Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's Turkey Lurkey Time!

On Friday, my parents sent me an email displaying the tablespread of a Thanksgiving for 2. I salivated over the juicy turkey (prepared the Grandma Lucy way in a brown paper grocery bag), the scrumptious cranberry salad, the buttery rolls, and the delectable green bean casserole. More importantly, I couldn't help but feel a little sad that I couldn't be there to enjoy it with them.

I've always loved Thanksgiving Day. The slowness of it. Thanksgiving has always been a small affair with just my parents and I. It was never a hectic day with 20 people coming over, the kitchen exploding with activity or family politics. Instead, it was just a day to truly relish. The three of us would come in and out of the kitchen helping with whatever dish was on the stove or assisting Mom with the turkey in the oven. I know Thanksgiving means something different to everyone but to me it meant preparation for the holiday season and reflection on the past year.

When you're abroad over the holidays, it's a little weird. Your body is wired to be ready to celebrate an occasion but you look around and your mind isn't able to compute the disconnect. Even looking around my classroom, with handprint turkeys, cornucopias, little pilgrim and Native American coloring sheets. Something was lacking.

That something was still lacking when our supervisor bought a pumpkin pie and fried chicken for the teachers on Thursday. While it was a nice gesture it still didn't feel like Thanksgiving. I just told myself that Saturday would be the day of feasting... and boy was it ever!

The Seoul kids trekked down to Anyang to Rick and Joo's apartment. Despite the fact that Baby J is going to pop out any day, they were gracious enough to host a bevy of hungry teachers and even decorated their already gorgeous apartment in a festive fashion.

We had a traditional Thanksgiving meal (brought to you by Costco). All the trimmings were there: mashed potatos and gravy, stuffing, delicious turkey with cranberry sauce, pie, and family.

I never had an "I forgot I'm in Korea" moment, but that's ok. While my parents are on the other side of the world, I still felt the love you feel for people you care for around the Thanksgiving table. We've become our own family and this is something for which I am truly thankful.

Babies aka Eggies

Just saw this trailer and I think it could be the cutest movie ever made (behind Look Who's Talking)

Despite the fact that there is no denying babies in general are cute I'm going to have to take a stand and say Korean babies are possibly the cutest of all-well black babies are also adorable and can sometimes jump ahead in the lead but-
c'mon is this not the cutest baby ever?? Wait I take this back... HALF korean babies are the cutest ones ever! ;) Since I was a prototype in this new hybrid of cuteness many others have since followed in the footsteps of my pioneer parents. Cousins and friends have been pleasantly surprised with my cuteness outcome and have decided to have a hybrid baby of their own!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ding Dong the Mogi's Dead?

Korean Mosquitoes should be considered a Weapon of Mass Destruction. They can render a strong man into a weepy puddle of puny. Foreigners will tell you that these X-Men mutant-like bloodsuckers are the bane of their existence and while these pesks are alive, I assure you this is no land of morning calm.

I didn't mind the bites so much as the high pitched buzzing that would flit past my ears and wake me from a much needed slumber. Just hearing their "bbbbbzzzzzz" can make me sit right up and go on the offensive. Thankfully, I invested in one of those mosquito killer contraptions. You place a blue tab on something that heats up and either kills off the pests are makes them really sleepy. This is the best solution by far and I think out of the entire mosquito season, I've only been disturbed maybe twice? Which is far less than my other associates.

Hopefully this chill will knock out the stronger ones once and for all. But just to be safe, I'm going to keep lighting the blue tabs until some snow sticks to the ground.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A subway snapshot

Since the weather has turned to freezing my cheeks off I've begun using buses and subways to get to school. Tonight I was waiting for the subway praying I wouldn't be crammed into a crowded car bursting at the seams. As my car approached I let out a sigh of relief as I saw it was only moderately full.
I stepped into the car and looked to the left where the part of the car was reserved for handicap, pregnant, or elderly people. Many times if you are none of the above and you are taking up space in the section you get dirty looks and a couple of harumphs thrown in your general direction. It's the equivalent of parking in a handicap spot in the parking lot or even using the handicap bathroom stall in the restroom (Curb Your Enthusiasm reference here).
As I was settling into my little area I looked over and thought, "Uh oh, it looks like this kid has had too much to drink and doesn't know any better." A few elderly people were encircling him and I could see them talking to this guy, early 20s maybe, who seemed to be rocking back and forth, his eyes partially closed. It was at this point that I thought to myself, "Man, Koreans can't even wait an hour after work to get piss drunk?" As I was turning myself away to not stare at any imminent throwdown, I heard the lady next to me cluck and say in Korean, "So cute!"
Upon further inspection I looked back and saw two big, beautiful, calm yellow labs with Eye Dog vests lying on the floor next to the seats. I looked back at what I had previously assumed was an intoxicated fellow and realized he was actually blind. The people who had been encircling him actually had been making room for the canines afoot and were conversing with the blind man.
I've seen a lot of blind people in Seoul. Walking to work every morning there are at least 2-3 Koreans with walking sticks and a human guide in my school's neighborhood. But coming upon seeing/guide dogs has been a much more rare occurence. Back home in Texas, it was a normal occurence but seeing guide dogs (no pun intended) here in Seoul usually perks my attention.
My stop approached too suddenly and I was a little saddened to have to get off so soon. There was this very peaceful feeling at the back of this car. An elderly woman seated next to a blind woman with one of the dogs extended her gloved hand and gingerly rubbed the dog's chin. A content smile spread across her face and made its way over to mine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What's Up Doc?

* warning, this might make those with weak stomaches a little queasy so read with caution*

A few weeks ago during a "meeting" one of our supervisors said that we would all have to have another round of health checks. Raised eyebrows waved through the teachers. "Does it matter that I had mine two months ago?" No it did not.

Many things that happen in the workplace here in Korea have rarely been met with as much skepticism and reticence than this mysterious health check. What, pray tell, are they checking for? Swine flu? Herpes? Questions regarding this medical visit were met with vague responses. The only information given to us was that we wouldn't have to pay for anything, our blood would be taken, we weren't allowed to eat anything after 8 am, and there would be a van that would come to the school.

Yesterday during lunch the van pulled up and the teachers all piled into an elevator to take us down to who knows what. A line of employees led to a small white van (no bigger than the yellow school vans that transport our students) with white coats spilling out carrying scales, coolers, and other medical paraphanalia. "That's where they're going to put our kidneys!" Mindy pointed to the red and white coolers being carted up to the 5th floor. The foreign teachers all let out awkward and uncomfortable chuckles. Little did we know that for the next 90 minutes we would continue standing in line, trying to assuage our uneasiness with humor.

Outside, they took our chest x-rays in the van, apparently checking for tuberculosis. The van door remains open and you walk up to it while the technician tells you in Korean to step up to the xray and stay still. As I made my way out of the van doors I pretend to collapse and clutch my heart while exclaiming, "It hurts! It hurts!" No one finds this funny besides Stephanie and Mindy.

Cut to the 5th floor. No classes going on but the hallway is crowded with Korean teachers from Appletree (the preschool downstairs), bus drivers, and the foreign teachers lined up holding dixie cups filled with pee. I can say that there have been a few times in my life where I have truly felt. Weird. And standing in front of a bunch of accquaintenances holding cups of their urine has to be up there in the Top 3. Mindy, Stephanie, and I refused to stand there with our pee until the absolute last minute. Some female teachers were a little discreet and placed a paper towel on the top while others let it all hang out. Ahem.

As we drew closer to the front we could peer into the classroom turned examination room and could see multiple stations resembling the same tests we had for our first health check arriving in Korea.

I stepped up to the first station. Weight and pee check. The doctor spoke English but only the funny kind. He asked me to get on the scale and as I tried to make my posture give me an extra inch, the height measurer bopped me on top of the head. "Ouch!' He laughed as I sat back down and said, "Ooooh, I take 2 kilo off for your clothes. Ok? You look." He pointed to the electronic number that was my weight (yay! I can't convert kilos into pounds so I don't know if the number was good or bad). "2 kilos. Ok?" he grinned at me. I said, "Sure." "2 kilos. I take off. Your clothes 2 kilos." "Yeah I got that." "Yes! I take off because I'm so nice." I look at him. We stare at each other and then I realize my reaction and then playfully say, "Yes!! Yes! So good! Woo hoo!!"

This elation allows him to move along and stick a pH test strip into my cup. I thought back to those 2 cups of coffee I had downed after 8 am to spite the powers that be and hoped it didn't throw anything off. We (me, the Doc, and the people standing in line behind me) watched as he placed the strip over the cup and watched it change color. "Gee, you know I'm really leaning towards the coral for the master bedroom but this sunflower yellow just would really brighten up the room, you know?" Nothin! What a tough crowd. He waves me over to the classroom and I go grab an eye cover from the Korean optometrist. I sit down and go through the numbers, letters, and then go to the lady sitting holding the headphones.

"Hey! Let's trade iPods!" She smiles and flips switches as I raise my right hand, then left, and then for the hell of it I wave em both in the air like I just don't care! I get a giggle out of her. Me= 1 Docs= 1. Then she hands me a syringe and points to the sadist at the next table with about 15 vials of blood. I hate needles. My fear has subsided substantially but shots still suck. Since I had to get my blood taken regularly back in Texas I braced myself. I offered my right arm, rolled up my sleeve, and then did the Plano Clap (for those that don't know, Plano used to be the heroin capital of the world or something). But I did it and looked at the guy while saying, "like this, ok? tap tap tap!" and he smiled, nodded, and said, "tap tap tap."

"No, don't say it. Do it!"
"Tap, tap, tap. Ok." After a couple seconds of psyching myself up he says, "No good, other arm."
"What?? Aw man!" So I offer my left arm and told him, "Find a big one, buddy." Truthfully it wasn't that bad, I think Stephanie didn't fare as well.

I walked out, promptly went down to the Family Mart, and bought myself a coke and a hotdog. I was starving... So I'm hoping I don't hear anything concerning results from the health check. No news is good news, right?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Carol Challenge

Alright, I have to pick two songs to have Yellow Class sing at our Christmas concert... any suggestions?

I wanted to do Last Christmas by Wham and All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey. But thought these might be a little too complicated. Then I thought maybe David Bowie/Bing Crosby's duet of "Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" but STILL thought I might be shooting too high. I just don't want to do Jingle Bells or We Wish You A Merry Christmas... ideas???

Friday, November 6, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

I've tipped over the quarter century mark as of yesterday... but the great thing about time changes is that I actually was celebrating my birthday over a 3 day span as some wishes spilled over and a few sent pre-emptive birthday wishes the night before (which would be 2 days before in Texas).

Anyways, my 26th definitely topped my 25th. It started with:
* An awesomely decorated desk courtesy of Mindy and Stephanie filled with goodies from our local Family Mart. All the delicacies were there: Pringles, Corn Chips, Snickers, Kisses, and a Coke.
* Adorable birthday cards made by Yellow Class during Circle Time. Louis even wrote, "Casey Teacher. I love you many much. You can be me teacher every day. Monday, Tusday, Wendsday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You are my favorite."
* A birthday serenade from all of the Super Kids classes plus afternoon teachers and a way too rich cake from Tous Les Jours (bien sur!)
*Copious well wishings on my FB profile. NOW I understand why we have Facebook. The self validation you get from seeing so many people who you know (and who you kind of/sort of know) seeing the reminder on the right screen telling them it's your birthday. It's the equivalent of having your name in the phone book... you're SOMEBODY!
*An awesome dinner at On The Border with my teachers treating me to dinner and yes half a margarita, because we all know, that's the limit. I think my alcohol tolerance has gone down considerably since turning 21...
*But what truly was the icing on the cake was this. And honestly this was the best thing I could have gotten....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Hope everyone had a good Halloween. As my favorite holiday (behind Mardi Gras) I like to go all out in everything I do. This year I had not 1- not 2- but 3 costume changes.

1) A Doll

2) Bloody Mary

3) A Voodoo Doll

We also had our kids trick or treat throughout the building, carved jack-o-lanterns and did a creepy haunted house. Each classroom also had a little activity that the students would do. Yellow Class had the Donut Dangle. Donuts were hung on a string and the students had to eat the donut without using their hand. VERY VERY entertaining!