March 18, 2011 11 Comments
Alright. You all have been waiting patiently. And now that I have the internet and some free time to myself I think I can show you guys a little bit about my everyday life. I don’t feel like writing too much so this post will be mostly pictures with only a little writing and description between them.
Alright. You guys seemed to be really interested in bathroom culture here in Korea. That bit about throwing away toilette paper really struck a nerve. Well then have a look at this.
Yes that is a Korean Toilette. Not a urinal…a toilette. Korea has gotten a little more advanced and proper sitting toilettes outnumber these guys but this is a picture directly from the faculty bathroom at the school where I work. (I checked the student’s boys and girls bathroom…this is all they have). The idea is you squat over it and let your business fall into the bowl. Wipe, toss it in the plastic bin and flush.
If we’re starting on the topic of my school. Lets just say my school is not a dump, but its not very…lets say prestigious or privately funded. But it has some nice spots. Here are some random photos I took around the school while it was empty.
You’ll notice that the school uses sliding doors in the picture below. Took a minute to get used to.
This is a communal water fountain. All the kids drink out of the provided cups dangling from the chains. I can only assume this means sicknesses spread pretty fast in the school…it might also explain why I have a cold right now.
This is the courtyard (sorry if the picture is bad I took it through a dirty window). Its really nice but I never see kids on it. probably because its really too cold to play outside. It’s still freezing here.
I must point out that there is a harsh contrast between normal classes and English classes. Just one look at the classrooms and you can see the state is really pushing English fluency in Korea.
This is a regular classroom. This is where the students spend most of there time. From homeroom to math and all the subjects in between. There are about two four story buildings at the school with classes that have pretty much the same exact lay out. The desks are old and pretty beat up and you’re lucky if there’s a projector or working computer. The school doesn’t have central heating which makes it REALLY cold. Sometimes the rooms have their own heating… sometimes they don’t and the kids freeze.
This above is an image of my class. There are two heating units. That black screen in the middle of the classroom is an electronic smart board connected to a computer that is touch sensitive. The desks are brand new, the room is decorated with posters giving information about English speaking countries. On the far left side of the classroom there are five clocks giving the local time in Seoul and the major English speaking countries. On either side of the classroom there are 3 computers built right into the walls that I never ever use. I literally feel bad every-time I walk past the other classrooms to get here.
One last thing while we talk about my school.
I know that picture is a little blurry but it is a student pushing a mop (I wanted to take the picture fast before she caught me and got embarrassed). Our school has no janitors, because the kids clean it. Everyday around 3:30 when the school lets out the kids come into the main office and sweep. They’re very happy to do it though, it gives them an excuse to talk to Simon and I. Tomorrow is open class day so the parents can come in and watch the teachers. They ended class two hours early so the students could clean the school from top to bottom.
Now onto food…Ironically the best place to get food is at the school. I really am envious of this diet. I think if I had it as a child I’d be loads healthier today maybe even taller and more muscular (save for a slight absence of protein.)
A typical school lunch ALWAYS consists of four main course items, rice and soup. In the top left we have Dol-Sot its a thick rice noodle cooked in a spicy tomatoe basil sauce with vegetables. Next to that…I’m not sure what the name is but its rice wrapped in seaweed, battered and flash fried. Next to that is a pineapple wedge. Next to that is Kkak doo gi or radish Kimchi (there is ALWAYS some form of kimchi. The regular leafy kind is more common, but you’ll see this every now and then. btw I’ve learned to love this stuff…its amazing.) In the Bottom left bowl theres some seasoned rice with bean sprouts and next to that a boiled egg soup with leeks and onions. It was a good meal…but my Co-Teacher was complaining. Believe it or not we actually got screwed over with this meal, because the pineapple took up a slot where we usually get something fancier like a vegetable and seafood salad or cherry tomatoes (everyone here goes CRAZY over Cherry tomatoes.)
Since lunch at the school is my best meal I usually have to scrounge around for my dinner and that can be whatever I have in my fridge to fix or whatever picture I can point to in a picture menu. But I’m starting to get used to it.
The other day I got some take out pizza. I know this great place that will give you two medium sized pizzas for about 10,000 won (less than $10 american) and these things are good.
I suppose you could call this just a simple cheese and pepperoni pizza, but there’s something special about it. Those criss crossing yellow lines are sweet potatoes. They really add something sweet to the crust but there’s just enough that it’s not overpowering. I should also point out that pizzas come with a complementary cup of pickles. I never open them…but I just wanted you guys to know.
This one was interesting it was shrimp and vegetables. Of these vegetables there is your standard colored peppers and onions but also corn. Don’t ask me why. Also it should be noted that if you ever get anything with Shirp in Korea and you are not aware that shrimp come with heads, guts and a shell…you’ll find out in Korea. They never ever clean shrimp here, and the things are so tiny there is no point. I’ve gotten tired of trying to remove the shell. I just take the head off and pop the whole thing in my mouth now. Everyone else seems to…well they eat the heads too..but I’m not quite there yet…
Like I said earlier. I was feeling a bit under the weather so today i decided I was going to get something soup based. There are more than enough noodle places around me. But as you can imagine it’s hard going someplace in Korea if you’re by yourself and you can’t speak the language. But I was lucky today the waitress pulled out a picture menu with English descriptions.
She brought me a seafood noodle dish with muscles, a half a boiled egg, shrimp, squid and octopus in it. Eating soup in Korea is a little different from the states. Most of the stuff in the soup are pretty large, they just happen to make a nice broth. So you have to pick out the large food with chopsticks and scoop up the broth with a rounded spoon. The chopsticks here take practice because as you can see they’re metal. They’re much heavier than those cruddy wooden ones we get back in the states. Also the broth was pretty hot because I didn’t notice it but there were some jalapeños slipped into the broth. If you look in the other two dishes you’ll see Kimchi (served with nearly every meal) and pickles. The pickles aren’t really sour like ours back at home…they’re actually kinda sweet.
After I ate something hot I was feeling a lot better…and I decided to go for one of my guilty pleasures. European cafe’s or European copycat cafes are really popular here. Coffie (or Copi) is pretty heavilly consumed…however waffles have become the luxury treat in these cafes. Don’t exactly ask me why but the picture above is an expresso waffle. It’s a whole nut belgian waffle with whipped cream on the side and a scoop of vanilla gellatto melting in cup of cold espresso. It was delicious.
I would never go to the places below but I just had to take pictures of them:
In case eating shrim with their heads still attached turns you off you can always go to Taco Bell, Cold Stone Ice Creamery, and Burger King. There was even a McDonalds and a KFC but I didn’t have my camera with me when I passed them. I don’t really understand why some people would travel thousands of miles to buy stuff they could have gotten back at home. But I don’t know maybe sometime in the course of a year I’d spring for a cheeseburger.
The only downside of getting fast food in Korea is that you’ll be paying top dollar for it when cheaper stuff is to be had anywhere else. The cheapeast meal I found at that Burger King was about 8,000 Won (a little less than $8). Compare that to this.
No it’s not the biggest meal in the world but it was acutally pretty filling and at about 2,500 Won (less than $2.50) I would take this anyday of the week. This stuff is called Gimbap. It’s like the Korean version of sushi rolls. It’s just seaweed and rice rolled around some vegetables and maybe some fish or meat. It’s not bad at all.
Some of my favorite food in the city comes from the street vendors. They are gods of everything golden and crispy. I wish I had taken more pictures of the vendors. In some places they line the streets with hot carts filled with everything from noodles, to full street fare dishes. There’s nothing like stopping at one to grab a quick bite with your friends before heading to a new place to start the party all over again.
This stuff is called Bungeoppang. It’s in the shape of a fish but I promise you it has nothing to do with them. It’s nothing more than a fried pastry filled with sweet bean paste. They usually sell them in bags of five or more and I stopped from munching long enough to take a photo of this one. Sweet bean paste is really common around here and if you name a pastry chances are it has some sweet bean paste in it.
Alright…enough about food…wow…I just now realize that was most of my pictures. Forgive me family and friends. But I do still have a few more to show off and more that I’ll save for later when I don’t have school so early in the morning with my bedtime rapidly approaching.
Just so you guys know…this is a typical market street in Korea. Everything is starved for space and every shopkeeper tries aggressively to get your attention. I just wanted you guys to know, that this is what I ment when I said the good streets are back alleys. Just imagine this corner at night. It would look pretty scary…but there are some great shops back there and a road that intersects with it where all the super expensive dining places are. In Korea you never really know, so you just kinda need to be willing to explore. Also…watch out for scooters. I want you to realize something…that guy on the left drove his scooter down that narrow crowded alley. ..and from there he jumped the sidewalk and drove on the street.
Korea is a pretty crowded place, and even on the weekdays in a place as far removed from the downtown area as mine you’re not very likely to be alone even when late at night becomes early in the morning. But the center of the city on a weekend is a pretty hectic scene. If you’ve ever been on the Subway in D.C. I should tell you right now that those subway cars in the picture above roughly twice that size.
Well I’ll leave you with one more photo. This is actually one of my favorite drawings posted up in my school. It’s not my favorite because it’s a particularly good drawing (although it is). Its my favorite because its the most telling piece of artwork I’ve seen in the country since arriving here. It shows how the children are being molded and really how the nation feels as a whole.
I remember the other day the school did an air raid drill in the event that N.Korea began an attack but that didn’t say nearly as much as this picture which is hung for all to see near the main entrance of the building. I pass it every day on my way to class and it resonates the tensions between Korea and Japan. If you don’t know exactly what its referring to do some research on the relationship between the two countries and a small island named Takeshima.