Sunday, March 30, 2008
In Korea and in a few other countries in Asia people calculate their age based on the Lunar System. Basically, they are 1 year old when they are born not 0. They also get a year older on January 1st,not on their birthday. So when someone here in Korea tells me their age they are actually one or two years younger by International Standards. So I was born on February 7th, 1979. This makes me 1 years old until 1/1/80, when I would have turned 2(which is before my 1st birthday by International Standards). So this year I turned 29 by International Standards but on 1/1/08 I turned 30 in Korea,which sucks. This is still very confusing to me but I felt it should be mentioned.
This brings me to my next point. I will have to turn 30 twice. This just doesn't seem fair. When people in Korea ask me my age I usually say 29, but sometimes I say 30 and it hurts....
The last difference in Korea is that many of them celebrate their Birthdays based on the Lunar Calender(actually its the Lunisolar calender but they all refer to it as the Lunar Calender). Which is completely different than the Roman one or to be more specific the Gregorian Calender that is widely used today. I have included a link to wikipedia below if you want to know more about this calender, but it is based on the cycles of the moon and the solar year. The only way we use this calender in western society is to calculate the time when Easter will be on our calender. That's why it always changes its date. So your lunar birthday is different than your International one too. My International birthday is February 7th and my Lunar one is May 15th or at least that's what one of my students told me,so I am assuming she is correct.
This is all very confusing to me, 2 birthdays,2 ages and multiple calenders. the picture is of me on my International birthday this year in Thailand.
Here is a link to wikipedia if you want to learn more
Lunisolar Calender on Wikipedia
There are many foods that I find strange and unique here in Korea. I am sure that this would be the case in any foreign country that ones visits. Some of my favorites are eating live octopus, well its dead put they cut it up right before they serve it to you and it squirms around on the plate for a good 15 minutes and you have to dip it in oil or it will suck on to your throat on the way down and it could possibly kill you. I didn't like this at all. One of my favorite foods is the egg sandwich. It's just 2 pieces of white bread, grilled without butter, a scrambled egg mixture the size of the bread and some veggies,cheese or meat depending on the kind you order. Then they top it off with both sweet and spicy sauces. It's delicious!!! There are many varieties, my favorite is the cheese or the Tuna. But they top it with all kinds of meats if thats your pleasure. The shop I get my sandwiches from is near my school about 400 feet away. It's called Sukbong. Yes it sounds just like its spelled, I have no idea what it means in Korean but the English meaning is obvious.
But now to my main reason for writing this blog. The most unique food I have come across is not Korean at all. It's a hybrid shop that combines Italian food with ice cream cones. It's called Balena. They serve pasta in a cone. The pasta is actually very tasty and the cone does make for a unique,cheap and practical to-go container. When I first heard about this place I didn't believe it,but I just went there and it really does exist. They serve all kinds of different pasta's in waffle cones. The cones are pretty tasty too. I have to say I might eat there again, it really was good. But Next time I am going to get a pasta without squid. Koreans put squid in everything....
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I have less than 2 months left in my contract, the past 10 months in Korea have been great and it sometimes feels like I have been here for a lot longer and then other times it seems shorter. I have met so many new people here. I didn't know anybody when
I moved here so everyone I have met is a new person. There have been some really great people and some that I could have lived without. One of the unique things about teaching English in Korea is that there is a never ending cycle of new teachers. There is also a never ending cycle of going away parties.
When you first arrive you feel like everyone has been here for ever and you are the only new person. Soon you realize that many of the people you thought were veterans may have only arrived a few weeks or even days before you. It's also very likely that you will attend a going away party within your first few weeks here. I went to my first going away party on my 3rd night in Korea. It was for a girl named Kat and some other guy who I don't remember. I went to several other going away parties within my first month in Korea. Sometimes it seems like every weekend there is someone celebrating there departure. In Gumi this is usually done at the Waegook Cook Bar (sometimes its planned by the bars owner without there knowledge...). Other people put a more personal touch to there departure parties. Kat's was at her favorite restaurant which was followed up by a trip to the Nori Bong(Singing Room). We sang and drank until the sun came up, it was a blast. Other friends have had there parties at there favorites bars and one friend had his at the local microbrewery/buffet,the Tomato Brau. One thing that is set in stone is that whenever there is a going away party this means that a few days or hours later we will get a new teacher in Gumi.
It's always fun to see who the newbies are. Usually they are here for a few weeks before you meet them but occasionally you get lucky enough to meet one on there first or second day. I stopped trying to meet new people a couple of months ago because I figured I already new enough people. This doesn't mean that I haven't met anyone new it just means I wasn't making any effort to do it. I have noticed that there are now a lot of people I don't know. I have seen several shifts in the atmosphere of the town I live in since I arrived. This is because most of the people who are here now were not here when I got here. It seems that this is a regular occurrence here and all the lifers (foreigners who actually live here permanently or for at least 3-4 years) don't even bother to meet people until they have been here at least 6 months as most of them don't stay. This is a unique place,everyone is in a constant state of transition and many people view there year in Korea as just a vacation after college or a year off before they start there next chapter in life.
I am not sure what I will do next but I do know that I have enjoyed my time here so far and I am looking forward to the rest of the going away parties and newbies I have yet to meet.
"and miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep."
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Soju is a sweet rice liquor that is similar to vodka only weaker. It is usually 20% alcohol and can get as high as 45%. It is almost exclusively made in Korea. Jinro is the largest producer of soju. Soju is the most common drink in Korea. Everyone drinks it for all occasions. People take shots of it and they make drinks with it. I personally can't stand it but it is liked by most people here in Korea. When you are offered a drink there is a strong chance it will be a shot of soju. There are many different kinds,the only one I can stand is bamboo soju,it tastes sweeter than the common rice variety. There are many rules to drinking soju. It's a cultural drink. You are expected to do shots of it at special occasions. I posted a wikipedia link below that lists all the rules and the history. There's one thing to remember about soju, according to Koreans " Soju has magic".
Soju on Wikipedia
Thursday, March 6, 2008
I recently went curling with 7 other people from Gumi. We went to a curling club somewhere in a small town in Korea. This club had 4 curling sheets or playing fields. I was amazed that a small town of around 80,000 in Korea would have a multi-million dollar facility like this. It was the same size as an indoor hockey rink,it had a cooling system to keep the ice cold and all that. One of the guys we went with was Canadian and he helped to get it built a few years ago, he said it costs around 3 million to build a facility like that. It was completely paid for by the city and it didn't cost us anything to play there. I don't think curling is very popular in Korea and as far as I know this is the only club. But there could be more, I have no idea. Curling is a sport that is played on ice. It's like shuffle board on ice. The board or sheet is the full length of an ice rink. You push a very heavy stone down the ice and try and get it to land on a large target about 100 feet away(a regulation sheet is 146 feet long and 15 feet wide,also the ice must be 23 degrees). The target is 12 feet in diameter. You wear a slick cover(called a slider) on one shoe to allow you to slide on it. When you release the stone(it weighs 44 pounds) you push off a starting block and slide on one foot using a broom to help you balance, you glide about 15 feet then release the stone and let it glide to the target. At this time another 2 members of your team will sweep in front of the puck to create heat on the ice to change its direction and speed it up. If your stone stops on the target you get points. That is if its still on the target at the end of the round. People can knock your stone off, only stones that that remain on the target at the end of the round get points. More points are awarded if your stone is closer to the center. It's the same as shuffle board. It was very difficult to stand on the ice and move quickly and it was even more difficult to glide when releasing the puck. You don't have to glide you can just push it if you want but thats not the best way to do it. But for old guys who play that how they do it. Curling is an Olympic sport(since 1998) and it is one of the hardest tickets to get at the Olympics,it has become very popular recently. I had a blast, anyone who has a chance should try it. Here is a link to the Wikipedia page.
Curling Wikipedia Page
Sunday, March 2, 2008
When we get a student in Korea who has never been to a private English school we get to give them an English name. Just like we used to get in foreign language class back in the states. My name in Spanish class was Pablo. As bored teachers we sometimes like to amuse ourselves with this process. I recently had 4 new students in a class, 3 boys and 1 girl. I also had a new student with the name Kramer. I took this opportunity to name the majority of this class after Seinfeld characters. I had Jerry, Newman,George, Elaine and Kramer. I told them what I was doing and why and they didn't like it but I bribed them with a pizza party and they reluctantly accepted. I still haven't had any luck getting Kramer to learn how to enter a room like Kramer did on the show,but I haven't given up yet... There are also many students named after numbers, I have Seven, One and Three in my classes. I also once named a kid Mario in hopes of naming the next one Luigi, nut no kid will take the name Luigi,they just refuse. I am not completely without compassion here, but some teachers are, if I wanted I could just name them and it would be final but I at least ask them what they want. I will trick them to take the names I want,but I give them at least the appearance of a choice. Many teachers just tell them there name and they have to take it regardless of there feelings for the name. Some other interesting names are Pole, Hangman, Hand, Action Jackson, Robot, Crazy Eyes, and Eight Arms. Not all of these are at my school but I asked around to a few friends for the strangest names at there schools. Please keep in mind that 98% of the students have normal English names. We are only bored sometimes...