Monday, February 27, 2012

Down in one!

We enjoyed a buffet-style dinner with all the teachers and supervisors from the school Friday night as part of the yearly farewell dinner to all those moving on to new jobs.  The food was wonderful, and many of us were glad for something different. We've tried several restaurants, but due to our lack of knowledge, we keep ending up in the same types of restaurants. In these, you sit on the floor around a table. There's a grill in the middle of the table to cook the meat you order, and generally, everyone at the table shares everything.

Denver and Valerie at the dinner table

After you order, the server brings out about a dozen small bowls of sides and relishes. There are sesame leaves for wrapping, salad, kimchi, soup, marinated onions, and many other things. Then the meat comes out and you begin cooking. In our case, the waitress feels bad for our confusion, and cooks it for us! We've had sirloin, flank steak, and King ribs, which are nothing like ribs in the U.S.

The table of side dishes with the grill in the middle

This Friday night's buffet was mysteriously called Shabu Shabu, and the myriad of prepared Asian dishes, like Chinese fried rice, Japanese sushi, etc. was supplemented with a boiling pot of broth in the middle of the table into which you add whatever you want from the raw bar to make soup. There were all sorts of vegetables, noodles, seafood, and meats to choose from. You choose based on your table's tastes.  

We've also experienced Korean food at each day of training, as the school provides lunch for the morning teachers and dinner for the afternoon teachers.  The food is traditional Korean food, typically consisting of some sort of kimchi (made with cabbage, radishes, or sprouts), soup (usually broth with seaweed, and seafood or tofu), a side dish (more radishes, salad, or potatoes), and main course (varies from American-style chicken nuggets to an entire baked fish, head, tail, and all). There is always a pot of white rice, too.  It's not my favorite meal of the day, but I'm grateful that it's free!
The new teachers were surprised at how openly everyone was drinking at the farewell dinner.  We all agreed that at work-related functions in America, alcohol is not usually purchased on the company tab. If it is, there is some limitation.  However, at the farewell dinner the beer was flowing freely.  As soon as a bottle went empty, the waitress would swing by to replace it.  Our school's director and principal were making rounds to fill glasses, too! After a few speeches, dinner was over and general socializing began.  Amidst our conversation, I heard chanting, "Down in one! Down in one!"
The deputy director of the school (and the woman who has been training us), was standing at a table chugging an entire glass of beer, down in one.  This happened to Diane about five or six different times during the party.  It is not polite to turn down a drink in Korea, especially if it's offered by an elder. And it's bad luck to refill your own glass.  I can say no one was disappointed to learn, or practice, any of these rules.  Certainly not when our boss ran face first into the door.  Nor when she said goodbye holding her head, "Oh my. So dizzy. So very dizzy."

Some Korean beers

After dinner, the old teachers wanted to introduce the new teachers to the bar scene in Incheon.  About 4-5 beers in, we poured out onto the streets and split into different cabs to experience our first night out in Korea. I'll get into that as soon as I recover from our second night out in Korea!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Medical Exam

Poor Kyle.  He's the only boy in our school's group of foreign teachers. The other night we went for pizza, and on the way home we stumbled upon a Cold Stone.  Kyle remarked, "Okay now I REALLY feel like I'm with a bunch of girls.  Females go our for ice cream after pizza; men go out for a beer."
Now there's talk of us shopping for him and dressing him up in fashionable Korean clothing...

I felt especially sorry for him when we had to have our medical exams. Imagine 10 or so girls shoved onto a bus then into a hospital not knowing what's about to happen. We'd only heard horror stories from the previous teachers.  And did I mention we weren't allowed to eat after midnight?
The health exam started at 11:30 am.
So 10 women who haven't eaten about to completely have their privacies invaded... there was a lot of whining (mostly from my mouth) :)

First, we were called to the nurse's station.  The first few walked past the rest of us in the waiting room with a small plastic cup.  They then paraded back in front of us with the cup full of urine (no lid was provided, but luckily no one spilled).  The toilets had some contraption attached to the sides with about 20 different buttons in Korean.  While I was in my stall a girl called out, "Are there any other Americans in here? How the hell do you flush this thing!?" There was a lever at the back of the toilet.  The buttons were for heating, cleaning, and rinsing, the seat or you, I'm not sure... Dad, I'm sure you'd have fun with that!

We were warned by other teachers about the strange chest examination.  One girl claimed she thought she had a mammogram.  She said, "I think the door said Mammogram, but I never got smooshed."

Another said, "I was asked to take off my shirt.  Then my other shirt...Meaning my bra" Then she was warned, "Cold!" and something was swiped across her chest... Then she was pinched with something, too?

I was prepared. Not thrilled about taking my shirt and bra off, but ready for the strange exam.  The nurse asked me to take off my shirt and gestured for my bra to come off, too.  I laid down, and she wiped some cold gel on my ankles, wrists, and chest.  Then she put some clamps on my wrists and ankles.  Some small clips were put all around the left side of my chest.  After, she said, "Okay, your EKG is normal." So mammograms aren't required to teach in Korea.

After having my height, vision, teeth, hearing, and weight checked, the school representative checked my medical paper and saw I needed one more test.  He led me to a room where the nurse asked me to go behind the curtain and remove my bra.  I thought, "Okay, I've been topless once so far this morning, guess I'll do it again.  I came out from the curtain and the nurse looked up with wide eyes, saying, "AH! No! Gown! Gown!!"

Oops.  Just inside the curtain was a coat hanger of hospital gowns.  I guess she didn't want to see me topless.  I came out fully covered and had a chest X-ray taken.  No need to be shirtless for that.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Kiss Monster

Kyle and I have met all the new teachers over the course of a few hotel breakfasts.  We discovered we were each told a different time to meet in the lobby for day one of orientation... I read somewhere that in Korean culture, you can be up to 30 minutes late without being rude.  Too bad that doesn't apply to jobs :)

We decided to go by the instruction Kyle and I received, since it was scrawled on a piece of paper rather than simply hearsay.  Diane, our supervisor and phone interviewer, met us in the lobby and ushered us out to the school bus. 

SLP school bus

It was yellow, like a school bus, but looked more like a 70's Volkswagon van... complete with window and ceiling decorations!

The ride was bumpy through lots of construction, and soon we stopped in front of a building.  I knew in the back of my mind we were in a big city, but I guess it didn't register that we'd be working on one floor of a city building... We filed into the lobby and rode up to the 7th floor.

The blue "SLP" sign is our school!

Here's our school building

We've mostly been observing classes the first couple days, which has helped immensely. The students are all adorable and hilarious. They have the cutest little voices with Korean accents.  The class dynamic is simliar to any other: there's the trouble-maker, the class clown, the teacher's pet, and in one class, there was a Kiss Monster.

The Kiss Monster is a 5-year old, and he loves Jaclyn Teacher (that's how the students refer to their sweet!).  In the middle of a class I was observing, the shortest student with a huge head of fluffy hair asked in a soft voice, "Can I please come give Jaclyn Teacher a kiss?"
Jaclyn Teacher informed us that JiWoo (Kiss Monster) is very affectionate and loves to give kisses!  He then raised his hand saying "Oh! Oh! Jaclyn Teacher! Can I give the new teachers a kiss?" So, JiWoo skipped to the back of the room and proceeded to kiss the new teacher's cheek, neck, and all the way down her arm.  Then he moved to me and kissed my cheek and all the way down my chin!  He also told us he loves girls.  Why do you love girls, JiWoo? Because they wear pretty hairpins.

Tomorrow I will post about Korean food and the interesting medical exam we experienced on Tuesday...

Thanks for reading and until next time :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

We've Landed!

Well, we flew west.  Everyone had their bet on which way we'd go, west over the Pacific or east through Europe.  We flew in an arc up through Canada, across the Arctic Ocean, then down through Siberia.  Kyle excitedly explained the reason behind this route (I questioned, why north? why not just straight west?), but I'll spare you the mathematical details involving phrases like, "great circles" and "geodesic paths."

Here's a picture of us before the flight:

I thought I'd take a few more photos, but discovering it took four attempts to get a candid pre-flight picture, I didn't think we'd have enough patience for one after thirteen hours...  There wasn't much to see anyhow, just a jumbo jet with a couple hundred people trying to sleep.  We flew with Asiana Airlines and have no complaints; the flight attendants were very polite providing comforts like headphones, blankets, slippers, countless drinks, and a few good meals.  Kyle insisted on wearing his slippers during the entire flight.

Landing, picking up our luggage, and going through customs passed with no incident.  As we timidly passed through our designated exit, we were hit with forty or so South Korean voices, gestures, and signs.  Luckily, we saw the sign for "Shelly A Anderson" and "Kyle D Bednar" immediately, as it was front and center.  We struggled with our four roller-bags through the crowd to meet our sign holder, and he gestured for us to follow.  He grabbed a cart and began throwing our bags onto it.  Kyle tried to help, but the man just chuckled at him, making it clear Kyle was just slowing him down.  He waved us on and began jogging as he pushed the 200+ lb cart of luggage.  We had to power walk just to keep up.  When we arrived at the taxi, the man tossed our luggage into the trunk and hurried us into the back seat.  His driving was much like his walking, hurried and pushy.  He weaved through traffic while answering his various cell phones, one into which he spoke politely, and another for yelling.  After half an hour, we were shoved through the entrance of a hotel with our bags and left standing alone without a word.  Another man, who actually introduced himself, showed up soon after and helped get us checked into the hotel.  We hardly glanced around the hotel before passing out.

Our hotel room has a traditional entry way for removing one's shoes before entering.  Complimentary slippers were provided, and Kyle also insisted on wearing those...until his big foot busted one open.

The bathroom is arranged as we heard, with no separate showering area, just a showerhead in the wall and a drain in the middle of the tile.

The rest of the room is pretty nice, though the bed is extremely firm.  There's a nice TV and computer for our use with internet connection. Here are a couple views outside our window:

We enjoyed breakfast courtesy of the hotel this morning.  It was complete with sushi, Korean soup, cereal, fruit, salad, fried eggs, some interesting pastries, and toast.  We snuck a couple instant ramen cartons for later.

Someone from the school picks us up Monday morning for orientation, and Tuesday will be set aside for our health examinations.  We met a few other American teachers in the hotel today, and we look forward to getting to know them at orientation.  More to come!

Thanks for reading, and until next time :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Final Goodbyes

Well, it's official! We leave TOMORROW for South Korea!  We've spent the past 2-3 weeks visiting friends and family, saying our last goodbyes before we take off for a year. 

For the first week, we enjoyed the gorgeous weather and company of Kyle's mom, stepdad, and brother in Florida last month.  Kyle's brother Tyler is in fourth grade and competed in the Science Fair while we visited.  We got to see him win a college scholarship, first place in his section, and Best of Show out of all the fourth and fifth graders! Congrats, Ty!

Jim, Kesia, and Tyler with all his awards

After visiting Florida, we flew into Columbus, OH for a weekend with Kyle's brother Ryan.  Having lived together in Columbus last year, the three of us were excited to visit some old favorites like Northstar Cafe, the dollar movie theater, Jeni's ice cream parlor, and Half Price Books.

The past week has been spent in Akron, where the majority of my family resides, as does Kyle's dad's family.  Last weekend we had a Bon Voyage/Birthday party with all of our closest friends.  Most of us have been friends since high school, and it was the perfect farewell. Some were kind enough to drive in from Cincinnati, Toledo, and even as far as Nashville!  Needless to say, we had a BLAST!

Thanks so much to everyone for making the effort to be there!  I can't imagine a better group of friends :)  Thanks again to Mary and Dave for putting up with us all're both troopers!

Last week, my baby sister Anna signed with Walsh University to play softball!  She's recovering from ACL surgery for the next several months, but she will be a true asset to the team once she's 100%.  Hope I get to see her play after we get back next spring!

My dad, Anna, and Popo after Anna's signing

Anna signing with Walsh!
Here are a few more pictures of various lunch dates with family and friends...

Last day in the U.S. with Kristi and Brooke

Sisters after dinner at Olive Garden

Kyle with Great Baba, Aunt Candy, and Aunt Marilyn

Thanks to everyone for making time to visit with us while we were home! We love you all and can't wait to share our experiences with you through this blog!

Thanks for reading, and until next time :)