Monday, July 27, 2009

Howdy! Or Annyeong Haseyo!

Annyeong Haseyo! Greetings from Busan! We’re winding down our Sunday evening here, getting ready for another week at KJC Institute. We’ve been here for just under two weeks, and I can honestly say that we are both really enjoying living in this wonderful city. School is hilarious and trying and rewarding and frustrating. We could probably throw in a few more adjectives as well. We were both pretty much thrown in and told to figure it out. So that’s what we’ve been doing and it seems to be working! It’s really not an incredibly difficult job (I realized this especially after meeting some other teachers at dinner the other night who have nine classes a day and thirty six students per class), it’s more a matter of keeping students busy, stimulated and happy. As all you teachers know, this is sometimes an impossible feat. We’re both getting into the routine of things and that’s key. It’s different than anything that either of us has done before, but that’s what makes it a good challenge.
The language is tricky, to say the least. For starters, everything is written in the Korean alphabet, which is called Hangeul. Hangeul is a phonetic alphabet, so we should be able to learn the symbols and sound things out eventually. The next challenge is to figure out what the Hangeul word is in English. Also, there are sounds that we don’t have in English and English sounds that we use that don’t exist here. This makes for some rather wonderful and hilarious phrases used by Koreans speaking English to us. For example, a couple of Fridays ago I asked my students to tell me what they would be doing over the weekend. One student said, “Teachah! This weekend I go movie!” I asked what movie she would go to see (most were going to Harry Potter, of course) and she told me the name, which was in Korean. I couldn’t understand the word so I asked the class what the movie was about. Kids started screaming and pantomiming zombies or something. I shouted over them, “Wait, what kind of movie???” And one girl said, “Teachah! Teachah! Peoper eating Peoper!!!” That is, of course, people eating people.
I’d say that probably 98% of people that we pass on the street or in the subway don’t acknowledge us more than giving a look. When you try to make eye contact with someone, you hardly ever receive a smile in return. Usually people just look away. However, that 2% of Koreans that grin and/or wave and/or say “Hello!” or “Hi!” are so charming and endearing! Yesterday on the bus, a guy actually got up from his seat and said “You! Sit! Yo wercome!” as he gestured for us to sit. He and his friends were almost grinning as big as Justin and I were. We were all pretty thrilled with the situation.
We were hoping to have a trip to Japan to visit our friends Ben and Chrystal, but our passports are in the possession of the Korea Government as they work on getting our Alien Registration in order. Alas, no Japan trips in the near future. So we’ve been keeping ourselves very happy with local excursions. Last weekend we walked to Haeundae Beach. It’s one of the most popular beaches in South Korea and is a ten or fifteen minute walk from our apartment. There are cute little grannies that rent umbrellas for you to sit under for about five bucks. We also noticed men who walk around hand delivering chicken in a box. Haven’t indulged ourselves with that little treat yet, but oh, do we both eagerly await the chicken and beer on the beach experience! We walked around Dongbaek Park and got nice and sunburned. This beautiful weather came just days after a record-breaking monsoon downpour flooded the streets (and some schools) of Busan. Other adventures we have gone on include the huge stores with magnetized, slanted walkways one rides from floor to floor. They are magnetized so that you can take your cart (with magnetized wheels) from floor to floor with no runaway rolling buggies. These stores are pretty fascinating. There are the ever-present greeters who bow to each and every person who enters or exits the store. Those poor kids are going to have serious back problems when they get older. There are the cute young women who take their job very seriously and really want to help you find the correct item. Even if helping you find said item is done through gestures, smiles, and bows. You just be sure to gesture, smile, and bow back! There are the yelling men who really want you to buy their stir fry, not the competition’s (the competition really being a buddy and they just try to yell louder than each other and make one another laugh. Which makes Justin laugh a lot). There are many wonderful items for you to buy: huge boxes of dried sardines, 30 kg bags of rice, dried squid cakes, fresh squid cakes, quail eggs, 5 lb containers of red chili paste, seaweed in all shapes and sizes, more ramen than you could ever imagine, a
plethora of sea creatures (living and dead), and of course, hot dogs on a stick. These are to name a very select few. The foreign food sections are fun too: Pace salsa for six bucks a jar, crappy American cheese for five bucks a package (or Brie or Camembert for eleven), chocolate syrup for seven dollars, a can of black beans for four! The list could go one. That eight dollar package of two teeny avocadoes? We’ll probably wait for Cinco de Mayo. Until then we be eatin’ some rice and ramen! And potatoes too; they’re cheap.
This past weekend we ventured up to Geumjeongsanseong. There are fortress ruins and paths running for miles. There are also breathtaking views of huge granite slabs as well as almost the entire city of Busan. I have never, ever in my life seen anything like when I stepped out of the trees and saw this giant city laid out in the valley. I attempted to capture it on film, but of course failed to quite portray the grandeur. Ah well. We were hoping to find some climbing areas and had some moderate success. Most rocks were for route climbs (we don’t have a rope) and the few bouldering problems were wet and slippery from the recent rain. We’ll go back again, hopefully with some newfound climbing buddies who brought their gear with them. We still enjoyed the meandering trails and gorgeous 360 degree views. It’s a lovely place.
The fashion here is, well, amazing. There are of course some true slaves to fashion, parading around in their Dolce and Gabbana jeans and Chuck Taylors or chunky, gladiator heels. Even men carry Louis Vuitton bags here. But there are folks who view fashion, er, differently. Who would have thought that cream-colored (not white, cream) sandals would be such a hit? They kind of remind me of those Easter Sundays when you would run to Payless to buy some horrid pointy-toed creations, just to match your special Easter dress. Apparently those shoes are a must-have here. Also, with women who are a little bit older, perms with huge visors, short pants, and ankle stockings to go with their open-toed sandals is a prevalent look on the scene. I am a pretty big fan of this I have to say. Neon is huge. Pristine white sneakers with Capri pants are big for young men are huge. And everybody loves socks and sandals. Keeping those feet clean, I would imagine! Oh, and how could I forget? There is a wonderful little phenomena called “Couple-Look.” This is a proclamation of loved saved for weekends and their special outings. Couples dress like twins in order to let the world know of their devotion. Most just go for a matching top and shorts. Yesterday I saw a couple with the same Converse sneaks and the exact same ankle tattoo in the exact same spot. Whoa. Also yesterday, I saw a man with a shirt on that said MA His girlfriend’s shirt said KE
As you may see, He has to stand on the correct side of his girlfriend, so that you can read the words MAKE LOVE. If he’s on the wrong side, the message is Kema Velo. Not nearly as adorable. “Couple-Look” Jamey and Liv, when you two come for a visit, you must bring your green Chris Thile shirts and Liv, you can finally have your own special “Couple Look” day.
Well, there are of course many, many more things to tell you all about. We’ll keep them coming of course. But we want to keep you coming back too, so I’ll maybe keep these a little shorter than the European versions (Maybe. Sometimes). It’s our Monday night, which means some good fresh Hite or Max beer, or perhaps Cass or OB. They are all reminiscent of Natural Light, in case you were wondering. Thankfully, the store down the street from us has a five dollar bottle of decent Tempranillo. Carlo Rossi, on the other hand, is eleven dollars a bottle. Whaaaa??? There’s also always the option of Soju, which is most easily compared to vodka, and at a price cheaper than a bottle of water you can always get a decent buzz. Maybe that’s why I think our taxi driver was a little giddy the other night. Thankfully we rarely take taxis. Yikes. Anyway, some exciting meal of sorts (we’ll tell more about food once we can learn enough to actually order from restaurants, or find one with nice and clear pics we can point to)… We’re sending lots of love from this part of the world to yours. Feedback is always welcome, but more than anything just hearing about what you are all up to is so important to us. We’ve now got a few pictures up on our Flickr site.
Peace and love.

Oh yeah! Almost forgot. If you ever want or need to send anything... we don't get mail at our home address, but rather our school address:
Susie (and/or) Justin Dubois
KJC Institute
2-4F, Enhakgore Building, #152-11
Anrak-dong, Dongnae-Gu
Busan, South Korea
The phone number there is 051-582-8205 (in case of emergency).

Our home address (just so you know) is
Acrotel Apartment #1116
Jwadong 1473-1
Busan, South Korea