Settled in

Trying to run a class as other students keep coming into the office. It’s never anyone’s first choice as a classroom. However it works on many occasions like Monday through Friday for one hour when the academy is the busiest. The door stays open so my Korean speaking co-workers can answer the phone when it rings. Undoubtedly from a parent with concerns for their child, their English isn’t good enough/ they need more practice. More often it’s a machine with offers for a new cell phone plan or water cooler. My co-workers are also teaching albeit behind closed doors, it takes a few rings for them to hear it. Then they run as fast as they can to catch the phone before the caller hangs up. If it’s an advertisement, they call back several times. This is  a trick I became familiar with while working in sales. It reminds me of Tim Allan in Galaxy Quest, ‘never give up; never surrender’. The office is always crowded with students. Middle school boys playing cell phone games like FIFA or the latest League of Legends knock off. Middle school girls pass by and bow to me. Then they notice the mirrored door frame and start check their hair, eyes, and lips. So many years ahead to check out their reflections. Some students fight their way to the copy machine grabbing at the mountain of paperwork printed off for them.

It’s a tough space to role play in but these two little guys are rallying. They pass a  giant ‘band-aid’ back and forth; ‘Ouch, my arm’. They get out of their seats and pretend to be hurt on the ground. The older students turn, look and go back to their game. Finally, I’ve got something that they enjoy doing although not every role play is as exciting as pretending to hurt yourself and then lets be honest become a zombie. Everybody loves zombies because they’re fun. They make it a game and if it looks, smells and acts like a game then it must be English class. Or at least that’s how I want it. The older students are the same way. I’ve started bringing a beach ball into class for grammar review. This is basically a speaking exercise where students read the written exercises but they throw a ball to the next person. My students love this. They love to smash the ball into the heads of non-participating students, which means that everybody plays. It keeps them off their cell phones and out of the mirror because they have years ahead of them to do that.

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The weirdest candy- I think it’s mostly corn starch in a straw.

Goals for this month

1. Writing everyday

2. Packing the apartment and sending things home by post or not!

3. Completing several work goals

4. Applying to jobs in the Bay Area

5. Checking out Wwoof in South America

I think the order of this list is very fitting. The daily things are important. I’ve made the habit of cooking lunch and dinner before work everyday. Now it’s time to expand my mind. Writing everyday is the perfect opportunity to gain mental clarity. I’m starting with a 30 day challenge, my friend Sarah is doing. It’s a great chance to do something together while I’m out of the country.

Over the past year, Wyll and I have accumulated many things. There is a collection of wooden spoons and a fat stack of notebooks  that need to go somewhere. The spoons will be coming to America. While the notebooks are full and perhaps can be burned or disposed of where no one can find them and learn English or game math with them. I’ve also bought a few fancy gifts and should decide if I’ll send them or take them by plane.

Work goals are boring but they too have to be part of this list. I need to ensure that my students are taken care of in my absence. That the paper work gets done before I leave. And that I get my extra money. I want that extra money!

Applying for jobs in the home state seems like a no brain-er. I’ve already started. Hopefully, my next endeavor will be fun and courageous! I’m looking at Social Media, Social Work, sale in Woman’s fashion. It would be fun to be a professional food blogger so maybe I’ll get a job as a waitress. If the bay area job market is as tough as I remember it being, I will go to South America to learn Spanish. Of the many things Korea has taught me my Spanish ability is not too shabby. There have been many times when I want to say something and I try to use Spanish. Most Koreans do not understand Spanish, so this tactic has never worked for me.

Exotic

I am a Zebra

long blonde hair flows from my head like a candy river

touch it, I dare you

blue blue eyes gaze out, smiling to themselves about nothing

How did I become so beautiful, so pawed at?

What are you looking at cute, nice lindsy teacher?

Are you dreaming of your wylliam teacher?

long blonde hair flows from her head like a candy river

lindsy teacher, when you go to the beach everyone is in love

you lounge under an umbrella and watch tv

lindsy teacher you and wylliam teacher have hearts in your eyes

smile lindsy teacher, eat this choco lindsy teacher,

long blonde hair flows from your head like a candy river

It’s getting warmer :)

While there is occasionally ice on the ground, the oranges have found there way into the supermarket. I feel that this is due to my name being confused with the fruit. Our personal fruit grocer, Park, remembers my name by saying “Lindsy Orengy”. This is often followed by him shoving citrus into our hands and shopping bags. Previously mandarins or tangerines.

On Monday, he gave us big juicy California Oranges. They were lovely. And so tasty. Did I mention cheap? I have been told that oranges are usually around a buck each. Being from California more than 25 cents seems weird, but sweet navels were hard to pass up. The kids at school have been eating tons of candy. Sometimes it really gets on my nerves. On Friday, I bought some for the whole school. It was awesome! Everyone was so excited! Even our director, Grace. (An outsider came in and ate a few of them and she got really upset.) I bought 32 for 20k won. They were a hit. At the end of the night I had six left.

I don’t know why everyone’s reaction was so unexpected. I mean, I love oranges. Doesn’t everyone else? I mean, why would I think differently? I think it was especially nice to share something with my students and staff that they liked and appreciated.

I think Wyll and I have it really good here. I think we eat better than most people. We eat fresh fruit and vegetables everyday. We make meals at home. Making food at home has become really important. Tonight for example, we had curried spicy beans and carrots with fries and garlic fish. Not totally sure what kind of fish, but it was trout-y and good. I like it here. Pantomiming ‘could you please cut this fish in half‘ can be hard and silly looking, but I’m looking forward to Spring and the coming adventures.

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This picture is from when we were in Seoul! ❤

Making Kimchi

How can I describe the emotions surrounding  making kimchi?

When I was trying to convince Wyll that Korea was the place to be we watched Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation. Bourdain gets a whorl wind tour of the country. At one point he meets up with some older women who are making Kimchi. They do NOT let him touch it. He waits, watches sadly and tells viewers what is happening. Watching the show I thought how sad for him. Kimchi is a process unlike most other fermenting cabbage dishes, hello fish! It could easily be the mascot of Korea. As it is a source of pride and eaten with EVERY meal, I can understand why they wouldn’t want to eat his poorly seasoned cabbage everyday for months. Then again I wished that I would have the opportunity to watch artisans make kimchi.

I knew before we came that November was kimchi month, prime cabbage harvesting time. At Y-mart down the street, the cabbages are displayed on pallets. Walking to work, truck beds piled high with cabbage drive past us. I have also noticed the arrival of very cute plastic food grade tubs with snap on lids and handles. Grace claims few cooking skills. I talked with her about kimchi season. She said her aunts do that sort of thing, when she was vacationing in Korea they sent her some. I knew that Sam and Mr. No (our off-site directors) were involved with farms. They had both brought us huge persimmons. One day I sneak attacked them. I stopped at work to drop off some things for later. They were there cleaning- how embarrassing! I think we were all surprised. I mean what was I doing there!?! Trying to smooth over the situation Mr. No and I were talking about farming and he invited us out to make Kimchi! I was like jumping off the walls. V is for VICTORY!

I was ecstatic. Rather impatiently, I waited. Toward the end of November I was beginning to feel like maybe it wasn’t going to happen. One day Grace would look up from her desk and say ‘No-can-dos-ville babydoll’. Then at least I would know. On Monday (Dec.3) Grace hung up her phone and said ‘it’s getting so cold- I hope we don’t have to make Kimchi’. I thought Oh, no here it comes. It was like she knew it was coming. Mr. No set the date for Friday. We would have to go in the morning and it would be outside. The way Grace talked about it we would be watching. Then we would eat and go to work. I was a little disappointed, but at least I would be outside at a farm surrounded by happy people making a ton of kimchi.

Wyll and I got ready according to Graces description. If we weren’t going to be getting dirty then we should dress nice. Dress to impress. Wyll (the smart one) wore jeans and a button up. I wore several layers, slacks, two new sweaters and went with my heeled boots. We headed put into the mini blizzard that put other areas on snow alert. Grace met us at the call taxi luckily moments before the driver had taken us to the bus terminal. (Being two of the 14 foreigners we are easily recognized- many times Grace has called ahead so the locals know what we are about.) The taxi driver didn’t want to take us all the way to the house. You can’t blame him really. The roads had snow and horrifying ditches on either side.

When we arrived we were taken past two dwindling pallets of salted and cleaned cabbages into the house and given gloves.

“What!?! Oh yes!”

Mr. No explained that we can’t have lunch and a bucket of Kimchi for nothing. This is a community event. This is the third and easiest day. If we are only here for a short time other people will get upset.

Oh man, AND we get to take some home! Too bad we were wearing such silly outfits. We walk into the green house where everyone is set up working in groups of three. I can tell that the expectations are low, we were given a much smaller bowl and pile of cabbage. However, this was a good move on their part. Mr. No’s brother comes over to give us a visual how to. I sit on my legs. Grace laughs and says I’ll be sitting for a loooong time. So I play around with some other way to sit. Mr. No’s brother brings me a Styrofoam cushion to sit on. This proves to be very difficult with the height of my shoes.

So I’m rubbing the red paste into my cabbage leaves. Each leaf is done individually and you have to make sure to get all the creases and folded parts even the very bottom. Mr. No’s mom comes by and tells us to make sure to get the diakon and onion in there. She tells us to taste it. The salt flavor will mellow and the pepper flavor will be the same. Then she sneaks some large chunks of diakon into our bucket. Wyll didn’t notice. 😛

Wyll and I are unsure how to taste the paste. (Well remember the lady hand feeding us at the farmers market, it seems that Koreans are unafraid of germs). I grabbed a diakon piece and chowed down. This is the fresh version of Kimchi. The cabbage is crunchy and you can taste the complex flavors in the red paste. There is no shellfish in it at this point. It was so freaking good. Grace is chowing away and really slathering the paste onto the cabbage leaves. Mr. No’s mom comes back and says we shouldn’t put on so much- why do one cabbage when you can do two?

Wyll and I fill up our bucket like pros. Grace’s bucket is full. They set them aside and bring over new ones. We passed the test so we get to make kimchi for other people! Let’s finish the radio flyer of cabbage!

When we first walked into the house we briefly met Mr. No’s sister. She is the family cook, head chief, also a professor. As we begin to assemble kimchi for relatives who could not make it, this stemmed pork is placed in front of us. Mr. No’s mom say wait I’ll get you kimchi. The smaller fresh leaves are put next to the pork. She then rolls the pork in the leaf and hand feeds Wyll. He tries to bite it in half. No she sternly tells him in Korean that he has to eat the whole thing. In one bite. Grace laughs as she translates then Mr. No’s mom feeds her too. She was a little surprised. So, I’m ready, but my mouth is small. I have to look at the ceiling to keep all the food in my mouth. Wyll tells Grace about how I look like a chipmunk when I eat. We laugh and eat the best food in the world. Mr. No is very excited to give us the best makgeolli he could find. He tells us a story abut how he had to try every kind at the supermarket. I think he had a lot of fun doing that. Then Sam came by and gave me soda! Thank you, SAM! Makgeolli is a Korean unfiltered wine. It was good with the food, but on it’s own it reminds me of banana peels (this is between you and me).

Before our dish was finished we were brought out more food. Grace and I gorged. It was the first time I had a home cooked Korean meal. Grace kept talking about how expensive it would be in a restaurant. I just kept thinking so freaking good, I may have danced a little in my squatting position. When we finished our extra cabbages (these were packaged with a plain leaf on top so they would know it was made by beginners), we headed inside for a little clean up. I think all three of us had red paste on our pants and arms. We cleaned up in the bathroom. Grace told us about the importance of finding a good man in Korea. Mostly it surrounds his mother.

Does he participate in kimchi making?

Will I have to make kimchi?

These answers are like a double edge sword. You want a man who will make kimchi instead of watching soccer. (GOAL!) You want a mother-in-law who will work with you, not steam roll you.

Mr. No comes in. I point at some crazy looking pickled ginseng…? Wyll and Mr. No think I am pointing at a picture of Mr. No’s son. The wall behind the TV is covered in family photographs. There are several recent ones a few older ones, there is one of Mr. No in his 20’s during his time in the Korean Military. Every man has a mandatory 2 years in the Army. They do not look forward to it. There are two large family portraits the women are all wearing hanboks (the traditional Korean outfits). As Mr. No heads back outside his sister sets up a table and lays out more food for us, fish soup and ten different side dishes. Everything tasted so wonderful.She is an amazing chef. I raved so hard we were invited back for lunar new year!!!!!!!  There was an acorn tofu jello thing, dried menos, cold sesame spinach, pepper soy sprouts, raw oysters, rice and of course kimchi. I can’t remember everything….

T.G.I.F

In the words of Katy Perry: Thank God it’s Friday. Pay day couldn’t get here any sooner. 

When I think about my life there are a few moments that stand out. A few moments when I could have done better- leaving my graduation speech at home is a big one. Leaving for a foreign country with five hundred dollars could have made that list. Fortunately, I like to cook and the fare is here is only slightly different from home. Our apartment was equipped with a 20 pound bag of rice. It was almost like a skinny month in the states. We managed to eat pretty well, spaghetti, stir fry, chicken. Instead of PBJs we ate fish shaped waffles with red bean paste. 

Over the last month we have eaten smoked chicken (delicious), admired the local vegetation, participated in cultural events, and became loved and admired by our students and director (don’t tell her). There have been challenges- I am hoping to get organized about skyping this weekend. We have struggled with cultural differences. These things will get easier as we adjust to a new culture, time zone, way of communicating with family.

Wyll and I are really getting into the popular music. I think there are three songs right now that I can pretend to sing in Korean. I have fallen in love with Korean fashion- although I don’t think it’s too far off from where American fashion is right now. The weather is getting colder so tomorrow is also a shopping day for me. It’s actually cold enough for Wyll to wear long underwear. I guess I’m crazy to want more tights so I can wear skirts!

The following photos are from around Gochang. I hope you enjoy!

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