Sunday, July 31, 2011

Multibong and multi-fun

In Korea they do not have Karaoke, Karaoke is Japanese (for further understanding on Korean relations to the Japanese please see WWII). In Korea they have Noribong! Noribong involves singing to music with the lyrics projected onto a screen with a creepy video of a little Korean girl and a Bunny-headed person swinging in a garden. (At least that is what our Noribong backdrop was). It also sometimes involves wigs. So on Friday night our newbie teacher group went with the elder teaching group to a Multibong which is basically a large room you rent with a couple TV's and Wii and NORIBONG! It was fantastic, we group-sang Bohemian Rhapsody, onlookers wept with delight. Now it may seem strange to rent out a room for hanging out, but there is literally nowhere in our living spaces that would accomodate more than 8 people, so it was stupendous to have a whole room, with COUCHES even!

The next day we went hiking on a clump of small mountains/hills in the middle of the city. There we saw many strange pieces of machinery left by ancient civilizations long ago. I believe the natives refer to them as "exercise equipment". That's right, first you hike up a hundred stairs then you jump on an incline bench to bust out a few situps. Needless to say we did not partake in this native custom. Then we also saw a few graves, which leads me to believe that the unlucky souls who carried the equipment to the tops of the mountains were then left to die and deposited in the hillside.

Then this morning we attended our Korean church, which was, of course, in Korean. Our very animated pastor made several laser and explosion sounds while talking about Genesis 1. The best we can figure it had to do with Jesus defeating the Aliens that previously inhabited the Earth in order to make room for us humans, or something theologically along those lines. And then we sang "How Great Thou Art" in Korean....rather, they sang it in Korean whilst we sang it softly to ourselves in English.

After church we lazed around all afternoon, which was wonderful. And then went out with our fellow teachers for "italian" food and super expensive coffee. Overall it was a fantastic weekend, looking forward to TESOL training tomorrow....

Katie and Logan

Friday, July 29, 2011

Orientation: the good, the long, and the shocking

Week 1 is done, and we have been through quite a bit. First off, our Korean guides have been phenomenal. Jenny has been very kind and obliging, making sure we are on schedule and taken care of, even as far as ordering "no meat" dishes for us and writing Korean phrases for us. Terry has been very helpful, driving us to the med clinic, restaurants, and the immigration office, and acting as our liason with these offices. Jeff has been wonderful, watching over us like an older brother and making us feel at home.

We have been introduced to Cheonon, the Best city in the world.
We have been to the medical clinic for a full physical (oh, and medical here is really affordable and awesome).
We have been to supermarkets and restaurants.
We have visited with professors and even Dr. Im, president of KNU.
Finally, we visited an English teaching clinic who leads students through English speaking scenarios.

So, to the shocking. At this clinic they had the students put on goofy plays using English dialogue. The first one was a news report interviewing people at fairly mundane places. It ended in a post office with a patron tossing a "surprise" package. Then a picture of a nuclear explosion flashes on the screen, and all the kids fall down. The news reporter exclaims, "Now that is breaking news!" SCENE

The second was a restaurant in which patrons order special soup. The first patrons spill it on the ground, and it is mopped up. The mop water is put in soup bowls and set aside. Te second set of patrons order soup, and then think the bowls are theirs, so they eat the mop water. Upon realizing it, they grab the waiter, guns, and run to the back... SCENE

I was shocked by both of these. At no time would I find this appropriate in a school.
Don't they understand the danger of school shootings? Don't they understand the extreme nature of bombings? Isn't laughing at this kind of violence a bit desensitizing?

However, one must realize that this type of violence is practically non-existent in Korea. Tey are a gun controlled country in which only the military has guns. The cities are also generally violence free. I can run at 10pm without fear. for these students this violence is distant and foreign. It is so extreme that it is either exceedingly awful or exageratingly funny. Here, it was used as hyperbole for A)what is really news, and B)outrage at a restaurant's mistake. In these ways, it is almost slap stic in nature.

But, it shocked me because these sorts of things are close to home. In America we fear the danger of guns and the th reattach of bombs. We heighten security and inconvenience ourselves out of fear of these violent acts. To see them used in such flippant ways seems offensive. It also made me cringe because the explosion was a nuclear bomb cloud. As an American, this cloud is a symbol of an atrocity we committed. YIKES.

Yet, realizing that these violent scenes can be used humorously speaks volumes. This violence is so distant from Korea that it can be used as overblown humorous situations. I wish that I could come form a society where this violence was so distant that it became absurd for our everyday lives.

What an interesting lesson the first week here. I'm sure there will be more.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

first few days

As you may have gathered from the previous post, we made it here safely! After a very long flight and short bus ride we arrived at our temporary accommodations. For those of you who have seen Titanic, think lower deck. Upon arrival my best friend, Sarah Bean, gave us an amazing welcome basket full of things that have been incredibly useful. An umbrella, because it rains...often and without warning. Food, which became incredibly useful our first day when we failed to find a breakfast restaurant and resorted to cookie breakfast. An adorable elephant-bank which makes lets me personalize my space. And most importantly, a pile of adorable socks! Following are the events of the first day.

For the first week we are having orientation. We started our day with a showing of some propaganda videos proving that Cheonan City is "The world's best and most hopeful future city" also "The comfortable place for Heaven, earth and man." Following this we went to eat at an amazing restaurant next to KNU (where we are staying). It was a "sit on the floor" place so we had to remove our shoes first, luckily I was wearing a pair of my new adorable socks. This is us enjoying ourselves amidst the delirium of sleep deprivation:

After lunch we went to a medical office to get physicals. This was the most efficient doctor's office I have ever visited. For 4 people it took less than 2 hours. And the phlebotomist only had to stick me once for blood, which was a relief. Also they had us pee into a cup, which may not sound strange to you, but our cup was a paper one with a picture of a smiley face whistling. And there is no discreet little cabinet in the bathroom for your smiley pee cup either. You carry the cup to the lab and put it on a table, but none of us knew this so we were mostly wandering around the hallway, full pee cup in hand, looking like lost sheep. After the pee cup/blood draw, we went upstairs to the dentist where we found this very informative poster warning against the dangers of tooth decay:

Following our physical we went back to KNU where they gave us general information about salary and benefits. During this meeting, and subsequent others, we were told how much they feel bad for us because of our outrageous health costs. With our insurance here a visit for bronchitis + medication will run us 12,000 Won (~$12 USD). It was surreal to say the least. Then I visited the school where I will be teaching, Cheonan Commercial Girls School:

Then we went to an amazing pastry shop called "Paris Baguette" for dinner and passed out around 9pm. 

End of day 1...if it seemed long to my beloved readers imagine how long it felt to your humble narrator. 


Monday, July 25, 2011

Awkward places for cute puppies

Korea, day 1.
We've been moved into our temporary living quarters for the first few weeks.  They are the dorm rooms of KNU!  As a professional student, I find this ridiculously enjoyable.  These rooms are the same size as the SNU dorms I used to live in, except they have 4 beds instead of 2.  That means, in general, 4 students are living in the space of 2!  Gah!  Luckily, for me, it's just Katie and I in one room, so we have "space."

When I entered my room last night, after 20 hours of travel, I needed, as most people would, to use the restroom.  Don't worry everyone, the restrooms are fairly similar to US restrooms, so no culture shock there.  It was when I went to get some toilet paper that I noticed something.


That's right.  Cute puppies printed on toilet paper.  Now, I'm used to flour patterns or quilted, but not to cute animals looking at me as I'm about to do the unspeakable to them.  The only thing worse would be to have the Gerber Baby on the toilet paper.  

But, as our friend, Sarah, told us: Korea is all about cute.  So...Welcome to Korea, here's some disturbingly cute toilet paper!

This experience is going to be awesome!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

sinking in

I realized something today, I'm moving to Korea. Now you may be saying to yourself that this is old news, shouldn't she have realized this last year when she got the job? And to you I say, no, that's simply not how the mind works. And no, I didn't realize it when I spent over six months getting our visas together, and no, I didn't realize it when I quit my job, and no, I didn't realize it when we packed up everything we own into a 10x15' storage unit, and no, I didn't realize it when we bade farewell to our dear North Carolina friends whom we love very much :'(

My moment of realization came today, standing in front of Tuesday Morning. My mom and I went there to buy another suitcase since I only have one large enough to warrant taking on an international flight. After unsucessfully trying to open the door for a couple minutes I read a sign posted on the window "Closed for inventory until July 11". A normal person's reaction to this might be something like "Oh, well I'll come back in a week when they are open, I wasn't planning on packing until next week anyway. Anyone up for a refreshing smoothie?" However, my reaction was more like this, "Why are those bastards trying to ruin my life?!?! Don't they know how important this is!!!!???? I only get two suitcases, and at this rate I'll be carrying my personal belongings over in a garbage bag sealed up with duct tape!!!" It was at this moment that it hit me, I'm moving across the world in 19 days and that is stupendously frightening.