Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fun Mart & Suwon & Christmas

Look what Kerry, one of my fantastic bosses from Courthouse Pub,
made for me! She had employees (and Dave Diedrich, one of our regulars
that also happens to be the nicest person I have ever met in my life)
pose with a "Merry Christmas" banner. I feel so loved!

Creepy Santa at work.  
Several times every term, my school holds something that we call Fun Mart. We had one the Friday before Christmas, so the kids had a lot of fun instead of learning anything! Every day in class, students are given a certain amount of stamps for being good in class. Their stamps add up to "Fun Dollars", which they can then use during Fun Mart to buy things like toys, markers, pens, Christmas head bands, and many other goodies. The kids were absolutely crazy for it! They were all so incredibly excited, it was a lot of fun to participate in. Not only was there the room full of toys and whatnot that the kids could purchase, but there was also a popcorn machine and dart board for them to play.  Most of the teachers switched off between duty on the dart board, helping the kids to pick things out, and manning the dart board. Two of the male teachers were in charge of the popcorn, and they only almost burned the place down twice!
Fun Dollars!
Fun Mart goodies.
Fun Mart goodies. Lots of Angry Birds stuff!
The kids "shopping" in  Fun Mart.
The kids "shopping" in Fun Mart.
The Christmas tree at work, filled with the wishes of the students!
Most of them wished for a new smart phone.
One of the Korean teachers, Emma, demonstrating how to use
a bubble toy gun.
Crazy kids.

Dan, Charles, and I with some of our students.
The three of us are the only native English speakers at our school.
Not sure if you can see, but I am "Steps" on the schedule for Fun Mart..
Nice new nickname!
Tommy and the popcorn machine.
He was also the main culprit of burning it :)
Erica and Sally, two of my favorites!
Jun (who also likes to be called Sally sometimes)
and Steaven, two crazy and intelligent boys!
The dart board. It wasn't dangerous, the darts had magnets at the end instead of points!
Steaven, heading up the line for Fun Mart.
Last weekend, a few friends and I went out in Suwon for dinner and some drinks. I met a few new people, and had way too much fun! We went to a Western restaurant called Miller Time for dinner, which was a nice taste of home. We drank some Miller beer and shared a few appetizers. After that we journeyed to a few different clubs. Sadly, one wouldn't let us in because they wouldn't allow any foreigners! We still found some fun places to go.

Miller Time!
It was nice to have familiar beer!
Even the tables were Miller.
Miller kegs.
Because Christmas Day was on Tuesday, I still had to go in to work on Monday. Work was nice, but everyone was very excited to have the next day free, so the kids were a little rambunctious. Christmas for Koreans seems to be very different from what it's like for Westerners. They don't make Christmas cookies (for that matter, most people don't have an oven, only a stove top!), but they do have cake. After asking them today, I found out that most families had ice cream cake. Personally, I think that ice cream cake is a little too cold of a treat for the dead of winter! Also, Koreans don't really exchange gifts at Christmas, so they don't get super hyped up for it like the kids back home. I guess they just hang out with family and like the chance to take a break from their intense study lives. I guess that they do get a gift of money from their parents on Lunar New Year's (which falls on Sunday, February 10 this year), so I guess that makes up for no presents at Christmas. After work, I went to Baby Guinness (another Western place) for dinner with a few friends to celebrate Christmas Eve.

Katie and I at Baby Guinness for Christmas Eve.
Me with Charles and Phil at Baby Guinness for Christmas Eve.
Jazon, Jen, and Lily at Baby Guinness for Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve was a fun night, and Christmas Day was also quite fun for me! I most definitely missed friends and family the entire day. I missed being at Dad's house, surrounded by my fantastic family, and hanging out with friends. I had a lot of fun with my Korean expat family, though. We went for dinner at a restaurant that Fiona found. I have no idea what it was called, but it was delicious, as usual.

The restaurant! The name is in Korean, so I have no idea what it's called!
There were a total of thirteen people out for dinner! Everyone is an English teacher, and I think at least five schools were being represented! Some people have been in Korea for only a week, some have been here for four years! Everyone missed family back home, but it's nice to feel like there's a sort of "family" here in Korea, too.
Adam, Carmen, Lily, Dan, Jen, Nick, Fiona, Jorge, and me!
Dolores, Jorge, Charles, and Mechelle! If you notice the silver smoke flue
resting on the edge of the table, one of the restaurant workers broke it
when he tried to bring it closer to the grill.
At least it wasn't one of us that did it!
We had a very large group, so we wound up sitting at two different tables right next to each other. We had some proper steak galbi, along with wine (a nice Chilean Cabernet) and lady soju. The restaurant was a bit traditional in that we sat on the floor while we ate. It was actually pretty comfortable! The floors, of course, are heated, and they give you a cushion to sit on and a blanket to cover up with if you are still cold (I think they mainly handed these out to the ladies).

Fiona (who organized the night--thanks!), Jorge, and I.
Lady soju. Tastes a lot better than regular soju!

Wine, and dinner.

Nick, Fiona, Jorge and I.

Jorge and I.

Adam, Carmen and Lily.

Adam, Carmen, Lily and Adam looking great in their cracker crowns.
Meaning crowns they got from Christmas crackers (mainly a British thing, I guess).
For some reason, the staff served us mussels at the end of the meal. I'm pretty sure that nobody ordered them (unless they did it on accident), but they brought them out after we were finished with everything else and put them on top of the coals to stay warm. Mussels as dessert does not sound the most appetizing to me, but luckily Dolores brought Christmas cake for everyone to enjoy! All in all, I did have a very nice Christmas, but I hope that all my family and friends know they were in my heart and in my thoughts!

"Dessert" mussels. They look delicious, but I think mussels are disgusting
so I didn't try them.

Dolores, the sweet lady who brought us chocolate Christmas cake!
As you could tell, some of us were excited for it!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On How I Can't Work a Washing Machine

My birthday cake from work!

Not really sure why I don't look more excited,
but I'm about to blow out the candles...
The "good" galbi restaurant we went to for my birthday.

Birthday dinner.

Hot coals, just awaiting some samgyeopsal and galbi.

Samgyeopsal surrounding by a nice kimchi omelette.

Steaming hot tofu soup, nice and spicy.

Delicious galbi.

Banana milk, which I had for the first time.
Highly recommended, surprisingly good.
Monday was my birthday! My first birthday away from home, my only birthday so far outside of the country. Work was fun. My coworkers got me a tasty birthday cake, which everyone ate with chopsticks, of course. Koreans eat everything with chopsticks, even cake. By the time I come home, I will undoubtedly be an expert with chopsticks and will have forgotten how to use a knife and fork completely! Many of the students wished me happy birthday, and were really excited to hear that it was my birthday. When I had them guess what age I was, the younger classes agreed that I was 45, sadly. I guess I look a little bit older than I expected!

After work, I went out for dinner with a few friends--Lily, Adam, Jen, Sarah, and Charles. Adam had met Sarah on the bus that morning. She has been in Korea for a month already, but because she is the only native teacher at her school, she hadn't really met anyone new yet! I hope to say that we met a new friend, and I'm sure I'll see her again soon. Charles is the newest teacher at work. For dinner we accidentally ordered samgyeopsal at first (the best way to describe this is as thick bacon), but ordered galbi after that was gone. Everything was very delicious, and their tofu soup was delicious, nice and spicy too. We ended up chatting with a table of guys sitting next to us, who were asking us to rank them in order of handsomeness. I guess they appreciated the input, because they bought the table an extra order of galbi. In America men buy you drinks, in Korea men buy you meat, I guess. Or maybe just in this instance... Still, it was very nice of them, and everyone left absolutely stuffed after spending a mere $7. It was a nice quiet evening, as nobody really likes to drink when they have to work with children the next (this would be absolutely awful with a hangover).

I got so many birthday wishes and emails, it was fantastic to hear from everyone! Thank you to all who said something, it definitely helped to know that I'm not forgotten back home. :) It was heart-warming to open my card from Kelly on my birthday (before I left she handed me a pack of about 6 different cards to open on certain holidays and for when I feel sick/have a bad day/need a friend), and I know I have a card coming from my dad soon too. And a special thank you to Jessica and Curtis for sending me the package of goodies below that I received today:

I have to say, I have some pretty awesome friends!
Speaking of receiving that, I can now confidently say that the address I have will work. And if anyone in the future wants to send something, you can mail it to me at:
SPOL English Institute
c/o Stephanie Bonde
114-3 Bun-Ji
Republic of Korea
Ph. 031-8003-9404

I guess it's recommended to include the phone number on the package because if the mail carrier cannot find the building or if they have a question, they just call. It should get to me without it though!

Charles is a new teacher at work because George, sadly, went back home to England. I will absolutely miss George at work. He was a great help when I was first starting--he took me to get pictures, get my medical check, and he gave great advice about classes and students. He also showed me my two favorite coffee shops! I'll miss the nerdy conversations about Lord of the Rings and other random topics, of course. Luckily, he will be coming back to Korea in February, so I'm going to hold him to the promise of showing me the best sushi place in Byeongjeom! We went out for lunch to celebrate his last day at work, and I got this tasty dish:

Fried shrimp udon, really tasty! Also incredibly difficult to eat
using only chopsticks and a spoon.

Right now, I'm having fight #2 with my washing machine. The first time, it took about two hours to complete one load of laundry, and I had to have a friend that lives in the building come over to help me. Right now, it's already been two hours and I'm still waiting for it to finish! I'm not really sure why I can't make it work, but it probably has something to do with the fact that there are eight different buttons, only one of which I can confidently identify (the power button) and all of the controls are in Korean. One nice thing is that when it's finally done, I can hang everything up on the drying rack and then dry anything that doesn't fit on the heated floor. I never have to go to the laundromat because the heated floor dries everything in a few short hours!

My jerk of a washing machine.