chung Dahm, CCTV is monitored closely to gauge how teachers are doing. Until recently, instructors were shown their tapes during meetings with head instructors. CCTV tapes are also used in cases where students have misbehaved. Many teachers threaten to show these tapes to parents as a way to get students to behave in the classroom. CCTV is also in the classrooms of public schools, only they are live, and parents can tune in anytime to see how their child is doing in class. Parents can also tune into the CCTV that are present in the play areas around residential areas.

Record Snowfall In South Korea – Chung Dahm Classes Cancelled!

Gary standing in the snow in PC Central Part

Seoul and surrounding areas received a 70 year record accumulation of snow earlier this week, causing many traffic jams and accidents. The government departments responsible for snow clearing were grossly unprepared for the event. Military personnel and local police were called upon to clear roads and sidewalks, using plastic snow shovels. Apparently local governments do not own snow plows.There was even a group of Korean men shoveling the croquet court at Pyeonchong central park yesterday.

In response to the heavy snowfall and resulting traffic problems, Chung Dahm actually canceled classes Monday. Most of the instructors were already at the building or well on their way by the time they received the text message. Still,  everyone was very excited to have an unexpected evening off. Several instructors went to PC central park to play touch football in the snow (it was a dry snow and perfect for such an activity), while others of us found warmer, drier ways to enjoy the extra few hours of free time (Gary and I went to a coffee shop to read and write).

Unfortunately, because Chung Dahm is a corporation first and an educational institution second, Monday’s canceled classes (which parents have paid for) must be made up. As a result, all instructors and staff  are expected to work this Sunday from 12:00 pm to 6:00 PM to make up the missing classes. This, of course, is not something foreigners are used to doing, and it is a hard reality; Chungdahm is a a company that insists people work weekends and on a Sunday to make up classes canceled for a snow day. Even those branches that took Friday off for New Year’s day had to make up for it by having classes on Saturday.

Loosing a Sunday is rather brutal, especially at this time of the year. Christmas and New Year’s are over, the winter cold is paralyzing, and the last two weekends were lost to nasty head-colds; Spring can not get here soon enough.