Monday, December 29, 2008

4. Trickery!

Created on December 21st, 2008.

Today I come to you from Incheon International Airport. Actually that's a lie.. I'm writing this entry in my notebook and then will copy it online once my suprise is over. I sit at the "Fresh Bar" Cafe over-looking the airfield silently chuckling to myself. It's amusing to think that everyone at home has no idea that I'll be on my way there just a few hours. That is, except for a few "Moles" (and I mean that in the best possible light) who are part of my plan.. Ok lets start from the start, shall we?

Almost two months ago I booked my flight back home for the duration of my three week holiday. Most of you think that my holidays begin at the end of February. I admit, I find lying to you extremely dispicable and I hate doing it, but once I see the look on your faces I'm hoping all will be forgiven. I've had to disuade Shym and Niki from coming to Korea, without revealing that I was coming home (by telling them it's way too busy to come now). I've also made a plan with my first Secret Keeper, code-named "MousMous" to come down to Sydney and then drive the open road up to Brisbane. The only other person who knows is Pixiefish. I wasn't planning on telling her either but Momma wanted to send stuff for me through her and it would look too sus if I said that I couldn't meet her. So I got the stuff Momma sent (Tea Leaves etc) and posted it to school on Friday. So over the two months my plan was formulated and perfected.

I almost feel like an evil genius revealing my plans to the good guys just before the exciting climax! So here's what will happen: I'll get to Sydney Airport around noon on the 21st, I'll catch a train to Parra Station and call Mousa who will come to pick me up and drop me at their house for some R&R. After eating Mousa's famous lamb that night, I will be refreshed and ready! On the 22nd I will visit as many people as I can in Sydney (with the use of Mousa's Echo) and the day will end with a long-awaited home-cooked meal at Uma Nani's house. Meanwhile I would have posted a decoy blog entry to make sure that no one gets a hint of me being any closer than 8000km's away. Muahahahaha!!! Posting some mundane stuff about food I cooked a week ago will be just what you'll need to get off my trail! I have a strong suspicion that those two sneaky devils who know me best - I am of course, talking of my brother's - are on my case! Hopefully the decoy fools them too. It's actually thanks to Chook that this plan might just work.. see whenever I'm uncertain of how to stop someone finding out, I just think "What would Chook do?" :D

So in just under four hours I'll be on my way to Hong Kong and then from there to Sydney! Once in Brissie MousMous will go in and suprise everyone on the pretense that she has some conference in Brissie in the New Year. At around the same time I'll call Shym's place (where the Christmas Dinner is) and say Merry Christmas to everyone from a "payphone in Yeongwol".. I'll talk about how freezing it is and how all the English teachers are doing a dinner with drinks. Then just as they all sit down for dinner I'll have MousMous prank me and leave the door unlocked.. so then all I do is walk in casually and say Merry Christmas, let's eat! (or something like that!) This will be the part where Shym and Chook and Niki all tell me how they knew I was coming all along! hahaha!

Then just as the night is coming to a close I bring out my red Santa sack full of goodies for everyone!! And now that my plan is revealed, here comes the part where someone foils it for me. Stay tuned to see if it happens or not!

..and the rest.. as they say; is the future!

Monday, December 22, 2008

3. As requested?

Sorry I've been taking so long posting these days.. but like I said, it is the Silly Season and one does get a little busy.. even here believe it or not! :D

So I went and I met Ritu (Pixiefish) at Incheon! It was truly great to see someone from home come here!! I only wish I could have shown her around and tried to have her feel the real Korea as I've leant it. We met at the Hyatt Lobby (where she was staying; yeah I know! I couldn't believe it either.. of all places the HYATT!!) at Nine pi-em. Then from there we talked a bit and decided to go for a walk to my apartment which just happened to be 3mins walk away.. It was a lot warmer and much more cosy than the Hyatt lobby where the staff stalk you and if you so much as look at them for a split-second they'll come right over and offer their services. Now you understand why I had to get out of there! Then we had enough of that and talked some more about life in Korea and how everyone is back home and any goss she had.. I juiced it all out of her and now I know everything about everyone muahahahaha!! So yeah we went to her room this time and on the way I bought a bottle of Soju and some dried Squid.. come on.. it's Korea! How can you say you've visited Korea and not have tried the Soju/Anju!? Basically some more time was spent on goss and it was really time (I thought) well spent! Just wanting to know about everyday life in Oz is really great over here.. but then she left and I felt more homesick than I had done in months! But now it's slowly passed and last night I made some Dhal which came out pretty good and helped calm the homesickness!

On another note.. the other day I made some samosa's.. and then yesterday I finished them off (as in cooked the frozen half cooked ones in the oven).. here's a picture of what it looks like! The Imli Chutney was a little runny so I've added some more thick imli to it (not as thick as some hey Taj?). It taste's pretty good now! Oh and I made some Dhal!! It turned out better than I had expected too! The Dhal and my beautifully shaped rice-cup of rice, which I call the leaning tower of Riza!

And here's the samosa.. or one of, which I had with my cha while watching Heroes Season Three Finale. I told you I couldn't do triangles! I need one of those Samosa Makers and have asked Pav to get me some when/if she comes here from India!

Not much else to report.. I didn't do much on the weekend! The time with Ritu was good but too short-lived!! I really should get a few more pictures of my kids at Gurae but for some reason they aren't as willing with the whole photo thing!
Ok that's all for now.. I'll try to keep the updates more regular now so they aren't so long as the last entry.. and yes I know I've said that before! Okbyeeeee

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2. Etiquette and Children.

I can't believe it's been ten days since I last posted an entry.. well like I said, welcome to the best time of the year, and they say that time flies when you’re having fun!! Actually, today marks four months in this country.. there’s so much I’ve learnt and seen and experienced, I just hope that I can help you experience a little of what I have here.

I know I’ve talked a bit about the teachers dinner’s that we all have around once a week. I’ve never shown you any photo’s but the other night I was adamant to take some just so I can post them up. The principle was not too happy with it, but I “convinced” him to be in the shot anyway. Maybe there’s something I should explain about that first.. see Koreans love to drink their favourite drink: Soju., Though they never like to “lose face”, so what happens is that there is a room for each group of people where they can go and have a good time without seeming like drunkards. Me, wanting to take a picture of the principle (one of the most respected men in our village) whilst he had been drinking is a form of losing face over here. I understand that it’s a part of their culture, but see it even affects children, and that’s the part I truly can’t understand.. ok more on that later. Here are some pictures from the other night.

On the left we have (going from closest to farthest): Mr Gwon (3rd grade), Ms Kim (Kindy), Mr Gwon (Admin team), Principle, Linda (the one who knows the most English). Then on the right in the same order is: who I call Hyong (older brother, part of the admin team & also the school bus driver), Mr Joo (grade one teacher, great guy), Mr Gwon (drinking his Soju, 6th grade teacher), Vice Principle, Mr Jong (2nd grade teacher in the light cardigan). Oh and even the teachers call each other Mr and Ms/Mrs over here, even in a social scenario.. so I’m now used to being called Mr Shiv (although I’m starting to change that around). Yes, we have four Mr Gwons, the other one is Linda’s husband sitting opposite her (he’s 4th grade teacher).
From the other side:

Lesson on Eating Etiquette.

Here in Korea they all eat from the one table, all the same dish, kept constantly warm or cooked on this round flat pan.. called a Bulpan. They sit on the floor and everyone picks from the Bulpan, whether it be a dry type of pork/beef/duck, or a semi-dry like the squid in spicy sauce, or even a stew like the chicken. Usually the dry dishes have a lot of fat coming off the meat so some Bulpans have a hole on the corner where all the fat can escape from. Sometimes there is also a second course when/if the first is finished. This is where they bring rice mixed with sesame oil, sesame seeds, seaweed, and a few others, and they place it onto the Bulpan and flatten it out.. a tasty second serving. If this is still not enough I’ve been there when they’ve ordered a complete other meal.. noodles or steaming soup with more rice. Then there’s those things in the little white dishes.. they are what they call “service” because they are complimentary side dishes. Each day there is a different selection of side dishes and the more you order the more side dishes you get (as a general rule).

Now the semantics of Soju drinking with peers.. this is such a huge section that I’ve decided that point form would be easiest.
~ First and foremost, you never ever pour your own drink.
~ Secondly, always keep a lookout on other people’s glasses to refill.
~ Third, when pouring, use both hands on the bottle or pour with your right hand and your left hand either touching the glass, your hand/arm or right-side ribcage area.
~ Fourth, when accepting always have the glass in your right hand and your left hand either touching the glass, your hand/arm or right-side ribcage area.
~ Fifth, pour the drinks of elders first. You do this in the following way..
~~~ Offer your glass (with both hands) to the elder in question; he will take it and then you pour him the drink (as described above). He will then finish his drink and offer it back to you and pour one for you too. I’ve discovered that this also works if you need a drink, you offer it to someone else and soon your glass is full again.. crafty devils aren’t they!
~ Sixth, if you ever offer your glass you must make sure its fit for the recipient to receive. You do this by pouring the remaining contents from the glass (even if it’s empty) and wiping the rim clean before offering it.
~ Seventh, never refuse an offer. If you’ve had enough offer the pourer some juice or water to pour for you instead of Soju.. they shouldn’t pour you another drink afterwards.
~ Eighth, you must look away from, or turn your head from the elders when drinking alcohol.. especially of you are a woman. I’ve deduced that it’s a sign of respect that you don’t drink openly in front of the elders. This also goes for smoking.. many teachers here refuse to smoke in the restaurant (which is a huge surprise), but will go away from the principle to smoke. The principle smokes wherever he pleases.. Actually the principle does whatever he please whenever he please wherever he pleases..

Notable exceptions to the rules:

~ People of great importance/age. They will accept and pour drinks with one hand and not even look at you while doing it if they wanted. Its fine and it’s what happens here. It happens with everything, if you say hello to one of them having a bad day then they may not even acknowledge you or just grunt in response. It was hard at first, because I thought I had done something wrong.. but then I found that they do it to all their subordinates.
~ If you refuse to drink you must have a good reason. Usually bring up your health and you can be excused from pour offers. I tried saying I’m pregnant once.. didn’t work unfortunately.
~ The final exception is friendship. If you are extremely close friends with the person you’re drinking with then all the above can be thrown out the window!

This is a collection of customs and rituals I’ve noticed and enquired about in this area over the past four months. I know that other areas also have slight variations to these conventions.

Ok, I’ll leave it there for tonight. I think I’ve just written an essay on drinking! I’m going to visit Ritu tomorrow and have taken two days off for it! I can’t wait!! A piece of home is coming here! Though she’ll only be here for one night. But it means I get four days off rather than the usual weekend.. oh and then next week I get Christmas off too!

If you’re not a food person, and couldn’t give two hoots about eating and drinking etiquette, here are some pictures of the children.. all from Nokjeon today!
Grade Six at my second school, Nokjeon:

I found HyeJin's hoodie quite funny!
All kids drink milk, I also have some with them. In fact I think I may be addicted to it here! Its great!!! But the think that freaks me out a little is that it can be kept out of the fridge all day and it's still fine to drink!
Mr Shin and fifth grade at Nokjeon..
Grade One (left) and Two (right), also in Nokjeon..
This little dumbo was so happy when he saw he'd cut out a square!
Remember I told you a while ago that a girl started crying because she didn't know the alphabet and then held my hand and wouldn't let go for the rest of the lesson? Well this is her..

Sunday, December 7, 2008

1. 'Tis the Season!

Welcome to my favourite month of the year!!

On Thursday I decided to make myself a pizza with using some of the Roast Chicken that was left over from the other night. I made the pizza and was content.. but then I still had the flour out and there were a lot of things covered all in flour so I decided to make some Samosa’s! My Momma used to make them and then only less than half fry them and chuck them in the freezer, so whenever we wanted to eat all we had to do is microwave them and then chuck them in the oven or deep fryer. So they turned out ok, but you’d be surprised how bad I am at trying to make them into triangles! Here’s the mess, but I didn’t take any pictures of the finished product.. I swear I did, but they aren’t in my camera so I must’ve deleted them.

On Friday night I was invited to Sarah’s place for a little dinner party. There I met Jackie (from Hawaii), Nomsa (from South Africa), Loretta (from somewhere in the US), and I already knew Greg (Aussie), Mark (from all over), and of course Sarah (the ESL Coordinator, also from the US). We had five courses believe it or not. First up were some mussels that Sarah had steamed. Then came Pumpkin Mash from Loretta, after that we had the main course of Fish Curry that had Sarah also bought which we co-cooked served on a bed of Sweet Potato Mash (from Jackie). Sarah basically told me what she wanted, and what to put in, and how to cook it, and I cooked it. So it was basically her dish.. either way it turned out great! Then there was the warm Spinach, Pinenut and Feta (yes she actually found some decent feta!!) Salad! Finally I took over some Halwa for dessert. By the end of the night (and after 4 bottles of wine) the term Shivfished was created.. so now if I’m ever cooking anything that they’ll eat, they wont be eating my food; they’ll be getting Shivfished. Oh how I tried to make them forget it.. but the phrase stuck. :

After that (around 11pm) I met up with Steve (from UK), Kurt (Aussie), Blake and two other guys who I also met for the first time and forgot their names. We went to the karaoke room and sung out hearts out.. then I went back with Steve to his place and went to sleep on the couch. That was until my phone rang at 7:30 in the morning (an alarm I had set for LAST week!), and I couldn’t get to sleep again.. I decided to leave Steve a note and go and see what was happening in Seoul. At least the two and half hour bus trip would let me catch up on some sleep. I was at the bus terminal waiting for the 10am bus and who should rock up but Daphne, she was catching the same bus. So off we went to Seoul, and then we met up with a friend of hers (whose name I’ve also forgotten) she was really cool though and lives in Sokcho which is about 2hours from where I live but in the exact opposite direction of Seoul. I spent most of the day with them and went to see “New York in Korea”, a place called Myeong-dong. From there I decided to go and check out Seoul Tower, which was really beautiful! After spending a good amount of time there and having a nice Chai Latte, I decided to head over to Itaewon and see if there were any rooms left in my dingy little motel I stay at. Luckily for me there was! So I paid my $20 for the night and went to explore Itaewon a bit more before meeting up a Mexican Place called Amigo’s with Daphne, her friend, and Lila (whose name I remember because I have her number in my phone), and also a tall guy from Norway.. or Sweden. We ate good food and drank some beer. I thought about going back to the Tower (since I had a pass till 11pm) but then half way to the bus stop I decided against it. I went to do some shopping and found Wet Tamarind, Dhal, and Chilli Powder!! Then I went to bed.

I woke up in the morning all warm and toasty.. I had a look out of my dark room window to see it was white everywhere! The best part though was that the snow was still falling.. so off I went as quick as I could to get into it! I needed a snow jacket, which set me back $100, but it’s a genuine Sean John and it makes me look like an overstuffed Teletubby. After this I went on my way, through three trains and got to my secret Gloria! For the first time in Korea I think they made me the perfect coffee! It that, or my taste is changing and I’ve forgotten what it tastes like in Oz. But I got there and the girl knew my order!! I couldn’t believe it; the last time I was there must’ve been a month ago! So I sat and watched the snow fall from the warmth inside. Finally I began the four hour journey back home.

Oh I was so impressed with the coffee that I asked her to write it in Korean for me and I bought a mug. It’s one of the best mugs I’ve had.. which means.. its HUGE!! :D

PS: Sorry about the lack of picture, but I didn’t know where I was going to sleep during the weekend so I couldn’t justify bringing my camera.. which now I regret a little.

Reminder to myself for years down the track: When I visit Hawaii, be sure to try some Loco-moco.