10 (+2) Observations/Random Notes

Here are 10 observations/things I’ve learned during my time here in Korea:
(not meant to be offensive! please don’t take it that way! :-/)

1. Um.  Most coffee places don’t open up til after 10am.  Which is fine for me because I don’t drink coffee…but it was definitely a shock to see.
2. Koreans are a very friendly batch of people.
3. While American parents throw their children into a million sports and activities, Korean parents throw their children into academics.  Hard.  And Early.  To say “education is important” is an understatement.
4. Leggings.  Leggings.  Leggings
5.  Korean women + high heels+ fashion
6.  Korean food is spicy!!  The “oh my gosh…my eyes are watering” kind of spicy.  But it’s good too.  Does take a bit of adjusting though.
7.  Seems to take about 10 days to get through all the jetlag.
8. The Korean language isn’t composed of like 2000+ symbols as I originally thought.  It has an alphabet and each “symbol” is comprised of smaller symbols which tell you how to make various sounds…ultimately creating a word.
Um..I probably could have explained that better, but it’s almost 1am, and I think that’s the latest I’ve stayed awake since I’ve been here, ha 😛
9. I’m starting to feel a bit more self-conscious with how often I’m stared at.  I know that it’s probably natural because I have blonde (ish) hair and blue eyes and I stick out like crazy, but…yeah…it’s wearing on me.
10. I actually really do like my new job. It’s very different…and hard at times because I’m not used to what I’m supposed to be doing….but I know I’ll get there.  I just need to be patient with myself.  But I love the kids, and I get my own classes starting tomorrow morning, and being able to watch them learn is going to be great.  😀

11. Crosswalks vs. Cars–Um…people seem to have the right of way at crosswalks here.  It’s not uncommon for people to dart across the street.  I have like 6 heart attacks a day watching this happen.  No one gets hit obviously, but part of my brain seems to scream out “LOOK BOTH WAYS!!!”  lol.
12.  The >< button in the elevator (to close the doors) actually works here.  haha.
You push the button, the doors start to close.  When you want them to…not when they want to or when their timer wants them to.  It’s like magic!  haha 🙂

I also wanted to note that after the kindergarten graduation the other day, the parents were able to come up and take pics of their kids with the teachers (I felt weird being up there with them because I had only been there a few days).  It was actually good because I had some students who would come up to me (and their parents and their cameras in tow) and be like “Stacey Teacher!!”…and my heart just melted into a little puddle.  The whole graduation was incredibly sweet and I’m sure that in a year’s time, it’s going to be even more memorable.  Not to mention when my own (future) kid has their kindergarten graduation.  I’ll probably be that mom in the front row waving and sobbing like a maniac.  lol.  🙂
Anyway, so we were on stage with the kiddies and parents (kind of a swarm) and I remember one parent that bowed to another teacher and myself and was endlessly saying “Thank You” to us.  Words can never even begin…
That simple act…even the fact that he bowed to us (the ultimate sign of respect/honor etc)–and a deep bow at that–sort of floored me.  I actually do have a job that someone appreciates and respects.  I just want to live up to that.

That also kind of got me thinking…I wonder how often teachers in America (or other Western countries) receive a genuine ‘Thank You’ for what they do.
And not even stopping there…what about other professions?  Sure sure, you bust your butt every day, and you might enjoy your job too, which makes it all the better.  But to get that sincere ‘Thank you.  No really, thank you for everything that you do.”  could really mean the world.

I felt it at the end of my last job too.  The fact that people had actually noticed…and taken the time to say something about it.  And then just the other night at graduation.
Say Something.

*Currently Reading: Eat. Pray. Love.

*I also joined a book club here  in Korea.  I love reading and I love even more the fact that I have time to read again.  The book they’re reading is called Skippy Dies by Paul Murray.  It’s apparently an Irish book and supposed to be really good.  I’m a sucker for the physical copy of a book (as opposed to reading it online which also hurts my eyes), and I was given a link to order it online, but I want to clear it with my bank first so I don’t get my account frozen or something.
Which um…may (hopefully not) have happened (we’ll have to see when I try to buy something) because I tried to buy a pair of Nike running shorts online and it rejected my payment.  Ugh.  Please oh please don’t freeze my account.

Learning Hangul

I told myself that on my day off (today) that I was going to give a give solid attempt at learning my Korean alphabet (Hangul) so I can better understand what’s around me.  A lot of signs are actually apparently written in English…but just with Korean letters.  I feel like a whole new world will kind of open up to me once I know this… 😀  That could be exaggerating it a bit…but then again…it seems pretty accurate.  If I can’t read anything, it makes it a bit challenging to do much of anything.

I’ve been told multiple times that you can get the alphabet down in a few hours if you work at it…so that’s my goal.

I’ve known the one for the ‘n’ sound since like my 3rd day or so…so hopefully I can get a few more so I can start reading some signs! 😀

I have a bunch of flashcards in front of me and I’m sitting in a cafe across the street from my apartment.  I can’t help but wonder if when I was first learning the English alphabet if I was overwhelmed by the amount of letters that I had to learn.  ha.
I’m feeling that right now. haha

Well, that didn’t go too well. ha.
I got all of them written down and sort of went over them, but it’s kind of overwhelming.

I want to make this:

Yum! 😀  It’s just chocolate chip cookies made in a skillet.
I don’t have an oven (like most of Korea) here, so these I could definitely do…assuming I found a reasonably priced skillet…

Also, if you’re reading this and have found any other ways to bake things aside from using an oven and want to send them over, I’d much appreciate it 😀
My grandma had mentioned baking in a crockpot too…

Woo! Eventful Day!

I left my apartment around 11am today (it’s March 1st and a national holiday here in South Korea-relates to their independence from the Japanese) and decided that today was going to be an exploration day.

First off, I really wish St. Louis had better public transportation…like…a lot.  Cut back on some of the traffic and would cut the time of getting from Point A to Point B across the city in half.

Anyway, the Timeworld Department store is sort of the furthest I’ve ventured from my apartment, and I pretty much use it as a landmark of sorts.  So, I went there and went around all 11 (actually it has a few lower levels below “1” and a “skyview” deck at the very top (level 12)) floors to see what all was actually there.  Jewelry/Luxury Goods on the first floor (Prada, Gucci, Burberry, etc), then mens wear, women’s wear, baby stuff, sports, outdoorsy stuff, movie theatre/cinema, FITNESS GYM (with golf simulators)…

Left there and went in a different direction than usual, and found a bunch of restaurants, batting cages, etc.
Ended up finding an Italian restaurant (my cravings haven’t really left yet.  I still crave burgers and pizza and pasta etc..)–it was quite tasty.  I actually surprised myself because I ordered a bulogi and potato pizza with mustard sauce and onion (and cheese and sauce).  It said “Favorite” or something next to it, and I was feeling adventurous at the time…and it was surprisingly really good!  ha.
Even writing this now I’m like…I ordered what?  But hey, it was tasty.

Next, I took the subway (first time using the Korean subway) and went to the Daejeon train station (where I was told I could find a good map).  I got a map from the tourist booth (YAYYYY!!!) and then wandered around that part of Daejeon for a bit.
I went back underground and was intending to head back, but saw a sign pointing another direction for the “underground shopping district”…which is…exactly that.
There were a bunch of little stalls? in a rather long looking hallway with people selling everything from socks to cell phones.
I did also find our equivalent to the $1 store too.  Good to remember.  There’s also another one a bit closer to home though should I need one.  I also found a little store that had a bunch of Korean figurines and fancy mirrors (rhinestones/jewels etc) and other various trinkets…most having something to do with Korea.  I was really tempted to buy some of the little figurines because they were adorable…and I haven’t seen anything like them yet…
Might go back for them…

Mmm..and yeah, then I came back.  And that’s about it.  It’s approaching 5pm here, so I’ll have to find dinner soon.

Oh, and an older man outside of the Daejeon Train Station asked me if I was Russian, lol.  He was working at a fruit stand…seemed to be relieved when I told him that I was American.  🙂

Work tomorrow and then the weekend!

Planning on doing the:
Super Slope Sale (March 10)–I’ve been wanting to learn to snowboard for the longest time, and this seems like a great opportunity…and they give lessons to newbies for free (well..it’s included)
Cherry Blossom Gyeongju Bike Ride (April 7)
Annd dang…there’s also a Marathon/Half/10K/5K in Gyeongju that same day.  I was kind of hoping to be able to do the 10K (not enough time to get ready for a half by then)…didn’t realize til now that they were on the same day…

And there’s also this:
http://www.waegooktravel.com/jejuspring.htm (May 12 and 13)

South Korea map


Daejeon is pretty much smack in the middle of the country and then over to the left a bit.

Jeju is the little island below the peninsula (described as the Hawaii of Korea)

Gyeongju is on the eastern coast, about an inch south of Daejeon.