Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Settling In

The cherry trees are in full bloom, and it is georgeous.  The first picture is at the foot of a small mountain near my apartment.  The second two are just outside of my school.  They line most of the streets here in Gwangju, and I enjoy seeing them.  

I am finally getting settled in.  My apartment is arranged to my liking.  My bathroom is finally clean.  I have most of the household items that I need, but I still need an ironing board.  I am tempted to have my shirts and slacks pressed at a local dry cleaner two blocks over.  My coworker, Maggie, received her monthly electric bill today.  It was 11,000 won ($10), which is around one seventh of what I paid in the states.  And she lives with her husband, so that is between two people!

I started teaching this week.  I have yet to meet all of my students, but I have met most, as I still have more classes that I will see for the first time later in the week.  The students are a lot of fun.   They are enthusiastic, and willing to participate.  They are all amazed at my left-handedness.  Apparently, Koreans are all trained to write right handed.  It has happened in numerous classes.  A student will notice and say in a Korean accent, "Teacher, you are using your left hand!"

"Yes I am,"  would be my normal reply, as I resume writing on the chalkboard.  

Then all the students would chime in, "Wooooaaaaah!!"

One of my favorite parts of the day are the nightly telephone calls that I am to give to my students to review, and to be certain that they have a grasp of the lesson, and also so parents can tell their friends, "look at what my school is doing for my kid!"  For the younger kids, we have them repeat some basic statements that were learned in the day's lesson, such as, "Where is Amy?...  She is in the kitchen...  Where is Joe?...  He is in the bathroom...  Where are Jack and Jill?...  They are in the yard..."  The older kids answer some basic questions from a passage that was read and discussed in class.   

Here is the average conversation:  "Yoboseo... (the korean telephone greeting)," says the mother as she answers the phone.

"Hi, may I speak to so and so please?"

She would then say something in Korean meaning hold on one minute, then I would hear, "Hello...," in a high pitched voice of a younger Korean girl.

"Hi so and so!  This is Chris Teacher."  My goal is to sound excited when I speak to them.

"I knew it was you, Teacher!"  I have gotten this reply numerous times.

"What are you doing?"

"I am doing homework."

"What are you studying?"


"Are you studying the story about so and so, and such and such?"


"Are you ready to answer some questions about so and so, and such and such?"

"Yes, Teacher."

"What did so and so do after such and such?"

"So and so did this after such and such," would be the reply in a Korean accent.

I would ask them a few more questions, and I would finish by telling them, "So and so, you were terrific."

Usually they would laugh and say, "Thankyou, Teacher."

"Now I want you to do well on your homework, okay?"


"And I'll see you next time we meet for class, okay?"


"Bye so and so."

"Bye Teacher."

I guess you just have to be there, but I enjoy hearing these kids speak in Korean accents over the phone.

This particular meal was one of my favorites, because everything, except the soup was spicy.  I'll start with the main entree in the middle.  It is an octopus pancake with green onions and carrots.  For all of you who say,  "Ewwww.....  That's disgusting," don't knock it until you try it.  It was amazing.  The octopus was tender, and the pancake was moist and crispy.  Next to it in the small dish on top is seasoned spinach.  I have never had it spicy before this, and it was incredible.  Next to it in the black bowl is a cabbage and Tofu soup.  On the far right is the standard fermented bean paste, next to it on the bottom are snails, or escargo.  They tasted like a more chewy oyster.  Next to that, is the last of the carrots to be dipped in the fermented bean paste.  On the bottom in the dish with the chopsticks, is steamed cabbage, to be dipped in the small dish above it, which is seasoned soy sauce.  The pancake was also to be dipped in the soy sauce.  Above it is spicy seasoned bean sprouts.  This was the first meal that excluded the Korean staple, Kimchi.  And it all costed 7,000 won.


  1. "NICE"....It's Beautiful! Your students will enjoy you.

    Sandy Perkins

  2. Hey Neighbor -- To bad I didn't really get to see you off on your life adventure. Donna and I really enjoyed sharing a dinner table with you and your parents before we left. You are a fine young man from a great family and I'm proud to call you a friend. Have fun and soak it all in Chris. We're thinkin about ya buddy....

    Yo Friend and former neighbor,
    Mr. Steve

  3. I love the update Chris, thanks. The food looks amazing. Your Mom and Dad came over last night, they brought us dinner and we played UNO with my grandson Stephen, had fun. What a blessing to be there!!

  4. Jerry & I will be following your experiences. So happy for you - what an opportunity of a life time. Best wishes!! Jerry & Eleeva Hilbun