Jun 30, 2009

these kids are k-poppin!

so yesterday I had a fun day of classes and after telling Nicole about it she felt that I just have to share with you all. So if this entry sucks, its Nicoles fault ;) Anyway, yesterday during my first class which is composed of about 10 kids that top out at age 11 (Korean years, 10 in US years). Together that can be the equivalent of a triple expresso shot mixed with a healthy doping of laughing gas. So as you can probably guess, the classes are amusing and exhausting all at once but i think they are pretty awesome mostly. So yesterday our lesson was all about addictions and "-holics" which started off interestingly enough when one girl didn't have her parents signature on her homework because she said her mom was out late at a "drinky-drinky" meeting ;) I figured it was relative to the lesson so i gave her a pass, and I really didn't want to probe any further into her mothers private affairs. The lesson basically had us discussing types of "holics" and what they all thing they may be addicted too. The kids were quite creative in their responses. Some were more reserved, like "text-aholics, and "read-aholics" but the real fun started with "skirt-aholics"(but only for men) which diverted into a strange discussion amonst a few of them about men wearing womens clothing that i needed to find a way to hault but that was taken care of for me with the "kill-aholics" and "assassin"-aholic!!" interjections from the 2 boys in the class. I even had one girl tell me she was a coffee-aholic.....shes actually 9 in US years. I know that we had some others but I can't remember all the creative answers, including a few that were in Korean that i'm pretty sure had to do with poop based on the giggles they received but I hesitated to ask. My next class is 4 boys that are obsessed with anything "death" related and 3 girls that are kinda the cheerleaders for the boys antics. That class was first about modern art which had them really engaged at the start when we talk about an artist that puts dead animal parts in formaldehyde and displays them in galleries. They though that was by far the coolest thing they had heard of. Well, except for a few scenes from the movie, "SAW" that they felt the need to act out as an intermission to the lesson. It was fun to watch so i allowed it for a few minutes. We then talked about art and the effects on modern architecture which prompted one student to ask if he could draw the "Chrysler" building on the board since it was in the lesson. I should have seen this coming when he asked for a black and red marker but i allowed it. The student proceeded to draw a relatively good rendition of the building but it wouldn't be complete without a man falling out of the sky, piercing his neck with the buildings antenna resulting in a bloody explosion. The crowd was very pleased and i found it hard to act like an adult for the moment and joined them in applause ;) I usually try to follow these moments up with an adult footnote on life and death but I'm pretty sure its going to be something they'll grow out of....i hope. So that was a taste of my classroom experience that i thought i'd share with you all. Hope you enjoyed!

ah yes....one more thing for those of you who didn't cath it on facebook. Heres a link to some music videos that the kids in class are currently into. K-pop at its finest!

Jun 28, 2009

Wando to Sinji, Our first trip to the Korean coast

After being home in Florida for a week and not once making it to the Ocean, I decided we should take a weekend trip to the Korean Coast. So, Adam did some research and found the perfect spot for us to venture too.
Saturday morning we took a bus to Wando. It is about a 2 hour bus ride south from us. I couldn't sleep at all on the way there, the scenery was so beautiful. I wish I had words to describe it, the pictures don't do it any justice. Once in Wando we grabbed lunch at a local joint and caught another bus to Sinji-do. It is an island east of Wando. (there is a bridge connecting them) We ended up taking the bus to the end of the line, to a beach called Donggo. There we collected sea shells and enjoyed the view for awhile. The nice locals explained in broken language and dramatized gestures there was no where to sleep in the area except in a tent. So, they put us on a bus and spoke with the driver instructing him to drop us off at a different part of the island which was more populated (we were able to find a Bimbah, hotel, there). The huge tourist beach where we ended up was Myeongsasimni Beach. It is still not beach season in Korea, so the beach was pretty empty except for the locals. It was a little overcast, but not very humid or hot. We found a great Motel for 20,000 a night. We didn't realize it until much later that we paid for two nights, we thought she meant two people. But, for 40,000 won it still wasn't bad. We took a walk on the beach and ate a great local meal consisting of a billion side dishes, a fantastic mussel soup and rice. We then fell asleep for the night.
Sunday morning we woke up fairly early, grabbed some snacks at the 7-11 and took a walk up the mountain. We then changed and found lounge chairs and relaxed on the beach for a few hours. The view was exactly what I would expect an Asian beach to look like. In the distance you can see the fisheries (I imagine that is what it is called) All of the fishing nets were marked along the coast with buoys. The mountains were in plain site and the water sounded like heaven.
We have decided our next purchase will be a lightweight tent and sleeping bags. In Korea, you can camp anywhere. When we have a tent, we will be able to stay wherever we wish, without having to find a bimbah.
Enjoy the pictures

Jun 26, 2009

bikin, hikin, teachin and naked men......

allrighty so its been a month now that we've been here already which I think is pretty amazing because I still only know 2 words in Korean, "hello" and "thank you", which has suited me pretty well but we will be starting our Korean classes in a few weeks to build on that stellar vocabulary. As you are all aware, Nicole had gone to the states for her best friends wedding last week (Congrats to you both by the way!), and so i was left to fend for myself....along with the not so helpful Olive for the week. Here she is on the bus to Seoul!

The majority of my time was spent working but I did manage some hiking and biking over the course of the week as well. I hiked "the ridge" as its called which is a fairly steep hike through a mountainous area behind our apartment that takes about 45 minutes to complete and by the time you are done you should be able to break fists on your behind....if you have good fortune of being punched there ;) I think we may have mentioned this in an earlier posting but the trail is also somewhat of a "fitness" trail with actual workout areas that include outdoor versions of steppers, incline benches for situps, hula hoops, and elipticals. Its pretty sweet and the amount of older Korean women that I see everytime i hike working out is pretty impressive. Not to mention that fact that they are working out between 20 minute hikes up a 70 degree incline path. Here's on of the lovely ladies doin her thing.
They seem to all use the same technique of clasping their hands behind them which seems to work. The view from some of the higher points hives you a really nice perspective on the city and is an amazing contrast between the beauty of the mountains and the endless sea of buildings and mega-highrise apartments that cover every square foot of land between the mountains in Gwangju.

The biking trip was fun but due to the weather was somewhat short. I traveled along a river that is a very useful guide to get me to the downtown area and back home without getting lost. I managed to find a all you can eat salad bar and steak place along the way which was pretty excellent but for the $30 I spent on just myself, i'll probably stick to the kimchi and shabu-shabu places closer to home.

So I know the title just seemed like a ploy to get you to read but my weekend did include many naked Korean men indeed. I was told by a few coworkers about a place called the "jinjilbang" which is actually a bath house with several types of baths and saunas. You pay about 4800 won which is barely over $4 US money and you can stay and relax as long as you like in the baths and saunas. Now I would say the catch is that you have to be completely naked but in Korean society nudity
isn't really viewed the same. They all semmed very comfortable with is and fairly shortly, so was I! I mean, took a few minutes but it actually felt pretty liberating after a while and I was able to just relax and even chat it up with some Korean dudes about where i was from and my thoughts on Korea thus far. There is even a green and black tea bath which were very nice to soak in. So that was my experience there and i can honestly say that it won't be my last. Oh yeah, so no pictures from this adventure. Seemed mildly innapropriate.

Allright and finally now that I have completely exhausted you attention span i thought i'd just give a few thooughts on my teaching experience thus far. For most of the day i'm prepping my lesson plans which are mainly laid out for me but I like to add some flair via games and interactive activities. The kids are pretty great and with the exception of a few occasions I have not had to repremand to many of them which is nice since i think they get enough of that from the Korean teachers. I've got one class in particular where the kids are obsessed with suicide and killing which is kinda disturbing but they are like 10 so its actually not that worrisome. Here's a picture of a few of them. Pay close attention to the picture on the board in front the kid with the red shirt. He's quite an artist. ;)

Ok so thats all I have for now but we are planning a trip down to Wando this weeekend to see the beach so there will be more excitement to come shortly!!!

Jun 21, 2009

The Wedding

I know many of you read our blog for the Korean experience, but I must write about my friend, Nicole and her now husband Nick's most perfect wedding.

I have known Nicole since she moved to Florida four years ago, she and I taught together. At the time I was dating a boy and we introduced Nicole and Nick one night over Cuban food and Bowling. The next day I told Nicole she would marry him. I should have put money on it because last night was the most perfect wedding I have ever attended.

Nicole is a very organized and crafty lady and back in October, I think within three weeks of being engaged she had her dress, our dresses, her color scheme, a location, a caterer, DJ, photographer and invitations in mind.

Thursday afternoon we had a bridal party luncheon at Park Plaza Gardens and the food was so yummy. It was the first time I had seen Nicole since I left for Korea and she looked great. She has been working her tail off at the gym and man you could tell. We had mimosas and sandwiches and were even given a cute hankie with a P for Pontillo on it to use during the 104 heat index outdoor wedding.
Friday we showed up early at her house, picked up 300 white roses and calalilies and brought them back to her house. We spray painted the tips purple, de thorned and de leafed all 300 and made centerpieces and our bouquets. The rehearsal went great although the priest was strict and didn't like our shenanigans. It was quite hot out and Nicole got out her tears and we went back to her clubhouse and ate BBQ for dinner. For our bridal party presents we were given personalized martini glasses. I got a traveltini with the world on it and well had to hold back my tears as well. Her card was so sweet. I am so happy I made it back for the wedding.

Yesterday, Saturday, I arrived at her place at 10:30 for hair, makeup, mimosas and girl time. Then off to the garden to set up and get ready. Since pictures were before the ceremony, Nicole and Nick snuck into a little room to see each other for the first time in her dress and his great linen garb. She looked so beautiful and he was quite the handsome chap. We walked down the isle to Isreal Kamakawiwoole's version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Nicole made her entrance to I believe Lost in this moment by Big and Rich. The ceremony was beautiful even regardless of the heat. At one point I glanced over to the guys who were in black linen shirts and khaki linen pants, and all I saw were major glistening men. It was hard to keep a straight face when all of the sudden you felt the sweat drip all the way down from your shoulder to your ankle. But we all made it through pretty much without tears.

Although Adam was not able to make it back to the states with me for the wedding, Nicole was nice enough to leave his chair next to me. So, here is a picture of me kissing my invisible date, who I know was there in love.

The reception was beautiful and so much fun. The four bridesmaids (myself included) took it upon ourselves to liven up the dance floor. My parents were there and my Dad and I had the chance to dance. Julie the maid of honor produced the most special speech that made me tear up for the first time all night and thank goodness Melissa, the matron of honor, had a much more humorous speech that made them go away. The food was so tasty, each little piece of decor had Nicole and Nick's touch. (each table was labeled a name of a mountain they have climbed or a place they have visited) At the end of the evening they were whisked away in a Rolls Limo.

I couldn't be more happy for my friend and even more so that I was able to make the trip to celebrate it with them.

Congratulations to the New Husband and Wife

Mr. and Mrs. Nick and Nicole Pontillo

Jun 15, 2009

A long, eye opening, trip home

It is 3:30 AM in Lake Mary Florida and I have just arrived at my parents. I had two delayed planes and ended up landing only 2 hours later than expected. My body doesn't seem to want to sleep. It definitely wants to eat, but nothing here sounds appetizing, I want some shabu broth.

Anyway, this morning (yesterday morning, korea time) Adam went with me to the bus station at 10 am and it just so happened there was a 10:40 bus to Incheon which allowed me just enough time to buy a drink, use the facilities and get on the bus. I could not believe it, but I cried. I am not sure what came over me, but I was so sad to leave. I was sad to leave Gwangju, our routine, our home and Adam. In my mind, I now I will be back in a few days, but something triggered stupid girlie tears.

The bus left pretty much right away and I sat in the back row of the comfy bus (Korean long distance busses are VERY comfortable), put my ipod on Korean for beginners and watched the mountianous countrysude roll by. I guess when we first landed we made the trip in the dark and I had no idea truly what the rest of Korea looked like. I had this mind blowing, liberating moment. The kind where I could have been a superhero standing ontop of the bus and standing titanically with my arms outstretched and saying I AM FREE!! It was calming and exciting and I couldn't stop smiling with the realization of just what Adam and I have done. Moved across the world. Changed our lives.

Ill stop here because once I landed in San Francisco I was reminded at so many things about Americans that gross me out or make me become judgemental and somehow has this horrible effect on my confidence and emotions. I will just say, that us, moving to Korea, was the best decision we have ever made (I hope Adam agrees as I am writing this from across the world without consulting with him first)

Jun 9, 2009

Bow down to baseball.....

Alrighty, so I have not been really holding up my end of the postings thus far so i'll put in a lil something about my experience playing some baseball this weekend with some fellow americans as we took on the infamous Korean Dangers!!!! Alright, they might not be so infamous but with a name like that they can only be Korean.

I got the heads up on a pick up game they usually have at a "field" nearby so i packed up and headed over with Nicole and our favorite puppy popsicle Olive on Sunday to see what the dealy was. I say "field" because when we got there i found a dirt lot that resembled more of a monster truck practice area than a baseball field so we asked some locals if thats where the baseball happened and they said yes! We arrived about an before anyone else and were very graciously invited into a small building near the "field" to join a church group in their post churchy eats which was very nice. I did however give myself the hic-ups and a small ulcer after eating some variation of kimchi that was being served. I told them that all this spicy food is burning off all the evil spirits that live inside me no?!....they didn't laugh, or even respond. ok, that never happened but as they do here, I like to spice it up a bit ;)

So around 1:15 the Koreans showed up and I practiced with them for about an hour before the usa squad strolled through. For me, the best part early on was that just by walking up to one guy and gesturing that I wanted to warm-up, he knew exactly what I was asking and before i knew it I was three deep waiting in line for my turn at infield practice. Without getting to deep, it felt like there was no real need for any language and that our common knowledge of the game kept everyone on the same page.

So anyway, without going through a complete play-by-play, we had a pretty good game but in the end it was the Dangers who were victorious in a 6-5 win. Another key highlight was at the end of the game, both teams line up facing each other and as the scorekeeper proclaims the final score we all bowed in respect for one another. I gave the Korean coach my info and he said if i ever wake up one day and turn Korean I can play!!!! Actually i may be able to play once in a while and at practices but the leagues usually don't allow foreigners but we'll see what happens.

Nicole did take one video i will share which was interesting. I actually thought I had hit a homerun but the left field foul line must have magically jutted inward after the trees so it was taken away. But our coach had my back and as you will see....he was kicked in the chest and told to go back to the dugout after he argued the call ;) It gives you a look at the field and the snazzy uniforms the Koreans were decked out in.

Really good times though....even with Olive being a racist and barking at every Korean that came close. ^-^

Jun 7, 2009

Construction Safety

In America, we see men, standing in the middle of busy construction zones directing traffic. Here in Korea, they are smart. They have mannequins directing traffic.

In American, we see men and women, on the side of highways directing traffic with signs next to them that say, Drive slow, my Dad works here. In Korea, they are smart, they have men made out of billboards that light up that say, drive slow.

Much safer, more efficient and cheaper.

Jun 6, 2009


Today we went to Damyang, a city 13 miles North of Gwangju. The bus ride was about 40 minutes. On the ride there, we saw a ton of rice fields and saw the true beauty of Korean farmland.

Once in Damyang, you can immediately feel the change from big city Gwangju. We took a cab to the Damyang Tourist Hotel Resort and Spa. Of course we were hungry upon arrival and went to the hotel's restaurant. Definitely our most expensive meal at 17,000 won per person. We ordered the fish dish and had no idea what we were getting.

Our first course consisted of a dry black/grey soup.
The second course was a yummy kimchi along with a not so yummy other kimchi plus a piece of meat of some kind and tofu.
The third course I thought was our main meal. It was different pieces of fish in a fabulous tomato sauce. There wasn't much to it, so we thought that maybe it was 17,000 won total for us both to eat.

I was wrong, because then the waiter brought out the main course... a bowl of ice water (to drink we think) rice, cold spinach, cold boiled garlic, another type of kimchi, some type of green vegetable with kimchi sauce, and dried/ maybe heavily baked fish, cut open sideways, eyeballs and all.

After I got over what was in front of us, I tried the fish. Honestly, it was fantastic, it was salty and a bit oily (fish oil is good for you!)I also ordered cider, or sprite, just to get the fish taste out.

After lunch, we went on a small hike through their gardens and into their tiny bamboo forest.

The concierge hailed us a cab and off we went to the real bamboo forest on the outside of town. It was beautiful, and packed full of people. We even took a cheesy picture in the "tourist spot."

Across the street was a bamboo market where Adam bought a bamboo flute that we have yet to figure out how to play. There was a stepping stone path across the river, which of course we had to cross, and of course the Korean women do in heels.

After making it over without falling in, we high tailed it to the bus station for fear of the on coming rain.

I must let you in on a little secret though. From the moment we got off the bus in Damyang, the real attraction ladies and gents, was me. Bare shouldered and round assed, the men, and women stared and stared. I felt like Beyonce'! It was fantastic, one boy yelled sexy. We laughed. Regardless of Adam standing right next to me, the looks were very apparent and became fun to watch. I guess you had to be there. But for a girl that has had so many image issues in th
e states, here I seem to really value my curves and bare shoulders!

Jun 5, 2009

Our fridge

I know each one of you readers are waiting on pins and needles for our next posting, so I decided to let you in on the makings of our fridge in Korea.

There are a ton of different foods here, but we haven't quite switched over to complete Korean gourmet yet.

Some of our favorites are:

Tons of fresh veggies from the street markets. You buy in such cheap mass quantities that I have begun juicing like crazy. Today I had spinach and tomato juice, hand made with our new Phillips blender.

We also buy bread every two days. The loafs are from Paris Baguette. They have Omega and Grain bread. The slices are huge, but only come with 8 per pack, at 2800 won a piece, it is valuable bread.

The salad dressings are much different here, you can find honey mustard, but they have a strawberry flavored dressing, a kiwi flavored dressing and my most favorite, a yogurt dressing which is sweet yet bitter.

The juice comes in nice size bottles here, it is quite strong, but makes great old fashioned popsicles.

The flavored rice wine is what they call Soju here. It is fantastic..but not to drink in mass quantaties.

A few things not in the fridge... Adam's Tuna

My favorite, spring roll paper (I will post a blog on how fun it is to make spring rolls) This stuff is amazing. It feels like plastic, but after a bit of water, it becomes a nice stretchy material perfect for crab and veggies!

Also, just a thing to point out, everything for the kitchen is made with suction cups (same with the bathroom) This is a neat sorting element I found at EMart. I like how the paper towels can go conveniently right under the cooking oil, since there isn't much counter space.

In the bathroom, everything is suction cups with clips, that way towels and such can hang off the walls.

In the house the walls are made out of concrete and really keep out all the noise. But, nails don't work in the walls, instead you buy hooks. The hooks have hot glue on the back which you melt with a lighter and stick on the walls. They hold everything!

Yes, that is Olive in the freezer (Adam had too much SoJu (told you it could be dangerous)

Jun 4, 2009

Our Gym

Adam has left for work, so I figured I would write today about the gym we go to. It came recommended by Shane and Lisa, two other Hagwon teachers from our school. Shane is a Megook, from the US (Texas), Lisa is an Irish Lass who leaves next week :(

Our gym is a mile or so away, we walk there each morning. The vegetable market is right by it where we pick up goods on our walk home.

The gym is on the 3rd floor, but really it is the 4th (4th is an unlucky number here, too bad we live on the 4th floor of our building)

You have to take off your shoes before you go into the gym. You are supposed to have a pair designated for just Gym usage. Adam and I fake it. We take off our shoes when we get outside the building and then carry them upstairs and put them back on when we are in the locker rooms. However, you are supposed to wear flip flops or something there and take them off upon entering. Then, in your locker (which we all have our personal one to leave things in, mine is 520) you are supposed to have a CLEAN pair of sneakers to put on for only use inside the gym. Or you can do as the Korean men do, and workout barefoot. Yes, they run on the treadmill barefoot, and lift weights, barefoot.

The Owner is a Korean bodybuilder (see picture). He and his wife are very nice. She helps me with new exercises every day. All of the Korean men and women look like they have no muscle and are just so skinny, but truth be told, although their muscles are not defined, they are VERY strong. They have a few machines we don't have in the states which I think would be a great addition to any gym.

1st we have the huge fat hula hoop, the thing is twice as big, twice as fat and has big nodules on the whole inside. The women use them to help give their body the hour glass figure (lucky me, I dont need the darn hula hoop for that and every time I try to use it, I look like a fool because it just ends up around my feet)

2nd they have the body shakers. They are machines that have these large rubber band things that you wrap around different parts of your body. You stand there and let it shake you. (its supposed to be for blood flow) I have yet to try it for fear of my body shaking more than the Koreans and the men dropping their weights because they've never seen parts like these move like that before, if you know what I am saying.

3rd they have a rotater (thats what I will call it) you can stand or sit on a disk and move your body side to side, twisting, to help stretch

4th they have, my favorite, it is a machine you sit ontop of and below you are these strings of wooden balls. You flip a switch and it moves along your calves, butt, or thighs depending on how you sit. It gives a nice pulsating sensation which relaxes your muscles (so nice)
5th they have, of course, like all gyms in Korea, clothes for you to wear. Adam nor I have partaken in this yet. But, our gym offers blue shirts for men and orange for women. They also have shorts should you want them.

Last but not least, instead of normal toilets, they have the oval in the floor (I always remember to go before I leave the house)
I only have a few pictures due to the fact we didnt want to be rude and take them of inside the gym. Maybe tomorrow.

Jun 2, 2009

Our Apartment

Today while Adam was at work, I moved us into our new apartment. At this time, it is as set up as it can be with what we have. This weekend we will have to go shopping to find a couch and some things to hang on the wall. I want to develop some of our pictures already and hang them up as well. I recorded a short video of our apartment. I am sure Adam will make a better, more witty one. But, for now, this is our new place. #401, I just watched the video and I filmed it side ways, so turn your head and enjoy it for now until the Man makes a new one.

Some fun pictures of around town

Since we finally have our internet up and going, here are some more pictures for you.
Also, our skype names are ajdamiano and sweetpik2 (add us and call us, just remember, we are 13 hours ahead of you!)

Jun 1, 2009

Hiking up the Ridge

This morning Adam and I went on a hike up the ridge behind our house. The koreans dont believe in long hikes, only hikes upward. I know that I will be in great shape when I can make it all the way up without having to stop to catch my lungs at the top.

Along the way are workout stations for you to use.

The path is filled with Ajummas (the older Korean ladies) One told me in pantomime that I needed to cover up my skin because of the sun.

Favorite Drinks

Here are my two favorite drinks so far in Korea.
Once would be this amazingly fresh tomato juice that they just throw a cup full of tomatoes in the blender with ice. The other is an apple drink made by sunkist. (sorry Jeff)

Olive's Korean Hair Cut

I just wanted to share with all of you Olive's first hair cut in Korea. Down the road a few miles is a vet who has a very fun office, full of cartoon animals, which you see here often in Gwangju. They have a white dog who is here daily, she has purple dyed ears.

I went ahead and paid 25,000 won for the haircut and nails for olive, that is like 22.00 in the states.

When I picked her up, I had to control my facial expressions.

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