I have a very young class this season. We are starting at the beginning of Phonic or learning the alphabet and sounds. For every letter we learn different words mostly nouns, mostly animals. Yesterday, we spent some time making clay versions of our vocabulary. They turned out really well.
Dongdaemun shopping district has always captured my imagination and after three years only yesterday would I say that I had a good time in the area. Most of my trips have been relegated to wondering around feeling really lost while looking for sewing materials. This trip was really different. My son and I went to the Iplay Museum in the Dongdaemun Design Park. It was so cool. I found out about it on A MultiAsian Family Life. I love Kids cafés and want to go to more of them. This was the perfect opportunity. It was 14,000 won. I think we were there for an hour, maybe more. You get a free drink as an adult. They had drip coffee and honey. I had to buy a juice box of milk because that’s how I drink my coffee with milk.
It’s a kids cafe that has all wooden structures. There was a big pit with big wooden balls and a slide. I went on the slide but the baby was super nervous. There are tons of play zones including dress-up, mechanic, race track. There is a large wall with items that have blinking buttons when pushed they make noises, like the toilet makes a flushing sound. I made the baby do everything. I had so much fun. There was a good amount of people there. We were the first but then a group of Seoul foreigners showed up. I love being reminded that other people have children, too. I’m not the only one!
Near the bathrooms there is a lactation room. I asked a staff member for a nursing room and she It’s huge. We hung out in there for a while too. There are three private nursing spaces. It was really nice to get some undistracted feeding in while traveling. We had a blast. I highly reccom
So I’m a little behind the trend or maybe I’m just learning about whats going on in the world outside of Korea. This past weekend I’ve been learning all about capsule wardrobes. It’s a very cool fashion idea which poses the thought that you can look amazing with a minimal amount of clothes cluttering your life. I’ve been a long time believer that I ‘should’ spend more money on fewer clothes to make my life better. Korea has really helped me cull my collection to a few pants and a couple shirts. I keep trying to throw away my jacket but every time I put it next to the door it snows. Come on, Winter, shove over for Spring already.
Perhaps the biggest point of contention in my house is the tiny kitchen. If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m working on a pantry capsule. I want to have things in the kitchen I use 95% of the time. I think this will mean sticking to my convictions when I go shopping. It means having a focused effort on using up the last bits of precious foreign items and working with Korean ingredients. I have a pretty good outline of what this looks like.
I feel like the spice/ tea area is my big down fall. Confession, I don’t really drink tea. As for the spices what I use feels like a small portion of what’s there. The spices I use on the regular are purchased from the local grocer. I use salt, pepper, cinnamon, Korean red gochu pepper, garlic powder, parsley, basil, sesame oil, sesame seeds, fish sauce, soy sauce, white vinegar, spaghetti sauce, corn syrup. Other cooking essentials are flour, rice, baking powder, baking soda, panko crumbs, corn starch, sugar, brown sugar, onions, canola oil, and olive oil. I think I can pair this down even more by taking out the spaghetti sauce and corn syrup. In my Korean fridge, you will always find kimchi, eggs, soy bean paste, spicy soy bean paste, milk, ground pork, lemon, minced garlic. We often have a variety of vegetables and one kind of fruit.
This is not what my kitchen looks like today but I hope it will be here soon. I’m also working to have fewer pots and pans. It feels like a big task but I think it will happen.
A long time goal of mine mostly due to being in Korea is to master seafood, namely octopus, squid, and cuttlefish. I didn’t gather up courage or even think about what was happening when Wyll picked up octopus at the market today. He likes to push me into my goals. It was a good price and I was wanting to try a Tom Colicchio recipe for a calamari sandwich. I ended up with something probably really different but terribly delicious. This recipe was so good I felt obligated to share it right away. There were a few prep things I had to do like learn to clean and cut baby octopus. Luckily YouTube is full of wonderful people doing amazing things so I figured it out kinda quick. Basically you cut off the tentacles, push out the beak and cut into sections. Then slice the head so you can turn it inside out to pull off the brain sack then cut it off at the eyes. It took four before I felt really comfortable doing it. I ringed them off and set them in a colander to dry off a little. Then I went to work on the green peppers. I pan fried them whole with fish sauce and garlic. I mixed up some panko crumbs, corn starch, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and gochu powder. I mixed in all the octopus trying to get an even coat. I heated some oil in the wok and covered the bottom with octoparts! I let them cook to pop songs then put them on paper towels to dry. I didn’t really have much for Colicchio’s sandwich just an idea about how good it would be. I did have Saracha which I mixed with some lemon. Sorry, Tom, no mayonnaise. I sliced up tomato, very thin, diced onion, chopped up some curly parsley, and got out some radish sprouts for the sandwich. I assembled my sandwiches on some French bread, delicious.
So yesterday was Peppero day, one of the many silly holidays in South Korea. Well, I think they are silly anyway, but who am I to talk? The United States has an entire month dedicated to ice cream. I participate in Peppero day every year. I think it’s a fun way to interact with students almost as fun as Halloween. There may not be any dressing up but everyone is eating cookies and in good spirits. The holiday has only been celebrated for 15 years. One of my adult students told me that it wasn’t around when he was in elementary school but by the time he was in high school it was a very popular holiday. He also told me that it is for children and that he had never received a Peppero gift because he didn’t have a girlfriend in high school. I tried to convey that Peppero day is no longer a couples holiday. It is now more like Halloween even though it may have started off closer to Valentine’s day.
Another student delighted me by explaining that 11/11 is a day for tall people to give food to short people to help them grow taller. My youngest students inquired for the pencils, pens, colored pencils, flutes, wands, and long rice cakes I was also giving to them. Apparently anything that looks like a ‘1’ can be given as a gift, I had never heard that. I gave all my students Pepperos and then old students stopped by to eat some as well. I was also given some but they didn’t last long!
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.
My lovely friend, Sabrina, has been in Gochang for a year. In the coming weeks, she will be heading off to another town. She has amazing YouTube skills and made a video of the past year. She is so nice; she’s letting me share it with you!