Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lotte Mart at Chuseok Time

Tuesday is the Korean Thanksgiving holiday called Chuseok. It is the biggest and most important holiday of the year in Korea (so big & important that we get 3 days off from school). The Lotte Mart (sort of the Korean version of Walmart - an all-in-one store with groceries, clothes, school supplies, electronics, home stuff, etc.) across the street from my school has been even busier than usual lately with everyone buying gifts to take with them when they travel to their families' homes.
Fruit, like these apples, is a popular choice.
Boxed sets of spam and tuna are also an option. The smiling ladies dressed in hanbok (Korean traditional dress) will be more than happy to help you pick out that perfect gift and put it in a special bag for you.
A display at the front of the store with a sample of all the various gift sets available. Our school gave all of us teachers a nice set of shampoo, toothpaste, and soap. I would much rather have that than spam or seaweed or cooking oil.
Gift spam nicely packaged with olive oil for the low price of 25,900 won (about $26). Yummy!
Or I guess you could buy some of these octopuses to take to your parents' or grandparents' house as a gift. Now this looks delicious! The lady selling these seemed a little surprised that I wanted a picture of them. This is not something found at my local IGA back home.
These lovely young ladies in their animation/Star Trek costumes are selling gift sets of coffee.
This woman is in charge of the dried fish section.
Children's hanboks on sale. These are for the boys while the ones below are for the girls. I love the bright colors and embroidery. They really are beautiful clothes.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Changes & Good-byes

Things change constantly in Korea - our work schedule changes a few weeks in advance, our favorite galbi (Korean barbeque) restaurant closes, a new galbi restaurant opens, we change classes and students at school, old teachers leave and new teachers come. Sometimes these changes are good, like when I get to trade a difficult class of students for a new class that turns out to be lots of fun. Sometimes these changes take longer to get used to, like when all the friends I first made when I got to Korea have left. After almost 8 months of teaching, I should be used to all these changes and the good-byes that usually accompany them, but lately I have had a harder time adjusting. Maybe because I don't personally like all these recent changes, maybe it's because I feel like there's too many changes all happening at once, maybe it's knowing that even more and even bigger changes will be happening in a few months when I finish my contract. Either way, here's a short trip down memory lane back to some great students I had in August and a great friend I had in August who I both had to say good-bye to.
The students in my Special Grade 5 & 6 Intensive class: (back row from left to right) Bill, Samsung, Diana, Katherine; (front row from left to right) Se Ra, Jenny, Lisa, me. The whole class was great and actually made me excited to teach at 9 in the morning for a month. Messages two of my best students left on my whiteboard on the last day of classes
Sharon & I hanging up on my rooftop at another teacher's going away party. She was a great friend to talk to at school and to go dancing with on the weekends. I miss her laughter and complaining and how cool she was in general. Without her, my first 7 months in Korea would have been completely different.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Some more from Tokyo

Here are some pictures from Tokyo. Tokyo is this amazing city - so big but composed of such unique districts that it never feels completely overwhelming. Only 2 full days in Tokyo wasn't nearly enough time to explore all of it, but I feel I got a good sampling in a short amount of time. All it means is that I have to go back to see some more.
The shopping avenue of Ginza
Amber (the gymnast) and me (the dancer) posing in Ginza
Old Japan meets New Japan - a grandmother in a kimono talking on her cell phone
Sarah & I at Senso-ji Temple
Water to wash your hands and face
Fortune telling - there are sticks in the metal canister, you shake it until one of the sticks comes out, then you find the drawer that matches the stick, inside the drawer are pieces of paper with fortunes on them

The streets of Shinjuku at night

Amber & Sarah trying to win a stuffed animation character
Some Japanese girls trying to win candy
Rocking out on the street outside the station - but this guy means business, he brought his own fans with him

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Harajuku is the crazy and trendy fashion area of Japan. Remember the Gwen Stefani song, "From the hood to Japan, Harajuku girls"? There's a reason why she mentions Harajuku in her song. It is a place to be yourself and dress however you want to because anything goes there. Amber & Sarah under the mermaid gate leading to the main shopping street.
Girls in their school uniforms checking out a wall of t-shirts.
A Japanese guy, his friend dressed in a red prom dress, and me.
When you dress like this, you're a walking invitation for getting stopped and having your picture taken.
A lot of thought goes into these costumes - see how the skirt, socks, and shoes all complement each other.
When you get tired of walking around, you can sit and eat ice cream while still getting all the attention you would ever want.
I can only wonder what this woman thinks of her teenage daughter's clothes and of being seen out in public with her.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


This building, known as the A bomb dome, survived the explosion despite being practically at the very center. The aerial view pictures taken soon after the bomb show just how powerful the bomb was; this building is standing and everything else as far as you can see into the horizon is just flat. But as you can see in this picture, Hiroshima is now a completely rebuilt, very modern city.
Peace Memorial and Park outside the Museum
Cranes folded by people from around the world after a young Japanese girl started folding them while she was being treated from leukemia as a result of radiation exposure.
I'm so glad I went to Hiroshima when I was in Japan. The museum and the city are a powerful testament to the destructive power of war and the incredible determination to survive in the midst of hardship. Seeing the clothes of schoolchildren literally disintegrated from the heat and pictures of people who physically suffered for years later from radiation reminds you how scary and real nuclear bombs actually are, instead of just something the good guys and bad guys are fighting over in a movie.