Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things I do after living in Korea for (nearly) a year...

Since I'm coming home in a month, I want to warn you about the habits I've picked up while I've been in Korea. All I ask is that you're not too hard on me when I get home. I'm sure the worst are the ones that go unnoticed, but here are the ones I've picked up on...

1.) Flinch while turning on the sink, just in case I forgot to change it from shower mode.

2.) Wear socks with sandals

3.) Suck air between my teeth when I'm in disagreement/don't know something.

4.) Say "maybe you should..." when I mean "you definitely have to..."

5.) Wave hello with both hands

6.) Eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

7.) Enjoy eating plain rice

8.) Openly use mirrors in the subway (or anywhere)

9.) Refuse to wear my shoes indoors.

10.) Find sitting on the floor quite comfortable.

11.) Cut my food with scissors.

12.) Compartmentalize my life.

13.) Clap when I'm happy.

14.) Give everyone my bank information and ID number without ever thinking twice about it.

15.) Break my fun sized snickers bar in 4 pieces to share with my friends.

16.) Find it impossible to walk in a straight path.

17.) Everything is "delicious"

18.) My most common response to "how are you" is "so-so"

19.) Refuse to go anywhere without my pencil case.

20.) Loudly shout at the waiter for service.

21.) Wait 5 minutes at a crosswalk, even though there's no traffic.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cooking Korean

Lately I've gotten really into cooking Korean food, which is a huge accomplishment because prior to coming to Korea my knowledge of cooking didn't extend much past pancakes. It's actually a lot easier than I thought it would be, and once you have the ingredients you can make pretty much everything!

Bipimbap (rice and veggies) is my favorite Korean dish, and now I can make it for all of you when I get home!
Doenjang Chiggae is a Spicy Soy Bean Stew-so delicious!
One of the many popular side dishes in Korea!
Another popular side dish!
Kimchi Chiggae: popular Korean stew made with Kimchi, tofu, and tuna!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jeju Half Marathon

Check out more pictures here:

Love being here, too!

The Girls

Foggy Finish

Last Friday, four friends and I headed to the famous Jeju Island for the 3rd race I've run in Korea. Although the weather wasn't perfect beach weather, we had a really good time. Since we were only there for a couple of days (and Sunday was race day), we weren't able to do much. Nonetheless, the half marathon gave me the chance to see a lot of the coast, which was really beautiful despite all the fog!

Finished my 2nd half in 1:48, taking 8 minutes off the Seongju Half Marathon I ran 3 weeks earlier !

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Korean Weddings

I am aware that this is my second post on Korean Weddings, however there is news to report. I teach Korean English Teachers twice a week, and last week's lesson was on weddings and dating. As I'm sure you can imagine, the topic was a hit. Most of the people in my class are dying to get married (as is pretty common with Korean women in their mid-twenties), so they had a lot to say.

I opened with the question, "Would you rather have a large or small wedding?" It was no surprise that most of them wanted a small wedding, but what really surprised me was that a "normal" sized Korean wedding is 4-5 HUNDRED people! Luckily, they don't have to feed all those people, but how do they even know that many people? Well, apparently they don't. The bride groom only invite around 100-150 people, and the rest are friends of their parents. None of my students were overly thrilled about the idea of having 400 people they don't know at their wedding, but they accept it as the way it is.

What was even more surprising was that if you (or your parents) don't know that 400-500 people, then you have to hire what they call "part-timers." Part-timers are people who come to your wedding and pretend to be you friend. They are prepped with details about you before the wedding, such as, where you went to school, whether or not you were a good student, who your parents are, etc. And, part-timers make good money. In fact, my student has a friend who is a part-timer, and her friend is able to live quite comfortably on her part-timer salary. Qualifications of a part-timer include being good-looking, clever, personable, and fun.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Beginning of the End

Last week I signed my Contract Renewal Renunciation Statement. Even though teaching in Korea was never going to be more than a year-long commitment for me, I stared at the Renunciation Statement with doubt. Questions buzzed around my head. What would I do at home? How long would I be unemployed? When would be the next time I'd see the friends I've made here? And, most importantly, why would I leave a life of security, a life I know and love, for the question mark of a life that awaits me at home.

The truth is, I could actually see myself staying in Korea for another year. I've built a life for myself, and I've fallen in love with the culture, friends, and lifestyle I've made here. However, just when I was about to ask my coteacher for an extension to make my decision, I remembered a promise I made myself in December to NEVER miss another Christmas with the family. With that in mind, I signed my Contract Renewal Renunciation Statement with a confident (but shaky) hand.

Today, May 25th, means I have 3 months left of my contract. While I'm going to miss (almost) every aspect of my life in Korea, there is so much to look forward to at home. Whenever I have doubts about whether or not I'm making the right decision, I remind myself of everything I miss from home. Homebaked cookies, egg plant, target, trader joes, and burritos rank high on the list, but I know I could survive another year without them. What takes the cake and never fails to end the ongoing "to renew or not to renew" argument inside my head is that I know I absolutely would not survive another year without my family.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Running in Korea

Running in Korea is extremely entertaining. While running in Ecuador was interesting enough, the things I have experienced running in Korea are nothing compared to the constant clucking, kissing, yelling, and whistling I heard running in Ecuador. As you probably can imagine, foreigners attract a lot of attention. And, foreigners running in Korea attract even more attention. Quite often, I'll attract a running partner who will silently run beside me (dressed in jeans and dress shoes) for as long as they can keep up.

While Koreans don't run, they definitely do exercise. The trail near my apartment has outdoor workout equipment-weights, ellipticals, and hula hoops. Seeing a Korean hula hooping in the park (for hours on end, I might add) is hilarious. Adding to the hilarity is the fact that they are dressed head to toe in heavy duty hiking gear. When I say head to toe, I literally mean HEAD to TOE-they wear gloves, face masks, hats, jackets, long pants, and hiking boots. The only exposed part of their body is their eyes. As this (might) be necessary during the cold winter, it certainly is not necessary in the suffocating humidity of summer.

This brings me to my next point. Most Westerners have thousands of tank tops, and in the summer, we live in them. Get caught in a tank top in Korea, and mothers will shield children's eyes and school boys will whisper about you. That's right, a tank top is considered racy. As you've seen in my previous posts, the summer in Korea is a sweaty mess. Even though I go running at 6 in the morning, it's still too hot for t-shirts. So, here I am, a scandalous foreigner running in a tank top in Korea.

What is most surprising about running in Korea is that there are fun runs and races every weekend. But where are the Korean runners during the week? They seem to disappear until early Saturday morning when the drag out their runners and expensive running gear for their weekly race. They go hard for that 5k, 10k, half marathon, or even full marathon, and then return their clothes, shoes, and goos to the back of the closet until the next Saturday morning race.

My running partner, Alissa, and I meet Saturday mornings in front of a very prestigious hotel in our neighborhood; GS Plaza. In the past nine months, we've become known as the foreigners who run in front of GS Plaza, and have been addressed as such on multiple occasions. This Saturday we had a particularly interesting experience. We were out for our weekly long run, and at around 8 miles we were absolutely dying of thirst. Unfortunately (and might I add stupidly), we both forgot to bring money. We decided to stop at the finish line for the weekly "fun run" in our neighborhood. As usual, we were welcomed with open arms. We drank our first cup of water, and I (again) very stupidly, asked for second cup. It may have been 10 am on a Saturday, but the men working the booth (not even sure if you can call it that) were already well into their 3rd bottle of Makeoli (rice wine). We should have left after the first cup of water because before we knew it, we were chugging makeoli. "No" just isn't a proper response to alcohol in Korea. We finally managed to break away from the group when we were chased down by one of the men force-feeding us kimchi with chopsticks. As I'm sure you can imagine, the run home was not fun at all.

After all that, it's worth mentioning that I decided to run a half marathon very last minute on Sunday with 4 other friends. Surprisingly, even though I did not train, it went pretty well. It was in Seonju a small town about a half an hour outside of Daegu. To add to the absurdity of running in Korea, we were the only people cheering for other runners. As I also experienced during the Gyeongju Marathon, cheering during races does not happen here. Aside from the occasional Korean screaming, "Fighting," you have to be the one initiate the cheering.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gyeongju (Post marathon)

Ann Marie and I decided to go back to Gyeongju since we didn't really get a chance to explore while I ran the marathon. We rented bikes and tooled around town all day on Sunday...

There was a ring around the sun, which means it's supposed to rain within 12-24 hours (which it did!)

I also booked tickets to Bali for August!! Can't wait!!