Monday, May 9, 2011

"Normil Life"

I laughed, I cried, it moved me.

My niece Morgan sent me this letter in my birthday package and I couldn't stop laughing! She is so full of spunk and personality - I just love her!

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Dear: unt Becky

How is koriean life? Ho-no don't tell me it's better than normil life. There, I gest it! And by the way I realy like the pickchors you sent me online, any way I hope you have a good time!

love, Morgan

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How To Tell If You're in South Korea

Do you ever wake up and wonder where you are? For many, those brief moments of post-sleep confusion are clarified when one remembers, "Ah, yes. I'm safe at home in my own bed, in my own home, in my own country. All is well." Alas, for some of us the reaction is slightly more jarring: "Why does it smell like fish? Who's shouting outside my window? Why are people speaking in tongues?"

Thanks to many a disorienting morning, I devised this highly scientific test that will help you determine whether or not you're in South Korea. Enjoy!

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1. You smell fish. What time is it?
  • Lunchtime or Dinnertime. You're probably at home. And kudos to you for the healthy meal choice!
  • Breakfast. You guessed it. South Korea. Nothing says good morning like chowing down on an entire fish - eyeballs, scales, bones and all.

2. Open your door. What happens next?
  • Nothing. You're either living a rather blissfully uneventful life at home or you're the last one to hear about a military evacuation. Maybe you should look into that.
  • Your nosy neighbor asks you about the various recyclables they found in your bin... in your own language. You're still at home, but you're probably considering moving.
  • An avalanche of advertisements fall from the door frame and hit you on the head, scaring your pants off every time. You're in South Korea, and swearing revenge on the stealthy ninja who graffitis your door!

It's a Greenpeace nightmare!

3. Someone you know has been admitted to the hospital. If you want to visit them, where should you go?
  • To the hospital, duh. You're definitely in America.
  • To any public place outside the hospital, such as a coffee shop, grocery store or even sitting outside smoking on a bench. Yup, you're in South Korea alright. The sight of hospital gown clad strangers roaming the streets with their catheter bags and cigarettes is a bit reminiscent of a zombie movie where everyone but you is infected with some mutant strain of DNA. At least it makes taking walks a bit more interesting.

4. Take a stroll outside. Now, count how many people body slam you without looking phased or apologizing.
  • 0-1: You're at home.
  • 2-5: You're probably in Europe.
  • 6-25: You're in a mosh pit.
  • 26-230: You're most definitely in South Korea.

Just another fun time crowd surfing...

5. Continue on your stroll... how many people loudly and voraciously hawk lugies in your general vicinity?
  • 0-1: There's no place like home!
  • 2-20: You're in the dugout at an MLB game.
  • 21-83: You're on an average 10 minute walk in South Korea.

6. You see an ad with two cartoon pigs in graduation caps and gowns jumping up and down holding meat tenderizers, then suddenly a large radish is holding a telephone. What could this mean?
  • A restaurant? Maybe in America. Even then, poor advertising strategy.
  • A caricature class? Possibly.
  • An instant-loan company? Well, duh. Any Korean could've told you that. How could you not understand what that was supposed to be?

7. Someone said something complimentary about your appearance. What was it?
  • You look great! You're in the States.
  • Tu es très belle! You're in France.
  • You have a small face. You and your tiny face are in Korea.

8. You just moved into a new home and need some small kitchen appliances. What's the primary brand you find at your local store?
  • Kitchen Aid. Clearly you'll be cooking up some homemade mac 'n cheese with your iconic American wares.
  • Bosch. Perhaps some bratwurst, mein herr?
  • Hello Kitty. Hello Korea.

Hope your home decor matches pink and red!

9. You buy a new athletic shirt. What does it say?
  • Nike. Home sweet home!
  • Le coq sportif. Vive la France!
  • Adequately Paris Kitten Number H. In sequins. You're in the ROK, which is a good thing because it's probably the only place you won't get beat up for wearing a shirt like that.

10. Finally, which potentially life-threatening situation are you most likely to run into?
  • Your medication ran out. Well, lucky for you you're in the States, so you can just jump in your car and head to the pharmacy for some more!
  • You spend too much time in the sun and may develop melanoma. You could be anywhere. Except Korea, where you're supposed to dress like you're in a blizzard in August to avoid the sun's rays. Seriously. Gloves, face masks, umbrellas, visors... you wouldn't be able to recognize your own pale, pale mother.
  • A roving gang of elderly women. Ajummas!! *shudder* The bane of life in SoKo. These ladies have no qualms shoving you out of the way, touching you uninvited and yelling Korean in your face. They like to bulk up and get more intimidating by doing vigorous calisthenics at the local parks. Watch out!

An ajumma bulking up at the park.

Friday, February 25, 2011

How To Make a Korean Flower Arrangement

Before getting started, gather your supplies. You will need:
  • 1-2 yards of pink and gold netting
  • 16 pieces of pink and purple tissue paper
  • A giant pink bow
  • 18 silver twist ties
Now let's get started. Oh wait, I almost forgot you need flowers, too. Although that's not really the point of a Korean flower arrangement. If you have a couple flowers, you might as well throw them in. Now let's really get started.

Step One: Heap your pink and purple stuff into a huge pile to admire the sheer mass of it.

Step Two: Get some flowers. If you don't have any, it doesn't matter. A Korean flower arrangement has very little, if anything, to do with actual flowers.

Step Three: Contemplate if you really want to even include flowers in your arrangement. They're just so... understated.

Step Four: Decide to include your flowers, but cover each one individually with pink and purple tissue paper to mask the fact that they are actual flowers.

Step Five: Group tissue bunches (*sigh* and flowers) into a bouquet and cover with several more pieces of tissue paper. Oops! I still see green!! More tissue!!

Step Six: Assess your bouquet. I can still see too many flowers. More tissue!!

Step Seven: While there is no visible green anymore (thank goodness!) it still doesn't look enough like a bad 80's prom dress. More tissue! And netting! And a bow!

Step 8: Admire your breathtaking creation. Who knew that a flower arrangement could be so elegant and classy? It's like the alluring flicker of a neon sign advertising a 24 hour pawn shop. Simply breathtaking.

- - - - -

Note: While I wish I could take credit for making this *ahem* thing... I actually received the fully assembled bouquet from one of my students and it took me about 10 minutes to get all the tissue, ribbons, netting and twist ties off of it to find the actual flowers inside! The crazy part is, this is actually one of the more tasteful bouquets I've seen!

The Strangest Letter I've Ever Received

Your guess is as good as mine...

- - - - -
Copied Verbatim
- - - - -

TO Miss Becky....

Miss Becky... It teaches me during that time and it gives and from it thanks.

The teacher where I am different will do and there will not be a teacher to the bedspread.

[u] [ang] The difficulty teacher and crab inside the the place where it wants studying together.....


The (heart) teacher, during that time, truth it thanked.

Miss Becky, True trut it thanks, it loves.

After word the may sun it plays come certainly to school ~ I love you ~

from Alice it raises

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Konglish and Beyond

Poor advertising strategy.

When cutesy gets creepy.

I sort of feel like we should've chosen another brand of gym clothes to give to our students.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I'm not sure.

Oh, Outkast, you have changed the way we speak forever (ever).

I want to relive that stress!! Sign me up!!

I can't even come up with a good caption for this one. What the heck kind of shirt is this??

Obscure writing on the back of a calendar I bought. I had no idea that was how the temperature was controlled...

Is this what I think it is??

It sure is. Nothing says class like a toothbrush holder shaped like feces.

Monday, February 14, 2011

V Day

Valentine's Day envelopes for my students, stuffed with cards from their classmates.

I have never liked Valentine's Day. This year, I really began to ask myself why. Was it the abundance of gaudy pink and red merchandise? Was it the sheer consumerism of it all? I liked to think that these were some of the reasons behind my feelings, but today I dug a little deeper and realized it's none of those things. It's just plain disappointing.

Just like the fairy tales I heard as a little girl, I feel like Valentine's Day generates a lot of hype for what's bound to be more like a soul-crushing dose of reality than a happily ever after. Whether I've been in a relationship or not on this amorous day, it never fails to disappoint. If I'm not in a relationship, sure there's the in-your-faceness of all the couples around who seem to be living the Valentine's Day dream, but even when I've been in a relationship, the cliche box of chocolates and red roses just leave something to be desired.

Where's the spontaneity, the individuality, the real heart-feltness in it? Where are the flowers just because, not because it's Valentine's Day? Where are the words of affection that are written from the heart, not from the Hallmark factory?

I would love real, honest-to-goodness, personalized romance any day, but especially when it's absent on a day when I'm told I'm supposed to get it (even in mass-market, impersonalized ways) it just really drives the point home.

Trying to spare some of my students the agony of feeling unloved or not as loved as their classmates, I stuffed some extra Valentines into their envelopes. Maybe it wasn't the most honest thing to do, but I didn't want to watch Sophia opening her two Valentines while Poly opened her twelve. As I checked the envelopes, I realized I didn't need to stuff David's because he took care of it for himself!

Preach it, David!

Whether you're in a relationship or not this Valentine's Day, please remember to love yourself!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Hello friends! I'm sorry I've been so MIA for the past couple months... life in Korea has gotten busier and busier. There are still plenty of things to tell you about, but I can't seem to find the time or motivation to do so.

To be honest, I feel sort of overwhelmed right now by the effort it takes to try to live a life in a foreign country while still maintaining relationships back home. It's a lot of work and it leaves me feeling strapped for time.

Please accept this lame little post as my way of saying, "I'm alive, I'm doing well, I just don't have time to chronicle it right now."