29 January, 2006

On Hold

I'm sorry to say that my weekend hopes for updating my blog have been put on hold by a raging fever that has effected my ability to sit up for more than 45 seconds (which is already longer than I've been typing--hurry, hurry!). Maybe tomorrow.

27 January, 2006

A day at LCI

Since several of you have asked, here is my schedule for a typical day:

9:15-9:45 – Arrive at school
10:00-12:00 – Morning kinder starter class—mostly six and seven year olds with one eight year old and one girl who says she’s five but doesn’t look a day over two for a total of fifteen
12:00-1:00 – Lunch
1:00-2:00 – Afternoon activity of some sort with morning kinder class
2:10-3:20 – Preschool class—four kids from the kinder class plus one more boy
3:30-4:45 – Sometimes free time, sometimes conversation with Karas, Julian’s daughter
4:50-ish-6:10 – Advanced class with Karas, Chad, and Harry

The morning kinder class is a handful, but their class is supposed to be lots of fun and games and activities so it’s pretty easy. We read stories and color and sing and learn things like ‘What is your name?’ and ‘How old are you?’ and other basic English phrases and words. The preschool class is difficult because they are used to the fun and games of the morning class, but I actually want them to work. It’s my goal to teach them how to read. We’re breaking down the alphabet into sounds and slowly transferring those sounds into words. It’s slow going, but they’ll get it. I love having conversation with Karas. She gets to practice her English, and I get to learn about places to eat and shop or get a pedicure and my hair cut. She is distracted by Harry in the advanced class, so the one-on-one forces her to actually think about what she’s saying. Harry, 15, is brilliant. He has amazing comprehension, a large vocabulary, decent grammar skills, and an accent better than Julian’s. Chad struggles. I don’t know why I have him and Harry in a class together. With them, I talk about current events, movies, what they do during the day, and we also do a little grammar and read a story or article or essay of some kind. On Fridays I let them pick a game, usually Monopoly or Clue or Sorry or Uno.

Stay tuned for the acupuncture story and others.

24 January, 2006

Playground time

After art time, I took everyone out to play in the sun. The three rug-rats posing are Marcus and Kevin—always in cahoots—and Thomas in his plaid coat and cowboy boots.

Fred's Birthday

Esther took my class this morning for the first hour. Julian thought it would be good for me to observe her to see how she gets control. I didn’t find it very helpful as her way of getting control is speaking Korean. I would have found it much more insightful had she spoken only English as I have to. But onward I march!

It was Fred’s birthday which provided a very welcome break from class. We had a photo session with an elaborate pile of meticulously arranged treats. I think they were all props just for the photo, because we only ate the cake and the fruit.

The Long Weekend

I got up early and waited all morning Friday for the phone/ internet man to come. He was supposed to come between ten and eleven, but when Liz came over at three, I gave up, and we took a taxi down to the market. When I returned around five-thirty, I found his card stuck in the door. Grrrrrrrrr

My doorbell woke me out of a dead sleep at nine Saturday morning. Grrrrrrr
It was the phone/internet man. I stared at him with a glazed look on my face while he prattled on and gestured, and I finally just handed him my landlady’s phone number. She came down, and they got the phone worked out. He then started to leave, so when I brought up the internet, there was a big to do as he had apparently been misinformed about his obligations at my place. All told, he was here for two hours, killing the small hope of a little more sleep, but the good news is that I now have a phone and really fast internet!

Sunday I finally got the ‘sleep in’ I had been denied all weekend. I spent most of the day summoning the courage to take my first solo taxi. I had a list of things to buy, and E-Mart was my destination. The taxi proved no problem. E-Mart was a different story. It was worse than the Kirkland Costco on a weekend. One, everybody in Gangneung was there. Two, I couldn’t find the carts that everyone else seemed to have, requiring me to pile everything on my huge list into a hand-basket which induced a terrific sweat in the tropically heated building. Three, the place has three floors connected with ramp-style escalators. I can’t tell you how many times I fought my way up and down trying to track down all the things on my list. And four, as with driving a car, swerving in and out, cutting people off, and passing fast on both sides without checking your mirrors are all acceptable behaviors while manning shopping carts. I literally had a woman rear-end ME with her cart, and the look she gave me made me think that I needed to apologize to HER for driving to slowly in the fast lane. I realized that my American sense of politeness and the whole ‘right of way’ thing was going to get me nowhere, so I squared my shoulders, lowered my head, and started swerving. Two and a half hours, 80,000 won, and a large paper cut later, I managed to escape with a shelf under one arm, my life, and my giant Vitakato (Vitamin Rabbit) shopping bag packed to the brim. Whew. Next time I’m taking Liz. Oh yeah, on my way out the door, I saw the carts.

20 January, 2006

Snowball Fight

It snowed off and on all day--a thick, wet snow that created more slush than anything. The kids were almost uncontrolable, so for the last half hour of school, we took them outside to play in the snow, meaning that we subjected ourselves to as many small wet snowballs as the kids could scrape together and hurl at us. Liz didn't really participate, standing off to the side looking stern, but Joseph and I joined in with gusto while Julian dodged in and out with her camera.

We've been given tomorrow off, for some reason, so hooray for a long weekend. The phone/internet man is coming in the morning which is a happy thought.

18 January, 2006

Korean Food

I usually eat lunch with the kids in the cafeteria. The school cook has the thankless job of preparing food for maybe forty kids, and the teachers are welcome to join them. Joseph goes home to study or sleep, but I am all about not having to buy something or cook for myself, and the food is good. Rice, some sort of soup, kimchi, often a bowl of seaweed, and a meat or vegetable or omelet dish.

Today, however, Joseph asked me if I wanted to eat really good food, so we walked down the street to a small restaurant where we were served a whole pile of delicious Korean fare for about $5 each. Black-peppery soup with two kinds of dumplings and chewy discs of pounded rice, cucumber salad, pickled something or other, cold cooked marinated spinach, grilled marinated fish, rice, curly red lettuce leaves, and a sizzling bowl of grilled meat with sauce. This was my favorite—we would take a lettuce leaf, add a piece of meat, a scoop of rice, and a dab of plum colored paste, then pull all the edges of the lettuce together at the top and—as it’s impolite, not to mention impractical, to bite into something like that—shove the whole thing into our mouths. Who thinks of these things? It’s so good!

During my free period from 3:30-4:45, Julian sometimes asks me to do conversation with one of her kids—Jack age eight or Karas age thirteen. Today Karas and I went for a walk on which she bought me grilled chicken on a stick from a corner stand. I would have been fine with just the chicken on the stick, but wouldn’t you know, they just have to brush it with red fire paste. I knew it would be hot since the picture of the little chicken on the front of the stand has flames shooting out of its mouth, but I ate it bravely and tried not to gulp down too much water like a weak foreigner. Back at the school a half an hour later, my mouth and lips were still doing a slow burn. I was also told that of the three levels of heat in which the chicken can come, I had consumed the least spicy.

16 January, 2006


Yesterday, I slept and read for most of the morning. Joseph and Liz had been sent to Wonju for training, but apparently Julian hasn’t registered me, so I couldn’t go. Joseph said I was lucky and kept scheming to get himself out of it and me into it, but it was to no avail. In the afternoon, I bundled up and tromped all over Kyo-dong which is our section of the city. It’s pretty much a normal little area of a city with shops and restaurants and bakeries and bars and internet gaming cafes.

This afternoon, Liz and I took a taxi downtown. Taxis are very cheap, I discovered, and the ride only cost us about $2.50. The same trip would have cost us at least $15 in Japan. I don’t take taxis in the states, so I don’t know how it would compare there. But since I don’t have a car, it’s exciting to know that I have an affordable way of getting around. We wandered around down in the markets, found the McDonald’s at Liz’s insistence, then took another taxi over to the E-Mart which is like Wal-Mart or Super Target. I got some hangers and a towel. Exciting.

14 January, 2006


Last night was the first snow of the season. This morning the streets were thick with slush and the ‘bus’ (van, really) was late. The kids were extra squirrelly with the excitement of snow. I didn’t really care though, because Julian had informed me that she found me an apartment. I think Liz was as elated as I by the news. After five nights together in one room filled with luggage, we’d both had enough. After school, we schlepped my stuff through the freezing slush across the street and around the corner—and here I am! My building is directly behind the school. If I’m really in a hurry, I can squeeze between the buildings and dodge a few bags of trash, otherwise I have to make the long trek around the corner. What a drag!

I love my apartment. It’s quite new, and it has a lot more storage than Liz’s place. It’s standard to have radiant heat from the floor, which I especially love, and it has a fairly large washing machine. One of the only things I don’t like is the gigantic refrigerator. All of the apartments I’ve seen, both Japanese and Korean have nice little refrigerators, appropriate to the size of the kitchens. My place, for some reason, has been blessed/cursed with ‘monster-refrigerator,’ and it takes up almost half of the floor space. I have to turn my feet out and shuffle sideways to stand in front of the sink. The sink, however, is larger than the sink in my Seattle studio, and for that glorious luxury, I will put up with almost anything.

Picture: Roshi House-2nd floor, corner apartment

13 January, 2006

Trip to Donghae

Yesterday afternoon I was informed that Mr. Seo—Julian’s husband—would be driving us to Donghae so I could get my alien registration. Side note: I’m learning to not expect much warning for anything around here—you’re moving tonight, we’re getting in the car right now for a long trip, you don’t have class this hour, you have to come up with next week’s lesson plans by the end of the day…Anyway, we hopped in the car and zipped at an alarming rate down the coast. The speed limit was 80kmph (which in all fairness is a little slow for the nice expressway we were on), but Mr. Seo had the car consistently moving at 170kmph. Every so often, he would slam on the brakes and slow to 80, and I figured out that he was slowing down for cameras strategically placed over the roadway. What Julian told me would be a three hour trip barely took an hour and a half.

Last night Liz and I slept nearly 12 hours. It was delightful, and I’m happy that I haven’t had too many problems sleeping with the time change. The teaching is exhausting, too, though, which helps with the sleep. I don’t know where people get the idea that Koreans are well-behaved. The Japanese, maybe, but not Koreans, at least not the ones at our school. Kids get put in the corner on a regular basis, and today in one of Liz’s classes, Michael shook Eric’s cheeks so hard that he got a bloody nose. I have Michael in a later class, but fortunately I’ve had no incidents involving blood.

10 January, 2006

First day of school

LCI Kids Club, Gangneung, Gangwondo
This morning Liz and I didn’t shower due to the lack of hot water. Fabulous way to start my first week. School starts at ten, but we walked across the street at nine to prepare our lessons. It’s the best commute I’ve ever had. I spent most of the hour shuffling frantically through the pile of ‘curriculum’ books Julian dumped on my desk. When I asked her for direction, she basically told me to sing and dance and have fun. Fantastic. Joseph, the one male teacher, rolled in a few minutes before ten looking like a hobo and rubbing his eyes sleepily. He seems like a cool guy, though, and was probably the most helpful in giving me suggestions. Fortunately, Esther (a Korean woman), a former teacher who does administrative stuff, took my first class so I could observe Liz, who has been here for exactly three weeks longer than I have.

The first floor of the school has three classrooms—Liz’s, mine, and Joseph’s plus an extra room for playing or videos. There are also the teacher staff room and Julian’s office and a main reception area. The second floor has bathrooms, the kitchen, another playroom, and a multi-purpose room which serves as cafeteria, gym, and anything else we need. Julian and her family live on the third floor.

I don’t know how, but I made it through my first day. My biggest task of the day was giving all my morning kinder kids English names and writing nametags for them. During lunch, I noticed that Lindsey was wearing a nametag that said ‘Thomas.’ When I asked Julian why someone had put a boy’s name on her, she told me that he was in fact a boy. I sheepishly apologized but thought to myself that the parents should consider a haircut and something other than pinstriped pants, long plaid coats with fur collars, and berets for their son. But if that’s the biggest mistake I make, I think I’ll be okay.

09 January, 2006

The Journey

My journey began early the morning of the 6th. Miraculously, and possibly for the first time—mom can vouch for this—I had already put both my large backpack and my suitcase in the car the night before. So with only a few last-minute shoving of things into small remaining spaces, I was off to the airport. After pulling out exactly one sweatshirt, my suitcase weighed exactly 70 pounds, therefore requiring only the $25 fee as opposed to the $50 fee. Mom and I waved until we couldn’t see each other, then: Boise to Seattle (three seats to myself)—one hour, twenty minutes.

Since BOI-SEA had been a separately booked flight, I had to collect my baggage and check in for a second time. One sweat-soaked trudge and another $25 fee later, I was good to go and waiting for Jen and Laurie who so graciously agreed to see me off. They came and whisked me off to Starbucks for a round coffee and tears (it was all Jen’s fault), and then I was through security and to my gate and all too soon on the plane. The guy next to me was moving his wife and small boy to Kyoto, and that somehow made me feel less alone: Seattle to Tokyo (second seat from aisle)—ten hours, forty minutes.

I was surprised to find Tokyo-Narita a comforting place of familiarity. During my brief layover, I rode the moving sidewalks and listened to the ring of Japanese on the loudspeakers, and for a brief moment I wished I were staying there. I could get some yen and take a taxi…somewhere…But the moment passed, and soon I was on my third plane praying desperately that I would not catch whatever the girl hacking next to me had: Tokyo to Incheon/Seoul (aisle seat)—two hours, and, well, am I even counting anymore?

My plane touched down in darkness, and that was it. I knew I couldn’t turn back, and the thought made me want to join the boy two seats over in vomiting. I got my carry-ons, went through immigration with no problem, got my luggage (it was such a relief to see both bags spill out onto the conveyor), and added the 8th or 9th layer of sweat to my once fresh travel clothes as I apprehensively passed through the final set of doors to my new life. I immediately saw a sign with my name on it, and though I was very hazy from hours of travel and intermittent sleep, thinking back on it now, I could almost swear that the sign said “Mr. Margie Schuh.” It was accompanied by a young man from the guest house, and he helped me get some money from an ATM then packed me into a van: Incheon Int’l Airport to Incheon Guest House—luxuriously short. It was almost 10:00pm the night of the 7th.

I collapsed in my room, and after a small argument with my Oregon Scientific Radio Controlled World Time Clock, I drifted to sleep hoping I had set the darn thing correctly. When I woke at 5:30 in the morning, I realized that I had NOT set the clock properly and was for once thankful for jetlag. I managed to sleep for a little longer before I had to meet someone—I think he was just a hired driver—downstairs for my next ride: Incheon Guest House to Seoul Expressbus Station—one hour.

My driver bought my bus ticket for me and made sure I got on the right bus. It was remarkably comfortable, and I buried myself in a book. As we were taking off, I saw a man get up and move to the seat across the aisle from mine. I could tell that he was trying to catch my eye but kept my nose in my book. He finally said something in English which I couldn’t ignore, and I tried to respond politely despite his poor accent and my jetlag. I usually humor people who want to chat, especially while I’m traveling but after his several attempts at conversation over a period of time between which I tried to read, I simply had to put my headphones on my drown out the awful Korean variety show that was being piped through a speaker above my head. The rest of the trip was uneventful: Seoul Expressbus Station to Gangneung Bus Terminal—three hours.

Julian, who owns the school, and her husband picked me up and took me to the school. I was slightly confused when they unloaded my bags there instead of at my apartment, but then I thought maybe my apartment was above the school. It turns out that Julian doesn’t actually have a place for me yet, and I’ll be staying with Liz, the other female teacher, until she finds something. I am less than thrilled with this, as all I want to do is be alone, unpack, and go to sleep. But what can I do, huh?

Because my last meal was consumed sometime in the vast blob of ‘yesterday,’ Julian took me to get my first Korean food—pork cutlet and omelet with marinated rice and bland soup with sprouts. On our way out the door, the cook handed us little things that looked like rocks which were really small sweet potatoes.

When we got back to the school, I met Liz. She’s twenty-two, a history major from New Mexico, very no-nonsense with a cynical sense of humor. We have very different personalities and less in common than I had hoped, but she’s nice and will be a good solid companion while I’m here. We lugged my stuff to her one room apartment above the fish restaurant across the street from the school where she has been kind enough to give me her bed.

Pictures: Airport, guest house

06 January, 2006

Last week at home

Since we didn't do much (anything) for New Year's, Monday night we went out to celebrate that plus John's birthday. John and dad had both received gift certificates to Coldstone Creamery, so we headed down there to load up on calories. As you can see, dad ordered the 'heart attack in a bowl,' and the Berriochoa boys gave me their best ice cream smiles.

Mom thought--and I agreed--that it would be nice to get together with some ladies I knew from church and work. Thanks to Fay and Mary Beth, Beverly, and Diane for coming to see me. It was a special time.

Today I had to say goodbye to Dieter and Emily as my flight leaves too early for them to see me off. I showed Dieter Korea on his inflatable globe, and we had one last good round of making silly faces.