Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween, Korean Style

Although the holiday is not typically celebrated in Korea, our school had a Halloween party for the kindergarten students on Friday morning.  The whole school was decorated to the max with black and orange banners, Jack O’ Lantern cut-outs, and witches flying on broomsticks.  

Even the indoor play room was transformed into a haunted house for the occasion.   

To celebrate, the students dressed up in adorable costumes and rotated through different Halloween themed activities.  Ryan and I were stationed in the gym where we worked with groups on how to walk like a zombie, creep like a cat, stomp like a monster, and fly like a bat, all across the span of the room.

The kids seemed to fully enjoy themselves.  They were especially excited to receive candy from us before moving on to the next activity. 

Among the other stations were Jack ‘O Lantern carving…

And a Halloween concentration game.

Pass the pumpkin to Halloween songs (musical chairs style), the making of bags for treats received, and scary stories in the haunted house also entertained students.

Costume-wise I opted to go as a member of the local baseball team, Busan’s Lotte Giants. 

Ryan and the other male foreign teachers’ costumes were inspired by the most popular game in the country: “Rock, Paper, Scissors” (or in Korean, “Tai, Bai, Bo” meaning “Rock, Scissors Paper”).  The students play the game constantly, and are happy to rely on it as a fair way to determine everything from who goes first in an activity, to who should be “it” in tag, and for all other decisions in between.  Here are the three men in full costume...

All of the foreign teachers...

Paper and The Baseball Player...

And some more of the adorable kiddies.

Happy Halloween!  Not to mention, Happy “Ducks beat USC Day!”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Big Chill

Someone flipped the switch for winter yesterday. 

On Monday’s walk to school in a long sleeved dress, the sunshine warmed my bare legs and the mid seventies temperature made the three blocks pleasant and enjoyable.  
Tuesday however, during my AM trip to yet another doctor’s appointment (for the never-ending cold), an icy wind whipped through my thin jacket and blew my hair around my face.  It was cold

After arriving at school, a co-worker reported that the current temperature in Seoul was negative one, and locally, Busan’s temp was a mere seven degrees.  I knew it wasn’t quite that cold, and tried to do an accurate but quick conversion from Celsius to Farenheit in my head.  Seven should be somewhere in the high thirties?  My hands stayed icy for the rest of the day and I could never quite warm up.

Two months ago, Ryan and I had a difficult time imagining we would ever experience cold again.  Having never lived outside Oregon, the humidity and heat of summer in Korea were extremes both of us had yet to experience before last summer.  
Another characteristic of weather in Korea which we quickly figured out differs from Oregon: a dry fall.   On an outing to the beach last Saturday night, I had to comment on the lack of precipitation over the last month. 

“It hasn’t even sprinkled!” I joyfully observed.
 The next day it poured. 

But it’s been dry since then!  
We'll take the good with the bad.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Potatoes over Pumpkins

Around this time each year, nearly every elementary school in the US loads their students into yellow school busses and heads to the pumpkin patch.  Our first autumn field trip in Busan turned out to be only a slight variation on that American harvest tradition.

Thursday morning, our kindergarteners ventured thirty minutes outside the city to a sweet potato farm.  Upon arrival, each child pulled a shovel from their bag, packed by mom and dad for the occasion.

Some were pink plastic, left over from summer sandcastle construction.   Others were genuine shovels, and their owners quickly discovered their tools could double as threatening weapons.  This one happened to be larger than little Michelle's head.

Once the shovels came out, so did the gloves.  Each child was given a pair, and adorned with gloves and their shovels, some truly did look like little farmers.

Each student found their designated spot and started to dig.    

Some students were aggressive, carelessly chopping the thick vegetables in half before bringing them up from underground. 
Others, like this sweet six year old, adorned with a Disney princess hat, posed for pictures, daintily poking and prodding the dirt.

Thanks to their effort, the group gathered plenty of the hearty vegetable, which as my mom would tell you, happens to be a superfood.

There was an apparent sense of accomplishment each student felt when they received their bag of sweet potatoes.  Ryan and I went home with a hefty amount as well, with few recipe ideas.  Any recipes you have would be appreciated! 

What we’re not short on, are adorable pictures from the field trip.  Is it possible that the kids are getting cuter?

Their teachers aren’t terrible either. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

The best and worst of international film

Last Thursday, the 15th annual Pusan International Film Festival opened in Busan.   

Also known as PIFF, the festival runs for a week each October.  This year, 308 movies from all over the world will be showcased. 

Curious about all the hype, I scoured the titles and blurbs on the PIFF website to see what sounded interesting.

Saturday was chosen as movie day, since the two movies we were most interested in (“Late Autumn”, and “A Woman”) would be shown back to back.  Both had already sold out online, so we headed to the box office at Shinsegae early, hoping to beat the crowds and score two of the remaining twenty percent of the tickets, reserved for purchase the day the movie is shown.

We joined the crowd at 7:30 am, one hour before the box office opened.  There were at least a hundred would-be movie goers in front of us.   

We hoped they didn’t have their sights set on the same movies we did.  Luckily, we brought entertainment.

Unfortunately, “Late Autumn”, which sold out online in five seconds, also sold out at the box office in five minutes.  When we heard the announcement, we realized we had to choose a back up.  Preparing for this situation, I had hastily written down the names of some other titles that sounded half decent.

At 9:30, we reached the front and managed to snag tickets to “A Woman,” and also those for back up plan, “Desert.”   

We chose the latter since its time slot was convenient, and at one point I’d thought it looked worthwhile based on its description.

Funny how wrong one can be.

After a hike to a second movie theater and a quick snack, we found our seats and prepared for the world premiere of “Desert.”  We later decided that in this case, “Desert” must refer to the verb, as in: to leave.  That’s what everyone did, to this sad, and unfortunate pregnant woman.  We kept waiting for something, (anything!) to happen in the movie.  It never did.

“There’s no way that could have been worse,” Ryan said as we left the theater. 
I pointed out that it could have been longer…

Back to the subway we went, arriving at Shinsegae again for our second movie of the day.  We both agreed that anything would be better than what we’d just seen. 
Fortunately it was.

“A Woman” is the story of a novelist (Willem Dafoe) who invites a young woman he meets in New York to live with him in Italy.  She agrees, but upon her arrival she becomes obsessed with his dead wife.

With five minutes left until the international premier was set to start, in strolled Willem Dafoe himself, with his wife, the film’s director Giada Colagrande on his arm.

Following the movie, both star and director answered questions.  Suddenly our second row seats were a good thing.  Our camera's battery died at the moment the couple and their interpreters took the stage.  I managed to get this one dark, blurry photo.

As we left the theater, we inadvertently met two couples that had gone to Oregon, graduating a year before we did, now also teaching in Korea.  The green “O” beanie one guy sported was the giveaway.  The six of us traded travel stories and chatted about how to catch the Duck games overseas.  Our best advice to them was that they avoid “Desert.”

What a small (and entertaining) world.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

14th Holidays: Wine and photos- but not necessarily together

I promised to alert you to the (often couple related) Korean holidays that fall on the 14th of each month.  Since last month was a busy one, it completely slipped my mind at the time.

What you missed in September was Photo Day.  On Photo day, couples take pictures together so they can remember their love.  We often see couples capturing photos of themselves, with their camera phones in outstretched hands. 

Photography is huge here, so it’s not surprising that one of the 14th holidays revolves around it.

While Photo Day seems nice, I think we’ve discovered our favorite of the holidays so far.

Today, October 14th, is Wine Day!  As you may have guessed, this is a day where couples drink wine together.  Ryan and I tend to celebrate our very own Wine Day a few times a month, and if I didn't have a cold that's been hanging on for four weeks, I would definitely indulge in some today.  Instead, I'll leave the wine drinking to you.

(Or in English, Cheers!)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Just in time for jack o' lanterns

Although it’s not quite Halloween, the jack o’ lanterns are already out. 

Recently, my adorable six year olds have proudly shown off their loose teeth. 
“Look!” they shout, their eyes wide, and their voices muffled as they shove their fingers in their mouths to continue wiggling.

I noticed this week that almost half the class (so it’s a class of seven) have not one but both of their front teeth missing.  It was too cute (and too in season) not to share here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gifts and Goodbye

Monday morning we said goodbye to Sarah who’d been visiting for three weeks.  It was nice to have the company of someone besides each other (that we’ve known longer than seven months) here in our new home.

Besides being a big help to us around the apartment by taking on the laundry and preparing dinners, she shared in new adventures with us, taught us a new card game to keep us entertained, and of course kept us laughing.

She also used her recently discovered talents to paint these gorgeous watercolor pictures based on our wedding photos.  She wanted to get it just right, so there are a few.  We love them all!

We are so happy to have so many amazingly beautiful paintings.

Have a safe trip home Sarahmom!  We will miss you.