Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ho-ho-ho, I'm a Gorilla?

Christmas time is near and the festive spirit can be felt in the air in Seoul, but no where near what its like in America. At school the other day, I joked to my second grade class that if they didn't do all of their homework, I would call Santa Claus and rat 'em out. No cool Christmas presents this year kids! The moment they heard this threat, a reaction occurred that I really did not expect. These kids are 8 year olds, and they still believe in a Santa! They wanted to know how I knew him, what he was like, does he really speak Korean, was I lying (I reassured them I met him personally in Finland), if he could please bring them a Nintendo DS/some Pokemon toy/a new cell phone (most of the toys were heavily technology based. Each kid here has a cell phone), and other questions I can't remember. I then asked them, how does he get into your apartments on Christmas Eve? One of the girls exclaimed "through the chimney!", but before I could help direct my question another kid blurted out "but we don't have chimneys here! Does he know our apartment codes?" After some discussion amongst my little pupils, the consensus was that Old Saint Nick does in fact know their apartment codes.

The next day, I had one of other teachers call me on my cell phone because I had told the second graders that I have Santa's cell phone number. When they saw it was "Santa Claus" on the caller ID, they had to talk to him. "Santa" reminded them that not completing their English homework would result in last year's Samsung or LG toy instead of this years cool, new one. Needless to say, the students are looking forward to Christmas. One thing to note is that my third graders did not fall for my knowing Santa. I guess that's about the age where they realize Santa is in the same boat as Spiderman, Superman, and King Kong; they don't exist.

Which leads me to another thing. I've been called a lot of things by my students in my short tenure as a teacher. Here they are, in no particular order (all of these are typically screamed by kids):

* Supermaaaaan! (A fellow teacher told a group of Kindergartners that's what I actually am. They're 5 year olds. haha)
* Chinaman! Chinaman! (why? I have no idea)
* Koreaman! Koreaman! (I told a few of them I can speak Korean. When 'proved' it by saying a few phrases, I had them convinced I'm actually a Korean in disguise)
* Gorillaman! or Monkeyman! (I have a slight beard right now, and this is a big deal since I'm told its harder for Korean men to grow facial hair. The kids are terrified of touching my facial hair. On the other hand, they love to come and 'pet' my arm hair. For some odd reason, they can't get enough of this. When it was still warm and I wore shorts, they loved pulling on my leg hair.)
* Ajashi! Ajashi! (In Korean, Ajashi is a term for a married man. Now, why they call me this? No clue. I think it might be the facial hair.)
* Pom-Pom (A Cat's name from a book we read in a Kindergarten class)
* Oookraeeen! (Ukraine. Two of my kindergartner's are moving to Ukraine in January because of their father's work. I'm not sure what he does, but these are not poor kids, so I imagine they'll be doing well in Ukraine. Also, talk about coincidence)

These are but a few of the nicknames I've heard. I'm sure there will be more.

We are taking pictures will all of our students to send to their parents as Christmas cards. Here are two pics with two of my favorite Kindergarten students.


BTW, my fourth graders are NOT as cute as these little people. :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Being thankful

I've past the three month mark of living in Korea. This is the longest I've been out of the United States in my life (besides Ukraine, of course). A few things I want to update the blog about, including Thanksgiving.

Seeing how this is my first Thanksgiving away from home, the other teachers and I got together to celebrate Turkey day. In preparation for the day, each person was to prepare a dish for this potluck dinner of ours. The week before, I went to one of the six Costco stores in Korea. Inside, the place was nearly identical to the Costcos in America. The main differences were that there were two levels and half of the food being sold was food no one would be interested in at home. Frozen octopus tentacles sold in bulk probably wouldn't sell like hot cakes.

We decided Chicken would have to be the Turkey substitute because a frozen Turkey costs about $70 here, and a ready-to-go chicken is less than $7. We got three and a pumpkin pie. For the dinner, I decided to make the Ukrainian version of potato salad, Olivye. We also had mashed potatoes, Ceasar salad, glazed carrots, stuffing, fruit salad, deviled eggs, bruschetta bread, steamed broccoli, and lots of chicken. For not having any ovens to work with, the dinner turned out fantastic.

This is the "family" away from home.

Last weekend, I went to a Korean co-worker's wedding. The wedding was held at a building specifically for weddings and was incredibly nice. Chloe, who is about 30 years old, met her husband while studying English in California. The reception was very short, lasting only about 25 minutes, but that was fine since everything was in Korean. We were able to take a picture with the bride, although as you can see I stick out like a giant compared to Ellie, another co-worker of mine.

The ceremony was an "American" style event that really didn't seem much different from anything back home. The most notable difference was the mothers and grandmothers wearing traditional Korean dresses. Other than that, the most notable difference was that it was all in Korean.

Natalie, Becky, and I were the three that went to the wedding.

The reception was held in the same building and was surprising in its elegance and level of sophistication. The catered, seven course meal consisted of raw tuna, shrimp, mashed potatoes, steak, salad, and desert. There were people that came out and spoke about the couple, sang songs, and said their wishes. All in all, I was honored to be there.