Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just Another Thursday~~~

Playing Gummi bears trivia with my class of students being prepared for various English-ability contests (so pretty high level). In this, they are allowed to pick up to 8 gummi bears each. After they have all chosen, I tell them that to eat them they must tell me one thing for each coloured bear.

Green: your hero and why
White: tell a story/sing a song/tell a joke
Pink: a good memory
Red: something about yourself that not many people know
Yellow: a future dream you have for yourself
Orange: somewhere you want to travel to and why

Sung-Ho and Dae-Ho were immediately suspicious and only picked three or four, but the others (of course) took the full 8. Here are some of the funny results:

Ju-Song: "I went to Jeju and had a good time. It was very fun with good times. We went to Dragon Head Stone. It was very fun time because I ate a lot."
Gi-Hwan: "My hero is Gil-Hyeon (the boy that Gi-Hwan sits next to) because he is tall and very handsome and speaks good English."
Seung-Ho: "Three women have die and go to heaven and it is full of duck(s). St Peter says you must walk to the other side and not step on (the) duck. They walk but one woman steps on (a) duck. St Peter brings (an) ugly man and says you must to marry him! Two women keep walking but one steps on (a) duck. St Peter bring one more ugly man and says you must to marry him! The third woman walks across and there are lots of duck but she does not step on it. At the end, St Peter comes and brings a handsome man and says you must to marry him! She says to him why must I marry him? He says because he stepped on a duck."
Seo-Yeong: "As you know, I have a twitter account. I went online yesterday and talked to my friend in America. She asked me where I live and I said South Korea. She said O-M-G - that is OHMIGOD!!!!! for the rest of the conversation. (The end.)"
And of course the token cute student response from Yeong-Seo: "My hero is Amy because she is kind and teaches us English well." (Cue massive "RAHHHH!".)

And happy birthday to Dad! As he said "Next year I'll be 21 again for the 3rd time!"

**I just realised that I forgot the funniest story! Yeong-Seo again, with a pink gummi bear: "My good memory is yesterday. Because I took a shower with my father." O_O kahahahahaha~ ^^
I thought he might have meant at a mokyoktang/jjimjilbang but nope, he said it was at home, and it was good because his dad scrubbed his back for him. I was a nice teacher and didn't laugh but the others thought it was hilarious! Classic Yeong-Seo ^_^

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ㅊ_ㅊ z z z ~

Something funky for your face - I've seen a 35yo man wearing the lips one
Don't you think that Konglish emoticon looks sleepy? I do, which is incidentally how I'm feeling. Yes, I'm sick. Again. I got some awful 24 hour bug last Tuesday and almost fainted in class, but a visit to the doctor and lots of sleep (every free period, lunch, and as soon as I got home for the whole evening for the rest of the week) sorted me out. Until Saturday. Ok, so maybe it has something to do with the green beer I had on Friday (St Patty's day dontcha-know?) and then going out again in Hongdae on Saturday (although I didn't really drink any alcohol and barely made it to 1am) but I have a feeling it's more to do with the Yellow Dust. Apparently it was really bad on Saturday, so bad that a lot of people in Cheongju didn't even go outside. In my little absent-minded cocoon I didn't even notice! I thought the air was a bit dirty because of smog or something, but barely anyone in Seoul was wearing a facemask, which is the usual indicator, and it's a lot further north than Cheongju so you'd think it would be worse. Mind you, Koreans get pretty fanatical about the Yellow Dust - don't go outside, close and seal all windows and doors, if you have to go outside wash your face and hair when you get in and shake your clothes, etc. - and with good reason. For those of you unfamiliar with such a lovely sounding Spring phenomenon, the Yellow Dust is a potent mix of dirt, dust, sand, and largely industrial chemical waste blowing down from Siberia and Northern China, thanks to growing erosion, drought and deforestation. Because there are a lot of Easterlies in this area, it gets pretty bad around Beijing, North Korea and South Korea, and if there's a strong enough carrying wind apparently it can even make it as far as the West Coast in the USA. On bad days, it looks like yellow fog, and you can usually smell it if you go outside. This is an article about a bad bout of it last year in Beijing and another about the growing toxicity of it this year.

Anyway, so walking around in that all afternoon in Seoul certainly didn't help my cough and my throat looks red raw as a result. Luckily I always have my students to cheer me up :) Those of you on Facebook will have probably seen my post about the very smooth year 7 boy (1st grade, 13 yo) who tried out this gem of a pick-up line: "Teacher, I am very handsome guy! Let's have conversation... you know, me, you, we have secret meeting, so-gae-ting, ok? *waggles eyebrows at me Groucho Marx style*" to which I replied (trying not to laugh too much) "Ok, well if you want conversation you can come to my conversation class after school on Wednesdays." He looked very deflated and sadly told me "Oh after school because I must go to hagwon.Sorry." (So-gae-ting/소개팅 or 'meeting'/미팅 = date).

My other favourite this week was from two of my third year students in my Monday conversation class that gave me a nice start to the week. Because they don't have me for regular classes any more, apparently Monday is their favourite day of the week "because I can meet you!" This may or may not have had something to do with the candy I'd given them that lesson, but they are generally sweet girls so I am choosing to believe not :) 

And one more - as part of my first year conversation class students' placement test I asked them to tell me about a place they'd like to go and why. This was my favourite response (although I couldn't really mark it as correct):

Hello? Amy ^^
I'm Su Jung.
Nice to meet you.
I'm sorry... I don't study English very well... But I will be smart!!! looking for me!! HA! HA! HA!
Amy!! I like you very much!!^^
Goodbye~ :-)
Your student, Giyomi ♥ Su Jung.

Oh and my favourite - discussing 'frequency' and asking the 2nd graders (yr 8) for things they never do, as well as the usual "kill, smoke, drink alcohol", the fat kid (his name is 으뜸/U-Ddum - doesn't that even sound roly-poly??) shouted out "DIET!". Hahaha ^_^

Anyway, hope that brightens your day as much as it did mine. Jenkins out!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So I was reading The Grand Narrative, one of my favourite blogs on sexuality and gender in Korea from back in my Honours days, and the issue of male prostitution in Korea through 'host bars' came up. (By the way - is it just me or do all of the men on the sign for the Japanese bar at the bottom look like the same man or maybe two or three men at most with different hairstyles?) Now this is interesting, because as a foreigner in Korea who has some Korean-American friends with experience in Korean culture, I heard about 'booking clubs' fairly early on. Sorry to my Korean-American buddies by the way, but it's true! Maybe all of my Korean friends are too straight-laced, or think I am, but I've never heard anything about booking clubs from Koreans unless I've brought it up myself and directly asked them about it. A 'booking club' or 'night-u club' (as opposed to a plain club where you go to dance) is basically a place you go with the expectation of meeting someone. Don't get me wrong - this doesn't necessarily mean you and everyone you meet there are expecting sex (unless you are somewhere very seedy). You might just be out for a fun night of flirting and or dancing with your friends, and in places like Cheongju the 'night-u clubs' are actually pretty much the only places you can go to dance anyway because there is only one (very dodgy) dance club.

This is usually how it goes: you pay the entry fee and go in. You have to buy a table or a room and some drinks. If you are a woman and it's a fairly busy club, sometimes you don't have to pay the door fee, and you usually just get a table and a round of beer (the cheapest alcohol) because you wouldn't expect to be there for very long - only until you get 'booked'. If you are a man, you would usually buy a bottle of alcohol like whiskey or vodka, and some anju (안주 or 'bar food' that you are normally expected to buy when you buy alcohol anywhere you go). If you are there to really just have fun with your friends you'll probably get a room so that you can sing karaoke and don't have to scream over the house music to talk to your friends. This also means you'll probably get more girls or at least more attractive ones because that's how the waiters make tips - in booking clubs, you aren't supposed to find people yourself, you ask the waiters to do it for you. And this is probably what keeps booking clubs relatively un-dodgy - the fact that you don't have to take the plunge and make the first move yourself and that when the waiter brings a girl to your table, you know that they will talk to you, if only for as long as their drink lasts. It's also in the waiters' and clubs' interests not to let anything too crazy happen, as their reputations and jobs are at risk if it does. Which is not to say that they can't get damn pushy about it. Booking clubs are all about men meeting women so it's the waiter's job to find as many attractive girls as possible for the men to flirt with and if you're there it's assumed you want to flirt too, but for many it's a bit of a giggle, and still a bit daunting to be all by yourself so girls will usually go in packs - if a waiter grabs one girl, he's also usually grabbing her friends too because they'll have immediately gripped onto each other like a line of crabs. Once at the chosen table or in the room, it's etiquette that you stay for at least one drink. One of my friends told me that she once tried to leave immediately after being shoved into a room by herself, and the waiter held onto the doorknob on the other side and laughed at her trying to get out. Technically, you can say 'no' if a waiter tries to pull you off by yourself, but they can also pretend not to hear you, or take some dramatic and very sneaky measures - for example, when I went to my first booking club with about four other people, one of whom wasn't even 17, and a waiter tried to pull her off by herself, of course we all immediately said no. Seeing that it was a no-go, but not wanting to take all five of us, he pretended it was ok and then led us on a roundabout way to one of the rooms. On the way, as we walked through a hallway, another waiter with a large group of girls walked through us and as if by magic, a bunch of other waiters appeared and grabbed different people from our group and dragged us off in separate directions. Co-incidence? I think not. Luckily I grabbed someone else's hand so we were ok together, but it took us a while to find everyone else after we'd had our obligatory drink and politely excused ourselves.

Anyway, that's basically it. If you're an obvious foreigner (i.e. white or black) and not in Seoul, then you might have some trouble getting booked, as we found out a couple of weekends ago at Castle, one of the Cheongju night clubs. I actually broke the rules on that one since our waiters weren't too concerned about helping us out and went up to some guys myself and brought them back to our table to flirt with my lovely friend visiting from Busan (who'd never been to a night club before). But SOMEONE ELSE (you know who you are!) immediately stole the cutest one and then the other one clammed up when he found out my friend didn't speak Korean so my stint as pimp-waiter was a bit of a failure. But we got to dance (and I got to practice my Korean) so it was still good fun. Oh and one of my friends who was with us and is an English teacher at one of the universities here also ran into some of her students so it was probably good we didn't stay for more than a couple of hoursㅋㅋㅋ

Anyway, so booking clubs are interesting facets of Korean culture. Keep in mind that in Korea, although people are very casual about talking to strangers if they feel they have something in common (e.g. you often see ajummas chatting to each other like old friends about their children or problems with their health or what have you when they've only just met by sitting next to each other on the bus), but can be very shy about talking to their crush, which is why a lot of relationships start through mutual friends introducing people here. And back to the other interesting part - that is, the point of my post - which is the other side of booking clubs: host clubs. These are basically the same but the other way around, and for women to flirt with men. Judging from the tone of The Grand Narrative's article and this post by an American girl living in Korea who was curious and decided to check it out for herself, it doesn't seem like men go there of their own volition to flirt and have a laugh like women go to booking clubs. What does that tell you about men the world over? (Sorry to the nice men out there ^_^)

I think I'll stick to dog-cafes instead :p

****ADDENDUM: I asked a friend about host bars and she said that it's mostly hookers and hostesses who go there, i.e. women who have to spend all their time fawning over the men. I'm pretty sure the American girl living in Korea was neither of those things, so it's obviously not entirely them, but I guess it makes sense that the hard working ladies like being pampered too occasionally. She also said that there's a service where you can call someone to run to the grocery store for you and bring it to your house if you don't want to go outside or whatever, but again, it's mostly used by 'ladies of the evening' (but presumably also by day) that are trying not to interrupt business by making a 7-11 run for cigarettes and soju etc. And no, I don't know how she knows these things when she's spent the last 8 years living in Sydney.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekend = sleeeeeeeep

Since it's 3.20pm on a Friday afternoon, I am clearly not going to be getting any real work done in the next 70 minutes, so I'm going to amuse myself otherwise.

Random music video of the day: Muhan Dojeon (무한 도전, translated as 'Infinite/Infinity Challenge'), which is a comedy sketch kind of program where the six (sometimes seven) members are given different challenges, most of which they aren't well suited for, dancing to 'We No Speak Americano. I'm betting Lara will like Park Myeong-Su's hilarious 'Mexican' get-up, although if you're a follower it's also fun just seeing what Noh Hyeong-Cheol looks like with normal coloured hair instead of his usual bleached dye-job - this must have been made shortly before/after his wedding when his fiancee made him dye it for the photos. I'm holding out hope that one day I can find the DVDs of this show, even if they don't have English subs, because it's really funny stuff and it's quite good if you're studying Korean because they use lots of subtitles and little speech thingies so you can figure out what's going on if you can't understand just from listening.

Can't embed it unfortunately, but here's the url:

Ok, going to watch an episode of "Misfits" (which is also funny, mostly because Nathan is such an arse) and maybe have a cup of tea. Lovely.

So Long Orange Sneakers!

Thomas Orr's Middle School English 2, Chapter 1: So Long Orange Sneakers! part 1)
Publisher: Cheonjae Education (천재교육)

Content: frequency and food. Powerpoints, lesson plans and supporting worksheets.

part a) Lesson plans for the warm up and preliminary to the main frequency lesson (I have two co-teachers for 2nd Grade and am teaching writing with  Ms Kwon as well as listening and speaking but not for Ms Kim, and I already did the introductions game with class 2-3 so that's why there are three.)

part b) Lesson plan for frequency (Microsoft Word docx file) and the calendar template for the activity.

Yet to post part c) as I haven't quite finished the proper lesson plan for it yet.
Also, some powerpoints that I used to teach this chapter last year - haven't gotten around the editing them yet though so you might have to fix them up. L1 So Long Orange Sneakers! Warm Up and L1 So Long Orange Sneakers! Listen In + AB1. Hope this is useful to anyone looking for ideas!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Random thought

I love my black bondi cut JAG jeans. They're a size 8 which is really a size too small, but I can still squeeze my butt into them, as long as I'm not planning on eating too much. Which means that I may have to change outfits tonight before going for curry at Hungry Eyes in Chungdae with the girls... :D

Plans for the weekend include: giving banana bread a whirl thanks to my new toaster oven. Fran actually found me a rice-cooker recipe, but I quite like the sweet crispy edges you get with baked banana bread so that's probably a last resort. Other plans include sleeping, going to the gym before my crazy 14 hours of after school classes start next week, and going downtown to get some goodies for various people :) I may also have to go back to the cake shop (Nat I blame you as much as I ♥ you for putting me onto this addiction!) for some study weekend sustenance, and then while I'm there drop back in at Homeplus to ogle the hedgehogs again ^_^

They will also much less glamourously include knocking out at least 3 TESOL units (hopefully) and finishing revising my lesson plans for the next three weeks for the current chapter of the 1st and 2nd year English textbooks, which are, for the record, awful. I'm really hopeless with technology stuff but if I can figure it out I'm going to post lesson plans and ideas somewhere so that newbies to the Thomas Orr kitty cat books don't feel as aghast and perplexed as I did in the first few weeks trying to figure out what on earth to do with it. I do realise that it's only Thursday, but a little wishful thinking can't hurt. Copious amounts of milky tea will probably be needed.

Anyway, some funny stuff from my lovely students to see me (and hopefully) you through today. This week we have been deciding on some class rules, and the results have been quite telling on what sort of year to expect I think:

- Do not eat bad foods in class (apparently good foods are ok!)
- No bite to friends, even if they say bad things at you
- You should not chatting with friends
- No touch your friends especially their hair
- Do not bathroom in class
- Open your ears

- We don't smoke in class.
- No soju or beer or makkoli or whiskey.
- Don't touch friend's body
- Don't speak Ipod (I still have no idea what that was supposed to mean)
- No weapons
- We must wear clothes every time
- Don't leg screw ( =Don't cross your legs... I have no idea why this is meant to be bad)
- We must love Amy teacher and Ms Kwon all the time!

There were also quite a few about swearing. Although most of them phrased it as 'no bad language' or 'no bad words', there were a few that were more direct saying 'don't say <expletive>' or even 'don't f*** in class' who couldn't understand why I was trying not to laugh (they are also all single-sex classes so the boys in that class probably would have made a huge uproar if I had explained exactly what they were saying).

And haha we were talking about differences between Primary and Middle school students/student life, and I thought it was hilarious that one of them said "This year we have very much delicious lunches!" It's true, we have an awesome school nutritionist ^__^

And also, Neil and Geri, if you are reading this, I have some of your old students! I asked some first years about which school they'd been at and if they'd had you guys, and one of them piped up with "white hair Geri teacher!" Looks like you are fondly remembered :)

** Addendum: one of the boys came up to me later and shouted "YOU KNOW NIL?? WHERE IS NIL???" (apparently he does not have a dial for volume control) and it took me a while to figure out he was saying "Neil" and not talking about some new K-pop band.**

Oh and against all probability, class 2-8 is once again looking to be the worst behaved. *sigh*
But I've also been told that I'm going on the 2nd year excursion this year (to the same place as last time) and my 2nd year co-teacher has a homeroom class with some of my favourite girls from last year so I'm quite looking forward to it. Hopefully our VP doesn't come with us like last year though.

Anyway, that's about it for now. I'm going to try and stay offline as much as possible for the rest of today and tomorrow so that I can get through some work.  ♥'s to everyone though - if you're in Korea, get outside and enjoy the lovely sunshine!

*** So much for staying offline. I had to come back on to add these student gems from my last class todayMe: What are some differences between elementary school and middle school?
Gyeong-Cheon: Elementary school teachers are very nice, but middle school teachers are very scary.
Jin-Su: Middle school time is 5 minutes plus. Oh no! (Middle school classes are 5 minutes longer than in Elementary school).

Me: What are some things that you are lucky to have?
Sang-Hyeop: We are very lucky to have met Amy teacher!
Me: (laughing) Awww! Thankyou... but that probably remains to be seen.
Sang-Hyeop: ... what?
Yeong-Ho: No, we always lucky to see you! Because we see you only one time a week.

Haha, I couldn't figure out if Yeong-Ho meant that as a compliment or not so I just gave them class points and changed the topic ^_^ Class 1-4 (first year boys) were already my favourites because they actually talk, but I love them even more now that they can make me laugh. They are classic!***

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Welcome to the Korean school system...

I know it's pretty rare (and demanding) to write two posts in one day but this is a special occasion. Lots of people write or rant about how inefficient Korea is, especially the bureacracy - and there's a lot of bureacracy - so I'm not going to bother going into details about that. I'm just going to launch straight into a rant of my own.

First things first: as you may have gathered from an earlier post, things got a bit stressed last year with my old vice-principal, and all in all I was rather glad this year to find that a) he went to a new school and b) I'm no longer in the same office as the new one. I was also all happy that I only have 17 regular teaching hours, and 6 after school classes (I was expecting 8). Lesson of the day: DUHHHHHHHHHH! I should have touched wood. I should have thrown salt over my shoulder. I should have spent the entire week looking for black cats and dyeing them any other colour (purple or green for preference) and hunting down four leaf clovers. They say pride comes before a fall and although it's more like relief comes before a big kick in the pants, it's still much the case here. Because the new VP isn't just demanding.


So yes, the old VP was a bit pushy, and wanted the school to do well (they all do), but we got on pretty well and he was pretty nice to me on the whole. My new co-teacher Paige said he was really awful to her, and last night one of my new co-workers who is also new to the school said that he'd heard the old VP was comparable to Gaddafi, so I imagine that there were a few others who also had problems with him, but really, that wasn't my problem and why he was like that to them wasn't either. I evaluate people on my own impressions and interactions with them, both for good and bad, and although there were some bad moments between me and him, things could have been a lot worse.

Well now they are. This new guy is completely and utterly committed to results, no matter how they're achieved. Not only is he likely to piss off the entire staff with this attitude, he's also likely to wipe out his entire student body because they're going to have to spend so much time studying that they aren't going to have any to do little things like eat, sleep and bathe. Last year, the Principal signed our school up for a Mentoring Program (and the attendant funding) without consulting ANY of the teachers first, which is pretty much meant to compete with the hagwon ('Academy' or tutoring) system that kids are usually stuffed into straight after school and pretty much in any spare time they might have. A Korean middle school student has it comparatively easy compared to high school students, but can still expect to have to spend a good 2 or 3 hours a day having English, Math, Science, piano, baseball, violin, taekwondo, drawing or anything else you'd care to think of lessons after school which is 8.30 - 4.30. I have seen my students walking home at night at 9.30 in the evening. Our mentoring program was designed to provide the same thing from 7 - 9 pm, but only for subjects taught at school that kids needed extra help with, and be more accessible by being cheaper than the usual hagwon fees. Good idea, right? Wrong. Because the thing about hagwons is that even though they are usually afternoon/evening classes, the teachers still usually only work a regular day (for Korea) workshift. So who teaches our mentoring program? Yep, the teachers. Which means that most of them have a work day of between 9 - 12 hours, which they obviously love.
Hooray for someone signing everyone but themselves up for extra work!

Luckily there are plenty of teachers not working insane schedules already or at least want the money more than I do who are keen for some tutoring so I don't have to do it. Which is lucky because there are three classes this year rather than one.

So we get to my gripe and why I think my VP is psychotic. He has just informed me that I'm expected to run a four hour class from 6 - 10pm (hopefully only once a week) for students to practice everything from conversation to presentations to whatever. This was not a request. What the fudge. First of all, never mind me, but what kind of ...person.... thinks that that kind of thing is going to be productive for the kids?? They're only 15 at oldest, and even though yes, they're used to studying for long hours and working hard, do you really think that making them go to a class after even a regular school day for four hours is going to do anything? It's not even going to be in their native tongue, so all they are going to end up doing is either not attending after the first couple of weeks or falling asleep. Oh and how about "what about the teacher who's going to have to teach at least 9 hours of her 14 hour working day"??????? Although I live in a pretty safe area, I also don't particularly like the idea of walking home by myself at 10pm at night.

I'm slightly pissed off. This is the whole parents winter conversation class over again. I suggested that we at least run it as two two-hour classes instead of one huge chunk, but that didn't seem to go down very well. I really don't care about the money - I'd rather have the free time - so I'm hoping that the VP will let me find someone else to do it because he doesn't really seem to understand what "refusing point blank" means, probably because it doesn't really happen in Korea. I told him that if he wants me to do it, I'm not doing it until at least the 25th of March so I can at least finish my TESOL coursework first and that was tricky enough.

Something weird is also happening with our exam preparation class intended to help students prepare for English language contests like the Ban Ki Moon essay/speech contest. But hey, it's not like the students have a choice about entering this so I guess it's only fair that I get forced to do it too. The weirdness is that apparently the head English teacher (who isn't great at classroom management and handling students to begin with, or at least in my classes anyway) really wants the students to do well, so only the absolute top students are going to be allowed in the class, but nevertheless she's putting FIRST graders in as well as seconds. Which to me just sounds stupid since there is only one test for everyone who enters with no distinction for different ages/grades but there you go. Unfortunately, Yong-Seo, one of the students who's been vetted from entering the class was one of my favourites last year as apparently he only did well in his English speaking test and bombed the rest, and one of the girls, Yeong-Ji was vetted out too because she doesn't have the right attitude or something.

Anyway, I've also just been told that I'm doing two more conversation classes, this time in 8th and 9th period on the two afternoons I had free, and since I usually get here at 8am, it looks like I'll have a few 10 hour days. I'm hoping that this means that I don't have to do the ridiculous 4 hour thing but who knows. Apparently this is also different from the 2 hour conversation class I'll have that's 1st 2nd AND 3rd year on Mondays and poor Paige has about as much idea as I do why that has to be different from the 1st year and 2nd year classes and can't just be changed so that there are three separate conversation classes, one for each grade so I can use some sort of teaching aide like a textbook and don't have to make the whole damn thing up myself. But no. So a fair prediction for the mixed Monday class is that we'll be watching a lot of movies. (I teach all of these classes by myself without a co-teacher by the way).

*sigh* Poor kids. Some of them are going to be mighty sick of seeing me every single day every week by the end of the semester.

Living for the weekend

Haha, really, who isn't? This past one was particularly good, as a good friend, Nat, came up from Busan (where she is also teaching English at a particularly heinous-sounding girl's middle school) for a weekend in the country (virtually). Korea isn't a very big country, and the transport networks here are excellent, but since Cheongju doesn't merit a KTX (the Korean bullet train) station yet, it's still a good 3.5 hour ride to get here, not to mention the almost one hour commute from where Nat lives in Busan to the bus station and then another 40 minutes on the bus/25 minutes in a taxi to my place from the other end. So it's a bit of a trek all in all, and made me all the happier that she'd managed to squeeze in the trip up before she leaves us in 3 weeks time for snowy Canada. Seeing that there was all that travel involved to get here, what did we have planned I hear you ask? Well, pending good weather, originally we'd decided to do a mini-hike up and around Sangdang Fortress and be all sporty and outdoorsy like, but a chance remark by Nat about how she missed watching DVDs on a real TV screen instead of her computer made us think about how nice a relaxing day of cake, makkolli and DVDs might be... only if the weather was bad of course, because it'd be a waste of a nice day otherwise. Then I mentioned this cute cafe that does a kind of mix of foods in Cheongju, including their famous Carbonara Bread - literally, a full serving of Spaghetti Carbonara served inside a hollowed out bread roll the size of a damper. We amended our plans to see if we could fit that in AND still do the hiking. We decided we could. Then Nat brought up Missha's new vibrating mascara applicator - something that OBVIOUSLY had to be investigated! Ok, we could fit that in too. We stayed up gossiping and reading trashy girly mags for a few hours, and then hit the hay, full of good resolutions about the morrow.

Saturday dawned, bright and clear, sunny if not actually warm. Perfect outdoors weather really. We discussed what we wanted to do that day - hiking, eating, shopping, cake, dvds, makkolli. Yeah, we could fit that all in. We looked at each other. We looked outside. We thought about cake and shopping. So ... hiking? Hah.

Now, upon arriving, Nat had immediately sought out a Subway store (which apparently they don't have in Busan so score one much needed point for Cheongju!) and bought a sub, which she ate out of pure relish even though she wasn't that hungry. In retrospect, this was a sign of things to come, because as well intentioned as we started out, Saturday became The Day We Ate Too Much. In all fairness, we probably did burn quite a few calories walking around downtown Cheongju. To begin with, we found the mascara, but for 25 000 won and another 11 000 for the matching eyeliner, we decided that it was a novelty best left for someone with higher eyelash priorities than us. We also found some great, and I mean GREAT shirts. OK, so most of them had a pretty good crack at English, but somehow, I think they probably didn't bother getting a native speaker to proof-read them first. Or maybe they did :p

And of course, Nat and I had to buy some and do some couple-wear! But onto the food. So to start with, we wandered down to the traditional markets (the best one in Cheongju is called yukgori shijang) and since we were a little peckish and there was this great mandu (dumpling) store, of course we had to try them out.

Eating ddokgalbi
Unfortunately, since we couldn't decide between the giant steamed ones ('King Size') and fried, we got both, and since they were only sold in 3's and 5's respectively, that was a lot of mandu. Keeping in mind that the mandu store was called "Elephant Mandu" to begin with, you can probably guess that the King Sized steamed mandu were about the size of a nashi. Next, we strolled around and back down to the main shopping area, and I remembered that there was a great ddokgalbi stall that Nat simply had to try. Ddokgalbi is usually a kind of marinated mince meat patty, but this one was special because it was wrapped around a giant rice-cake and grilled, then covered in your choice of three sweet sticky sauces, savoury, spicy and 'bomb' flavour (폭탄맛). We went for a wander past the graffiti alley and over one of the bridges over the stream, and then dropped in by Homeplus on our way back downtown for some supplies - i.e. makkolli and chips.
After a good few hours of shopping, we finished it off by going by Bonjour chocolate and cake cafe, and after drooling over how good everything looked, settled on two slices of cake... each. Believe me, this was downsizing - earlier in the day when we weren't quite as full we'd originally agreed on three. However, then Nat saw the raspberry jam-filled cookies and tarts.... well, we put it this way: how often does she come to Cheongju? And it's not like there's a Bonjour cafe in Busan! We left with a slice of yoghurt cheesecake, fresh strawberry cake, black forest cake and a slice of blueberry cheesecake, as well as a strawberry tart, an almondine tart thing, a bunch of biscuits, and some extras that the guy serving us had thrown in for good measure since we were buying up half the shop. There was one more stop on our way home - Artbox, that mecca of everything cute and artsy! Although it's mostly stationary, Artbox has lots of great stuff, including clothing and accessories, some makeup (including Chupa-Chup lip glosses that look like lollipops) and little gadgets (like a Starbucks coffee-cup shaped humidifier) and, well, everything! It also has a pick'n'mix station.

This was what we'd foraged:

Well supplied, we settled down to watch the movie we'd picked. We had no idea what it was about, but we'd wanted something light-hearted and funny, so we figured that picking an animated movie from the children's section would be just right. Wrong. We'd picked up '9'. Five minutes into it, having seen two characters attacked by a weird scary robot that looked like a kind of cat-terminator in a dystopic post-apocalyptic landscape where one of them had just stuck a lamp on a pole into the eye socket of a baby-doll, we hastily turned it off and opted for the "First Wives Club" instead. (I later watched the rest of it and I'm glad we didn't watch the whole thing then because it was one of the saddest movies I've seen this year, which should be disallowed for animations. I actually cried at the end!)

Anyway, the rest of the day/evening was pretty routine. We stuffed ourselves on our goodies, and as bloated as we then were, it was entirely worth it :) Dinner was Mongolian lamb kebabs with some friends in Chungdae (one of the university areas in Cheongju) and then Nat's first time at a booking club, but I'm going to avoid writing another saga by fobbing it off as a post for another day. All in all, it was a great weekend, eating some great food with a great friend. Sod the calories! I ♥ you Nat! ^__^

Friday, March 4, 2011

MMMMMMmmmmmnom nom nom nom nom....

A week last Wednesday I went to the Hello Kitty cafe in Sinchon with Lara and JP. How to get there: take exit 3 of Sinchon Station and walk down a block towards Yonsei University, or alternatively exit 2 and walk out the underground passage way past Hyundai Department Store into the intersection. Turn right and walk until you see a Naughty Kitty (잘못돤 고양이) accessories store. Turn right again and walk a minute or two until you see the store. You won't be able to miss it, unless you are colourblind to the colour pink. This is their website:

First impressions? It. Was. SO. Pink. And awesomely cute :) I'm not usually one for the girly girl stuff, but it was so overwhelmingly adorable that I couldn't help but "ooh! look at that!" at everything. There were even waffles shaped like Hello Kitty's head! After a huge budaejjigae lunch ('Soldier's Stew') full of spam, sausages, baked beans, elbow macaroni, ramen, corn and mushrooms I couldn't fit one in (budaejjigae is basically junk food stew and probably wouldn't taste nearly as good if it weren't for all the ingredients packed full of msg and additives), but Lara managed to push through the fullness for cutsie and thoroughly enjoyed hers. Here are some pics of us enjoying our thoroughly Kitty afternoon tea (there are more on facebook).

Contrary to his expression, JP actually really wanted to go!

Quote of the afternoon: "I don't mean to be racist, but black Hello Kitty really doesn't look as good as a white one" (yes, that was me, with my usual grasp of finesse).
We decided that for whatever reason, Hello Kitty also doesn't look good in profile - her huge head probably sets her off balance too much.

In other news, there is a new animated children's movie out called 'Rango' featuring a chameleon, so at the moment I'm all about chameleons. Which is not to say that I've forsaken my ultimate goal of a pet hedgehog either! I'm still trying to decide if I can scruple buying one when I'm leaving in a year (they are classed as foreign vermin in australia apparently so I don't think the Quarantine Inspection people would be too happy if I tried to smuggle one in in my pocket or suitcase). But I'm not going to lie.. I kind of want to see the movie...oh come on! Johnny Depp voices the chameleon and there are mexican singing owls in it! Who would NOT want to see it???? I also thought that this picture of a chameleon was cute and would be a good way to say goodbye to the working week and hello to the weekend ^_^

Here's the trailer if you want to see it :D

Have a great weekend everyone! I'll be showing off the Ju to one of my Busan buddies Nat so I know that we will :)