Monday, December 20, 2010

  This will be a different Christmas for me.  I remember Christmas as being with family, playing hockey on ice or a road, finding and decorating the perfect Christmas tree, being reminded of what Christmas is all about, an extra church service or two, and generally lots of love.  But this year it will be different.  The biggest difference of course is that I'm not with my family, and that does make me sad.  I have not been a stranger to homesickness while I've been here.
  But different doesn't have to be bad.  On Christmas day, I will be flying to Vietnam, and that's exciting.  I'll be going with Natasha and her family, which is great for me because they've done all of the planning; I just get to enjoy it.  I've heard good reports from others who've travelled to Vietnam, so I am definitely looking forward to it.  It's not every day you get to see a whole new country and culture.  As of now, I don't know the first thing about Vietnam, but I hope to remedy that by researching before the trip and by learning all I can while I'm there.
  Since I'll be gone next week, I won't be writing my blog - but I promise to bring back a long report and lots of pictures.

  On another note, I promised to talk a little more about crime in Korea.  One of the first things I learned when I came here is how little crime there is here.  And I've come to see that it's true.  On many occasions I've walked by a vehicle parked on the side of the road with the engine running and no one in sight.  Also, police play a much smaller role in Korean society than in North America.  The only time I see police officers is when they are conducting drunk driving checks, or at the buffet down the street from the school.  I don't really know, but I think the low crime rate is largely due to the role that Confusion values and the importance of respect has on Korean society, historically and still today.  These values are seen in many other areas of Korean culture as well, and I'd say they are a major difference between Korean and North American cultures.  But that doesn't mean crime doesn't exist.  I miss that scooter.

Finally, here is a picture of my new roomate.  He's pretty quiet and not too bothersome.
He might be a guppy.  He looks like a goldfish with a long tail.  I think his name will be Sharky.
Thank you for reading.
Have a wonderful Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I've wanted to write about Korean food for a while, but I haven't felt like I've known enough about it.  I still don't think I have a firm grasp on what makes Korean food Korean, but it's about time I write a little bit about it.  Definitely the most Korean of all foods is Kimchi.  Kimchi is pickled vegetables, usually cabbage, and it is served with every Korean meal that is eaten (and ever has been - unless there is a cabbage shortage - which actually did happen this year apparently - I'm not sure how they're dealing).  My opinion of kimchi varies.  I don't mind it sometimes, but usually I'm not a big fan.  What I do like is the pickled radishes they serve here (which I guess would be called Kimchi under the broader meaning).  Radishes here in Korea are big and white.  But mentioning these foods brings up the most distinct part of Korean meals - the sides.  Korean meals are always served with a number of side dishes.  These can include kimchi (always), radishes, bean sprouts, something green - similar to spinach, tiny-little see-though fish, carrots, something smothered in hot chilly powder, and this small brown potatoe-bug-like insect served raw.  While these sides can be interesting to taste, I've come to mostly avoid them - which isn't good because they are usually the only vegetable options.
  I've found that Korean main dishes typically include or are largely some kind of meat - either beef, pork, or chicken.  Here is a list of some of them that I've eaten:
- Galbi: small pork or beef slices that are the best when they're marinated.  You cook them on a grill in the middle of the table.
- Samgyeopsal: thick slices of bacon fried on a grill in middle of the table with vegetables around it.
- Duck: which I've had fried like galbi or in a saucy mixture with other things.
- Galbitang: brothy soup with noodles and beef.
- Samgyetang: A thicker soup made with ginseng and a whole, small, chicken stuffed with rice.
- Bibimbap: one vegitarian main dish I've had.  It is rice with all kinds of seasoned vegetables and an egg - mixed all together.
- Naengmyeon: cold flavoured noodle soup.  We eat it will galbi.
- Cheesy Rice: which is surely not the actual name. It is rice with a spicy sauce, chicken chunks, duk (rice cakes {see entry titled 'Chuseok'}), and melted cheese all mixed together and fried on a grill in the middle of the table.
- Gimbap: which is usually more of a snack.  It is the Korean form of sushi except replacing the fish is carrot, ham, radish, and cucumber.
  These are only the main meals that I've eaten and enjoyed, there are many more Korean dishes that I either haven't tried yet, or have eaten and have forgotten the name of, or didn't like.
  Korean food is often somewhat spicy, which has taken me some getting used to.  Red chillies are very popular here.  Chilly powder is in over half of all foods, I'd say, and if it's not a powder its made into a paste (which I very much dislike).
  Outside of the Korean restaurants there are lots of non-Korean food places.  Italian food is pretty popular here (well, mostly pizza and spaghetti), and there are some burger joints.  Fast food is available here, but it hasn't flourished like it has in North America.
  Overall, I'm quite sure Koreans go out to eat quite a bit more than most North Americans.  I chalk this up to the facts that eating at restaurants is very inexpensive, and many apartments don't have kitchens adequate enough to make daily, healthy meals.

  On another quick note, this weekend I played monopoly at this super cool place called Play Cafe.  It's become another of my favourite places in Pohang.  Oh, and I won the monopoly game - which might have been the only time I've ever done that.  Pretty sweet.
  And on a very crappy note, the scooter was stolen.  I'm pretty POed about it.  Later I'll write about crime in Korea.  For now, I'm thinking about when I'll buy another.
  I wish I had pictures to add, but I don't.  I'll try to get on that.
Thanks for reading,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Skating, Falling Down Hills, and Korean Tensions

I had a wintry weekend.  On Saturday I went skating with a good sized group at the arena.  There were a lot more people on the ice than the first time we went, and I liked that.  It reminded me of skating with my family at Nathan Phillip Square a little, though it wasn't that crowded.  Speed skating is a big thing here.  Both times I've gone, the middle of the arena has been designated for speed skating practice where these little tykes whiz around and practice their form.  I think a number of my students either speed skate or play hockey.  I'd like to watch them some time.

Then, yesterday, I went snow boarding.  First of all, it only cost me 55,000 won for the whole day, including transportation and rentals, so that was pretty sweet.  But we had to get up at 5 am, which wasn't so sweet.  Then we sat on an overheated bus for 3 hours which wasn't the best part of the trip either. (Disclaimer about Korean buses: they all have a TV in the front where a wide variety of Korean shows are displayed without any regard to time of day - including gruesome war movies, gross horror movies,  loud Korean celebrity shows, and something like Korean idol.  I'm not sure I'll ever get used to it.)  But we got there and were a little disappointed to find out that only 2 of the runs were open - which is understandable given that there isn't any snow and the temperature is well above 0 every day.  It turned out to be OK though, since I was snowboarding - a skill I certainly haven't mastered yet.  And though I did improve my snowboarding talent, I also spent a lot of the time rolling, bumping, or sliding down the hill.  I've discovered that often times I develop skills (at least athletic skills) by pushing myself as far as I can go and then finding out a way to deal with it.  In the case of snowboarding, this means that I just can't help but go as fast as I can down the hill, much of the time just on the edge of control, and many times going over that edge.  So I had some pretty bad falls.  I lost my glasses twice before I thought better about wearing them.  And I think I caught a couple people smirking at me afterwards, possibly wondering if I enjoy tumbling down hills.  I am sore today, all over.  But I had a great time.  It wasn't busy at all, so we didn't have to wait in lines at the lifts, and I could tumble freely without worrying about taking anyone down with me.  It was a wonderful sunny day and the company was great. Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera to give you visuals.

On another note, there has been increasing tensions between North and South Korea recently.  And while it is surely concerning to everyone here, Koreans in particular, it has been hard for me to really get an idea of how the Koreans around me feel about it.  One guy that I met yesterday, who is from Pohang, said that he is pretty sure there's no real danger of a full blown war starting.  I didn't ask him why he thought that, but I'm of the opinion that most South Koreans would hate for it to come to war.  I'm not sure what to think about it.  My kindergartners were pretty angry about it.  Larry even suggested reusing our trash as projectiles to throw at the North Koreans - we've been learning about reducing, reusing, and recycling in science, so I was pretty impressed with his creativity.

Thanks for reading,