Saturday, February 13, 2010


Videos are a bit more interesting than photos at times, and give you more of a feel of where people are and their everyday life. So, for a change here is a glimpse of some "real time" action in Korea.

Here is a short video of a presentation at our school. It's more of a motivational speech to the students about why they need to study, take tests and further their education (especially at Avalon English Schools!). The man speaking is Mr. Wong, the Director of our hagwan. If you turn your sound up, you can hear the Korean language being spoken. The students are mostly Alaina's students, so they are middle to high school ages. The other foreigner you see in the video is Zack, one of the other upper level English teachers. The "shy" woman at the end of the video is my (Alaina's) co-teacher, Jackie. I have talked about her before, so as you may know, she is DEFINITELY not shy! Maybe just for cameras :) A few select students were also commended as "VocaKing" and "VocaQueen" for their high scores on daily tests and vocabulary quizzes.
Here we were on our way to Yangsan (north of Busan) to visit some friends and watch the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics. Most of the subway lines are underground, but a few parts are built above ground and give awesome views and a perspective of the city. The subway ride from our apartment to Yangsan is about 40 minutes or so. This video gives you an idea of how diverse Korea is, from the bustling city life and bright flashy signs, to acres of farmland, fishing and mountains. Much of the industrial part of the city is near the water, hence the large warehouses and factories.

We are still on the same subway line here. The water you see in this video is one of the many channels that feed in to the Sea of Japan. The tall structure in the distance if the Tower of Yangsan (kind of like Reunion Tower -the "ball"- in Dallas, for all you Texas folks!)

While westerners celebrate February 14th as Valentine's Day, here in Korean it is Lunar New Years. For us, this means a day off work! As for Koreans, they visit their families and pay tribute to their elders by visiting their grave sites. This holiday is comparable to our Christmas--children receive gifts and money from everyone in their family. The bigger the family the more money (won) you get! Most businesses are closed for the weekend and traffic is horrendous. You can see the chaos in this video (taken from our apartment) as an ambulance tries to weave its way through the stacked up cars. Also, take note of how most of the cars are either black or white..

We had a little fun and took advantage of living on the 19th floor of our apartment building. Loren skillfully crafted a paper airplane and gave it a test run. Can you track it? We feel like this may be the first of many trials (sorry the video is sideways, I will learn for next time).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Polar Bear Swimming Contest

This past weekend (January 31st) marked the 23rd Annual Polar Bear Swimming Contest in Busan. Hundreds of people, Koreans and a few foreigners, take the plunge at Haeundae beach every year. After a dramatic countdown with thousands of onlookers, they jump and splash around in the freezing water for one reason: health. Seriously. Some (crazy people) believe that if you do this at the beginning of the year, you will have a happy and healthy year to come.

Stretching for the big event. You have to get that blood flowing, right?

There were a few other things to do at this competition, like getting your face painted as an animal. As you can see, this is not just for little kids. And in Korea, they apparantly call it "Face Fainting".
Us under the fake snow machine. We thought it may be "real" fake snow, but it turned out to be bubbles.
They also had a blimp! Go Korea!
Some excited participants. Loren actually tried to enter the competition, but thankfully they had stopped registration.
About to take the plunge...

Let the countdown begin!
And they're off....Shamu, too!
It wouldn't be a Korean event if fireworks weren't included.
America was well represented!
Everyone splashes around for about 10 minutes while the lifeguards (you can see in the distance) slowing begin swimming in and pushing them toward the beach.
A couple of participants after the cold swim, smoking cigarettes (look closely at his hand). So much for good health!

Below is a video of the initial plunge into the freezing water.
Hope you enjoyed this event as much as we did. There are just some things in Korea that we cannot explain...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Alaina's first Korean cooking lesson

One of my (Alaina) co-teachers offered to teach me how to make some easy, Korean foods. We began our morning of cooking by meeting at the grocery store; I was informed that we only needed "just a few items", yet she proceeded to throw everything she saw that looked good in to our basket. It was a really funny and unforgettable grocery shopping experience!
I want to preface this entry by noting that, although I am personally not in any of the photos taken, I did my part of assembling and cooking the food. You can ask my co-teacher, Jackie (who prefers to go by the name of "Jackie-Chan"). I attempted to document key moments in this hilarious cooking lesson. Enjoy!

Here, Jackie prepares mushrooms wrapped in bacon.
1) divide bundles of funny looking long-stemmed mushrooms
2) cut bacon in to 3 inch strips
3) wrap bacon around mushroom bundles

The finished (still uncooked) product looks something like this.

You then place the bundles into a hot skillet with a bit of any kind of oil you could find in Korea. We used canola, I think. With Korean food, I'm pretty sure it would all taste about the same...

Our second dish was called "Sohyah". Ingredients: Anything you can find in the vegetable section, vienna type sausages, a ton of ketchup, a ton of brown sugar, and a "sprinkle" of black pepper. Haha I am still laughing at how Jackie prepared this dish:
1) throw everything in to the skillet
2) add as much ketchup and brown sugar as you have in your house
3) lightly sprinkle pepper on top when finished "for looks, Alaina" Oh, of course. Appearance is everything, right?

Our final dish was a rice-filled, pot sticker type dish called "Youbu Cho Bap". (Bap means rice in Korean) You begin by making "sticky" rice. The day before my cooking lesson, Jackie asked me if we could use my rice maker. Hah, what? I politely informed her that there was no such appliance in our apartment, but I had a large pot we could use! Needless to say, she was surprised at our inconvenience and very nervous about making rice on the stove top. No worries though, all went well and the photo above displays our perfectly sticky, stove-top rice.

You then mix in black sesame seeds and some spices for flavor. To make the pot sticker type dish, you stuff the rice in to prepackaged, spongy shell (in the photo, toward the bottom right) Jackie asked, "Where are your plastic gloves?" Um, forgive me for being western, but we typically do not keep plastic gloves on hand for kitchen needs. Therefore, we were resourceful and used little baggies instead. Do what you gotta do!

The finished product. Delicious little finger foods that you traditionally bring for picnics.
Add some tomatoes ("for looks, of course") and viola!

We brought our delicious meal to work for our co-teachers to enjoy. Everyone was quite impressed at our cooking skills (and so were we)!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Loren's Birthday!

The big 25 on the on 25th!!!

Loren mentioned that a tradition when he was younger was when his parents made him a huge breakfast for his birthday. I (Alaina) did my best to reenact this awesome tradition in Korea by making western-style pancakes, bacon, sausage, and fried eggs with black coffee. I think I did pretty good, huh? We also were able to Skype with Loren's parents over this breakfast. It was great to be able to share this with them (even if was on the screen of a computer).

Loren's surprise birthday cake at work. Of course we ate it with chopsticks :)

The office girls from work and the very happy birthday boy!
Congratulating the man of the hour with a firm handshake. Korean tradition? Not so much....just for fun and to take a goofy picture. They are all about the silly pictures.
Of course Alaina has her hand ready to dig in to this chocolate cake!

Birthday boys! Loren and Scott (a friend from church) share the same special day of January 25th. We celebrated by going out to lunch for Tong-duk (steamed chicken) with glass noodles, rice and vegetables in a huge bowl with a soy-like sauce on top. Delicious!

Some church friends celebrating Loren and Scott's birthday at the Johnson's place.
Loren's second cake from the church group. Don't you love the rainbow and sunshine?!? Scott's wife, Ashley, and I picked it out. It was either this or a clown with balloons....make your choice.

Thanks to everyone who sent birthday cards!!

Korean basketball game

We went to our first Korean basketball game. Busan Sonicboom played Incheon Land Elephants (near Seoul). We lost by a few. I think the final score was 60-65. It was an entertaining game to say the least. A lot like watching a junior college basketball game, but with a bit more drama and acting. There was quite a crowd for the home team, but the visitor side was practically empty. Each Korean team is made up of mostly Koreans, but they are allowed two international players per team.
We had a great time cheering along with the "Cheerleader". No, not cheerleaders; yes, they do have the half-dressed women who dance on the floor during halftime here as well, but the Cheerleader is a man, dressed in a white suit with coat tails who acts as a conductor for typical basketball cheers like "DEFENSE". Quite hilarious.
Busan's mascot, Sonicboom, who resembled Jack-in-the-Box. The man in the black suit is a body guard for the basketball court. A little overrated and unnecessary we think..
We went with another couple from church, Derek and Jenny, from Canada.
This is the team's mascot, Sonicboom. In this video he performs a dance for the crowd. Hilarious!!

The Orphanage

Our church here in Busan, I.C.C., spent Saturday morning at a local orphanage. We were told that our only job was to play with these children and love on them. How cool is that? The director of the orphanage gave us a heartfelt speech on the meaning of family (0f course translated from Korean).
"F-father A-and M-mother I L-love Y-you"
Our hearts melted the second we stepped foot in those rooms. The kids immediately ran up to us wanting, needing, a hug, or just human touch. It was truly an awesome (and exhausting) day.

What a cutie! These children's smiles were priceless.

"Yobosayo?" It means "Hello" when answering the phone. Loren really had these boys was adorable.
After Loren put his hat on a little boy, this kiddo came up and stole the hat from the little boy (who wouldn't want this beautiful maroon hat??). He would not give it back until we left, two hours later! He was a mischievous little one, to say the least.
Alaina wanted to take her home...can't you see why? So precious..
This one, too, please!!!

During "clean up time" these boys were doing their part by hopping in the toy basket and throwing all of the toys OUT after we had put them IN. Boys will be boys...