Friday, September 24, 2010

I love Thanksgiving, no matter what continent I am calling home

Here we are in a photo with the president of the University (in orange), the head chaplain (the farthest in the back), two of our classmates in language class, and other very important figures at the Chuseok dinner.

And this was my plate at the Chuseok dinner. Points of interest: noodle soup, dumpling, mussle, sushi, shrimp, one American frenchfry, a spam sandwich, ttoek and sausage, rice, and many many delicious desserts. The most famous Chuseok food is sampyeon, rice cakes with sweet fillings. The big white thing on the left of my dessert bowl is sampyeon.

We had class on Monday this week, and the university Chuseok dinner was also that night. Then, we didn't have class for the rest of the week. So, the Americans explored. First we went to the National Cemetery, which can be compared to Arlington Cemetery. It was very picturesque, set majestically in-between tree-covered mountains and filled with monuments and gardens. Below are several pictures. The cemetery was being used by many families because it is the tradition at Chuseok to pay respects to ancestors.
Becky, Katie and I in a bamboo garden on the cemetery grounds.
Beautifully kept graves.
The gateway and the memorial tower.
The red gate. (I did not make that name up)
Part of the beautiful grounds.

The next day, Wednesday, which was the actual holiday, Haejung and Simon had us over to their house for a Chuseok luncheon. Haejung taught us how to make chapchae, a delicious dish full of colorful veggies, marinated beef, and sweet potato starch noodles. Can't wait to prepare this dish for you when I come back to the States. In addition to the chapchae, we had a huge spread of food, and very delightful company.

That evening, Mike and Sue, also Americans, came over and we celebrated Chuseok in our own way. We heated up the leftovers from lunch, and Mike prepared some food that he had been given--some marinated beef and something that tasted kind of like a cheesy pancake. It was most pleasant.
Here are Mike and Sue at our American Chuseok dinner. The Japchae is the colorful dish in the tupperware.Notice the fancy China.

The next day, Mike, Sue, Katie, Becky and I set off for the Daejeon arboretum. We weren't exactly sure of the buses to take, but we didn't let a little detail like that stand in our way. An hour later, we got kicked off the bus as it reached the end of the line, and we were not at all at our intended destination. Oh well, it was a gorgeous day, and a rather lengthy walk was welcomed. We finally made it to the arboretum and toured around it briefly before promptly becoming lost again, asking directions from multiple people, and finally taking a taxi back to the university.

Here are some pictures from our walk:

Expo Bridge
Expo Park and Expo Tower (you'd better read up on what expo was held in Daejeon)
And once we finally found it, the arboretum really was nice! There were many families there enjoying the time off and the gorgeous weather.

Then Friday, Becky, Katie, and I once again had bus problems. We did a better job of equipping ourselves with route information, but after a lengthy walk (and run!) to the bus stop where we missed our bus, we got on the next one, got off at a stop that looked promising, then realized we had no idea where we were. Again, many people kindly pointed us in the "right" direction, but ultimately a lady who was going to the same place just walked us to our destination, which we would not have found on our own. But we did meet up with some great people to eat bulgogi, one of the best known Korean dishes consisting of beef and veggies. We walked around the Galleria which is an absolutely gigantic and super ritzy department store that has everything from a whole floor of restaurants (in addition to the food court) to a grocery store to a book store to a swimming pool.

Ok, so it was a very nice holiday and a welcomed break from classes, even if most of the time was spent wandering around lost or trying unsuccessfully to use the bus system. It really is a very comprehensive and useful bus system, we just need to figure it out.

Classes start up again on Monday, and Tuesday we start working at our community centers. This Sunday I led the youth group at University Church and gave a brief message "for young disciples" in church about overcoming communication problems. True to my passions, we played charades! Slated for this evening, McArdle makes her first appearance for the Hannam Church soccer team!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My life currently revolves around food (as if it doesn't normally)

A few nights ago we went out with representatives from a church that we will be working with to a fancy schmancy buffet downtown. This. Was. A. Buffet. There were so many stations with sooo many different kinds of food, made even more exotic by the fact that I couldn't read any of the labels. Sushi. Udon. Meats. Seafoods. Juices. Casseroles. Noodles. And oh the desserts!
The sushi station Some tasty but indistinguishable foods.
Us with Mr. Kim and Mr. Kim A smattering of the seafood selection

Last Tuesday we spoke at the English chapel at Hannam University (mentioned briefly in the last post). Students are required to attend two years of chapel, and once a week an English service is offered. We each spoke for a few minutes about why we decided to become a YAV. See some photos below.

On Saturday we went with Katie's children's center (Saeoom) on a bike ride. There were definitely some mishaps along the way, and we've all learned some valuable lessons in hydration and proper nutrition before a laborious ride in the heat of a summer day. But, it was fun, and we all arrived more or less safe and sound. It was great to hang out with some wonderful Hannam YAVs who accompanied us, and the center was very gracious about letting us join their ride.

Here we are heading back to the center. I am shown here with three Hannam YAVs.

After the bike ride, we rode the bus back to the campus area, and Katie and I joined our new Hannam friends for a very tasty meal. Then, we came across this hip-hop/break dancing competition that was taking place in the quad area in front of the library. There were some very talented individuals, but I was definitely not expecting to find this random glimpse of culture on the walk back from dinner.

Finally, today we had food delivered to us for the first time. We had the youth group over to our house after church to play some games and get to know each other. We ordered "Chinese" food, which was delivered to our door by a man on a scooter. The delivery man brought the food into the house (being mindful to take off his shoes), unloaded the food from the containers that were keeping it hot, and arranged it on the table. We got chajang myun (blackbean paste over noodles and vegetables), sweet and sour chicken, and mandu (fried dumplings). Plus the condiments like radish and kimchi, plus these sinful little doughnuts filled with red bean paste. The most amazing part was that the dishes were served in real (not plastic) bowls and plates. At the end of the meal, we set the dirty dishes outside the house and the delivery man came back to pick them up and take them back to the restaurant! All this and there is no tipping in Korea. I don't see why anyone would need to leave the house.
All the hot food delivered right to our table! Seunghi-Eunni and myself with the Chajang Myun.

For dinner we ate naeng myun (cold buckwheat noodles in broth) and steamed vegetable mandu. Unfortunately, no pictures were taken of this meal, but it was delicious. I promise, I do more than eat (for instance, I know attend a Korean language tutor in addition to the 4 hours of language class each day), but I am still so enamored with all of the food offerings! Expect more food blogs to follow, as this upcoming week is Chusok, the Korean Thanksgiving, and we will be taking part in both eating and preparing some traditional Chusok foods!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It is difficult for me to think of titles for blog posts

One free afternoon, Becky, Katie and I taxied to Daejeon station where we found some crazy busy commercial streets, a giant underground mall, and a great market right next to the station.

A street in downtown Daejeon.
Here is a view of downtown Daejeon. There are two downtowns, and I think this is the older one.
Took this photo for Brandon. I found it for sale in this giant underground mall that was pretty overwhelming--so much merchandise and beautiful people.
This is the huge outdoor market around the train station. This is more like my kind of shopping! The food chain, laid out in front of you.

Over the weekend Simon and Haejung took us to JeonJu, a city about an hour and a half from Daejeon. Here we are standing before a very old Presbyterian church that segregated men and women into separate seating areas.

Here we are visiting the museum for the Presbyterian Medical Mission, dubbed Jesus Hospital, that has been providing medical service for over a hundred years and represented some of the first Western interaction into Korea.

Then we saw JeonJu Hanok village for some traditional architecture and traditional crafts. The area is well-known for its history of paper crafting, and there was some pretty awesome paper work, as well as textiles and pottery. Also, bibimbap is a famous dish from JeonJu, so we happily sampled.

Me playing a traditional Korean game (and dominating, obviously). Thanks, Katie, for the picture.
I like this juxtaposition of old and new architecture.

Yesterday we worked out our work schedules for the first few weeks, and I am very excited about where I will be working! I will be primarily at the Samna Center working with foreign migrant families. This includes everything from working with kids to playing soccer to doing arts and crafts with migrant women to having English conversation with adult migrants. Time will tell what I actually find myself doing and how I try to add to the thorough mission of the Center, but for now I am anxious to get into the trenches. I will also be teaching English at a church on Saturdays. All three of us will be quite busy, since we will be continuing language classes.

The weather has turned beautiful and hot. The food continues to be delicious and my taste buds are able to handle more spice little by little. We successfully spoke at an English-language chapel for roughly 2,000 students (successful meaning we did it, though what was understood by our audience is yet to be determined). We have much homework for classes, but we are now proud owners of our very own bus passes. Finally, we are continuing to be welcomed by a great community here and remain thankful for the help from our program directors.

The picture below sort of summarizes my time here so far, a state of happy confusion.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A few tidbits

1. Prices here are incomprehensible to me. I can get a haircut for under $5. I can join a gym for a month for the same price. I can get a huge amount of food for under $3. But then a frozen yogurt will cost $3.50. True that was in a different part of town. Still, though, some prices seem quite different than prices in the United States.
2. It so super hot and humid here. The Korean women look beautiful and well-kept. I look hot and sweaty and my hair is frizzy. Going along with that, there are mosquitoes everywhere. Bug bites are rampant. Tonight they got Becky right in the middle of her forehead. And although we were suppose to have missed rainy season, we didn't. The hot humid rainy weather has usually given way to a beautiful fall by now, but not this year (stupid global warming). So we have been beset with much rain and cloudy skies. Carrying an umbrella is just going to get to be a part of life for a while. (I did purchase an umbrella for $5 and then today found the same one somewhere else for $3).
3. Went to a great market yesterday! (Thanks to Katie for the photos). It is a wholesale market, but in the afternoons, after the restaurants have been through, the vendors sell to individuals. Yes, this is within walking distance.

4. Korean language classes are...well,going on. I appreciate learning the language and I know it is essential, but I don't like sitting in a classroom. Still, after only 2 days I can read decently well (albeit very very slowly, and I don't know what anything means). 4 hours a day of sounding out consonants and vowels. There are about 6-7 sounds like I am pretty convinced are all the same sound. The difference has to do with how much air you let out or where your tongue is or something, but it is lost on me.
5. We're in the process of visiting our placement sites. I don't understand how it is all going to work out, but it sounds like we could potentially have a lot to do and a lot of options. Yesterday we visited the site that I am going to be working with primarily. I. Love. It. It is a community organization that works with families in poverty and particularly families of migrant workers. They have many many programs including food outreach, after-school programs for latch-key kids, programs for the elderly to maintain mental and physical health, help for the unemployed, workers rights and labor issues, counseling and support for migrants, women's programs, and even soccer activities. Most of their activities are after school, so I will go there in the afternoons and even some Sundays. See the pictures below.

Today we visited the site where Becky will be the primary contact. It is an adorable place that has a wonderful pastor running the show. They also do really neat cultural activities, so maybe Katie and I can join Becky on those days. Tomorrow we will see the place Simon and Haejung had in mind for Katie, and then over the next few days we will work out more of who will go where and when and why. Also today we visited a public library where we will go on Saturdays to work with families on English and some yet to be determined activities. Sounds like we are going to be working with many many people and will be potentially quite busy.
6. Still loving being on a campus. There is always so much going on, even though I don't understand what. Today I went for a walk and ended up at the stadium where a scrimmage was going on (the men's soccer team has their season opener on Thrusday) and hundreds of students and community members were playing on the track, playing basketball in numerous courts around the area, walking, chatting, and generally enjoying the beautiful night. What fun, even as a spectator.

Peace, Je-ni-pa (my name in Korean speak)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My immediate environs

Here are some snapshots of my surroundings. We live in the executive guest house (recently remodeled for visiting university dignitaries; given to us for the year for some reason) on the campus of Hannam University.

a. The outside of our house.

b. Half of the front yard.
c. My room. It is huge.

d. Kitchen.

e. Living room and dining room.

f. Laundry drying room.
Note: left out of the house tour are the other 2 bedrooms, the 2 bathrooms, the multimedia room, and the wash machine room.

g. The following photos are of spots around Hannam campus.
This structure is in the compound where we live.

This building is where we will have our Korean language classes!

Hannam track where I run. It is super packed at 6 am.