Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dreaming of Warmer Days

It's warming up here a little bit in Seoul, which means it's actually been above freezing during the day for a few hours at a time.  Not much, but it was enough to finally get rid of the rest of the snow.  It's not outdoor eating weather yet, but it leaves us hopeful that it will be soon.

In honor of that hope, I thought I'd put up some pictures from our first week here, back in August, when we visited Gyeongbokgung, the palace of the Joseon kings.  The original complex was built in the 14th century, but most of it was burned during several Japanese invasions over the years.  Most of the buildings you can see today were either built in the 1860s and 70s or within the last 20 years. 

Today they are trying to rebuild the palace; only about 40% of the original number of buildings are finished or under construction.  It makes the palace complex more of a tourist spot than an actual historical monument, but it's hard to find much in Korea that hasn't been burned in wars or paved over in "progress".  Only recently has the government taken a mind towards reclaiming its historical pride.

Here is a shot of the main entrance.

Here are some of the "guards" wearing traditional uniforms and fake beards and bearing traditional weapons.

This is within the outer courtyard, looking at the entrance to the inner courtyard.  The palace complex is enormous, and was once the home of thousands of nobility, retainers, and other staff.  Now it is home to tourists.

Here are some roofing tiles, because I like the lines and the intricacy.

This was the royal banquet hall, where the king and his lords would meet on the upper story.  The original was built in the early 15th century; this one was rebuilt in the 1860s

Here's to hoping the weather warms up soon, so that we can get back out and see more of this beautiful, chaotic country.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti Relief

We donated!

Think donating to Haiti can't make a difference? If only 1,000,000 each donated 10 dollars, we could bring food, water, and first aid to thousands of people who will die without it. Haiti needs your help. If you have donated any money to the relief effort copy and paste this message to your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or other social networking sites....  Spread the word!

Here are our three favorite sites to get you started:

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund

The Red Cross


Here is a message from former Presidents Clinton and Bush:


Every single penny is a step forward. 

Thank you.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


We finally found a type of Korean restaurant that Nora likes: Korean barbecue.  This particular one, we've walked by several times a week since we've been here, and it's always busy.  Plus they have a play area for kids.  Not sure why that is a plus, but it's pretty cool to us.  After the success of the birthday party for Michael on Friday, we decided to finally try this place, and it was a good thing we did.

Here is our grill just after receiving the homemade wood charcoal.  They have a furnace out back where a guy makes it, and then brings it in to your table.

And here is the final product.  Soup, 'salad', two dipping sauces (soy-and-wasabi and bean curd paste), lettuce and sesame seeds to wrap it, green chili peppers, garlic, and of course, the marinated chicken.  Only 24,000 won for three people.  You can see our friend and fellow teacher, Nathan, about to eat some of the cold seaweed soup; a little vinegary, but really good, and helped cut the spice of the shredded onion grass salad topped with peanut oil and way too much red pepper sauce.  But of course the chicken was the real deal.  Nora's favorite was wrapping it in lettuce leaves with bean curd paste.  I went for dipping it in the wasabi soy sauce, and eventually worked up the muster to grill a green chili and tried some of that too.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Some Things in January

Me kicking a sign of some sort outside the restaurant. I saw other people doing it and thought I'd give it a try.

This picture really doesn't go with my post, but I think it's funny so I threw it in. This is at the World Cup Museum. Seoul hosted the World Cup in 2002, and apparently are still elated about it. Small, slightly boring museum .. BUT we got pizza. Successful trip in my book.

Some of the gang of foreign teachers-plus a few Korean guys (which explains why our bill was so small-Korean men are very giving when it comes to paying for food and drinks). Nathan is next to me with Jasper across from him, and Kory in the striped shirt. Mike is the one with his hands in the air. The food in front of us is amazing.

We finally left the apartment during Winter! It was our friend, Mike's, birthday last night. The big 3-2. We met up with the crew at a bar called Ireland Yuki. Not exactly Irish, but tons of fun! Mike was serenaded by the awesome bar tender, and we had a few drinks to go around. Then we moved on to a Korean Restaurant (not sure what the name was) where I discovered my favorite Korean food so far! Too bad I can't remember what it's called. I love the restaurants here where they give you the raw food to cook at your table. This time, the burner was a turtle. Korea is slowly growing on me, and I have to admit that I'll miss it when we have to leave.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Seoul Flash Mobs

Thanks to Chris Kammerud for showing these on his blog

This first one is great. Nora and I have been to COEX Mall several times, passing through this exact spot. And the likelihood of young Koreans gathering for a flash mob seems so low that it makes this all the more hilarious. You'll see Korean women's love for short shorts and skirts, and at the very beginning their love for holding hands as well. Two women are doing it, but more often than not it is guys that hold hands here. The best part is how it appears like an 80s movie, where everyone is a good dancer and knows the same choreographed dance moves.

And this next video is even better; a dance tribute to Michael Jackson in two different places in the city. The part to pay attention to is the girl in the panda costume. This is not at all a rarity here; many of my students have Mario zip up hoodies, or tiger paw mittens, or, yes, panda bear hoods that they all wear without even a hint of a smile. Fashion here is fun. The best part: the panda girl's face mask, because even pandas are susceptible to air born illnesses.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter in Seoul

First snow of the year!

Grizzly bear Ashley-Christmas Day 2009

It's unfortunate that we didn't start this blog when we began taking adventures together. As it is, we're starting in the middle of winter in Seoul, South Korea. Don't hold your breath, it's not as exciting as it sounds. Regardless, I will try to take you through a day in the life of a hagwon teacher. I begin my day around 1:30 pm when I am rudely awakened by my wonderful boyfriend. I drag myself out of bed, eat, and walk directly across the street to work, which begins at 3:00 pm. Sounds tough, huh? I usually teach around 3 hour long classes per day (Ashley has a much harder schedule than me) then go home and hang out until around 4:00 am or so. It's actually a pretty great job. There are four of us foreign teachers at Olympiad Academy. Jasper teaches elementary school with me and Nathan teaches middle school with Ashley. There are tons of other foreign teachers living in Seoul. We've been able to meet a few and like them a lot. That's really about all we do-since it's winter now we generally refrain from leaving the apartment on weekends. Below is a picture of some of my kids from last semester-aren't they adorable? Ha-you try teaching them.

Monday, January 11, 2010

First Post

It's winter here in Seoul, and last week we had the biggest snow event in the last 70 years.

What this means for teachers at hagwon (private schools) is that we only had to work a half day, which we had to make up on Saturday morning. Public schools were already recessed for winter break, but if they had been in session, it would have been a paid day off. Yet another reason to go public if you are thinking of teaching in Korea.

Having a foot of snow is also not a good time to discover the disadvantages of your only footwear options being low top Converse shoes. Especially because Seoul is very ill equipped at dealing with snow. It took old men with shovels a full week to clear all the snow from the sidewalks and streets around our apartment. The main highways are taken care of for the most part, but all other thoroughfares seem to be the responsibility of the residents or businesses.

Below is a picture from early on in the snow, when it was only a few inches, and still pretty. Later it turned into a dark gray slush or ice that stains everything it touches.

We don't have any pictures of the full snowfall, because it lost its charm very quickly and the novelty evolved into something more like disgust.