Thursday, February 25, 2010

Such a Lovely Day!


How'd you get so gorgeous allasudden?  It's 59 degress outside in February.  That NEVER happens in Minnesota, and I'm not missing it at all at the moment.  I bounced into work today, watched Korean figure skater Kim Yeon A win the gold medal on my coworkers DMB (television capabilities on your cell phone), and wanted to talk about how awesome I felt about the weather and up-coming weekend. 

Vanessa: So, any plans for the long weekend?
Katie: -silence, while staring down at the ground-
Janice: -somber- No, nothing special.
Katie: -turning to me, looking like she decided to answer my question afterall- koreankoreankorean.
Janice: koreankoreankorean.
Katie: morekoreankoreankorean.

Thanks for sharing my enthusiasm, guys.  You're real pals on this gorgeous spring day.  Don't worry; I'll get over it you ignoring me.  I always do.  : /

After work, I'm going to take my kite out to Central Park in Pyeongchon, a huge open space in which I've seen young and old ones alike flyng their kites.  I wish I had someone to take pictures. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Apartment!

Last week Friday, I moved my entire apartment in a flurry of bedsheets, stacks of clothes on hangers, and shopping bags of dishes aflyin' in about an hour.  If my faithful readers recall, I lived in a jail-cell-sized one room apartment with a huge barricade over the window and no sunlight at any time of the day.  Now, I've moved across the hall and down two floors to an identical apartment, only this time with an east-facing window. The minute I opened the door to my new place and saw the glory of the sun pouring into my new home, I knew I had made the right choice to change.

The room sat an utter mess for an entire week: suitcases still brimming with odds and ends along with my disassembled bed, mattress bare and taking up the dead-center of the floor.  So finally, Saturday (yesterday), I took a weekend day off from meeting with friends for drinks, shopping, and dining to finally straighten it up.  The previous tenant left an ABSOLUTE mess.  Years of urine seemed to be baked into the tiles surrounding the toilet.  The floor had muddy foot prints on it.  Sweeping under the fridge, I felt like a detective of the occupants before me: I found (lots of dust,) several baby spoons, a package of baby wet wipes, cat food, a tiny photo album of a baby girl, along with a huge photo of a mom, dad, and the same baby in hanbok at what looked like a birthday celebration for the baby.  What I'm thinking is, You mean to tell me that a baby, a cat, and possibly another adult all lived in this same tiny space?  Wowza.

I literall spent the entire day cleaning, sorting, and rearranging.  I want to post pictures of how it is now to show what a difference getting rid of some of the furniture made.  I found out that in the little closet that holds my water heater and airconditioner, there's a ton more space to shove other things to get them out of the way.  I decided that setting up the bed with the side railings and headboard would just take up too much space, so I set the mattress on its platform and called it a day.  I moved my two huge pieces of luggage, side rails from the bed, my fan, and my coffee table into the closet and now I'm free, free, free.  I feel like I may want to have guests over now!  Getting sunlight and removing all that clutter has really made a difference in my mood.  Yesterday was the first day that I actually felt comfortable just staying at home, by myself.  A body needs that, you know. 

This weekend is Seollal, Korean Lunar New Year.  Many things were closed and the streets were pretty empty.  It's like Christmas in America: women make tons of food, spending the whole time with family, leaving the city to visit relatives, giving gifts of money to children and grand-children.  On Friday night, Ashley invited a bunch of my friends over to her place in Sanbon, where our friend, Gideon, made panang curry and we ate until we exploded.  There was wine, ddeok (a kind of semi-sweet glutinous rice cake, see pic below), strawberries; it was the best! 

Here are some more pics that Sean Han took of the event.

Purple wine teeth.  Gross.
The girl with the long blonde hair is Ashley, blonde hair worn up is Meredith, super-tall guy at the helm of the curry operation is Gideon--he just got a suit tailored for him in Itaewon because he simply cannot buy clothes anywhere else in Korea--and making a very small appearance from the back is Steve, from Stillwater, MN. 

Please leave your comments and questions in the comment box below or send me an email at 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mr. Lee x2

I met my three clients today for the first time near Beomgye station.  Like I said before, two older men, civil engineers, who said they need to improve their English skills so that they can make conversation with other foreigners when they have business trips in the United Arab Emeritus.  They were accompanied by a younger woman, with whom I met before to discuss the goals and conditions of the tutoring.  Her name is Chae Won, she's a shy, TINY thirty-something whose English is good enough for conversation with a patient listener, but needs some tuning on pronunciation and a few specific grammar issues. 

Chae Won greeted me at the elevator and brought me into a vacant conference room on the fifteenth floor of a bustling office building in "downtown" Beomgye, if that really exists due to it being dwarfed by neighboring Seoul.  A gigantic digital clock glared red in the elevator hallway, reminding people of how late they were to their 9 o'clock workday.  She brought me into a vacant conference room and slipped on a pair or slippers at the door.  Soon after, she came back with my two English beginners.  They wore matching nylon coats and looked like building contractors, the ones you see on TV at building sites wearing clean khakis, hard hat, and holding a few rolls of schematics. 

The suggestion from some teaching adult ESL internet sites was to ask them to choose English first names, both so they could learn English under  a guise if they had anxiety about their level and so I could remember their names more easily.  They wanted to keep their names.  The first one said he would go by Mr. Lee.  Easy enough.  The second one gave me his full name, of which, condensed to last name, was also Mr. Lee.  This made me a little nervous, but as class went on, it was just easier to address them as the same name and gesture to one or the other if I wanted them to speak individually.  Most of the material I prepared was too low of a level for them and I started getting nervous that they would call think I was underqualified and quit before we had even begun.  Not the case: I thought up some stuff on the fly and they were content repeating after me, taking notes and doing small role plays of, "What do you like to do? I like to golf," and the like.  I then asked them to repeat, "What is your favorite food?" and the older of the two Mr. Lee's asked me if I like soju.  I giggled, made a motion to my chest and said, "불" which means "fire." They both got a good laugh out of it, and I felt like I gained a little bit of respect because I took it well. 

After I ran out of material at 11--half an hour earlier than planned--they said they would go back to work,* and I was left with Chae Won for the last half hour.  We just shot the shit, as much as you can shoot the shit with a woman 17 years older than you who smiles and giggles as if she's half your age.  It was fun.  My second lesson is tomorrow, and after that we meet Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays every week.  If you would like to know more about how my tutoring is going, post a comment below or send me an email at 

*So I guess they take time out of their work day to meet with me and all "free dinners"--inquire within--they give me also come from their employer.  Pretty rad.  Sounds legit. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

English Tutoring

My week has been super busy.  I've recntly agreed to give three Korean business people some English tutoring--free of charge--three mornings a week for a while.  My first meeting with them is this morning and I spent a couple hours last night preparing.  Rigid gender lines between younger generations are beginning to soften, but tutees are two older men and and that may be little bit weird for me.  Since I've come to Korea, the only older man that I've met has been my doorman, Mr. Han, but he's one of the sweetest and most Westernized people I've met here (he was a KATUSA--Korean in assistance to the US Army--for two years and then a military cook for many years after, mingling with American soldiers and practicing his English for more than a decade in country).  So I hope we can all be respectful to each other.  :)

So tutoring this morning and tomorrow morning, and then on Thursday night, I need to finish getting my entire apartment packed and cleaned so my friend's Gideon and Diana can come and help me move early Friday morning.  Well, none of us work until around 2pm, so early for us means 9am.  I offered to buy them lunch after we finish--AND NOT A MINUTE SOONER!  hehe.  This weekend I need to go out and buy myself some apartment warming plants.  OH, AND! while I was moving stuff around, I found W100,000 that I had stashed a couple of months ago in a secret hiding spot!  Pretty cool, huh?  I'm probably just going to to use it to pay bills, but whatev's.  Kay wish me luck on my move!