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제 좋은 학생을 소개하겠습니다. 그의 이름은 박현종이라고 합니다.

Let me introduce you to one of my good students. His name is Hyun Jong. I met him earlier in the summer before we came to Seoul. We met in an ESL chat room hosted by Dave’s ESL Cafe. He was there looking for someone to practice English with, and I was there hoping to find someone who was currently teaching English in Korea. We struck up a friendship and exchanged e-mails asking each other various questions about our families and life in our home countries.

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After I came to Seoul, I kept in contact with him. One day I told him about how I had finally found a student to teach and he mentioned to me that he would also like to take English classes. He had told me that before, when I was back in the States, and I really didn’t take him that seriously. But, he was serious and so we planned on when we would have lessons, for how much, and where we would meet. Tell you the truth, I was a bit nervous. You hear about girls all the time who meet predators on the web (in a chat room, no less) and fix to meet them and then….well you know. So, I was a bit weary. Daniel was a bit worried and so was my mom. We planned to meet at Pyeongchon Station on a Saturday morning. Luckily, my naivete and overly trusting nature didn’t lead me astray this time and I got to meet a really awesome person.

We meet twice a week for two hours each. We work on English conversation, vocabulary, some grammar, and listening comprehension. I would say that he is very high intermediate-advanced in his ability. Conversation is very easy for him and he has a big vocabulary. A little more about him. He is 28 years old and he works for an engineering company in Pyeongchon, Anyang-si. He just got engaged not too long ago to his sweetheart and they are planning on getting married next year. Interestingly, he had wanted to study English teaching instead of Engineering, but chose to do engineering. He is interested in all things, loves American movies and American food and he even tutored high school students in English grammar when he was a college student–I am telling you that his English is really good!

Anyway, one tool that I think is indispensable for learning English is the English novel, or at least reading some English publication. So whether it is a short story, book, or magazine/newspaper article, my students are reading at least something each week. Hyun Jong read The Giver by Lois Lowry. And I say “read” in the past tense because he just finished the book this past week! He read the entire novel and really enjoyed it. In our last class he told me that he never thought that he could read an English novel, that The Giver was the first he has ever read and finished. He thanked me because it was with my help that he was able to do it. I was so happy to hear that from him. I had spent a lot of thought on how I could help him with his overall comprehension by providing different activities and discussion starters to help with the concepts of the book. But his success mostly came because he worked hard and he really is a very talented language learner. I gave him some direction and he took off with it! I am really proud of him! It is definitely moments like these that make teaching worthwhile.

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Because of the National Elections, we found ourselves winding through a ridiculously narrow street lined with dozens of wholesale shoe vendors pushing mountains of shoes for a cheap price. Daniel had no class that day and Maya was in dire need for some new boots so Dongdaemun seemed like the most logical choice for our sightseeing trip that day; Daniel had never been and Dongdaemun is known to be the mecca of cheap clothing items in Korea. After making a complete turn through the sea of endless shoe stands (and not wanting to think that there were other such streets just around the corner) we finally settled for a pair of boots that I think will be great for Maya. After that we searched for a place to eat. We ate at the food court in the Doota building. Here are some pictures of us enjoying our 돌솥 비빔밥 (bibimbap served in a hot stone bowl), it was a great meal to warm us up.

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After lunch we shopped around in the Doota building and found a couple of more gifts; one for my grandpa and one for a friend of ours.

Here are our spoils:

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Nowadays people know Dongdaemun for the shopping. But, Dongdaemun actually means ‘Great East Gate’ and was the major Eastern gate in the wall that surrounded Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. The first two pictures on this post are of the Gate. It always amazes me to see the old palaces and gates from the Joseon Dynasty standing strong next to the modern skyscrapers that are common here in Seoul. Korea has really modernized with amazing speed and seeing the old next to the new is just a testament to this modernization.

When you think of the sounds of Christmas, what do you think of? Carols, laughter, cash registers, church bells sounding people to services….

Just the other day we looked around the Hyundai Department store, a high end department store chain that features the latest in fashion. It was decked out for the Christmas season with Christmas music, decorations, the works. Within the past couple of weeks I have noticed that Seoul has begun to get ready for the Christmas season and the Hyundai department store is no exception. Christmas trees have popped up everywhere in the subway stations and the windows of the shops around Seoul are decorated for the Holidays. The other thing I noticed was that the Salvation Army has a real presence here just like in the US. Along with all the other sounds of Christmas,

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Remembering those in need in Seoul. Courtesy of Joongang ilbo.

I always think of the bells of the Salvation Army volunteers with their red buckets reminding passerbys with each ring of the bell that the we need to remember the most needy along with our loved ones when we think of giving this season. An interesting note about the Salvation Army is that it is actually a Christian denomination. I think most people when they think of the Salvation Army, think of the bell ringers and of soup kitchens. However, the Salvation Army is even more than that. It was a church that was begun in London with an emphasis on the Gospel’s message concerning social welfare. Their practices stem from the belief that we need to take care of both the spiritual and physical needs of the people.

The Salvation Army is truly doing a great thing. The Christmas season is definitely more than just giving and receiving gifts to and from loved ones. But it is time to remember all of God’s children, those who are both in physical as well as spiritual need. The scriptures are full of examples of Jesus ministering unto the spiritual and physical needs of the people. He cared for both, and so should we. I hope that we can all think a little more clearly of our responsibilities as Christians each time we hear those bells toll; because each bell tolls for someone.

I am sure you noticed as soon as our blog site popped open that there has been some changes. I sort of felt that the previous look that Dowler Seoul had was a bit drab, almost dark and kind of uninviting. So it was time for a face lift of sorts. You have probably noticed that the page is definitely lighter (from dark gray to white) and that our header picture is different. We took this photo at Gyeongbokgung Palace (a previous post). I hope you like the new look…I sure do ^_^

I hear each little bottle softly click the next as I search for the perfect spice

turmeric, parsley, rosemary

each various spice valued for its unique flavor—

sweet basil, smoky cumin, exotic coriander

each spice easily accessible; each one waiting in my ideal kitchen ready for use. Where would the world’s foods be without each wonderful spice?

tasteless, lacking in savory aroma, an unwanted visitor to our palate

The spice rack, just as important as the knife or the cutting board, is indispensable to any chef or amateur cook. Oh, spice rack, how much I miss you!

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note: Korean food uses very different spices so it is very hard to find some of the more common spices we use in Western food or in other ethnic foods.

note: I don’t have my spice rack here in Korea. Luckily, my mom is sending some spice in my next package. 

Well another Thanksgiving has come and gone and it has left us feeling thankful for so many things.

Living in a foreign country far from family, friends and a familiar culture is a real humbling experience. This Thanksgiving we were especially thankful for some of the most basic and simple things.

Our family here in Korea: I can’t even begin to thank my family here in Korea. My aunts and uncles have made sure that we are comfortable and that we have what we need. I always get calls from my aunts to check up on us. Whenever we visit my grandfather’s house we are sent home with so much food. They have taken us out to eat, to enjoy different cultural sites, and to just be with family.

Our family back home: We definitely miss all of our family back at home (and our friends too). We are so thankful for all of the telephone calls, letters, and packages. We know that we are missed and loved very much.

Kind people all over the world: We are very thankful of the kind people we have met here in Korea. They have made adjusting to life here in Seoul much easier. We really hope that we can be good friends to them as well.

Our health: After our many bouts of the common cold, sore throats, and bladder infections these past few weeks, we are definitely grateful for our overall health. We are strong and healthy and we are able to enjoy our lives to the fullest.

The world’s diverse cultures: It has been so much fun to learn more about Korean culture. There are so many beautiful traditions. The Korean language is also a beautiful language and we have enjoyed studying it so far. We are excited to take part in even more cultural experiences during our stay here. We also appreciate the good ol’ USA. There are many things that we miss and have taken advantage of. I know this will sound pretty cheesy, but we are pretty proud to be Americans.

Of course, there are so many other things to be thankful for. These are just a sampling of what we have thought about.

I am sure many of you have wondered how our Thanksgiving went this year. We had a really memorable one. Korea doesn’t celebrate our Thanksgiving so it was up to us to make it a special day. We decided that it would be a lot more fun to celebrate the holiday with some friends. We invited a girl from Daniel’s Korean class at Seoul National University and her husband over for a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner. Megumi is from Japan and her husband, Joo Young, is Korean. They met in Canada while they were there studying English and they were excited to share a Western meal with us. Since there aren’t any Butterball turkeys here and since I don’t have an oven this was our menu for Thanksgiving:

  • Lemon pepper pan-seared salmon
  • Home made mashed potatoes
  • Sautéed asparagus with onions and garlic
  • Fresh fruit salad with sweetened crème fraiche
  • Rolls
  • and of course, pumpkin pie.

We live near a Costco so I was able to get a great salmon fillet, tender asparagus, lots of fruit, rolls, pumpkin pie, heavy whipping cream and liquid plain yogurt. The latter two were for my home made crème fraiche. I originally wanted to test out this great recipe of pan-seared salt and pepper salmon with dill smashed potatoes (with peas and pearl onions) and a dill crème fraiche sauce. However, I couldn’t find any pearl onions, watercress, and the main ingredient, dill weed. So I gave up on that and decided to just do my own thing.

I always get a bit nervous when I prepare dinner for other people, but it turned out great. I need to give credit to Daniel who made some excellent mashed potatoes. Our secret ingredient: The crème fraiche I made the night before. I found that I could use plain yogurt instead of buttermilk to make the crème fraiche and I was very pleased with the outcome. It gave the potatoes a very good creamy flavor and texture. I also added some sugar to the crème fraiche to make my little sauce to go over the fruit. It really brought the flavor of the fruit out. Anyway, Daniel combined the perfect combination of creme fraiche, butter, milk and salt and pepper to make the most heavenly mashed potatoes we have ever had. Seriously. It was so fun to share a meal with Megumi and Joo Young. They were so kind to bring us some gifts. They got us a beautiful Monet 2008 calendar and Megumi gave me a really pretty cloth to drape over my table from Japan. She also made a beautiful little apple pie. The funnest thing was how excited they both got over the mashed potatoes. The last time either of them had mashed potatoes was when they were in Canada. They must of thought they were good cause they had 2-3 helpings of the potatoes and everything else! It was also fun to see them try pumpkin pie for the first time. I think it was a big hit. Good company and good food…what more could you ask for on Thanksgiving! I was also pretty proud of us. Minus the mashed potatoes and the pie, we had a pretty light and healthy Thanksgiving. None of that stuff yourself silly and then sleep thing.

Since we can’t get our Thanksgiving pictures to download on our computer (taken by Megumi), here is a comic that I thought was pretty funny.

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Being a foreigner here in Korea is nothing like I have ever experienced before, especially since I come from the USA where it is common place to see many people from different racial backgrounds. I get a mixture of reactions when I go walking down the streets here in Seoul. Some people think that I am just another Korean person so they begin speaking to me in Korean. Most, however, know that I am a foreigner and proceed to stare. Young children whisper to their moms “look at the foreigner” and junior high and high school students use the opportunity to practice their English (after a lot of embarrassing giggles).  As you can imagine, a simple walk to the grocery store can sometimes feel a little alienating. On my good days, I feel like a celebrity, on the bad….well. So, you can imagine that if I get this kind of treatment, what must Daniel be going through? No one confuses him as Korean…they mostly just stare, whisper, or embarrassingly ask him if he speaks in English.

One day, after Daniel’s Korean class at Seoul National University, a fellow foreigner approached him and asked him if he would like to be in some pictures that the University was taking. They promised him pizza……so how could he refuse. They took a number of shots in different locations, asking the participating students to act like they were studying or listening to an interesting lecture. And that was that. They told Daniel that these pictures might appear online or on some publication in the future. Well, here it is. Daniel is an official celebrity. A poster child for Seoul National University’s “diverse” student body (1).

Here is the link to the site where the picture is: click here. When you access the site you will see a large picture on the right hand side of the screen. Keep watching the picture, it changes between four different photos. Daniel’s in one of them…can you find him?

One of the girls who was at the photoshoot with Daniel sent him some of the photos that were taken that day.

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Not only did Daniel get free pizza, but he met a friend there as well. They have met a few times to play basketball and have lunch. He is in some of the pics above. Look for a Korean guy in a green shirt.

I wrote “diverse” in quotations because Seoul National’s student body is basically 99% Korean. But in most of their ads (like many of the ads here in Seoul), they feature at least one or two foreigners.

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One of the things I always admired about Korean society, and that of other Asian societies as well, is the necessity to respect your elders. The elderly seem to be well taken care of, especially by family members. This phenomenon stems from old Confucian ideals and is deeply entrenched in Korean society today. The elderly are seen as wise and are treated with respect…as they should be. However, I think some of this has created an unseen outcome in Korea’s elderly today. I think this effects mostly the older women and I should just note that this doesn’t mean everyone, just most of them. At its most innocent, I have older women giving me advice on how to care for Maya. How I should have covered her up more, or how our stroller isn’t good for her posture. Talking with my mom about this, I found out that it stems mostly from a feeling of responsibility towards the younger generation. This I don’t mind at all. However, at its most vicious, I have experienced older ajummas pushing me aside on the subways or cutting in front of me in lines (and I am not talking about just an innocent bump or a simple slip in). They literally push you or your belongings aside to get by or get in somewhere first. Here was an incident that happened to me about a week ago as I was heading to work. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I use the subway station’s elevators because I have Maya in a stroller along with a bag full of lesson materials for my Day Care center job. I rounded the corner to head up to the elevator on the ground level. As I looked ahead of me I noticed  the elevator door was still open (they take forever to close…I think to give enough time for the handicapped and old) with a few older ladies inside. There was an extremely old woman walking ahead of me with a cane. So I sped up my pace to catch this elevator. As I got there, the lady with the cane had just gotten in and was standing there. I hesitated and decided that I could just wait for the next elevator since this one looked a little full. As I was standing there, one of the ladies in the back motioned for me to come in since there was enough room. Taking her heed, I began to push Maya forward when WHACK! the little old lady with the cane slammed her cane to the ground and growled a resounding NO! NO ROOM. I stopped in my tracks and the elevator door closed in front of me. 

Having quite a few of these experiences so far in Seoul has led me to be a tad bit weary whenever I see a pack of ajummas coming down the street.

I really had to put this song up! Thanks to one of my adult students, this is my new favorite song. I want you all to see the music video because it is really cute and I love the dancing. The song’s title means love is delicious, and it’s about love and it being a gift to the world. I think you will all like it.

ok…so there were some technical difficulties so I am just going to provide a link to the music video. Click Here.

Hey, sorry it has taken us so long to post. A lot of things have happened and it seems it will be a bit overwhelming to catch up. Ahh, such is a blogger’s life, I guess.

Well, a few weeks ago we headed down to the Han river to listen to the 2007 Seoul Drum Festival. It was quite an adventure to wander throughout an unfamiliar part of Seoul and to join hundreds of other interested spectators enjoying drinks and the awesome rhythms of the different performers. The three day festival featured drum performers from different countries like the US, England, China, Japan, Korea, and others. Here is some of what we heard: (the first performers are a Korean group, the second, a group from China)

There was a good mixture of traditional performances and more modern rhythms. It was an awesome experience.

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