Thursday, January 21, 2010

A List of American People That Koreans Think I Look LIke

- Natalie Portman. I'm putting this one at the top because it's my favorite. She's a badass vegetarian Jewish girl who went to my theater camp before graduating with honors from Harvard. Not only has she mastered that balance of superhot and super classy, she's also actually talented - I bought "V for Vendetta" like the day it came out. I can't decide if I want to be her, marry her, or forgive her for Star Wars.
Accuracy: I can't begin to answer this. My hopes and dreams lie in the balance.
Source: Two second grade girls, after they saw a clip from "Star Wars"

- Katie Featherston, the girl from Paranormal Activity. Link
Source: Host sister's math tutor, a student at KAIST
Accuracy: 4/10. She's a freckled, green-eyed Irish-looking girl. From Texas. Not so much there. However, she's got super fair skin and medium-long brown hair, so that part I get.

-Abby from NCIS Link
Source: New first grade student, before leaving first class
Accuracy: 5/10. She's like 40, but she does have dark hair and bangs, and I was wearing a black dress over a black and white shirt that day, so I kind of get the whole goth thing. Still, not an exceptionally flattering comparison...


Friends and family,
I made a blog for my students, so that I can 1) show off their work when they do it well and 2) nicely threaten that their work will be available to their parents and teachers, and if they are lazy it'll show.

Over the next few days I'll start pulling edited/summarized lesson plans (most of which have been posted here in not-so-edited format) to post to that website. For now, it just has a couple of entries I did when I started the blog months ago, and then videos I posted yesterday.

CSHS English Blog

Mostly it'll be less fun than this one, since I've invited my kids to read it, but I'll be hosting pictures and videos from my school on it, so if you're into adorable Korean kids, feel free to take a look.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Back to Bake-ics

I got home early today, since this is the only day this week that I'm only teaching for 2 hours, and found my host mother holding court at the kitchen table surrounded by 4 women. I didn't recognize any of them, but fortunately one of them was with her son Scott, a close friend of my host brother's, so I could greet her without looking like a big tool. I went to my room to change, and on my way out my host sister informed me that it was my host mom's birthday. Since I didn't want to interrupt her with her friends, and I didn't want to make it awkward in case someone was joining us for dinner or others weren't, or we were going out or staying in or I don't know what, but I didn't want to ask in front of them what her birthday plans were for the night. I wanted to do something special, but just in case we were going to go out to dinner, I didn't want to make everyone wait for me by doing a whole big thing that took hours. So anything that required shopping was out.
The obvious thing for me to do is bake, since I do a lot of that. But I haven't been to the grocery store since I got back, and they rarely have baking basics (flour, butter, sugar, milk) on hand. Fortunately, however, I had a vague memory of picking up a big thing of extra butter after JJ and I depleted my supply by making sugar cookies before I left, and I thought I had some cake flour left over from my birthday cakeventure. I checked my baking corner (yep, I have a little corner of the cabinet where my flour, sugar, baking powder & soda, chocolate chips, and cinnamon live) and checked the freezer, and lo and behold - supplies!

Never one to be complacent (or, some might say, to leave well enough alone), I made about 3/5 of the dough into either straight soft sugar cookies or snickerdoodles (the difference being whether the dough is rolled into a sphere and dipped in colored sugar or pushed flat and dipped in cinnamon-sugar before baking), and then added about 1/2 cup of flour, 1/3 cup of peanut butter and 1/3 cup of honey to the dough.

Magic! With very little effort on the dough-making side of things, I now have an impressive visual array of cookies. I even left a few of the sugar cookies plain, so theoretically I could even slam some royal icing on those bad boys for a whole different effect. Now if only they had cookie sheets that could tackle more than 9 cookies at a time - or an oven with more than one rack - this would have been done in a snap. As it is, 5 dozen cookies take over an hour to bake, whereas in my kitchen at home it'd be about 15 minutes. Ah, well. At least I HAVE an oven. I REALLY hope the apartment we're moving to next month has an oven...

Food porn pictures to follow...

Edit: here they are

sugar cookies waiting to go in

Here's most of them - there was one more set of 9 in the oven and one waiting to go in.

A Story About Christmas Break

Here's a story from Charlie, one of my secret geniuses - a kid who never ever talks in class, but nevertheless is supersmart, great at English, and can be witty in at least 2 languages, when he feels like it. He's usually way too cool for school, and in a class of kids who are usually pretty apathetic, that's saying a bunch. But sometimes he lets out gems.
Keep in mind, it's his response to my super-uncreative writing exercise for the last 10 minutes of a 2-hour class.

The Fantastic R&E Adventures

Everything started when the magical professor Boo summoned 4 of us (me and my friends) to the Chungnam University. He gave us a noble R&E quest. "Find the proof of evil Lowner-Heinz inequality! Then you'll get the item 'no more R&E for the rest of my vacation'!" It is a very unique item. So I and my friends got into work. We paid 7 days of vacation to find the evil proof. But we failed and the time is off. The professor didn't like it, but he gave us the item for hard work anyway. So I enjoyed vacation for 3 days. Yes, 3 Days! I hate R&E and Prof. Boo!

I mean, RIGHT? So good. Also, sad. 3 days of vacation, after the way these kids work during the semester? That sucks so hard.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Konglish-English Dictionary

Part of the beauty of English is its elasticity, its ability to invite international lexical guests to the party. Along with a smattering of Franglais and Spanglish, you'll find a fair bit of Konglish (Korean+English) on this blog. Here's a user's guide to the words that creep into my speech and writing most often:

Chingu / 친구 = "friend" in Korean
Daejeon = my hometown in Korea
ETA = English Teaching Assistants, the official title of the recipients of Fulbright teaching grants in South Korea
First Graders = the Korean high school system has 3 grades. I teach first and second grade high school students, or 14- to 16-year-olds.
KTX = Korean high speed train, which connects the northern and southern of the ROK in about 3 hours.
Noraebang = literally "singing room" in Korean (think private karaoke rooms)
Migook / 미국= "America" or "American"
Sansengnim /선생님 = "Teacher" in Korean (official Korean gov't transliteration = seonsaengnim

Back in the Land of Morning Calm, pt 2 - Hwacheon Ice Festival

So the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. It's an annual festival that takes place in, well, Hwacheon, which is a city just a few kilometers south of the DMZ. It's close enough that as of 2007, the city had 24,000 civilians and 36,000 soldiers. According to the NY Times, not only is it cold enough for an ice festival in winter, but "here the temperature soars to 97 degrees in summer and plunges to minus 33 degrees in winter."
Doesn't that sound like a fun place to be smack in the middle of January?

Okay, maybe not. But it's the time that Sancheoneo, or freshwater mountain trout, come out to play, since they thrive only "in clean fresh water with a temperature below 20 degrees Celsius throughout the year," and so it's the time that Korea puts on a giant celebration of what the northern parts of South Korea have to offer.

You can find more information about the festival in general from the official Korean Tourism page here and also here, and check out other people's pictures (from Zimbio) of this year's festival.

So let me set the scene. First of all, I had to wake up around 6:30 to KTX to Seoul and meet Keely and Emilee in Sinchon by 8:45. As I leave my apartment in the morning to walk to the subway station, I check the weather - it's 14°F. I KTX and subway to meet Keels and Em in the McDonald's above Sinchon station, and together we subway to the bus station and bus to Chuncheon, our old stomping grounds from orientation, and switch buses there for Hwacheon. All in all, it took me about 5 hours to get from Daejeon to Hwacheon -- most of it on a windy bus. But while it's happening I'm only marginally annoyed by how long it's taking, and I'm still having fun, because I haven't seen Keels and Em for a month, so we're catching up, and we hit up the Starbucks in Chuncheon because, well, why not?, and we meet up with a college friend of Emilee's, and new people who speak English are always fun.
There is, however, one point on the bus where we are feeling less than optimal. The road is getting kind of windy, and we've finished chatting so the sleepiness is setting in. I check my iPod and discover the weather forecast for Hwacheon.

High: 23°F.
Low: 14°F

Fortunately, once we get there, all is well. The sun is shining and we're bundled up enough that the cold doesn't stop us from having fun.

We wander around for a while, and we partake in all of the cultural gifts that icy cold Hwacheon has to offer us -- thousands of fish lanterns:

A giant ice sledding tube-y thing:

ATVs on ice...which under our influence quickly became bumper ATVs:

Ice sculptures:

Inner tube sledding (or as Emilee and Keely informed me after they finished ahead of me, "racing")

All of these things were fun, of course. I mean, how could they not be? We were cold, but like I said, we were bundled. Personally, I was wearing a silk undershirt, a heat-tech shirt from uniqlo (those things are amazing), a blouse, a sweater, uniqlo heat-tech leggings, jeans, thick wool socks and boots, a big scarf, and a giant down coat (not to mention a reasonable portion of soju). So I was pretty comfortable, and I was having fun, thanks to my serious winter gear.

Obviously, that wasn't going to last long.

Somehow, in ways and for reasons that I still can't quite understand, Emilee talked me and Keely into hand ice fishing. What this entails sounds simple in the summer - change into shorts and a T-shirt, carefully tucking in the shirt, and wade into a pool trying to catch fish with your hands. If you catch a fish, secure it by putting it down your t-shirt.
Now visualize it in the winter - with ice floating on the surface of the unheated pool. It's me, Emilee, Keely, one other Korean girl, and about 20 Korean men and boys. Yep. This happened -- and here's the proof:

My personal favorite, as it reveals so much about our respective states of mind:

Out of the three of us, Emilee alone could brave the cold for long enough to achieve victory. That woman is an Amazon, and I love it!

Poor bastard never had a chance, once emilee was in the water -

Well, we wouldn't try to catch you if you weren't so DELICIOUS!

After that, we wandered until dark, and then checked out the famous ice sculptures. They. Were. Awesome.

The only way we could come up with to warm up was world-famous (okay, Korea-famous) Chuncheon dalkkalbi. Exhausted, cold, and having had our fill, we found our way back to where it all began.

Back in the Land of Morning Calm, pt 1 - safe landing

Life in Korea is always an adventure, but rarely more so than the days since I got back.
The first thing you have to know about Korea is that flying to Seoul is a bitch. It's 14 hours, or in other words, a little longer than a flight from New York to London + NY to Paris, back to back. It doesn't matter how much you like movies, or complimentary wine, or Skymall (for the record: lots, even more, and oh-my-god yes, respectively). The flight is uncomfortably long, no matter how you slice it. Highlights this time included sleeping, 500 Days of Summer>, and the USB port in the seat in front of me that allowed me to keep my iPod charged and working for the whole flight, therefore allowing me to listen to the entire new Ella Fitzgerald CD set all the way through - twice.
After that now-familiar 14-hour flight from JFK to Incheon, I waited for ages for my bags at baggage claim, cleared customs and immigration, and bought a ticket for the 3-hour bus ride back to Daejeon. My host father met me at the Daejeon bus stop, for which I will be eternally grateful, since I was lugging two heavy rolling bags and a carry-on through solidly iced-over sidewalks.
Once I got back to the apartment, I got a small second wind when my host brother met me at the door with the Transformers toy I'd given him for Christmas cradled in his hand (I've since seen him play with it almost every day, and I can't express the warm and fuzzies that gives me). I exchanged a few basic pleasantries, stood motionless under a hot shower for long enough to thaw out, and flopped into bed.
The next day, I woke up around 6:30 and zoned in and out of sleep for a couple of hours. At 9, when I decided it was a reasonable hour to be awake, I unpacked and set about a full day of dedicated loafing around.
Until Keely called.
See, the thing about me is that I have this fear of missing out on fun. My natural inclination is to stay home by a fire, snuggle whatever small domesticated mammal is within reach, and watch movies or talk to friends. But do too much of that and you get, well, a little boring. So maybe I overcompensate. At any rate, after lots of wanting to be the sort of person who will drop everything to do something ridiculous that sounds like it might be fun, sometime in college, I actually did. It started small, with stuff like going with Louisa to Brown on a Wednesday night and driving back before class Thursday morning, just 'cause. It escalated to bigger things, like "hey, maybe I'll move to Korea for a year despite knowing nothing about the language, culture, or history of the country." Basically what I'm trying to say is that when it comes to travel, I'm much more likely to say "why not?" than "why?"

So Keely called, and said she and Emilee were going to the Hwacheon Ice Festival, and did would I like to come?

Yes, I answered. See above, re: why not?

After I hung up, I googled it. Hwacheon Ice Festival. Main attractions include: ice skating, ice sculptures, ice soccer - but most of all, ice fishing.

All of those things have something pretty important in common -- they all sound like things that I have absolutely, positively no interest in doing.