Peanut Butter Adventures!
This weekend was jam-packed with fun!  On Friday evening we went bowling with our Daejeon friends to celebrate Elisia's birthday.  It was a bowl of fun!  hahaha.... oh geez.  We went 10-pin bowling at an underground bowling alley.  Brian even got a turkey!  A delicious, triple-X turkey... followed by a spare.

On Saturday we took a bus to Sintanjin, a north-east area of Daejeon, to see the cherry blossoms at the tobacco & ginseng factory.  We went with our Maine buddies Dani and Matt.

Click here to see more photos from this weekend.

That night we stocked up on tupperware from the 1,100 Won (about $1) store in old downtown.  It was wild night.  I organized my baking ingredients.

On Sunday Brian and I went to a jimjilbang.  It's a type of spa where you strip naked and go into different temperature pools.  (This is one of the times when I am happy that I am mistaken for a Korean because I's feel really uncomfortable if people stared at my naked foreign body).  I stayed in the 40 deg C one for a while, but there was a 22 C, 45 C, and 35 C one as well.  There are also really hot steam rooms (54 C and 72 C).  Once I was done with the spa I took a shower and put on the yellow pajamas provided to me.  

I met Brian downstairs where we had a nice lunch.  Then we got our dead foot skin eaten by fish.  It was a crazy, cool experience.  I'd definitely do it again ;)  Check out a video of it here.  Unfortunately, my camera died right after Brian took this footage, so there's no record of him doing it with me :(  boo

Afterwards we went to see Green Zone at the theatre.  Fortunately, all American movies here are subtitled in Korean and not dubbed.  The bad part was, similarly when our friends Arienne and Tristan went to see Avatar, we couldn't read the subtitles when the characters spoke another language.  But we got the gist.

Overall it was a great, eventful weekend!

The students who competed
On Friday I helped judge an English competition at my school.  The competition was open to grade 5 and 6 students and 25 of them competed.  I was incredibly impressed by some of the students-- their presentation skills and English proficiency were wonderful!  Other students were ill-prepared or forced to enter the competition by their parents.

The day prior to the competition I read through all of the students' speeches.  Here are bits I copied down for your reading pleasure:

The story of my unforgettable trip

“We went first to the Philippines… I can still remember the first time I ate this exotic food called ‘Balot.’  Balot is a steamed chicken egg, but when you open it there’s still a chick inside.  It looks scary but it’s so delicious.”


<No Title>

“Dear. Barack Hussein Obama

Hello.  How do you do?  My name is Kyoung kwan Oh, 12-year-old boy in Korea.  I’m writing a letter to a person whom I respect the most.  This is You, President Obama.

I was so frightened when I saw your speech accepting the nomination to run for president on TV.  You are so young and black.  The presidents that I have seen are old and white by the appearance in America.  It’s my prejudice… My dream is to be a president since I was 7 years old… I was nervous by thinking you from a candidate period to the Inauguration Day.  Because I felt there were hope, a passion, and sense of duty in you…  I love my country and am so proud to be Korean.  After I grow up, I would like to study with smart friends from all over the world in Harvard University.  Aren’t you a president any more at that time?  Can you meet me then?  I have to ask a question.  Could you win approval of health care legislation of poor people?”

Santa is Dead

“Long live Santa!

Every time someone says ‘I don’t believe in Santa Clause!’, a Santa dies.

I know that in each of us there is a Santa who survives on our faith and imagination, not on cookies and milk.  However, some of my friends just never seem to realize this…

‘ If Santa really exists, why hasn’t anyone seen him for real?’

Well, it is true that no one has seen Santa for real, but I simply know that he is there somewhere whether it’s the North Pole or the Moon.  Among my chaotic ramble of thoughts, a sudden query crossed my mind.

‘Why can’t we believe for the sake of believing?’

Wright brothers believed men can fly despite limited scientific knowledge, thus we fly around the world. Martin Luther King believed in a world of freedom despite the social situation, thus freedom became free for all.  We believe in God despite the fact that no one has ever seen him in person, this he is within us.

Since we believed in a lot of things without concrete basis, we were capable of making dreams and the impossible come true.  Those who have lost their faith in the power of believing have also lost the power of believing in themselves…  Believe for the sake of believing!  Believe in the impossible!  Most of all, believe in Santa.  As I believe in Santa I will believe in myself, and hope my bell will ring for me all my life.”


I have a dream

“I have always been inclined to exploring new things through experiments.  However, I want to become a scientist not only because it is interesting and fun but also because I want to help people like my hard-working father.

My dream is to make a robot which helps old and handicapped people.  Because my grandfather has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for a long time, he can’t walk and eat by himself; somebody should take care of him every day.  It would be wonderful, if I make the robot which takes care of people like my grandfather.

With this goal in mind, I wish to pursue my dream and hope that you can watch me accomplish it.”


<No Title>

“The profession I want to do in the future is a scientist.  I want to be a scientist because I want to create new inventions such as a time machine, a pocket-sized mini computer, a portable fresh oxygen inhaler, and cars that could use water for fuel… Even though my inventions sound absurd and impossible, I’ll give it a try.  I hope my inventions make it difference in the end.”


My Grandmother

“Since childhood I was always with my grandmother… My mother is very strict, so if I do something wrong, she always scolds me.  If my grandmother was there, she would tell my mom to stop scolding. Last time, my mom was scolding me, and it reminded me of my grandma.  So I cried because of that, but my mom scolded me even more, because I was crying.  How could she understand me?

My grandma has a lot of diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, so I always bought her medicine. but now, she is sad that I’m not helping her anymore.  My uncle lives near her, but she doesn’t miss me?

My grandma said that she would come to my school when I go to university.  I hope she’s healthy then, but I also want her to be healthy when I am married, so she could hug my children the same as she did to me.  I believe she will be.

My grandmother, I love you so much.”

- P

Step 1: Gather ingredients, including bananas that you bought in bulk that ripened way too quickly, that you chose to freeze, thus prompting you to think of a way to use them...

Step 2: Mix ingredients and dump into rice cooker

Step 3: If your rice cooker has 1 button, push it down and hope that it does not pop up for another hour.  Continuously check on rice cooker button.  If it has popped up, push it down again over and over...  Do this for an hour.  Occasionally open up the rice cooker to see how your cake is doing.  If your cake is cooked, congratulations!  If not, refer to step #4.

Step 4:  If your rice cooker bowl is not made of metal, try covering it and microwaving your cake until cooked.  If your rice cooker bowl is made of metal, pan fry heaping spoonfuls of the batter.

Step 5: Enjoy the fruits of your labour!  You just made almost cooked-through thick banana pancake bits!  Yum yum!

If your plan was to share this with your colleagues, rethink that idea...

This past Friday, Brian and I walked around old downtown.  We had a delicious 32cm ice cream (or so it is advertised), and took a look at the cute puppy stores!  It's great to walk around old downtown.  There are lots of shops, some arcades, and street food.  We visited a famous Daejeon bakery and I bought a nice pair of shoes!  One pedestrian street is closed off to cars.  For dinner we ate at the Flying Pan, an Italian restaurant offering delicious pizza!  Brian had the yummy pizza and I ordered the okay pesto pasta.  Next time I'll know better.  This was the first Friday in 3 weeks in which we actually had free time after school!!  (I forgot to mention that we had to take a 3-week training course, 5 days/week, 5:20-7:00pm... ugh)

On Saturday we were on the search for cherry blossoms!  We walked towards Chungnam university, but alas there were no cherry blossoms there :(

Our friend Brian (Brian #2) gave us a call and we met up for lunch instead.  He and his family had seen a nice park on the way to the university.  So we bought some mandu (dumplings) and kimbap (california rolls), and off we went!  To our surprise, the park was quite busy with little ones and their foldable tables.  They were all painting beautiful pictures for an art competition.  We walked by the river and Brian's daughter had fun at the park.  She is one of the cutest kids I have ever seen.  I secretly want to kidnap her and call her my own.  

              Delectable pastries                        Art competition at the park                     Brian #2's daughter Shae
On Sunday Brian felt really sick so he stayed home while I went to the Strawberry festival in Nunsan town!  Little did I know, I had locked Brian in our apartment (from the outside), so we was unable to go to the doctor's office, as planned, and was stuck inside our place for 7 hours...  I felt horrible!

On a happier note, I had a blast at the strawberry festival!  I sat beside a nice girl on the bus who spoke English!  She even worked at the Vancouver Olympics, in hospitality, for 8 months-- pretty cool stuff.
Then, I hooked up with a German foreigner (a student in Korea), and

his Korean friend.  They kindly let me tag along with them all day!  We picked strawberries, visited the booths on the festival grounds, and snacked on strawberries!  I even got to try on a hanbok-like dress shaped like a strawberry!!!  It was awesome.  (A hanbok is traditional Korean clothing).  It was really warm during the day but it got cold quickly.  At first I wished I hadn't brought my sweater; but by the end of the day I was glad I had it!

At the festival people sold popcorn, cotton candy, toys, strawberries, soap, liquor, strawberry jam, another other products.

All in all, it was a great day!  I really wished Brian could have been there too.  I really think he would have liked the sword-fighting anime reenactment on the strawberry stage.

We're finally in Daejeon!  So far Brian and I love it here.  When we first applied to EPIK, we were asked to select three cities we'd prefer to live in. Daejeon was our third choice simply because of its size (1.4 M population).  From Wikipedia, all I knew about Daejeon was that it was in the centre of South Korea, it had a Costco, and its flower was the magnolia.  

But Daejeon has proven to be a wonderful place to live, thus far.  Living centrally means that we can conveniently travel to many cities around South Korea by bus or train.  Costco is wonderful because it offers us good quality cheese, bulk popcorn, bulk crackers, and bulk cookies.  The cheese in Korean grocery stores in processed and tastes like plastic.

Living next to a subway station is also great.  Daejeon has one subway line that connects old downtown to new downtown and a few other places.  My school and apartment are both near the subway station.  We also live conveniently between two E-Marts (large, multiple-floor superstore chain that sells groceries as well as household items).  I do wish we lived beside a Homeplus, though.  Homeplus is just like E-Mart, but it has a lot more sales.  Oh!  Another wonderful thing about these grocery stores is that they constantly have food sampling.  You can go in at 10pm and you'll still be offered tofu, meat, bread, and dumpling samples-- it's great & delicious!

Brian and I are living at my place.  We were both given single housing, but we're making the best of it.  The day after we moved to Daejeon, we bought a TON of stuff from a couple that was moving, including: a queen-size bed & frame, dishes, bowls, an iron & ironing board, a set of drawers, a shelf, a full-length mirror, a bed-side table, a garbage can... etc.  They sold all that stuff to us for just $80.  We couldn't believe our luck.  Plus, they lived a 7min walk away, so we just carried everything over.  After carrying the queen mattress down the street, I felt like my arms were going to fall off-- but it was worth it.  (Apparently to rent out a moving truck we would have had to book it weeks in advance and of course be able to communicate with them in Korean.  So thank goodness the couple lived so close to us).

Brian and I also really love our schools.  Our co-teacher is responsible for us.  They found our apartment, and help us with any administrative stuff like getting an Alien Registration card and cell phone.  We also co-teach with them.  Brian and I both have wonderful co-teachers.  I teach Gr. 4-6 while Brian teaches Gr. 3-6 at his main school and Gr. 1-6 at the tiny school.  The tiny school has a total of just 80 students!!  Brian's grade 1 class only has 4 students in it!  What a lucky guy.  My classes all have approx. 30 students.  My school pumped a LOT of money into our English classroom.  Check out our video page for clips of our classrooms.

In addition to having wonderful co-teachers and classrooms, our students just make our day, every day.  They're the cutest kids ever.  They say "Hello!" when they pass us in the hall.  They always seem surprised and really happy to see us in school, even though we're there every day (or in Brian's case, 2-3 days a week).  Of course there are 1-2 brats in every school, but overall the experience is really great.  The students love the games we make up and like to learn about us and western culture.

In Korea individualism is not embraced.  There is a clear sense of community among families and coworkers.  Everyone eats lunch together, gets up from the cafeteria table together, and snacks together.  If you snack at work, you need to have brought enough snacks for everyone in the office.  Speaking of which, I should contribute some snacks soon because many teachers have brought in cookies and chocolate.  Every Wednesday teachers at my school play volleyball (a popular sport in Korea, and among teachers).  And during my first month at my school, the new teachers were treated to a bouquet of flowers and a bouquet of lollipops!

           Flowers for new teachers                    Me and my co-teacher Oori                 Singing with the vice principal!
The entire staff at my school even went out for a delicious buffet dinner, proceeded by a night at the norebang!  (Nore = song, bang = room, so the singing room = karaoke!)  It was exhilarating and unbelievable to be in a room with the vice principals, principal, and other teachers, all dancing and singing together. One vice principal spoke often about us being a 'clan,' a close-knit family, if you will.  He even tied toilet paper around our heads to show our devotion to each other.  What a lovely man!  Soju and beer were being drank by the bottle-full (but I just had a sip). This was one of the funnest nights.  Only in Korea can you have such a fun night out with your superiors.  And of course, no one spoke of it the next day... 

Orientation was great! ... but long.  We had 10 days of training from EPIK, an organization that hires foreign English-speakers to be placed in teaching positions in public schools across Korea.  It was clear that EPIK spent an extraordinary amount of money on us; they: housed us at the university campus, fed us all meals, gave us a bunch of gifts, brought us on a field trip, and trained us.


The gifts were great!  We got a box lunch when we first arrived to the university.  We also got slippers, a towel, an alarm clock, a hoodie, a pen, a note pad, and other little things.

One of the best parts of orientation was the field trip.  We went to a folk village in _____________.  We got to see what old Korean huts looked like and old village houses.  They even had some animals there, like horses and pigs.  We also saw a traditional dance.  And we ate meat on a stick!  It was wonderful.  

Our next stop was Icheon, the pottery town.  We visited a pottery place and got to paint our own piece of pottery for free!!  Brian and I both chose to paint plates.  Can you guess which one is mine and which one is Brian's?

The actual training classes were okay.  Some were a bit helpful (they explained the curriculum and taught us some games we could play with the kids), and others felt like a waste of time.  Our welcoming and farewell dinners were the best.  We got to see some amazing performances by Korean kids, including Tae Kwon Do, traditional dancing, and drumming.  These kids were the cream of the crop-- incredibly talented.  
Because Brian and I had arrived in Korea a week before orientation even started, we were really looking forward to going to Daejeon, the city where we'll be working for the next year.  We wanted to know where in the city we'd be living, what grade level we'd be teaching, and who our co-teacher would be.  

We were incredibly fortunate!  I would be teaching at an elementary school and Brian would be teaching at two elementary schools.  His main elementary school was just a 10min walk away from mine!  We'd also be living near new downtown, and right next to the subway station!  We're incredibly fortunate and happy to have gotten schools near each other and in a nice part of town.  :D  hurrah for us!

Us at Paris Baguette
Hi folks!  So, as you can tell, we are not very good at writing down events as they happen, so let me try to catch you up.

From Incheon, Brian and I met up with Arienne and Tristan in Seoul.  They very kindly showed us around to all the hotspots including: Namdaemun Market, Insadong (I think this is the name of the craft place), Itaewon (foreigner area), and N Seoul Tower.

              Namdaemun Market                                 N Seoul Tower                                    Itaewon (I think)
We spent much of our lunch times at Paris Baguette, a great cafe offering sandwiches, pastries, and hot drinks-- yum!  Brian adds: "There's so many things to see!  I forget all the things we saw."  Thanks, Brian-- it's nice to keep our readers informed.  

The subway system in Seoul is so expansive.  I love public transportation.  We had a great time with our friends and definitely hope to go back to Seoul soon.  From Daejeon, it will only take about 50min to get to Seoul by KTX (the bullet train that can travel up to 300km/h).

Hi everyone!

Welcome to our new blog!  We wanted to get this up and running as quickly as possible, so hopefully this rough design will be improved soon.

Brian and I arrived at Pearson International Airport bright and early at around 4 am on February 10th.  Checking into the airport was very stressful for me. 
Brian busy packing
I had spent the previous day packing, unpacking, and weighing my luggage over and over again…  Finally, it was judgment day.  We placed our first suitcase on the scale: 54 lbs.  “You’re over by 4 points, but I’ll let it go.  If any other luggage is over, you’ll have to pay,” said the check-in lady.  I breathed a sigh of relief, “thank you!”  The next piece was exactly 50 lbs.  The third weighed in at 52 lbs, but she let it go through!  Our last piece was 50 lbs as well.  We were home free!!

Our checked luggage was not placed on a conveyer belt; we brought it with us as we went through US customs.  There, we were told that our carry-ons were too bulgy.  Simply enough, we took things out of our carry-on luggage and stuffed it into our checked luggage-- I guess weight wasn't an issue anymore!

Golden Gate Bridge from the sky!
Our first flight was from Toronto to San Francisco.  After many delays (door pressure, fuel gauge, refueling, runway closure), we made it to San Fran with 30 min to spare before catching our connecting flight.  

We're so exhausted, although we look fabulous
We had a pleasant, albeit long (12h45min), flight to Incheon, South Korea.  They fed us bulgogi (marinated beef) and rice, and ramen noodles.

Our friend Jamie was there to greet us at the airport.  We dropped our things off at her place in Incheon, where I successfully read my first hangul sign: Arabian Night!  For dinner we ate yummy dok mandoo gook (rice cake and dumpling soup).  We stayed at Jamie's for our first night.

P & B are ready for their Korean adventure!