Since my last post a lot has happened. The past two weeks have been a heaping plate of interesting with a side of mundane and a hint of nostalgia. Despite what some Daegu inhabitants will tell you I am becoming much more competent at the business of living in Korea.
Until late, updating this blog was not a chore, I actually looked forward to it. Now that I am more acquainted with the area and my coworkers, my free time has become filled with studying Hangul, going out/playing soccer, and trying to get an adequate dose of American sports, especially the NBA. Speaking of which after a slow start the Utah Jazz are really starting to come together. Back-to-back come from behind victories in Miami and Orlando? I’ll take it. Especially when Paul Milsap, a player known for his blue-collar work ethic and rebounding tenacity puts up 46 against the Big Three and their suffocating defense.
My work hours are by no means traditional: Monday-Friday 2pm- 10pm. I dig the hours, but a few late nights turn into sleeping past noon which translates into not having enough time to really do anything other than eat, read the paper, and shower before teaching a full day. I have done a decent – but not impeccable – job of avoiding this seductive pattern. Strangely, we (teachers) are required to be in to work by 2pm, we have class preparation for half an hour and then from 2:30 – 3:30 pm we stuff our faces at lunch; at 3:30 pm we are back in the office for class prep and by 4 pm we are teaching our first class. Curious, I asked my coworkers on my second day why they don’t just have us come in at 3 pm and have class prep for an hour and eliminate the lunch hour altogether. They all said they wondered the same thing. It’s not that I terribly mind this schedule, but it feels off-kilter taking an hour break after only being there for 30 minutes- I liken it to pulling over to eat after driving only half an hour on a 7 hour car ride.
Last week I went to Daegu Bank, a one minute walk from my apartment if I have blisters on my feet from wearing running sneakers to play soccer and a thirty second stroll if I am at top fitness, to transfer money from my Korean bank account into my U.S. account. I recognized the gregarious gentleman who opened up my account about a month ago and sat down. During our first meeting he talked at length about his favorite American television dramas, like CSI and Law & Order, and before leaving he printed me out a map of the area and circled a few restaurants that he highly recommended (I went to one of them later that day and enjoyed my first bowl of kal-guk-su, one of my favorite dishes). He said he was happy to see me again and I said likewise. I practiced some Hangul phrases and expressions with him and he became very giddy. He proudly demonstrated that he got alerts of U.S. news stories in English on his I-Phone and then he showed me several framed pictures of his wife and kids that were displayed on his desk. His English is not great but he can maintain a conversation and is able understand what I say if I slow down my pace. After I exchanged some won into dollars he told me to wait one moment. When he came back he handed me a box of Korean brand toothpaste. I asked if he was trying to give me a hint. He smiled without picking up on my insinuation and said he is happy to talk to me and would like to know me better and asked if I drank maekchu. I said only when forced and offered a wry smile. Song Choel gave me his business card and highlighted his mobile number. I walked out thinking what a genuinely nice guy, why don’t Korean ladies give up their number this easily?
Every Thursday after work a group of us rent out this outdoor turf field that is fenced in by massive netting and scrimmage from 11 pm until they tell us our time is up which is usually around 12:30 am. It’s great fun. I was never adroit with the ball but having been removed from the game for so many years the first few times playing was a little rough. “The touch of a rapist” is how an Englishman I work with described it. My conditioning is fine and I am more than able to keep up but beyond making a simple pass and playing solid defense I was not very serviceable. It did not help that I was playing in cross-trainers while everyone else had on cleats or turf boots. Fed up with being one of the last picked every week I made a trip to Homeplus, a Wal-Martesque place and invested in a pair of Diadora indoor soccer boots for 30,000 won, the equivalent of roughly $25. Granted they are not the highest quality, I felt like a new player during my first outing with them on. Who says shoes don’t matter?
I had my first official date here in Korea a few weeks back. It went alright but there were no real fireworks. The highlight of the night was probably the makgeolli, which is a cloudy, milky-white wine made from rice; it’s dirt cheap and usually sold by the pot but at this place it was in bottles.
November 11 is Pepero Day in South Korea. This monumental day celebrates a thin chocolate cookie stick. 11-11 represents a pack of these tasty chocolate sticks. Get it? 1111! People hand out these treats to people they like. According to my students, a guy is supposed to give them to a girl he is into. I guess it is a lot like Valentines Day. Apparently they don’t have antitrust laws for this unofficial holiday because Pepero clearly has a monopoly on the day. I thought this whole thing silly until the nice-looking girl at the café who I often talk to gave me a pack of Pepero cookie sticks. Now I am smitten by her.
Within the past week my students have said I look like the following mammals (usually intended as an insult):
- Kim Jung Un (Kim Jung Il’s fat son)
- Bill Gates
I am convinced that they utter any non-Korean person that they know. As for the monkey reference, well, what can I say?
Last week I organized the students in some of my classes into teams for a trivia competition. Here are some of the team names that they chose:
- Daniel’s face is in danger
- Windows 7
- Thank you
- Jazz (my suggestion)
- Kimchi now!
- Daniel is under attack
- Harry Potter in big cast
‘Daniel is under attack’ was stacked with some of the brightest students, winning in a route, forcing me to give them a stamp in their workbooks.