This is all about my EPIK teaching adventures in Korea!
Korea is a strange place for a foreigner, and surprises are always jumping out at you. They come zooming around the corner like a MacDonald’s delivery motor bike going 100km/h on the sidewalk. I have a small collection of photos that capture the unique moments we’ve encountered so far and this is only the beginning. Even though we are starting to get accustomed to the weird things here, there is always something new that catches me off-guard.
1. Koreans seem to give us one of two stares. The stare of imminent death; I still haven’t figured out what I’m doing wrong; and the “celebrity stare”. The celebrity stare is usually followed by pushing their children to say “hello” and continuous waving. In the case of teenagers; they usually work up all their courage to yell, “HELLO”, followed by giggling and running away. Its usually pretty entertaining. In the picture below, this little guy actually took it upon himself to randomly grab and pull on my arm, yelling “hello, hello, hello”!! I’ve never seen a more excited little kid. He wanted to talk to us; so with the help of his mom, and a friend of ours who spoke Korean, we had a nice little chat and took a picture. Now he has this picture to remember his run- in with the foreigners.
2. We saw this flying camera downtown while shopping one day. We stopped to watch what they were doing and I took a couple pictures with my phone. Next thing we knew a guy came over to us and said, “Ohh.. very beautiful. Can you please sit here? …Uhh…Very beautiful”. So we sat on a bench where he pointed to, while they filmed us for ten minutes. We still have no idea what it was for. I don’t think we’ll ever know.
3. Fashion in Korea is unexplainable. Koreans can be extremely fashionable and well-dressed. But… then there are times that make you wonder. Arm sleeves; to keep your arms a pasty white in the summer, patterns that make your head spin (not to mention the bag of something on her head), and don’t forget the profane English shirts. The English clothing is hilarious and ridiculously incorrect most of the time. I love seeing the new t-shirts my students wear each day. I still have yet to ask them for a photo… but it WILL happen.
4. Notebooks are on the same page as the ridiculous T-shirts. I just don’t know why they can’t hire a foreigner to double check that their English is correct. I’ll gladly be on your payroll to tell you you’re wrong all day long. Who would’t love that job? If the book actually makes sense spelling and grammar wise, then it’s usually absurd for a different reason. I actually really love these notebooks. They make me laugh when I need a pick-me-up. The last picture is my daily planner… it scares me a little BUT, who doesn’t love a half dead kitten on their school planner.
5. I venture into stores just to see their sticker selections. I have never seen more entertaining and confusing things anywhere else. Ok, yes I have but, it’s Korea. I mean, a panda who is all rolled up in a borito looking thing with condiments squirted across its back?… sitting on top of each other eating chicken? Or how about the rabbit squeezing out a deuce on the toilet? I so badly want to give these to my students but, I’m a little afraid they’re slightly inappropriate.
6. Crazy, strange amusement parks. Downtown Ulsan, in Samsan, there is a giant ferris wheel on top of the Department store. Actually, it’s Korea’s largest public ferris wheel. Which makes me wonder… who has Korea’s largest private ferris wheel? This isn’t really an amusement park, but Korea is home to the most absurd and unique amusement parks in the world. These include Haesindang (Penis) Park, Jeju Island’s Loveland (a sex-themed public park) and Seoul’s Lotte World (which consists of the world’s largest indoor theme park, an outdoor amusement park called “Magic Island”, an artificial island inside a lake linked by monorail, shopping malls, a luxury hotel, a Korean folk museum, sports facilities, and movie theatres). Crazy enough for you? All of these are on my Korea Bucket List!
…I purposefully left out all the “risqué” pictures of the parks, but click on the links and see for yourself how weird these places are!
7. Parking… All kinds of terrible.
8. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies and doughnuts are always cute. Even from Dunkin Donuts.
9. Fish markets are creepy places. Usually an array of cut up, or live fish, octopus, squid, eels, snails, sting-rays and anything else that comes from the ocean.
10. The older generations LOVE to exercise and they have no shame. Anywhere and everywhere. The side of a mountain, on outdoor exercise equipment in the park, railings,… this isn’t the first railing I’ve seen used as a stretching bar.
11. I think Hello Kitty has gone a bit too far…. a toilet seat? Really?
12. Why are there so many cell phone stores??? Streets are riddled with phone stores and they’re all the same. They have shiny, sparkly exteriors and modern white interiors just to lure you in. Most of them only sell the physical phones as well, and can’t sell SIM cards. I don’t get it. Why so many?
13. I found these gems in the local HomePlus (Korean Walmart). For just over $20 you can be the proud owner of a Hercules Beatle. “Uhg… I go to HomePlus for ONE thing, and I come out with a pet Beetle”. I know it’s only a matter of time before this happens.
14. Fruits and vegetables are gold. You want 6 peaches? That’ll be $12.65, please. A cantaloupe? $10.33. And a bottle of honey? $16.86. Vegetables in Korea= Kimchi… Fruit in Korea=Kimchi. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Korea = Kimchi.
15. This young lady is my favourite “oddity”. She works so hard- every day, rain or shine. She even lights up at night. There are christmas lights strung all over her, in addition to her beautiful wand.
This list is just the beginning. If there’s one thing that Korea is good for it’s that there will never be a dull moment and you’ll always be kept on your toes.