Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Catie: The uhh... UnMove. Yes, you heard me.

Are we bitter?

Well, perhaps.


Not as angry as we were...

I think the question we just keep asking ourselves is, WHY DID WE LISTEN TO EWHA???

In early October, we told Ewha we would need to move.  Our place had mold, was filthy and filled with cockroaches, gross long hairs, and grime from centuries of uncleanliness.

"Oh, yes," Ewha said.  "We will move you.  We will find somewhere and we will move you."

Later, in November, we said to them, "When are you going to move us, Ewha?" and they said, "We will move you."

Later, in early December, we said to them, "WHEN are you going to move us?" and then they said, "Alex teacher will be leaving after Christmas and we think that you can move into his apartment when he gone.  It is very new and nice."

We said, "Great.  Will this apartment be clean?"

"Oh, certainly," said Ewha.  "We will have a lady go to clean it after Alex leaves."

"Good," we said.  "Will we have time to move there before someone comes into our apartment?  We want at least one full day to move."

"Oh, certainly," said Ewha.

"Good," we said.

Christmas Eve was Alex teacher's last day at Ewha, part of the reason we went out to the spring roll restaurant.  Everyone from the school was there.

Here is a quick chain of command:

Mr. Min owns Ewha and is the Big Boss.

Bruce is the under-Mr. Min boss.

Nicole is the head teacher.

Then there are seven other Korean teachers: Paul is the detention teacher (what a cushy job, right?), Ken and Jane are "desk teachers", which means they sit at the front desk and you can scare kids by saying you'll send them to, "desk teacher".  Landon (the best English speaker at Ewha), Alisha, Amanda and Jessi are all classroom teachers.  They teach Grammar and other things it would be difficult to explain without a fluency in Korean.

And, after that, the foreign teachers:  Bryan and Aaron are brothers from Colorado, Alex is from.. actually no one is sure where he is from... no one ever asked, nor would he probably have told anyone had they asked as he tended toward paranoia, then there is Spencer who came to replace Alex because Alex left yesterday, on Monday.  Spencer is from England and pretty much everyone is in love with his accent.  He's maybe the most normal person at Ewha.  Very, very nice and, you know.. just normal.

Anyway, while eating dinner, Bruce told us that Alex would be moving out Monday morning.

"So, when would you like to move to Alex's apartment?" he asked us.

"How about we start on Tuesday?" we said.

"That is good," said Bruce.  "Also, perhaps Alex will leave you many things in his apartment."

"Okay..."  Great.  Just great.

That's when Alex piped up in his affected deep voice, "I'll leave you all my good books," he said.

"Uh, thanks," we said.  Too bad you have a cold sore on either side of your mouth, a seriously bloody looking case of conjunctivitis and you wear the same clothes for a week before you switch them out.  Not to the mention the graphic stories you've told of your, paid "conquests" in Itaewon, Seoul.  Fill in the blanks there.

"He has gotten many things while he has been in Korea," Bruce said.  "So, perhaps he will leave them for you.  Then, if you will leave many things for Spencer.  That would be good, I think."

"Actually," Alex said, leaning into the conversation now.  "I haven't really accumulated much."  Then he sort of stroked his creepy facial hair.  "Except a ton of memories," he said wistfully and leaned back again, half mumbling,  "Man, I always have a headache until I start drinking soju, then it just goes away..."

Yeah, isn't that called alcoholism?

"He has many dishes, though, I think," Bruce said, looking at Alex, probably hoping he would take back the, 'I've accumulated nothing but memories,' comment.  Bruce basically wanted us to leave everything for Spencer.

"Um..." we said.  "All right..."

"So," Bruce said, "You should leave these things for Spencer."

"Our dishes?"

"Anything you have gotten in Korea," Bruce said.

Right.  How about... no.

But you quickly come to find here, that it is best to play along, plus Bruce had done a good many shots of soju by this time.

"Yeah, okay," we said.  "We'll see."

"Also, Alex has said he will clean the apartment."


Alex sort of nods through his soju haze.  "Yeah, I'll totally clean it for you guys."

Yeah.  I seriously doubt that an alcoholics take on clean is going to jive with my take on clean...

"Okay..." we said.  "Is someone else coming to clean, too?"

"I think we will see after Alex leaves," Bruce said.

Oh. My. Gosh.

But we dropped it there, thinking that we'd have time to deal with this.  No one had said anything about Spencer moving in soon, so we had time to deal with this.  Christmas Eve was Thursday, we could talk to them on Monday, once Alex was gone.

So, Monday rolls around, and Alex has left us keys to his, "apertment" (yes, that's A-P-E-R-T-M-E-N-T) along with a note about security codes.

Yes, he taught English for a year.  Korea picks only the best for their children.

The funny thing is, that Ewha is actually considered one of the best hagwons.  It's very expensive, and considered somewhat prestigious.

Still, there's an Alex there.

"But his voice is so beautiful," the Koreans say.

Yeah.. his voice isn't actually his voice.  He makes it deeper on purpose.  And.. it's obvious.

Anyway, it's Monday and Ben goes to work, I pack up the entire house, cleaning everything, Aaron brings Spencer over to see the apartment.  Everything seems to be going according to plan.  Spencer is very nice and Aaron says nice things to him about how clean our house usually is.  I tell Spencer it will be clean when he gets here, not to worry.  I know he only believes me inasmuch as anyone believes the tenant moving out who says they'll clean for you, but I really am cleaning for him.  I was doing it before they arrived.  They leave, seemingly happy with our place.

"It's WAY nicer than before," Aaron said to Spencer on the way out.  "So much cleaner."

Then Ben comes home.

And he is not as happy as Aaron and Spencer.

He went to look at Alex's place on his lunch break and also had a revealing talk with Bruce, who let him know that Spencer would be moving into our place that night: Monday night.

So... not only are we not ready to move, since we're thinking we don't have to be out until Tuesday night, now we're basically supposed to have been out by Monday morning because Spencer brought all his belongings with him to Ewha.

In fact, he was told that he could sleep in our house -- in our bed -- Monday night.

Right.  Thanks for telling us THIS IMPORTANT PIECE OF INFORMATION!!

For a while, we're thinking, okay, maybe this is just the Korean way.  We already know they don't think about things until last-minute.  By American standards, they're disorganized.  That's culture more than anything else.

But then we realize that even when things happen last-minute, they always let people know in advance.  Often, "in advance" is only one day.  Occasionally even several hours, but always in advance.

This is no advance.

So, suddenly, we're realizing that, no, this is not the Korean way, nor is it the American way and we're beginning to become irritated.

But, Ben goes on and tells me he has talked with Bruce and Spencer, we will move Monday night -- immediately -- and Spencer will stay in a hotel for the night and move in Tuesday morning.

THEN.. Ben starts telling me about Alex's apartment.  Filthy, he says.  That is the adjective that is used over and over.  Filthy, filthy, filthy.  Alex left pretty much everything he owns, which.. had Alex been a normal person, that would have been nice -- we'll get to that.  Ben tells me he didn't have that much time to look around, all he knows is that it's dirty.

Still, I'm thinking: but the floors in Alex's apartment are real laminate floors, not paper-thin linoleum that's not been glued down.  And: Alex's apartment has a lot of room....  And: the kitchen is so much bigger.........

So, we pack the car up, drive to the Alex "apertment" and start unloading.

It is 10:00pm when we enter the apartment.

And I am having a nightmare.  This has to be a nightmare because this is not the home of a normal person.

Well, that's just duh... Alex was never normal.  He told us he wouldn't treat his conjunctivitis because "antibiotics don't really work".  Three kids that Ben and I know of then caught the pink eye.  It's the only time in my life that I've religiously washed my hands every hour or two.

So, we shouldn't have expected miracles.

But this is... this is miraculous in a bad way.

It's miraculous that filth like exists.

And I am angry.  I am not sad, I do not feel anything except the severe urge to bash someone or throw something at someone or scream at someone.  The main someone is Bruce, but I'd settle for Alex if he were in country.

How to even describe Alex's apartment...

He has left in the entryway: two pairs of disintegrated shoes, a dirty umbrella and the filthy, stained leather jacket we most hate that he wore every single day.  As well as a bowl of change (okay, that's not terrible) and a bunch of weird books in the shoe cabinet next to the door.  Dirty cleaning items occupy the utility cabinet.  A broom, a mop, a scrub brush, all covered in black grime and hair.

The floors -- the floors I want, the nice, laminate floors -- are covered in dirt.  How anyone could track that much dirt into a house is beyond my ability to comprehend.

And the kitchen.  The two burner, gas stove is near identical to ours, but instead of looking shiny and well-loved, it has a thick, impenetrable glaze of grease over its entire horizontal surface.  As well as over the entire cabinet above the stove and the one below it and everything surrounding the stove within ten inches.  It is yellow -- I mean, everything in the vicinity is yellow -- with grease.

Every cabinet door has black fingerprint smudges on and around the handle as though whoever had touched them had never washed their hands.  As though, perhaps, they were unaware of hand-washing as a common, human practice.  As though, perhaps, this person were a cave person.  Or a Tarzan.  Or an abandoned child raised by wolves (that could actually be true of Alex...).  The fridge and freezer were the same, black and brown fingerprints over it's entire surface.  And slimy inside with red, green and yellow goo.  There were dishes.  He did leave us dishes.  They were plastic and had Peter Rabbit on them.

And they were in the sink.

Covered in dried food and another layer of yellow grease.

Alex left us blocks of freeze-dried seaweed, Korean off-brand ketchup (don't try it), and a bunch of bowl noodles, as well as a zillion empty water bottles and wine bottles, stacked two and three deep in a windowsill above our heads.

The bathroom has a broken toilet seat on the ground, surrounded by probably every empty toilet paper roll he'd ever used.  The toilet was black inside, the washing machine in the bathroom that should have been navy blue was grey with hard water.  The walls near the floor that should have been off-white, were a rusty brown with.. heaven only knows.  And the floor drain was just ugly.

Then there was the hair.  So much hair.

He left us a bunch of books on sex and a bunch of books on Korea.

Yeah.. apparently those are his good books, the ones he told us he'd leave.

They makes sense in context, though, as those two topics basically surmise his one and only hobby.  Which is probably the main reason no one ever befriended him.  He didn't/wouldn't/couldn't talk about anything else.

It could also be why he left a strategically placed pair of earrings right on top of the books.  As if to say, "See?  All those things I told you really happened."

I was really okay hoping all those things he told us were lies.  I was really okay in that world.

He left a sweater, a flannel shirt and one black sock in the wardrobe.  A pile of dead light bulbs.  An exercise ball.

Oh!  But he did make his bed.  His cozy bed with greyed blankets and yellowed pillows.  His nice bed.

His teeny, tiny bed.

That was when I lost it.

It took me ages to clean the house we're in right now.  Ages.  It is finally beginning to feel like someone normal actually lives here.  We've fixed things that were broken, kept up with maintenance.  I am finally used to OUR bed.  It is also small, and hard.  Real hard.  But I am used to it now.  And at least it's not THIS small.

Then we walk into Alex's place and it's like somebody really mean is playing a trick.

Stunned, we carried everything from the car, up the stairs.  Flights upon flights, up to the sixth floor, making probably six to seven trips.  All I could think the whole time was, A.) Who lives like this?! and B.) I can't move here.  I cannot clean another house full of other people's dirty grossness.

Usually, in a situation like this, one of us -- Ben or I -- rises to the occasion.  One of us thinks about it and comes up with a nice, bright side of things and says, "We can do it like this," and the other person grudgingly goes along and then we do it like that we feel better.  This time was not like that.  There was no silver lining and no way to do it that would make us feel better.  This was like the wall of Jericho only we had no horns.

I the inability to even find one nice thing to say made it much worse.

We drove back to our clean, bright and happy home.  Moldy in places, maybe, but loved, yes.  This also made it worse.  Thinking that tonight was our last night in paradise...

Who knew this place would ever feel like paradise.

And we started packing the car again.

Two or three trips in, I came inside and collapsed on our warm, queen-sized bed.

I did not want to move to Alex's.

Suddenly, our sad little apartment in the old part of town with a filthy outside walk-up, whose front gutter often smells of raw sewage, seemed like the only place in the world I actually wanted to be.

When Ben came in to get another load, I asked if we could Skype Bryan.


"Because he might call have Nicole's number."

"We can't call her this late."

"Oh, we can. Korean's don't sleep."

"Why do you want to call her?  She can't do anything this late at night."

"I want to tell her we're not moving.  I'm not going there.  It is disgusting and they told us it would clean and they told us we'd have time to move and it is midnight on Monday and we just walked up and down six flights of stairs a thousand times.  I like it here and I like this bed and I am staying here."

"I have her number somewhere..."

So, we called her and she couldn't understand us and then we called her back and she still couldn't understand us (language barrier+Skype+bad wifi="phone is no work"), so we said we'd email her, which we did, letting her know in no uncertain terms that everything was very bad and we could not move there, very sorry, but we would stay in the apartment we were in until our contract was up and that was fine, thank you.

Then we emailed Spencer, told him there were complications with the apartment and that he wouldn't be able to move in Tuesday morning, really sorry, we'll get back to you, etc...

And we unloaded the car.

And we went back to Alex's place and reloaded the car.  Up and down six flights of stairs.

And came back home and unloaded the car.

By 1:00am, we were finally done undoing everything.  It was exhausting, but we got to sleep in our own bed.

And Nicole came by this morning to tell us we could stay here, that was fine, she was sorry things were so bad at Alex's and we said it was okay, as long as we could stay here, it was all fine.  We just weren't walking into another terrible disaster and thank you so much for understanding.

So, now we are moving back into our own house.  Everything is packed and has to be put away again.

But I got to deep clean most everything as I packed it, so we're putting things away into a clean house.  That's nice.

And we get to stay here.

I think we both realized that we should have just said we'd stay here a long time ago.  I don't think I really wanted to move, even though I thought I did, because once we decided to stay, I was relieved on more than one level.

I like it here.  Grimy, creepy-linoleum-ed, cement brick house that it is.

It does get tons of good, natural light all day long as there are windows on all sides.

Plus, it's clean.

.....I feel pretty bad for Spencer.  But I told him I would help him clean Alex's apartment and I will as long as I don't have to live there. :/  And I told him I would make him a pot roast (which is apparently food of legend and now that I've made it once no one will stop talking about it specifically and then: how amazing, you can make REAL food in Korea!).

I guess he went and saw it and said that Ewha was going to have pay someone to clean it before he'd touch the place and he also didn't know what sort of person lived like that.

I would have told him that lots of people do, apparently, since we cleaned a house like that in Boise last winter and then the one we're in now also.

So, ambiguous end for Spencer, who will hopefully still want to carry on amiable relations with us.

But HAPPY ending for us!

Plus, now Bruce can't try to persuade me to, "leave everything we have gotten in Korea" behind for Spencer.

And I am making chicken with potatoes and carrots and onion soup mix in the crockpot.

So glad I brought the onion soup mix with us.  That and the dry ranch have really paid off.  Bryan and Aaron were super impressed at Christmas that we had real ranch.  They wanted to know where we got it and I told them I made it.  It's the only flavor dressing you can't find anywhere here.

Well, that's the update on us.  Hope all is well with everyone else! :)

- catie

Monday, December 28, 2009

Catie: Finally, a new post.

So much has happened!

I will give you a brief overview and then focus on what is really important: our move.

Since we last posted:

- We discovered Old Downtown on a trip to Costco.  Usually, we take a bus and then the subway, but we didn't want to have to walk to the subway (actually, I didn't want to.. :D), so that day we took two buses instead.  The first bus, number 2, dropped us right in the middle of Old Downtown.

Old Downtown is crazy.  We had been there once before, to get to the International Center, but we'd never gone exploring.  There is a huge, underground shopping center.  Yes, underground.  It's cool, basically a long subway tunnel with shops on either side.  It stops at the river and then starts up again on the other side.  It spans maybe... half a mile?  That's an uneducated guess.  There's also a huge, traditional market.

On the day we really went to explore, it was snowing tons.  Tons and tons of tons.  So, it was freezing-freezing, but it was really fun to walk through the outdoor market in the snow.  Most areas are either covered, or vendors shelters overlap one another enough that you're basically covered.  Some Koreans carry umbrellas in the snow.  The traditional market sells (of course) mandarins and navel oranges, persimmons, lots of beans and grains, vegetables, fresh eggs, a lot of various street food, dead fish, live fish as well as lots of other live sea food like king crabs, oysters, clams, lots of squid, sting ray is popular, also dried fish, prawns and shrimp in various forms.  Basically, they sell everything in the world, mostly food.  Like our traditional market, only huger.

For dinner, there's this sort of square type place -- by square I mean something like a "village square" -- that was crazy-decorated.  We're not sure if it was just for Christmas, but it was nuts.  There are these huge, white metal arches all along the length of it -- it's more of a rectangular.. square -- with scrolling all in them and lights all over them.  First, in the spirit of starving, we got our first Korean waffle.  You see these waffles everywhere.  Koreans consider waffles to be desert, so they're often served with ice cream and other sweet toppings.  They're all Belgian waffles, thick and airy.  They're also delicious.  Most street vendors sell a single waffle for W1,000, and spread some sort of honey/jam on one side, and a sweet kind of cross between butter and whipping cream on the other side.  I've never had any sort of cream like it and I assume it's at least partially non-dairy, but it is yummy.  We've had several waffles since and I like Korean waffles.  Next, we found a place selling wraps.  They're a little gyros and places that have these spits, like gyro places in America have.  You know, with the legs of lamb, turning around and around and they carve off pieces as it turns.  Only... here, they're piles chicken and chicken upon chicken, layered with pieces of chicken fat, onto the spit in the shape of a leg of lamb.  Then, as though it were a leg of lamb, they carve it as it spins and the pieces fall into tiny bits instead of slices.  But I am not complaining.  This was the best wrap of it's sort that I have ever had.  I know I've said it before, but I will say it again.  They take a really thin tortilla (I think it's the same kind we buy at Costco -- there's so many small businesses, I think a lot of them actually shop at Costco), put a plain, white, "yogurt sauce" on it (which may actually be straight up yogurt), then a mixture of shredded vegetables, mostly green cabbage, with some red cabbage, carrots and sometimes lettuce, then sliced yellow onions, and tomatoes.  They put the "lamb" chicken on top of that and then what I think is honey mustard (Koreans only really eat honey mustard, it seems like) and the most delicious spicy, red sauce I have ever tasted.  I could eat it with a spoon.  Have I said how I'm becoming accustomed to the spice in things?  Because I am and I love it.

We ate the wrap.

And then we found the coolest thing we've found yet in the history of street food.  It was a whole potato (they're tiny here), spiral cut pretty thin, stretched out long on a wooden skewer and fried.  It was like really thick potato chips.  When you buy it (for W1,000, like all street food - cheap), they roll it in a lightly sweet, seasoned salt.  It is yum.  You would like it.

So, Old Downtown in fun.  It is very, very loud.  There are tons of shops.  There's a North Face and other familiar brands like Unionbay have stores.  There's a Baskin Robbins, an Outback Steakhouse, a Pizza Hut, seventy-three million 7 Elevens, and a Starbucks, too.  Plus other places I can't remember.

Also, a yarn store!  But, I think it pretty much turns out that all yarn stores in Korea are about the same.  So, while it was fun to find another one, I don't think, in the end, I really need one.  That makes three that I've found, though!  Plus, one tiny fabric kiosk I found in our dong.

Moving forward.

- We got a membership at the International Lending Library.  To do so, we had to donate four paperback books (or three hardbacks -- who buys hardbacks?) and bring in our alien registration card (like a green card).  Ben had run out of things to read -- completely run out, he ran through his newest batch of New Yorkers and other magazines like a wood chipper with shavings coming off the sides! -- so I took the bus down there one afternoon and got a membership.  The problem, then, was picking out books he'd actually like, but thankfully, you can only get two books at a time per membership.  We only get to keep them two weeks, too, but there are only 2,000 books in the whole library, so it makes sense.  So, Ben is now rereading the full Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as some political book called Terror and Consent.  Sounds so light and fun!  It's nice to have the membership, and we've figured out that it's much faster to get there by taking the bus to the subway and the subway to the Int'l Center than by just taking the number 2 bus.  Number 2 takes well over an hour.  It's good for him to have books.

- Christmas Eve was spent with Ben's co-workers at a Korean spring roll restaurant.  It was so good.  I can't even tell you how good.  There is some Korean food that I may not even be able to live without when we come home.

Okay, so here's how it worked.

Korean meals, like Chinese meals, are very communal.  There are a bazillion side dishes and, depending on the size of your group, there may be multiple bowls, but usually no more than one per three people.  So, in the middles of the tables, there were grills (most restaurants have some form of either grill or pot in the middle of the table), with pots sunk in the middle and then in the front and in the back, there were these little metal tins of warm, red water.  Then, each person had a little set of dipping sauces and everyone shared piles of round, rice paper and several giant platters of shredded vegetables, including: red and green cabbage, two kinds of bean sprouts, seaweed, turnip, zucchini, carrots, a leafy green that tastes a bit like.. mint?  It's everywhere.  And other ones I can't remember.  Then, the waitresses bring you platters of meat, some of which they arrange on the grills, and some of which they plop into the pot of hot salt water brine/broth that makes up the base of any and all Korean soup pots.  They cut the boiling meat so thin that it cooks in a matter of seconds and the grilling meat cooks pretty fast too, with yummy dark grill marks.

So, what you do is you take a piece of crispy-hard rice paper with your chopsticks and drop it in the red water then immediately take it back out and lay it on your plate.  It won't be soft then, but it will get soft on your plate while you pile vegetables onto it.  Plus, the red water makes it pink, so it's so cute.  You do want to make sure you get it out while it's still hard, though, or you'll be trying to peel apart this slimy piece of pink rubber.  Like peeling apart plastic wrap, only worse.  Then, you grab vegetables and meat (we had bulgogi [beef], duck sausage, and a very ham-like pork, but uncured, of course) with your chopsticks and make a pile in the middle and you roll it up into a spring roll!  YUM.  You can dip it in the sauces you have.  One was so, so good and sweet, but RED hot, another was red and sweet, but not hot, one was ginger wasabi (ick) and then there was a garlic, red pepper, sesame and onion infused oil and also another sauce, but I don't remember what kind.  The red hot sauce and the not hot red sauce were the best.  Ben liked the sauce I can't remember what it was.

It was the best meal ever.

Then we had kimchi.

And, a lot of the time, at the hot-pot type restaurants (one with a pot in the table), they will come at the end of your meal and mix some rice and vegetables in with your remaining broth.  So, they did that, and mixed it until it was almost a rice porridge.  It was pretty good, very oniony, though, like most things.

The most delicious meal I've had since we got here.

- Christmas Day, we had Brian and Aaron over.  I made a pot roast with carrots and vegetables in our crock pot, gravy from the beef stock that came from the crock pot, a hashbrown casserole, a green bean casserole, and a lemon meringue pie and a chocolate cream pie.  It was a big hit and the pot roast had been in the crock pot all day long, so it was SO yummy and tender.  They don't have roasts here, but they do have chuck, the shoulder meat that chuck roast comes from, so I drew a picture of a cow, divided into cuts of meat like they have at butcher shops, and wrote out the Korean for chuck roast in the shoulder piece of the cow.  The butcher got it right away and apparently, "chuck roast" in Korean is, "chuckaroasta", so....... I probably could just have said it.  Although, "Costco" in Korean is "Costaco", and unless you add the extra syllable, they have no idea what you're talking about, so actually, I probably couldn't have just said it.  Regardless, the chuckaroasta came in six.. basically steaks, instead of one piece.  So, I tied them together with some string, and it worked like a charm.  By the end, I didn't even really have to untie it, the meat was falling apart so much.  It was SO good.  I will do it again.  That was Christmas.

- And yesterday, we moved.  But this post is really long.  So, I'll talk about the move in another post.

I need to take more pictures, too, I don't have anything to show for any of this!

We hope everyone's holidays are going well!

- catie

Monday, December 7, 2009

Catie: Korean Apples and the fall.

Have I said how much I like Korean apples?

In America, I get so confused with all the apples types.  I just try to remember that I like Honeycrisps and Jonagolds the best, although on NPR I just heard that Honeycrisps are considered an eyesore by, "Apple Experts".  I still like them.

In Korea, there is just the apple.  It looks like a Fuji or Gala, but it tastes SO good.  They're new apples (duh, it's apple season), so they are crisp and happy and ripe and I just keep EATING them.

I do not have a picture of The Korean Apple because, well, I have now eaten them all.  But really, apple pictures are boring anyhow.

The Korean Apple is not good for applesauce, pies, or any kind of baking.  It is only good to eat raw.  We've been putting them in with our tuna salad sandwiches a lot and, when we are rich enough again (WEDNESDAY!) to afford chicken, we will put them in with our chicken salad sandwiches - the rich man's tuna.

A lot of Korean produce is seasonal, so I am very afraid these apples will go away, which is why I keep eating and eating them.

Speaking of seasonal, all the leaves have now fallen.  They were so cute coming down, too, because so many trees here are Ginkgo and Japanese Maple.  The Ginkgos turn bright yellow and the Japanese Maples have sweet, tiny red maple leaves.

Before they all fell, I took some pictures.

[caption id="attachment_386" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Some (male) gingkos -- no sticky fruit droppings here, but a lot in our dong from female trees."][/caption]

They may be blurry, we were walking and it was cold and windy, so there was some shivering happening.

[caption id="attachment_387" align="alignright" width="225" caption="One of the giant highrise apartment buildings that the entire middle class is housed in."][/caption]

The giant highrises are interesting.  Not only are they very.. you know, high, but they are considered high status, too.  These ones are probably upper middle class.  They're in the downtown area, very close to our HomePlus.  If you want to be considered middle class or above, you have to somehow manage to live in one of these... things.  And they're not cheap.  We hear they're gigantic, though.

Down there is a mandarin orange man's truck.  He's not our mandarin man.  Our mandarin man doesn't have a truck, he just sells mandarins and persimmons right next to our bank.  Everything you buy on the street here is bought in large quantities, so to buy mandarins off the street, you have to get a big bag of them.  But these are only W3,000.

[caption id="attachment_388" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="A mandarin man."][/caption]

Let me just tell you, the mandarins here are like the apples, to. die. for.  I can sit down and eat five to six in a matter of minutes.  The problem is we always buy so many at once and the window of delicious-ness is so small, that the last bits of them often gets way too ripe to be good anymore.

At their peak, though, you have never tasted a better mandarin orange.  Throughout the fall, everyone's been eating them.  Everywhere we go, there are mandarin skins on the ground.

[caption id="attachment_389" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A lot of street vendors have blue trucks like these."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_392" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="So pensive."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_393" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The lovely male ginkgo."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_394" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="A typical big street in Daejeon: trees and a red, astro-turf walking/biking path."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_395" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Quakers have come to Daejeon!"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_396" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Plastic Island. Is that happens when we litter at the beach?"][/caption]

That's all from our walk.  Actually, there's more than that, but I'm not sure where the memory card is.  Have I posted our photo of Tomato Savings Bank yet?

And now I have to go and buy some, "pizza cheese", known in all other parts of the world as, "mozzarella".  Even we don't say, "mozzarella" anymore though, only pizza cheese.

Brian and Aaron like to call it, "fake cheese", which I don't understand since it really is cheese...  but they seem to think it's fake.

Anyway, off to find pizza cheese, dry the dishes and make dinner.

Tomorrow, I teach at Ewha.  SCARY.

- catie

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ben: Winter Reading

I've always liked cold weather because it makes me feel like reading (even more so than during other seasons).  I've gone on a little reading bender over the past two weeks

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ben: Ugh! Have Energy!

Working in an English Academy, I am constantly struck by the fact that what the kids really seem to be learning is advanced Kongrish. Which is understand, since English is a hard language for anyone to learn. Understanding aside however,  here are some of my favorite abuses of the English language:

Very very very very/Many much

When my kids want to emphasize that there is much more than one of something, they tend to tack on a few extra "verys." For example, "Teacher very very very very very much homeworks," is something I hear over and over. No matter how many times I cross out the extra verys they just keep coming back. Another phrase they use in in the same way is "many much." As in, "We have many much homeworks," or "This class is many much long."


The word "funny"

Catie: I don't know, maybe everything, I guess.

[caption id="attachment_375" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Do you like my illustration? ..............i think i might stick to knitting as a pastime."][/caption]

Taco soup = pretty delicious.

I combined a couple recipes to make it.  One for a tortilla soup and one for a chicken taco soup, and it turned out nice, containing:

One can each:

Diced tomatoes

Tomato paste



1 c. black beans/pinto beans mixed (approx.)

3 cloves garlic, minced (no granulated garlic yet - I actually bought some, "garlic powder" that was, well, garlic powder.  Literally powder.  I'm afraid to use it in much of anything and since garlic practically comes out everyone's ears -- or out their pores, at least -- I just use the fresh stuff mostly)

One quarter of a yellow onion I had in the fridge

1/2 a chicken cooked for stock and picked clean

1 teaspoon each:




a bunch of chili powder (yay, mom!), maybe 2-3 tablespoons

a bunch of cumin (I'd never realized that cumin is what makes tacos smell like tacos and it's what makes them TASTE like tacos, too, it's delicious!)

and probably other stuff I forgot.

We topped it with cheese, sour cream and crunched up tortilla chips, a delicacy that is neither difficult to find, nor very delicate.  The things are as tough as beef jerky and I don't know who that Indian is on the bag, but what's a Native American doing on my tortilla chips?


I think the main problem is that you'll find tortilla chips at every grocery store (for nearly 6,000W), but I could swear not a single Korean has a clue what to do with them.  Must be just for us.

But if they are just for us... why doesn't anybody ask us which kind we like?

Democratic country.... psh.  I don't think so!

In other news.

MY PIE GREW!  It was like the miracle of the previous miraculous pie dough was visited upon my chicken pot pie dough!

Only, when your pie crust grows -- and I mean literally, GROWS -- it's less exciting and more frustrating!  Although, maybe that's only true of me, the ever visual cook, who likes everything to look pretty as well as taste good.

I even cut hearts out in it!  Trust me, this pie was freakin' cute before the miracle of the dud dough was visited upon its tender flesh.

[caption id="attachment_368" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Some miracle. Hmph."][/caption]

As you can see, it is swollen, lumpy, and shapeless.

However..... did it taste delicious!!

It was SO yummy and SO flaky and delicious!  Sort of like eating a pot pie made of filo dough or.. or like a croissant filled with pot pie.


Aaron got real sick this week and came home with Ben one night to borrow some of our Nyquil (correction: Fake-quil from Wal-Mart) and I sent him home with a piece of chicken pot pie.

The next day, I went into Ewha to shadow his classes and the first thing he said was, "That pot pie was DELICIOUS."

The next thing that was said was from Brian, who shouted.  And then was very angry the rest of the day that he had not also received pie.

[caption id="attachment_370" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Looks like mush, but it was nice."][/caption]

I told him he'd have to get sick first.

He said he had been sick just the week before.

I said he hadn't come to my door looking sad and pathetic.

He said he had to go back to America and then he left.

And now he's in Portland and we're ALL jealous and it's like he did it JUST because I didn't give him any pot pie!

And I guess he didn't.

But it's like he did.

That is the middle and I didn't realize that all a chicken pot pie is made up of is crust, chicken, vegetables and chicken gravy.  They're SO easy to make!

And with all the chicken stock I cooked up, I will have many more opportunities.

On allrecipes.com (which is a nice website but has been infiltrated with a lot of, "easy" and "modern" cooking that's sometimes irritating), all the pot pie recipes called for 'cream of' soups (cream of chicken, cream of mushroom).  I knew people made pot pies before cream ofs came in cans, so I kept looking for the real thing, and finally found it.

Chicken gravy is ridiculously fast and easy, too.  Practically as fast and easy as opening a can.  So, it was worth it.

[caption id="attachment_371" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Brand new sockies!"][/caption]

Beyond chicken pot pie -- hard, I know, who wants to move beyond a MIRACULOUS (some would even saying HEALING) chicken pot pie? -- we have knitting.

Almost as exciting.

These are Ben's new socks.

They were knit with GOLF Print, another Italian brand from.. Filatura di Grignasco.  It's 70% virgin wool (I don't understand what the "virgin" is for except maybe that it comes from sheep who've been shorn for the first time?), 30% acrylic (not virgin).

It was fine to work with, I guess.  Although, last week, at our new favorite Starbucks, I got really excited about turning the heel of the second sock and -- somewhat hyped up on half a grande caramel macchiato (a drink I never drank until I quit Sbux) -- my hands got real sweaty and the yarn got a little squeaky with acrylic which was gross.  I hate, hate, hate squeaky yarn.  I'm hope that they won't be too sweaty, but it's the only sock-ish yarn I've come across here at all, so I compromised all my values.  An action I may later be struck down for by the mighty hand of.. natural consequence?

Also knitting the following:

Scarf/wrap and dishcloth.A wrap inspired by THIS one.  There's a better picture of it at Ravelry, which is the one I chose my cables based upon, but you can't get into Ravelry without an account, which is cumbersome and on and on.  Basically, I saw the scarf and then I found some similar cables and just, you know, cast on, knitted five inches, ripped the whole thing out, started over and now I'm to.. maybe six inches again?  Maybe 7.  I'm happy with it this time.  I like the actual pattern's small cable better than the one I was able to scrounge up off the internet, but mine is okay, too and it's the actual scarf I like, so in the end it's all the same.

The dishcloth is my poor man's project.

Is that string, you ask?

Why, yes, it is.

At Good Morning Mart, right next to the counter, there are these hanks of white string.  Since the very first time I saw them I have been thinking to myself that I wanted to knit something out that string.

I am not sure what it's meant for.  My first guess was just for trussing poultry, but they don't have ovens here, really, and don't eat much meat either, especially chicken which is very expensive.  So, I think it might be for threading (the thing where they pluck your eyebrows with twisted thread -- so confusing).  It's right next to a bunch of other hygiene-type products.


Today we are poor enough that I bought the string (1,700W for a ton of it!), and, back at our new favorite Starbucks (where they served us simply terrible drinks! maybe next time...), I pulled it all apart, discovered it was two hanks looped into one, and wound one hank into a ball.  A task that took ages.

The string is TINY.  And when I say TINY in caps, what I really mean is tiny in tiny letters, but we don't have tiny letters.

I'm holding it double for better weight and knitting it on size 1 needles, which are pretty small, but it's turning out really nice.  I like the more delicate texture and weight of the dishcloth as opposed to one knit out of the regular dishcloth, worsted weight cotton.  It just feels so, you know, delicate.

And that's it.  We need to watch Northern Exposure (our new faaave show -- well, mine anyway!) and probably go to sleep or something equally as LAME and unexciting.


- catie