Sunday, August 29, 2010


It seems like a simple concept. You come home after a long day at work and you are hungry. You have several options in front of you. Number one, you can cook something from the refrigerator. Number two, you can order something over the phone to be delivered. Number three, you can go out to a restaurant. Over the last four weeks, we have quickly learned that none of these three options is as easy as we would like them to be.

Cooking. If you kept up with our blog in Taiwan, you know that I very happily feel into the routine of going out to eat since it was the most cost-efficient of the three options listed above. If I did cook, it was usually limited to the occasional batch of chocolate chip cookies. Now that we are in Seoul and it costs more than $3 to go out, I have to reorient myself in the kitchen. I thought that this would be a relatively easy thing to do. Turns out, I am quite lost without my cookbooks and my American grocery stores. How does one cook dinner without the trusty staples such as Pillsbury roll and bake croissants or Old El Paso taco seasoning? Not even that, I haven’t been able to find a simple chicken breast. Tiny chicken chunks yes, chicken breasts, no… though we think that at least half of the time I’ve accidentally picked up packs of tiny chunks of pork instead. Herbs are questionable since I have to smell them to try to figure out what I’m getting. In case you were wondering, flat leaf parsley is not a suitable substitute for basil. Slowly but surely I am putting on my oven mitts and listing my experiments in the “palatable” or “poisonous” categories. So far, I believe I have three or four in the palatable category. Hopefully this list will grow. I won’t say how many I have in the “poisonous” category. Hopefully, this list will not grow. Otherwise, I may be asking Publix if they ship internationally.

Ordering. This was a unique experience. During our orientation, we were given a list of numbers of possible delivery restaurants who often serve teachers at our school. The other night, we thought we would give some of the local Korean fare a go. We knew that their English would probably be limited so we armed ourselves with the name of the school in Korean as well as a couple of traditional dishes that we would like to try. Pretty much the best thing about Korea so far is that their language is not tonal. We have found that we are understood the first time we say something almost every time. So, we were feeling confident as we dialed the first number. We were pretty hungry so we decided to order two dishes of bulgogi (marinated pork or beef) and one dish of bi bim bap (a rice dish) – the latter mostly because we like to say it. When we called, we managed to communicate our address and that we would like to order food for delivery. Done. Then, we tried to place our order. For some reason, our order was ridiculous. We are still not sure why. However, in the process of trying to figure out the problem, the restaurant decided they had more important things to do and hung up. This exact same pattern was followed for the next two Korean restaurants that we called. Fed up and still hungry, we ordered pizza. It was greasy and overpriced, but we didn’t get yelled at for ordering it and it was delicious.

Restaurants. Going out has been an interesting experience. We have had some great meals such as an Indian place that we found near our apartment and a Chinese dumpling place that now feels like comfort food for us. Then we have also had some meals that have turned out to be a bit more blog-worthy in their humor. Most recently, Chris and I went to a restaurant near our school that Chris had been to with the history department. Once again, we tried to order what we thought we wanted and were abruptly told that our option was impossible. Again, we still have no idea why. We’ve tossed around some theories but are still at quite a loss. We settled on what they finally agreed was acceptable for us to order and swallowed our second choice meal in puzzled silence. Now here is the kicker. On our way out of the restaurant, we said hello to two friends from our school who happened to be eating the exact meal we wanted in the first place. Go figure. We vowed to return with someone with more knowledge of the language than we have (which won’t take much) and actually figure out what seems to be our problem when ordering food.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


It’s hard to believe that we have been in Korea for two weeks. In some ways the time has flown by and it should be impossible that we see students tomorrow. In other ways, it feels like we’ve been here a year already and it seems impossible that I don’t know how to say “caramel macchiato” in Korean yet.

Saying that our orientation here at school was a whirlwind is a sizable understatement. Until Saturday, we’ve had every moment of our time filled with meetings, gatherings, conferences, assemblies, and even a few get-togethers. We’ve been oriented on everything from lesson plans to laundry procedures. We’ve learned that our school (SFS) is quite a fan of acronyms. Between AP, IB, IGSCE, SL’s, HL’s, SPR’s, and XYZ’s we have an alphabet soup swimming around in our heads that is so hearty, it would make Chef Boyardee jealous. Okay, so I made up that last acronym, but you get the point. We’ve been told that an overwhelming drowning sensation is customary for new teachers… and returning ones. So, at least we are in good company.

Luckily, we finally get to meet our students this week. We have never been more ready to get in the classroom and actually begin teaching. Well, I guess I should rephrase that. We are excited to start doing what we were hired to do, but far from ready. During the orientation process, time to sit down and actually plan a few lessons and run a handful of copies didn’t make it into the schedule. So, this weekend has been filled with laminating posters and decorating bulletin boards. Hopefully today we can take a moment and prepare a lesson or two so that we will actually look like we know what we are doing on the first day of school. Undoubtedly, things will work out and somehow we won’t drown and we’ll recover from this cyclone of orientation. Maybe we’ll even remember a thing or two that we’ve been told. Now if only someone can teach me how to say caramel macchiato…

Monday, August 2, 2010

And So It Begins

Here we are. As usual, the summer flew by and left us thinking that there is never enough time. Sunday morning came early and we packed up everything to head to the airport. We’ve decided that we have become pretty good at these trans-Pacific flights and almost enjoy catching up on the entire last six months’ worth of movies in one sitting. Notice the operative word “almost”. A little over 14 hours and one international dateline later, we landed in our new hometown: Seoul, South Korea. Our new school picked us up and gave us a quick tour as we headed to our new campus. After a quick traditional Korean meal of pepperoni pizza, we were shown our new apartment (with a real kitchen that I am more than a little excited about) and given some time to settle in.

Today starts our official first day. I’m not sure whether it was jetlag or anticipation that had us up at 4:30 this morning, but in any case we are ready. A new place brings on new sights, new smells, new foods, new faces, and new cultural experiences. We hope to entertain you with them all. Thanks for sharing this experience with us; it’s going to be a wild ride!