Saturday, November 28, 2009

better in america

we talked about the things that are better in korea.

here are some things that are better in america than in korea
no, we are not bashing korea, just pointing out differences . . .

1: forming lines. we've mentioned this before, but we need to mention it again. we've been cut in front of, people jump in taxis while we are actively opening the door etc. in america its a lot more orderly.
2: personal space. kind of goes with #1 a lil' just one "normal" scenario. i (daniel) was sitting on the floor with my legs crossed at a school dinner when a man sat "next" to me. by next i mean he was straddeling me, one leg on each side of me! then he had one hand on my back, and another on my inner-thigh! YIKES! he stayed there for about 5-10 minutes? totally normal.
3: tie fashion. in korea there are sequins and glitter on 99% of koreans ties. actually thinking about it, is that good or bad :-p
4: privacy in public bathrooms. there are randomly placed OPEN windows in bathrooms, and the doors of public bathrooms are often kept open.
5: quantity of soap and toilet paper in bathrooms. its hit and miss finding these things in korea :-p
6: school safety. its very common to see every student carrying INSANE box cutters in every class.
7: public garbage cans. as much as people in korea want to recycle this makes them not put public garbage cans all over the place. in koreas downtown there are a couple?
8: safety for people on the sidewalks. walking down the street you need to dodge people, scooters AND cars! keep your head on a swivel people!
9:gift giving. as much as the gift giving is awesome, once you give a gift you NEED to give back. when you give back then the person who gets your gift feels obliged to give you something in return. then when you get another gift you have to give another gift. its reciprocity gone MAD people :-p
10: giving people the right of way. in korea whether its walking down the street or driving, there seems to be no given right of way. this causes many "awkward stranger dances" with people, or people just running in to you. we have heard stories where koreans who havent gotten out of the way of army tanks, and have been run over by tanks. true or not, sadly it is believable.
11: coffee. even though i am a self-described "coffee snob" the vast majority of coffee (99%) in korea is instant coffee. we have gone to a coffee shop and watched the barista open up a thingy of instant coffee and serve it to a customer. YUCK!
12: planning ahead. in america people LOVE to plan ahead. in korea its often common to go to work, and walk in a classroom with NO students. then a teacher will call you and say "todays classes are all canceled due to exams" another scenario, you will be sitting in your office with no class, and a teacher will ask where are you? you are supposed to be teaching!" also, you can ask anytime during the semester and ask "when are finals" and no one will know. i JUST found out the dates for finals just two weeks before finals. since i love schedules, this has been the most difficult thing to adjust to.

we have absolutely loved our time here, and have adjusted very well and the differences we just smile and say "we love it here"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Adventures in Riveraland

Since today is Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to do a review of memorable Thanksgivings past. Here is a brief overview of the Daniel and Tova Thanksgivings since we've been married:
Thanksgiving 2005 ~ Detailed in this blog. I'm not going to spoil the surprise.
Thanksgiving 2006 ~ Spent in Alpena. I got to meet many of Grace's relatives for the first time!
Thanksgiving 2007 ~ Spent in Jacksonville in a tiny apartment with Daniel and JL and Grace.
Thanksgiving 2008 ~ Spent in Miami in a crowded, family-filled place with Orlando and Ricardo fighting over something ridiculous. This included many fact-finding Google missions together that (not) surprisingly resulted in BOTH Orlando AND Ricardo even more convinced that they were correct.
Thanksgiving 2009 ~ Spent in Korea. We won't have much of a celebration, if any. This makes me both homesick and reminded of how much I do have to be thankful for.
As I said, today's blog will be focused on Thanksgiving 2005 ~ the first Thanksgiving Daniel and I had as a married couple. We had such high expectations for this Thanksgiving. This was to be the "parade the new wife around the family" Thanksgiving. I was supposed to meet Daniel's awesome grandpa and aunts and uncles and cousins and all that. As you can probably already tell, this was not what wound up happening.
Daniel and I put all our junk in Bob (our little Scion xa we'd recently acquired). We mapped out the trip. We'd decided that our best bet was to go from Madison, WI up north through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, then down through the glove to Alpena. We timed it just right for our arrival. We loaded Anners, our cute little muttley, into the car. We set off into the evening on our journey.
The drive was going incredibly smoothly. Annie was the best car-trip dog you could ever imagine. Give that punkley a pillow and put her no further than 4 feet away from her people, and she's set. We had the maps and the coats and everything we needed to brave Michigan in late November. We drove and drove, stopping in Green Bay at one point and stopping at the Brett Favre (I think?) McDonald's that was a stone's throw away from the stadium. We kept driving on into the night, hoping to make it up through the Upper Peninsula before we got too tired. We finally got into the UP, and things were going just swimmingly.
We were following the little highway 2 through the UP. We made it to Escanaba pretty easily. A little while after that, we encountered our first Lake Effect Snow. We were in the middle of this crazy swirling white blackness. It was like nothing I've ever seen. We were moving along at about 2 inches an hour, trying our hardest not to freak out (okay, so that was just me). Every now and then, we would be passed by an SUV that seemed to think nothing was going on at all. We finally decided to stop at a hotel when we realized we'd gone 2 miles in the last 20 minutes. We pulled over to a little Comfort Inn at the side of the road. We came in, and the desk person gave us their last hotel room. The tiny hotel was packed to the gills with holiday travelers that had been stranded in this tiny town. We were SO thankful that it was a pet-friendly hotel. We grabbed a few things from the car and headed in to our room.
In the morning, we looked out and saw a sea of white. There was snow EVERYWHERE, piled higher than I would have thought possible. We realized for the first time that we were literally right across the street from Lake Michigan. While we were driving, we were hugging the lake the whole time, and I had no idea! We saw that some parts of the road had been cleared, and the sky was pretty clear as well. We decided we would pack up and try again. When we went down to check out, the desk dude said, "Are you sure you want to go anywhere?" As it turns out, the snow the night before was horrible. The highways in the UP had been closed a little further ahead because there were too many fatalities.
We decided that it was too important for us to get to Alpena to give up at 6 am. We thanked them, checked out, and headed off down the road.
We made it about 5 miles ~ TOPS ~ when the snow hit. It was the same as the night before ~ insane, blinding snow. We couldn't see a foot out the windows. Everything was so white! We turned around and headed back to the hotel after we realized it was too dangerous to continue. Almost the second we'd turned around, the snow stopped. It completely disappeared! We said, "Okay, let's try again." We turned around and made it maybe a mile before the snow hit full force AGAIN! We tried this again and again, failing each time. Finally, when we realized we'd been covering the same mile or so for an hour, we decided to go back to the hotel and stay there for Thanksgiving. When we got back, the desk person chuckled and said that we could have our room back ~ they hadn't even bothered to clean it when we left.
We got back to the room, put our stuff in, and tried to figure out what to do. After all, it was Thanksgiving! We couldn't just do nothing to celebrate! Unfortunately, almost everything was closed down. It was too dangerous for people to drive to work.
Daniel and I did what every sane person would do. We went to the gas station next door and got our Thanksgiving dinner.
This was the menu for Thanksgiving 2005: Turkey (tortilla chips). Stuffing (salsa). Sweet potatoes (graham crackers). Gravy (peanut butter). Pumpkin pie (a giant hershey's kiss). We then finished off Thanksgiving in style by watching a 24-hour marathon of "Deadliest Catch". (Thank you, cable TV!)
The next morning, completely defeated by the Upper Peninsula, we packed our things and headed back to Madison. It was a sad Thanksgiving, but certainly a memorable one.
This year, we're going to brave the UP at the end of December. Hopefully I will NOT have another blog entry like this one.

Monday, November 23, 2009

its better in korea :-)

so after almost a year in korea we have found some things that are just better in korea than in the states.

i am not at all hinting that korea is better than america, but being from a country (the US) that prides itself in taking the best from other cultures, here are some things that we think America could learn from korea :-p

1: chicken strips. seriously so much better in korea than in america. a wonderful balance of spicy and juicy with some awesome added at the end.
2: fermented food, i.e. kimchi. sorry, had to give korea props for preparing a dish in a way that makes most americans queezy :-p
3: shopping carts. the wheels on the front and the back pivot. sheer genius i tell you, sheer genius
4: teachers field trips. when a majority of the field trips can be classified as "life-threatening" then they are awesome.
5: oral hygiene. my students brush their teeth after almost every class.
6: gift giving. in korea people find ANY reason to give a gift. its so nice. a week doesn't go by without walking in to your office and finding a box of something on your desk for some reason or another.
7: school parties. they have so much fun, and its definitely a bonding experience.
8: recycling. they recycle everything. even having recycling bins at the beach.
9: drying food. they will dry ANY kind of food.
10: umbrellas. they use them for all four seasons.
11: tv. its not the actual t.v. programs, but their format. minimal commercials, and most shows last 45-50 minutes with a 10-15 minute break in between. very nice to use that time for doing the dishes etc. :-)
12: the use of garlic and onions in their food. seriously one of the best things! they eat RAW garlic and onions. i love going to dinners, and being served raw garlic and onions. that makes my day. but not only that. what makes it the nest is that after being served i eat the raw garlic and raw onions and NO ONE looks at me funny :-p

so that's our "top12" list of things that are better in korea :-)

hope you enjoyed :-) next time things that are better in america :-)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

ad hoc

in korea sometimes you need to find the randomest things ever to get by.

the reason why, is because sometimes you dont know where to get things, so you have to improvise with things that you can find.

other times a very simple project can be very expensive which makes you improvise. for example . . . i wanted to hang a picture. then i thought "if i wanted to hang one picture i would have to go buy nails AND a hammer." i then weighed the pros and cons, and i thought "is it really worth the 10 bucks for a hammer to put up one picture?" so then the improvising starts :-p

sometimes people classify this as "ghetto" but sometimes we have to embrace that living in korea.

so with that backdrop here is todays blog:

when we moved in to our new apartment we had some closet doors that didnt close all the way. we would close the doors before leaving for work, and then come home and they would be open.i used some cardboard to make sure half of the door remained closed,
(the piece of cardboard is wedged at the top of the door frame and held on there with double-sided sticky tape :-p)

but the left hand door was pesky, and didnt respond well to the cardboard treatment.

so what do you do in korea with limited tools?


seriously, we tried velcro. :-p

it looks like this:
(look at the top left corner of the door, and where the door would close :-p )

we put on the velcro the first week we moved in, and it is still working, and we are happy with the results :-p

i would list more ghetto fixed things in the house, but they all involve double-sided sticky tape so its not as fun as velcro :-p

until next time people!

Friday, November 13, 2009

random = typical

so again, with the cultural differences theme, this is a compilation of things that happened in one hour, which just made me laugh

1: I got a phone call in my office, and my co-teacher told me that I had to leave right then to get a chest x-ray. all the male teachers are getting them (i dont know why, i just follow directions :-p). i asked if i needed a coat, and he said no. expecting to hop in a car to go to the hospital, which is only a 5 minute drive from my school i go find my co-teacher. he takes me to the schools parking lot where there was a mobile x-ray bus thingy, where all the men got there chests x-rayd. so today i got my chest x-rayed randomly, only in korea :-p. (no one has told me anything about the results so i guess it was ok :-p)

2: when getting the chest x-ray my co teacher asked me if i had anything metal on. i said just my belt. he said "no, i mean any metal attached to your insides" i laughed . . . a lot :-)

3: then i asked him if i need to take my belt off. this was now his turn to laugh at me :-p he was like "sure, and while you are at it, take off your shirt, your socks, and your pants." he then laughed and then said "no, you dont need to take off your belt. why would you need to take off your belt" i said maybe cause it was metal and he said "we arent going to be x'raying down there, just in your chest. you can keep your belt on. if you want though, i can announce it to the whole school, and tell them you are taking off your pants for the chest x-ray" touche' co-teacher, touche'

4: my co-teacher gets his x-ray before me. he says "please dont look at my x-ray. i will be very embarrassed if you see my insides "it was again my turn to laugh at him :-p

5: also, while waiting to get the x-ray (outside in the cold, and drizzle with no coat) we were talking about a field trip that i need to go on. he said "you know what? i would love to go to that place, but if someone told me i HAD to go, then i would not want to go" (i totally agree!)

and also, who knew that getting a chest x-ray would be so fun :-p

6: lastly, in class my co-teacher was trying to figure out if a 9 volt battery was working. i promptly picked it up and put it on my tongue. my co-teacher looked at me like i was trying to kill myself. i asked him why he was looking at me so weird and he was like "cause you are trying to electrocute yourself with the battery. be careful you dont want to die" it was then my turn to look at him like he had a third eye growing in the middle of his forehead. apparently the only time he EVER had done this was when he was three, and proceeded to laugh hysterically. i laughed cause i was like "why is this weird" and promptly checked another battery with my tongue, which made him almost fall on the floor laughing. i guess in korea they dont do that :-p

and that is why my co-teacher and i get along so much.

seriously, we are very much alike, and like making fun of each other :-p
I only have a month or so before i am passed on to my next co-teacher :-/ so sad

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

cultural differences

sometimes, after living in a different culture there is a sense of comfortability with the cultural differences. you usually just smile and nod and think "only in korea", some differences you just leave smiling and grateful for such experiences, and then there are sometimes where the differences are so maddening that they make you want to rip your hair out.

here are a couple that happened on the same day, all involving taxis :-p

last monday was a terrible rainy day. usually i walk to school, but with the rain i decided to take a taxi. i crossed the street and tried to hail a couple of taxis. a man was on the other side of the street. he saw me trying to hail a taxi. he crossed the street and walked towards the traffic a little bit so he was about 20 feet away from me. when he stopped he started trying to get a taxi! he totally cut in front of line! he knew i was trying to get a taxi, but that didnt stop him. (this hasn't been a one time thing. "lines" in korea are very amorphous)

i was really upset, cold, and wet from the rain. then to make matters worse the taxis were stopping to ask the guy where he was going, and tried to piggy back a fair with him. (piggy-backing is normal in taxis in korea) they didnt pick him up, and then when i tried to wave them down they would stop and ask me, even though the taxis had some of my students in them and it would be easy to piggy back fairs. i decided to start walking to school, and catch a taxi further down the street 'cause there was no way i was going to get a taxi any time soon due to "line-jumper"

i finally got a taxi after walking in the rain for 20 minutes, my socks and shoes thoroughly soaked. i was in a terrible state of mind.

while in the taxi, stewing, we passed the main intersection by my school. there is a "cop dude" who directs traffic in the mornings, since there are 1,000 students at my school it needs a "cop-dude" to direct traffic. when i see him every morning he bows and says "good-morning" with the biggest smile on his face, proud of himself to be able to communicate with someone in another language. i always respond with a bow and saying hello in korea. he loves it. he is a very cute old man. he makes my mornings :-) again, faithfully, he was there in the rain, in his poncho directing traffic.

after school,with my socks still wet, i was still in a grumbling state of mind. its tough when you are raised thinking that an action is totally rude, and go to another culture and it be "normal"

so i was grumbly, and it was still rainy, so i took a taxi home. i saw a taxi coming and did the customary waiving to get the taxi to pick me up. in the rain, through the windshield, i saw the taxi driver and it was the "cop crossing-guard dude"! (some taxi drivers wear uniforms that can be confused as cop uniforms) he recognized me while still in his taxi stopping and was waving to me excitedly. he had the biggest smile on his face, and the frostiness in my heart started to melt a little. when i got in he was so excited, and happy to see me. he, very animatedly, tried to tell me that he was the same guy that i saw every morning, and he was the same person who said hello every morning. he did this all in korean, but i understood enough to know what we was saying. i tried to tell him that yes i remember him. i think he understood me :-p

at this point i was starting to forget the "line-jumper" and started to think more about the small things that i LOVE about korea. this guy, i dont even know his name, and the extent of our conversations is a "hello" every other morning was so happy to see me! he truly felt like we had a connection, and even though, to me, that connection might be shallow, to him it was a deep connection.

its so true when people tell you to try and ignore some of the cultural differences that you cant understand, and focus on the positives. in all honesty, i/we have found that the people who are having the toughest times in korea seem to only focus on the differences they cant understand.

i choose to focus on "random cop looking but really a taxi driver who moonlights as a glorified crossing guard" over the "line-jumper" :-p

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I love my job. I love my coteacher. I love absolutely everything about my career in Korea. I am having a blast.

My coteacher and I taught a class on Friday that we needed to tape. (There's an upcoming contest for the Korean teachers that she needed it for.) It was a blast.

After the class, BoRam approached me with the video camera. She wanted me to describe my thoughts about the class. I took that opportunity to share some completely mature thoughts that show evidence of how incredibly well-educated and wonderful I am.

Enjoy. :-)
Here is a link to the video, just in case it's not working:
(Thank you, Dad!!!)

Everything referenced in the video is a true story, by the way. :-)