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Thursday, 30 July 2009

Working with the Whiteboard

My smallest class--usually two elementary school girls--had one student missing today. Makes a huge difference, so I needed to transform into the flex-teacher: scrap my lesson plan and come up with a few new activities on the spot. One thing we did was write a story together on the whiteboard, me in blue (though from her prompting) and she in green. Not great, but for her age and level quite good (and, yes, there are a few errors but that's ok; grammar/punct. wasn't the main goal).
I often have my students write on the whiteboard as the action usually promotes self-confidence and lends itself to a student-centered classroom.

What passes for hotel coffee in Korea

I'm glad I'm not a coffee drinker!

Last Weekend: My Hotel Room

When I visited friends on the east coast last weekend I stayed in a hotel that I have been to before. It's a family run place, not much to look at from the outside, but the inside is rather nice. I guess because it was rainy and not high beach season yet (plus the hotel is downtown and not near the beach) they only charged me $30 a night for this room, which I was pleased with. (Though not with seeing the ashtray in the room; thankfully, the room didn't smell of cigarette smoke.)

Last Weekend: The Beach

It was intermittently drizzly at the beach last weekend, plus it was a bit cool, so no swimming, but I still always enjoy the salty ocean breezes and the relaxed atmosphere. And then, too, there are all of the seafood restaurants (mostly raw fish) with their outdoor tanks--kind of like being in an open-air acquarium:)

Last Weekend: Lunch Alone

I ate lunch by myself one day last weekend, and choose to go to a common Korean lunch-style restaurant, very informal and cheap. I was pleased to see, after looking at the menu, that they had chicken cutlets, since I have never been able to find them before (pork cutlets are very common, and fish cutlets less so). You can see by the menu prices that at about $5 my meal was the most expensive thing on the menu (these types of restaurants also serve a lot of noodles, soups, rice rolls, etc.). Across the street, you can also see the imported American fast-food places which I generally avoid as they are less healthy, more expensive, and not nearly as satisfying.

Last Weekend: Lunch and Dinner

Mmmm . . . not much better than dining on some grilled shellfish at the beach with friends, especially when you have open-air seating (though covered, thankfully, given that it was a bit rainy). Or chowing down on some grilled pork and "sausages" at a popular (yet affordable) restaurant. (The initial water from the kettle is to help with the grill cooking; soup and rice are often the last course.)

Sunday, 19 July 2009

What's for Lunch?

Today's lunch is mandu, Korean for "dumplings". The reddish ones on the left are Kimchi mandu, a litttle spicy (any food in Korea that is red is spicy due to red peppers; no tomatoes are used in cooking here). The ones on the right are gogi (meat) mandu. Yummy!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Kimchi's Great Claims, or The Sorry State of Korean Journalism

Koreans are proud of their national food, kimchi. That much is understandable. Many countries have a national food that they take pride in. It's only natural, after all.

But with Korea, it goes beyond the normal and the understandable.

(Note that this commentary comes from a kimchi-lover. It's always in my fridge, and I will go without cheese before I will go without kimchi, which, for me, is a mighty thing indeed. I've included a picture of radish kimchi (cubed, on the left) and cabbage kimchi for reference.)

Koreans have something of an international inferiority complex. This is not an original insight on my part, but rather a generally agreed upon view amongst expats and foreign visitors here. Perhaps this is also understandable, as Korea is a country that has a history of (repeated) invasion (by Japan), is rather small (yet recently--from a historical perspective--large in economic rankings), and is a 'younger brother', in a sense, of the ever-eclipsing U.S.

So taking pride in a national food is important to Koreans. And it is good. And healthy. Yes, it is.

However, some of the claims that are made about it are irrational and, in my opinion, damaging to Korea and Koreans.

The latest, that I read today, is unacceptable by all educated people and should be retracted and an apology issued (but there we run into the national pride thing).

The article, about a future opening of a kimchi research lab, published in The Korea Times (7/18-19, p. 2), one of the two national English language newspapers, states that "Studies have shown that kimchi is highly nutritious and effective in preventing cancer [my emphasis]".
That is complete and utter bullshit. Please show me the studies. I am interested, and so is the rest of the world, in seeing the scientific evidence.

Yeah Pickles!

A few weeks ago I bought an industrial-sized jar of dill pickles for the 4th of July bbq that I went to, thinking--oh generous me--that I'd share some and bring the rest home. But then a bunch of American teachers showed up and that was that. Damn their black souls. (Though they were nice enough to thank me.)

There are plenty of pickles in the two supermarkets where I live, but they are either sweet ones or German knockoffs with a wierd taste.

I can't go without cheese, but I have also found out that, while I can go without dills for a bit, enough if enough. I need them in my life. So today I went into Seoul and returned to the international food store that has the massive jar of dills. Now I just have to rearrange my fridge shelves to fit it in.

Owning Up

Something has been nagging at my brain for a while, and I finally clued in tonight--I have not informed my fellow teachers about a bad situation I was in.

I won't go into details, but you can ask the Korean Ministry of Labor why they decided in my favor and 'required' my former boss at Korea Herald/NIE in Tongyeong to pay the money he claimed he did not owe me.

So, I am adding some tags here, and, if you can read between the lines, then nothing more be said.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Passed Up a Chance

This past week, with the passing of MJ, it has come to light (for those of you who have no clue as to what is going on in the real world) that MJ took drugs. Massive quantities of drugs. Not heroin or cocaine, but drugs just the same--he was a junkie. I'm not judging him--well, ok, I am, but so what?-- just stating the facts, and perhaps taking a bit of satisfaction in knocking him off a shaky pedestal (say, that sounds like another word).

To those financial backers of his London performance, his "re-emergence": what the fuck were you thinking?

MJ should have done the "right" thing and invested in pharmaceutical companies.

Alas, another fallen pop star.

Saturday, 11 July 2009


This past week I have been suffering from back problems. Monday and Tuesday I could hardly walk. However, with stretching exercises and ice it has gotten better, if slowly. Anyway, I haven't been sitting at the computer much, as that seems to aggravate the problem. So I am behind on all things electronic. Oh, well; the world seems to continue to turn . . .

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Thankfully, Not "If"

If the situation were worse, I might label this the "Let's see how much shit we can put in front of our store" post. But, thankfully, it's not that bad. There's enough shit to cause you to grumble sometimes as you have to walk around it, but not quite enough to cause you to duck into a convenience store, buy a bottle of lighter fluid and some matches, and have a go.

Here are some pics of the not-so-bad shit . . .

The 4th

Went to a bar-b-que at my friends' place in Seoul today. Good food, good times:) Met a Korean train conductor, a bunch of English teachers, and a Korean goldsmith/jewelry designer. Caught the last (or next to it) subway home (kinda like being on a curfew, ha ha).

Saturday, 4 July 2009

How to make "store bought" bibimbap:
1. Buy a microwave rice bowl, pre-made bibim vegetables, and (maybe) some alternative sauce
2. Microwave the rice
3. Top with the bibim vegetables and sauce (you may choose to add a fried egg)
4. Mix with a large spoon
5. Enjoy!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

My Healthy Lunch

I often eat salads, not so much because they are healthy but rather just because I like them. I love good, ripe (but not too soft) tomatoes, a mix of greens, two kinds of olives . . . the variety is great and the different tastes and textures are enjoyable. Plus you can use different dressings, though I have to say that Korea is fairly lacking in the salad dressing department.

Throw in a batch of fried saltfish and some kimchi and you have a great lunch meal. (And a big one; I barely managed to eat all that in one go.)