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If you’re going to San Francisco January 22, 2011

We made a video about great landmarks and the examples where the Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower. For the second part of the video I played An American in Paris and for the first, If You’re Going to San Francisco. When the kids saw the youtube video for the later they had some understandable questions about Scott McKenzie.

#1) Is that Mr. Bean?

#2) Is that your grandfather?

#3) What is this? (In regards to his mustache)

#4) Is he crazy?

#5) Flowers in hair? That’s crazy and dirty.

To try to save the Baby Boomers in the eyes of 8 year old Korean children and to make my mother happy, I then showed them the video of Shanana at Woodstock which brought up some concerns of its own.

#1) They run like this. Like crazy.

#2) Here is jacket and here is nothing. Only jacket.

#3) They are here and here and then here and here and here. They are like blaaahhhh. Crazy.

Sorry mom, but they bring up some valid points.


I hate my Korean shower January 20, 2011

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 2:01 pm
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I don’t so much have a “bathroom” as a really big shower with a toilet in it. There aren’t hot water heaters here. There is a dial on the wall that you push to tell the apartment that you are ready for hot water. When you first move in, you’ll need a coworker to come over and tell you what buttons to push. Then, you have to wait for said water to get around to heating up. The next step is to turn the water on, but only at a drip. If you turn it on all the way you’ll enjoy a cold shower. Beware, once you turn the water all the way up it is going to be scalding. You’ve got a 30 second window of usable water. One 3o seconds will come as the water heats up the other as it cools down. Once the water is cold again, turn the pressure back down to a drizzle and use your wait time to shampoo and soap up. Then repeat for 30 seconds of rinse time. Don’t forget when you are finished to tell the apartment that you are done with the hot water or else you’ll come home from work to a sauna. You see, the heater that warms the water also warms the floors. You should also be aware that if you don’t turn the heater on every so often in the dead of winter, your pipes may freeze. Also, don’t forget your bathroom shoes. You’ll need those if you want to pee anytime after you’ve bathed, since, again, you’re toilet is in your shower. This is why, once a week, I pay 8,000 won to share a bathtub with strangers at the jimjilbang. Anyway, I’ve pushed the button, the water should be warm by now. I guess I’d better get to it. Wish me luck.


Butterflies are free, and also kind of assholes January 19, 2011

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 1:16 pm
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The sentence: Subject + verb + from + noun + to + noun

The example: The butterfly flew from flower to flower.

The question, “Oh teacher, you like butterflies?” The response, “Uh… yeah? Who doesn’t like butterflies? They’re butterflies.” My students then informed me that butterflies are gross, dirty, and frightening. Apparently, they are still bugs and bugs are gross. Even though they have wings, they still have scary, ugly faces. This is too much because these same students make a regular habit of eating bugs. While beondegi, roasted silkworm larva, is a healthy and delicious snack, butterflies are creepy. When presented with the argument that beondegi is bugs, they rebut with the infallible, “Yes, but delicious.”

I’ve narrowed this conversation down to two possible conclusions: #1 Butterflies are not universally delightful and whimsical. #2 My students have the ability to telepathically communicate with one another so that they can collectively fuck with me.


What to pack when you are moving to South Korea January 15, 2011

1) Home stuff

Little things to fight the inevitable homesickness you are bound to face. Make room for pictures of family, holiday decorations, your favorite cup, anything that makes your little slice of ROK feel like home.

2) Pants

Pack pants that fit you now and pants that are one size smaller than you currently wear. You are going to loose weight, but not so much that you’ll be able to fit into impossibly small Korean sizes.

3) Underwear and bras

If you’re anything like me, you are already packing your own biological stadium cushion. Unless you’re prepared to get your delicates from the ajumma section of E-Mart, then best stock up on your unmentionables state side.

4) A gift for the new boss and a yummy local treat for the staff

A nice gift makes a good first impression, which is important everywhere, but is year long contract defining in Korea. We brought our boss a gold ornament in the shape of the Wright B Flyer since we are from Dayton, Ohio. A nice, non-political local history gift. For the staff we brought a box of Esther Price chocolates, a Daytonian delicacy. You don’t have to spend a heap of cash. Something local and edible will do just fine.

5) Two sets of sheets

Chances are you will have a washer in your Korean apartment, but no dryer. You can buy sheets here but they either won’t be what you’re used to or very expensive. They don’t take up much room in the brand new suitcase your mom bought for you. Toss in the extra set. When you aren’t sleeping on dry enough sheets, you’ll be glad you did.

6) Over the counter medications

Cold and headache remedies aren’t universal. I could sell NyQuil tablets for $20 a pop on the street in Ieteawon to red nosed, sleep deprived Americans. When you get sick, and your students will get you sick, you will crave nothing as much as a NyQuil endused unconscious state. If you need a little extra help dozing off at night or need to sleep off a headache the extra large bottle of Tylenol PM you brought will come in quite handy. Go over board here. If you end up with extra at the end of the year, you can always pass the extra along to your co-workers who weren’t smart enough to take my sage like advice.

7) Prizes

Bring some goodies for the kids. Some holiday or American flag themed pencils, stickers or erasers will do. The students are aware of the mass marketed American holidays but they are still exotic and new. Pencils topped with erasers in the shape of ghosts, hearts, or snowmen will be a big hit come flash card game time.

8.) Shoes, but only if you have big feet

If your walking on an average size 8 like I am, then don’t over pack shoes. You can buy them here. There’s a Converse store on every corner in Seoul and there’s even a Doc Martin’s store at the Coex Mall. The high heel selections are endless. However, if you are above a women’s size 9, pack shoes. You will be able to find shoes that fit if you look, but you’ll have to look and the selection won’t be stellar. Remember, your shoes should be easy to kick on and off. I highly recommend packing a pair of winter boots that zip up and go with everything.

9) Money

You need enough cash to float you until your first paycheck. Clearly this varies from person to person depending on lifestyle, region, and the generosity of your school. You can get by on $1000. Even if your in a couple, you’ll never spend more than $3000 unless you go wild in one of the foreigner only casinos.

10) DVD’s

While you can watch Hulu and Netflix with the use of a proxy server, they may not have the selection that you wish they did. Stock up on TV shows you haven’t seen but have been meaning to get around to, movies that you haven’t seen yet or could watch again and again. Don’t bring the boxes. Just put them in a CD folder. Nothing will ease the soul of a homesick American quite like an episode of King of the Hill.

What not to pack:

1) Toiletries

Believe it or not, people bathe in Korea. You don’t need to pack shampoo, conditioner, soap or hair spray. There are two things you may want to consider packing though they aren’t totally necessary: toothpaste and deodorant. The toothpaste here is slightly different. If you have picky dental needs, stock up. Aside from finding a taste you can stand you won’t be able to read the box to learn it the tube will whiten or protect. I’ve been using Korean toothpaste and have no complaints, but it took a couple of thrown out tubes to get there. I packed my deodorant, because, dainty flower that I am, I needed a particular brand, which it turns out you can buy here. It’s more expensive, but not ungodly so.

2) Half the clothes you think you need

You don’t know what to pack so you’ve packed everything just in case. Don’t do that. They have clothes here that you can buy. You’ll find out what your school expects you to wear and you can pull together work wear here. Remember, it will be hard to find pants that fit, but I haven’t had a problem finding dresses, tops or shoes. Do bring at least one weeks worth of business appropriate attire to make a good first impression. You’ll be making enough money that you can fill in the wardrobe gaps with your first paycheck via a shopping trip to Seoul.

3) Electronics

If you need a camera or a laptop. You don’t necessarily need to stock up before you leave the states. You can get electronics cheaply here. I’ve bought a laptop and a camera for myself. It just means that I’ll need to buy adjusters when I head home and I can type in Hangul. On the other hand, Korean men don’t grow beards, but expats notoriously do. Bring a beard trimmer.

4) More than one or two books for the plane

You can find English books here, especially if you are close to Soul. I’ve always found everything my literary heart could desire at What the Book in Ietaewon. If you are too far from Seoul to make the trip, What the Book will ship to you. Not to mention the fact that foreign teachers have come before you. Most likely, the teacher whom you replace, you’ll also fill their empty apartment and inherit all the crap they’re left behind, including their books. If you are such a book-worm that you won’t be able to survive without constant access to your very own Barnes and Noble, then make the investment in a Nook or Kindle.

5) Socks and tights

Trust me. Korean women love their stockings. There will be enough knee highs, ankle socks, and funky tights to even keep a retired roller girl happy. Make room for more underwear and bras by leaving the socks at home.

Happy packing. Enjoy that last southern style sweet tea and get ready. You’re going to love it here.


The Amazing Super Teacher January 12, 2011

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 2:12 am

The assignment: Create your own hero or heroine.

The example: The Amazing Super Teacher (I came up with the name. The rest was all my student’s doing.)

Step 1: Describe your heroine.

What are my amazing super powers?

Put your things away.

Butt on chair

Go to the desk.

What are my weapons? (Weapons are gun, knife, bomb…)

Computer and markers

What is my weakness? (Weakness is what kills Amazing Super Teacher? What makes her sick and die?)

Teacher’s mom

Step 2: Make a comic book story about your heroine in three pictures.

Picture 1: Where is Super Teacher and what does she say?

Amazing Super Teacher is in the classroom with the children. “Be quiet,” says Amazing Super Teacher. “Why?” John says.

Picture 2: Who comes?

Amazing Super Teacher’s mom comes. She says, “Hello baby.”                                   Amazing Super Teacher says, “I’m not baby.”

Picture 3: Who wins? How do they win?

Amazing Super Teacher sends mom to the desk.

Victory is mine!


My oyster January 10, 2011

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 2:23 pm

Doug and I have officially decided to extend our contracts with CDI through the summer term. This will give us a chance to save some extra money, see some more of the country, and leave Korea at the end of a warm, happy summer.

Now that we have an official end date in sight, I am starting to feel like a senior in college again. The whole world and all it possibilities are open to me. I can start applying to grad schools. I can start applying for teaching jobs in different foreign countries on completely different continents even. I can apply for TEFL programs in Europe. My god, I could finally see Europe. I could, I won’t, but I could consider procreating. I can do a lot of things that would all make me really happy.

The last time I felt this way, as I was leaving Ohio State, I was hit with a hard reality. My expectations of my employment got knocked down from working for a non-profit and making my community a better place to anything that provides affordable health insurance and will work around my other two jobs so I can continue to pay my rent.

I like this beginning much more. I’m older, wiser, perhaps slightly jaded to the perils of retail, but far more prepared. I’m not assuming there is any generosity in the heart of the American job market for the likes of me. Countless soaks in the Korean jimjilbangs (bath houses) have scrubbed the stink of desperation from me. Korea has been my reset button. My fall from grace wasn’t all that hard. The only saving I needed was from the trap of perpetual good enough, and the Land of the Morning Calm has kindly done that for me. I’ve been reminded that I’m smart and talented and that I should expect great things from myself. I am capable of so much more than rent payments.


Jinx January 8, 2011

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 9:02 pm

I don’t believe in fate or predestination. I don’t believe in superstition or really in the ability of my will alone to influence the universe (stuff it Rhonda Byrne). In fact I mostly just believe in coincidence. That said, there is still a feeling of apprehension in the following statement: I think my crazy teacher immune system has finally kicked in.

I haven’t been sick as a dog in months. When I do get that tell-tale tickle in my ears and throat, it backs down to the mighty force of my white blood cells. After months on end of mouth breathing, I am now able to tackle the common cold with a few Vitamin C drinks and a day of taking it easy. Dare I tempt fate by licking door knobs or giving my students who are more germ ridden then the fleas of medieval rats a firm pat on the back? Maybe I’ll just stick to a strict hand washing routine, because while I don’t believe in juju I do believe in the cold, hard science of proper sanitation.


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