Saturday, September 11, 2010

These people are serious about their karaoke.

Last night marked my first foray into the world of the norebang, or music room. These ubiquitous entertainment centers are a brilliant way to spend a Saturday night with friends, colleagues, family - really anyone willing to have a bit of fun. So when a group of us decided to give the norebang a go last night, we stopped at the closest Family Mart before heading down to do some serious singing.

See, at a norebang, you bring your own liquor! Unlike the karaoke bars in the United States, norebangs are private rooms, instead of a crowded bar sloppily equipped with a small stage, some dude claiming to be the "DJ", so many country songs you want to run away, and a lot of inappropriately drunk people. In Korea, karaoke is performed in the safe company of your friends (not the ENTIRE bar) and you can enjoy your drink of choice (on the cheap!). So we grabbed a couple bottles of soju and a few Hites and mozied on down to the music room.

You descend stairs into a lobby room where payment is tendered by a guy at a desk. He then escorts you to your private room. We were met with a large, U-shaped, fairly comfy couch (along with 2 pillows, one with a scene of a cat and pumpkin - still trying to flesh that one out), a large glass table, a fan, 2 song books, 2 remotes to enter the song selections, 2 microphones (complete with 2 hairnet-like covers, for hygiene), and 3 TV screens. Bottle caps were popped off and the soju began to flow.

The night witnessed renditions of old standards like "Baby Got Back" and "Birthday Sex," as well as new hits like "Baby" (yes, we sang Justin Bieber, it happened) and "Bad Romance." Fortunately for us, our karaoke prowess was idolized by the scoring mechanism built into the song software. You get points just like Rock Band! The first 100 of the night was the Toto hit "Africa." There were more, of course, but I am hard-pressed to think of which ones. Such glory.

After the first hour in the norebang dwindled to seconds, we were faced with the decision: do we suck it up and toss another 2000\ each into the pot for another hour or relocate. Needless to say, the decision was a swift one and we scrounged up enough change to book the room for another hour of sheer brilliance.

As the second hour came to a close, my eyes did, too. No, seriously, I pretty much fell asleep in the norebang room. After the 2 hour marathon of singing and dancing and rallying, I decided the best idea for me was to seek out a cab and head back to my studio apartment. Awaking on Sunday morning to sun rays peeking through my window (I can't close the tinted one all the way because of where the A/C pipe is - not complaining), I groggily got up, made some coffee, and flipped on the Discovery channel. Then I considered Skyping my mom and a friend at home. This plan was immediately scratched when I realized this feat would be entirely impossible: the norebang was a great decision, but my voice would beg to differ.

Ice Cream In a Tube

This past Thursday, I was sitting at my desk at school, lesson planning and surfing the Internet. Then it dawned on me: ice cream after school would be delicious! So I decided after 4:30pm rolled around I would pay a quick visit to my local convenience store and pick up an ice cream. I continued tweaking my powerpoint for Monday's lesson when one of the students from an afterschool class held in the English room came up to me and placed an ice cream on my desk! What brilliance! It was as if the student read my mind.

The packet seemed like a normal ice cream pack you would pick out of a case at a 7-11. But when I tore open the packaging I was greeted by something that looked like one of those Squeeze-its from my childhood. Unsure how to begin to eat this strange new frozen treat, I glanced over to see what the other kids were doing. Apparently, you just rip off the top and squeeze away! (Demonstration in the youtube video, which is both helpful and mildly disturbing.)

The flavor was chocolate almond - I think - and was quit tasty, really. Very much like very cold chocolate milk with a nutty twist. All in all a good experience. No mess, a delicious frozen snack - that's what a Papico is! I hope the US gets these soon, as they are both tasty AND highly efficient.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Behold the glory!

Today marks a great day in Daegu, South Korea!


It works and it has a remote and it is cold. And it is good. So I am now planning on spending the evening ogling my shiny new AirCon unit. And then probably go out and do something.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The List: Couples Underwear and $10 waffles

I love making lists. To do lists, inventories, bullet points, talking points, shopping lists, etc. You get the point. So as I was sitting in Holly's Coffee in downtown Daegu on Sunday, I made a list. My iPhone was dead, I brought no reading material, and I needed some caffeine to revitalize me before I continued my exploratory trek about the city.

Now, this list may not be anthropologically sound but my interest in cultural differences drove its creation. This is a list of things I find amusing/different/notable/nuts about Korean culture. I hope to make this a regular type post, as the length of the list is continually growing. So, let's take a look at what made the list this week:

* Couples Matching Underwear/Polos/Everything: Korea seems to be a huge couples culture. On many occassions, I've witnessed a boy and a girl strolling down the street, hands locked, and um, yeah, wearing the same shirt. No, not like, "Oh! We both decided to wear red today. How funny." more like, "Hey hunny, let's wear those blue and striped polos with the turtle on the pocket downtown today." It is the exact same shirt. I've been warned that there is also couples underwear. Leave that to the imagination (or at least until I find a good picture!)-This point also references another point I made: no one ever goes out alone, it seems (more later).

*$10 Waffles: Waffles are delcious. They are really an international sensation. From the breakfast haven of the Waffle House to the surprise "goffre" stands in the Madrid metro, waffles are available pretty much everywhere, including South Korea. However, the waffles I've seen here (adorned as many places do - fruit, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, ice cream, etc) are expensive. You say, "How can a waffle be expensive? It's a waffle." My point exactly. These aren't laced with truffle oil nor sprinkled with beluga caviar. They are waffles with ice cream. And they will run you $8-12. I haven't tried one yet but I hope they're worth it!

*The Mini Pizza Lady: Downtown Daegu is rife with drinking foreigners, whether they are English teachers, army guys (and gals), or just expats in general. This market has been seized by a very special entreprenuer: the mini pizza lady. Her set-up looks much like an over-sized Easy Bake oven on a cart. Her pizzas look pretty quality, too and are cheap. I've been told it's a must try and will be sure to add it to the "To Do in Daegu" list.

*2 Sets of Toothbrushes: I have 2 sets of toothbrushes here in Korea: one for home, one for school. The first week I was at Daesung, I noticed all of the teachers brushing their teeth after lunch. Obviously, I felt left out. And I happen to just love dental hygeiene so I seized the opportunity to fit in and bought another toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. Now, every day after lunch, I brush my teeth. It feels great.

*Indoor Shoes: Although I have not invested in a pair, many other EPIK teachers mentioned they were highly encouraged by their colleagues to bring a pair of "indoor school shoes" to leave in their office. It's a good idea, preventing the tracking of mud, rain, poop, etc into the school building. However, there is one fatal flaw: many schools here in Korea have multiple buildings in which you are required to travel outside to get to. Mine is such a school. So now, that pair of "indoor" shoes becomes a pair of "indoor/sometimes outdoor" shoes. I may grab a pair at some point but that depends if I can find a store that carries a 270 in women's shoes (As I was told by a shoe store clerk on Sunday, "270! That is man size!" - Thanks).

I'm gonna be a Real Alien!

In order to actually count as a person here in South Korea, one must obtain an Alien Registration Card (ARC). One needs this to get a cell phone, internet, bank account, health insurance, yadda yadda. Fortunately I already have internet and a bank account but am lacking in the cell phone department, which severely hinders contact with the outside, English-speaking world. In order to remedy my feeling of helplessness, I made the sojourn across the city with my co-teacher to apply for my ARC and finally count here.

Thankfully the office is open until 6, so I did not need to sign out of school (yet again) to run errands. The application was easy enough (about the same info as applying for a credit card) and the cost, I thought, was 10,000 won. False. As the weekend excursions of merrymaking and shopping cleaned out my cash supply of won, I scrounged through my wallet in search of a meager 10,000 for the fee. I found it! One 5,000 note, 3 1,000 notes, 3 500 coins, and 5 100 coins. Bingo. Exactly 10,000. Of course with any sort of official/government anything, there are other costs involved. Notably, the extra 50,000 won stamp in my passport to allow me multiple re-entries into the country (I plan to go to Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, among others) and the 4,000 won fee to mail it back. Normally I would have just opted to return and pick the card up, but that would take quite some time. The mail option allows you to receive your card a day or so after it is finished. The earlier I am a real alien the better. And because they do not have an ATM handy at the Daegu Immigration Office, I had to borrow the 54,000 won from my co-teacher (which reminds me, I need to give that back...)

The biggest stressor with the ARC, though, is that once again I had to surrender my passport (to have the re-entry stamp put in it) and it will be mailed back to me. So this means all I have as ID right now is my Kentucky driver's license, which everyone thinks is fake, and my UK ID, which has the face of a rabid cat on it. Hooray.

I will be sure to post what my Alien registration looks like. And no, Mom, the picture doesn't have antennas on it. :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Live from the DaeSung Elementary News Room!

Hello, hairy fish, scary fish!
As a Guest English Teacher (GET), it is common to be asked to perform a wide-variety of tasks as part of your contract to fulfill the 22 weekly required teaching hours. In the classroom, I teach 5th and 6th graders 4 classes twice a week each. Then I hold a teacher's training in English language twice weekly (2 hours). And as my final duty, I perform a live weekly English broadcast on school TV every Friday morning. This week's top story: Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

As 8:35am rolls around on this steamy Friday morning in Daegu city, my co-teacher, Jin, and I head upstairs for the Broadcasting Room. Storybooks in hand, we pass by the impressive array of electronic video and editing equipment (remember, this is an elementary school, someone must have some deep pockets). As we head into the news room, a set-up that would trump that of any small-town network studio, I see a 5th or 6th grade girl adjusting the settings of a small digital video camera (I half expected to see a camera crew, mini booms, and lapel mics). I take my seat at the middle of the table with the main anchor on my left (who expertly rehearses her intro lines) and Jin to my right.

8:40am and we are LIVE from DaeSung Elementary Broadcasting Room, ready and eager to bring you an English experience you will never forget! A short introduction is given, then I bumble slightly as I introduce myself and where I am from (no, it's Kentucky, not Kenturkey). Then the real magic begins. I begin to read the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, complete with varied voices for each character (somehow I managed to make Mama Bear sound like she was from Savannah, it seemed fitting). I selected the story from the extensive library of the DaeSung English Village because of it's ability to teach contrast English words. As I read the English, Jin followed with the Korean translation. Following the story, we reviewed key words from the book: big, small, hot, cold, hard, soft. I stumbled about for examples at first but then found my legs.

8:50am brought the end of our allotted time on air and it seemed the broadcast went off without a hitch. I yielded my chair to the Vice Principal who discussed the upcoming 2nd period school elections (on my way into campus today, I was met with chants and slogans being shouted out by the perspective candidates). I don't believe there is a broadcast next week but I am sure to be hopping back on the air fairly soon, perhaps with a stunning rendition of "Goodnight Moon" or "The Musicians of Bremen." We shall see.

Until next time, signing off from the English Village classroom at DaeSung Elementary School, Seo-gu, Bisan-4dong, Daegu, this is Erin Teacher.

Daily Highlights

High point of my day: I am going to have Air Conditioning finally. It is in my contract and after many, "oh I don't know, we got you a fan"s and "the owner of the building says no"s I will por fin have some ventilation in my tiny apartment. So now I can breathe easier, sleep better, and maybe get my hair to dry for once.

Low point of my day: The sweet Hello Kitty! hair straightener I bought at Home Plus on sale for 20,000 won (because it was the last one) doesn't work. I was really excited for that.