Friday, November 28, 2008

Chapter Thirty: East Meets West Thanksgiving

So, yesterday was Thanksgiving. I had been talking to friends about it for a while--I decided there was no way that I wouldn't have Thanksgiving just because I was in Korea. Arthur had the same thought. His parents sent him tons of things that he needed to make Thanksgiving and my mother sent me a bunch of stuff too. Our powers combined, we showed five other people their first Thanksgiving.

Yesterday morning, it was strange to get up and go to work, knowing it was Thanksgiving. Kelly asked me about it before my first class, "It is a big holiday for you, right?" It kind of struck me at that moment that it is a big holiday for us, as Americans. It's not religious, it's not patriotic, it's not overly-commercial. It does have a checkered past, but for what it is now, it means a lot to me. Growing up white in America, you don't have many chances to feel like you have your own culture. When all you ever do is the same thing that everyone else is doing, you don't think about it. It was interesting to explain Thanksgiving not just to the Korean teachers, but also to the other Westerners. It reminded me that I am part of a culture-- the American melting pot (or is it a tossed salad now?).
Above you can see the glorious set-up, complete with very little matching tableware, kimchi, and the turkey center piece.

Arthur, carving the bird. Yep, that is a rotisserie chicken from Costco. Turkeys were like 60,000 won and we had nowhere to cook it. I was pretty excited to have another dinner party in my apartment. I'm amazed that we squeezed seven people at the table, but we did have to borrow three chairs from school to do so.

In Arthur's bowl, you can see my homemade squash soup. Like I made two years ago, except this time without a recipe! I blended up the squash with some chicken broth and tomato paste. Then I added onions and cherry tomatoes. It was a hit!

Arthur gives dinner one big thumbs-up. In the background, you can see that we didn't have enough table or counter space, so my bed held the dessert. Ah, studio apartment living.

The American hosts.

And Korean style!

Dini tells me that sticking leaf confetti to your face is a Thanksgiving tradition. Little known fact.

I really enjoy the juxtaposition of the Corelle Wear bowl of cranberry sauce next to the earthen bowl of Kimchi. East meets West.

"Yes, Mom, I did make the green bean casserole! Lookit that! And no, I am not going to keep it as leftover so that I don't get botulism."

Time for dessert. Arthur got us a pumpkin pie and I made the pumpkin monkey bread that my mom sent me (thanks mom!). Everyone was so full, we took one bite, stared at our food for a while, then took another. Arthur and I assured everyone that it was the proper way to enjoy Thanksgiving.

Monkey bread in the foreground and a very approving Nicole in the background.

What would Thanksgiving in Korea be without the soju...

And the candy corn?

Arthur created a confetti Korea, which is pretty amazing. Complete with some of the islands!

I made my own island. I think that Greenport is the gold turkey between two red turkeys on the North Fork.

Nicole's Australia.

Arthur's Georgia.

I felt like it would be unfair of me not to make Massachusetts after how well she treated me for four years. Long Island, Massachusetts, you will always be competing for the title of "home."

'Merica! ala Arthur.

Last, but not least, Great Britain by Chris.

In the end, I'd say it was a really great Thanksgiving. Definitely better than last year, but merely consuming more than a piece of toast would make it better than last year. I spent a lot of dinner thinking about the folklore about Thanksgiving: the white people present the natives with a feast to thank them for helping them survive. It kind of felt that way having Koreans and non-Americans over for Thanksgiving. Without them, I certainly wouldn't have made it this far.

As the days fly by, I am getting closer to the day in late December when I will leave Korea. I know it is for the best for innumerable reasons, but I will also miss it here. I love this city, I love my students, and I love the whole adventure. Nevertheless, I am happy to be leaving when I know I will still be able to look back on this as an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Singin' 'n' Dancin'

These videos, one from last week and three from today, are of students practicing for the end-of-the-year celebration. Not much photo-worthy has been going on but these videos are pretty amusing.

Pluto and Jupiter singing Abba's "Super Troopers." The best part comes at around 30 seconds when Emily turns Steve around because he is facing the wrong direction. Excellent!

Mars, the four-year-olds, singing "Zippity Doo Dah." Lina, in the front with the pink slippers, gets really into it.

Pluto singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Unfortunately, there is no dancing for this one. They also have not been practicing this anywhere near as long as the other songs. They are going to be performing this in the context of doing The Wizard of Oz for their class play. It's going to be pretty amazing.

Last but not least is Uranus singing and dancing to "Puff the Magic Dragon." This one is going to be in the context of them performing Peter Pan. I absolutely love the dance.

These videos do the kids no justice. I am so, unbelievably excited for our end-of-year performance. Though, I am not excited about the fact that the English teachers have to MC it. I am not prepared for that, but I have over two weeks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Fall On the Sincheon

This weekend I spent a lot of time wandering around by the Sincheon River. It seemed like the rest of Daegu did as well. There were families playing, people biking, couples sharing headphones, old men lying in the grass, children playing basketball. Everyone was in full fall reverie.
This is the direction of Apsan, which you can see in the distance. I generally walk the other way.

Under the big bridge near my apartment.

Still nearby. That sign up ahead says something about otters. I was on otter patrol all weekend; I have yet to see one.

The birds love man-made waterfalls.

Just stuff growing in the water.

View from under a weeping willow.

Foliage on the trees lining the road. I also love the lamp post.

I love the colors this bush is changing, as well as it's beautiful red berries. It looks like the transformation of fall into winter.

Neverthless, there are flowers everywhere! I cannot believe how many flowers there are! It's mid-November and they continue to bloom.

The river had a lot of man-made features, like fountains that change and make pretty shapes.

Fountain on the left with Apsan in the background.

I call this section "the birds of Daegu."

The huge flock of pigeons was not deterred by bikers or pedestrians. They remind me of New York pigeons and made me a little homesick.

More fountains.

I love when ivy changes colors, so beautiful!

This train bridge had some really beautiful designs on it.

Yellow flowers in November are one thing, but look at the purple! I still can't believe it. I've got many more pictures of the neighborhood that I should post later.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Market Play

This week, we had a special "market day" in which the children were supposed to learn how to do basic shopping using English. But it was mostly just for fun. The week before, everyone brought in old books, toys, and things and then these were put into different stores for the children to buy things from. It was a pretty cute idea. I was asked to hang out in the restaurant where they were serving jam sammiches and tukpoki. There were two shifts--in the morning half of the kids were sellers while the other half were customers, then they switched in the afternoon.

Lucy, ordering food at the restaurant.

The students were partnered up with an older kid taking around a younger kid. Something about most of the pairings was simply hilarious. The older kid usually had to take on a semi-parental role. Some of the pairings were too much for me to handle, like Rocco and Kane, easily the two most distracted students in the entire school.

I don't know what they are looking at, but you can see in this photo their little money pouches with their American dollars. The best part was that they had Korean writing on them!

See, Tommy and Mike figured out how to hang out together in spite of having their little partners along. I applaud them.

I helped them make the silly hats the week before. Also, you can tell servers from customers by their aprons. There were so many servers in the restaurant that they pretty much mobbed any customers that walked in.

This photo of Anna as a waitress just screams "diner waitress." Clearly, her name should be Barb and she should have a pencil behind her ear.

"Look, customers!"

Liam is over at the beauty salon. You can't see but he is buying a hairclip "for mommy." So cute!

Customers? Customers? This reminds me of how it felt working at Skippers in the middle of the winter--when Lara and I would have two tables a night.

MM, tukpoki!

This is the toy store. "Bear, bear, who needs a bear? For you pretty lady? I'll cut you a deal. I mean, my boss would kill me if he knew I were doin' this, okay, $7. No, no, don't walk away. I can't go any lower, I'm not makin' any money off of it as it is!"

Is it just me or is this a total Zoolander face?

One flaw in the market day plan was that many kids had spent all their money in half an hour, so for about forty minutes, they kind of sat around. Oops.

Kane and Rocco again. They must have eaten so many snacks that day.

Anna, being the perfect bus girl. Look at that, she can carry a cup on a plate. I'm proud.

All the Mars kids got a little nervous at the restaurant because, being four, they cannot read. All of the servers kept hovering and asking, "Can I take your order?!" Poor little Mars.

Nevertheless, Ariel was able to order her milk and tukpoki.

Standard Brandon face. Brandon is one of the two students who can actually take upwards of two hours to eat. They just nom, think think think, nom. What could he possibly be thinking about so intensely while eating? He's five years old!

Liam was definitely enjoying himself.

At the beauty salon, many girls got their hair curled. It was real cute to watch.

Shopping is tiring, I know.

"It's okay, sometimes there just aren't any customers. It's not your fault. No, I'm tellin' ya', you're doin' a great job!"

Chris and Joel, another excellent pairing. They are both huge talkers and really good at English. But Chris is silly and sweet while Joel is so prickly.

Over at Mars' Supermarket, sales were slow. They just couldn't move the merch. I know that feeling, Chaeri.

Woody manages to keep a positive attitude in spite of the store's financial troubles. Meanwhile, Sally Kim is thinking about what this means for the store's future in the current global economy. Does this mean they'll close down this branch? Will she be able to get a job at another branch? Will she have to look for work elsewhere? How many jobs are there out there for a six-year-old with no college degree and only experience working retail? Sigh.

Jenny is worrying about the same things. Luckily, she's only four, so she's got a few more years before she has to find a real job.

Jinoo, I know it's been a long shift, but you still got orders to take! This food ain't gonna' serve itself, either.

I love this picture! Tommy is such a big brother at heart. While everyone else just hounded Woody in English, demanding his order, Tommy sat down at his level, asked him in English and then Korean. When Woody ordered, Tommy patted him on the shoulder and told him "good job." Lucy is his little sister and I can only imagine what kind of big brother he'll be when she turns sixteen.

Another excellent pairing.

Matching green fingernails! Christine, my boss, painted mine before market day started. I mean, where else will your boss paint your fingernails?

Anna is quite happy with the beauticians.

"Are we done yet? All the food is gone!"

One thing I love about Korea is that gender roles for little kids are not so strict. So many boys got their nails painted.

Even pink!

I like that it looks like Lina is in her jimmy-jams. I love Tuesdays because they don't have to wear their uniforms, so they wear all sorts of cute things.

And this is the sign that I helped Mars make during our project class the week before. I feel like I do need to clarify that in Korea, supermarket is more like department store--kind of like Wal-Mart or Target. They sell clothes and home goods as well as groceries. Hence the silly pictures. Another excellent special day. I don't have many left!