You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2010.

Woooo. I’ve had a busy week and ideally I would have posted about some of the things that happened before now but, you know, I was busy. Bear with my while I go through the list of the up-dates.

1. Old Teachers Leaving!

This month, two teachers left CDI because their teaching contract were up. In the next month or two, there will be another teacher leaving, who also happens to be the head instructor for my reading classes. The first teacher who left worked in the classroom next to mine and I ended up taking over her Friday Birdie Listening class. I also took two of the posters she left behind. One was a motivation poster of an ORIGINALITY chimpanzee (which my students have brought up in discussions many, many times) and the other was a poster of Martin Luther King Jr. and his I Have a Dream speech.

2. New Teachers Arriving!

When a old teacher leaves, a new teacher has to arrive to fill the void. CDI had two new teachers arrive this past week, Derrika, who’s friends with one of the gals I trained with, and Jo(seph). April will also be getting a new teacher, Christopher, tomorrow even though they don’t have a teacher leaving. Hopefully the new teacher will be a good thing; from what I’ve heard, April sounds a little unstable and more teachers should inject a little stability into the classes. Derrika, Jo and Chris are kind of lucky to be coming in now as the term is ending because they get to start fresh instead of picking up other peoples classes like I did (not that I’m complaining. I had good classes this term).
3. End of Winter Term!

Last Friday was the last day of Winter Term 2009/2010. We ended up celebrating the end of term (and starting off the new term with over 1,000 students, woo-hoo!) and the departure of one of the teachers by going to dinner (paid for by CDI) and then noraebang. Always fun.

Overall it was a good term but there were several downs to balance out the many ups. I’ve picked up some tips and tricks from other teachers and I’ve made a list of things that I definitely WON’T be doing again next term (and looking at you Pizza Party. Not worth it.) Which brings me to…

4. Start of Spring Term!

I decided to set up a Prize Box for my kids. My rules for the prize box: if on Week 13, you have completed ALL homework, you can choose a prize from the Prize Box. Additionally, if anyone posts their Critical Thinking Projects on Cross Cafe (and I realized I haven’t explained about that yet…) then the one who posted the creative and well put together CTP will get to choose a prize. For some classes, I’ll likely give out several prizes for homework while others… will likely not earn any prizes.

And since HomePlus was having a sweeeeeet sale on classroom items, I went ahead and bought the prizes for the Prize Box:

Good prizes, yes? Hey, I'd do my homework to get some of this stuff.

Check out the Sgt. Frog/ Keroro Gunso set. They’re OIL PASTELS. FOR ₩1,000 (or less than $1). I’m tempted to go back to HomePlus and get some for myself.

As for the term itself… I was originally set to teach 10 classes (I started out with 8 this term and had 9 by the end) which I was a little dismayed about. But then it grew on me (and the higher paycheck was certainly nice) and I accepted it. Then they took away one of my classes… and another one of my classes… so now I’m back down to 8. Even though I was already prepared to teach 10 classes and had all the welcome packages printed out for the classes I’m no longer teaching… Ooooooooh weeeeeellll.

5. Holiday!

Tomorrow is a holiday. I mostly just added this so I remember to post about it tomorrow

6. Olympics!

I think partially because I was shielded by having to work but… I really didn’t hear very much about the Olympics. I saw some advertisements at HomePlus about Kim Yu-Na but… not much else. Although I played Olympic-themed hangman with my Friday class for our last day, with the word TORCH and the sentences YUNA KIM WON THE GOLD! and SHAUN WHITE IS AN AWESOME SNOW BOARDER! I was slightly surprised to see they knew a good amount about Shaun White. But when I asked them what he looked like, they couldn’t really tell me. So I drew a stick figure picture of him with his long red hair and one of my students gasps and yells out ‘He’s a boy?!’ As in, boy’s shouldn’t have long hair.

However, even if Korea didn’t seem to get into the Olympic spirit as much as I thought they might, it is fun talking about the Olympics with my co-workers. We hail from the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa.


Yesterday, I taught my Monday 4pm Bridge Reading class becuase it had been cancelled on Monday due to Lunar New Year. Afterwards, a bunch of the CDI and April teachers went out to a galbi (갈비) restaurant for dinner to celebrate Blake’s (the head instructor at April) birthday. Suwon is suppose to have the best galbi in Korea and this place was pretty delicious (and expensive! but that’s okay every once and a while).

After dinner, Maggie (the CDI faculty manager) and Jason (who works at Dongtan) said they were going shopping at Dongdaemun (동대문, meaning “Great East Gate” as Jason told us) in Seoul. Dondaemun is home to both the Dongdaemun Market and the Night Market, where you can buy all kinds of clothes and accessories. Quinn and I decided to tag along and possibly pick stuff up for cheap.

On a side note, Jason was telling us that Namdaemun (남대문, meaning “Great South Gate; also known as Sungnyemun -숭례문 – or “Gate of Exallted Ceremonies”) was apparently burned down in 2008 by some 69-year-old man. He burned down South Korea’s greatest treasure because, apparently, some land developers didn’t pay him in full for the land he sold them. And this wasn’t the first time he turn to arson to solve his problems – trying to burn down Changgyeonggung Palace… How is this guy managing to burn down Korea’s NUMBER ONE NATIONAL MONUMENT and a freaking palace?

Back to Dongdaemun! It was a neat little area and I wish I had brought my camera with me because the gate at night was pretty cool. We also drove by the bell they ring at (Solar) New Year. After sitting in traffic that shouldn’t have been there for a good amount of time, we eventually arrived at the Night Market, which is several streets of heavily packed yellow tents. Quinn and I got separated from Maggie and Jason pretty early on (yay for cell phones) so we ended up wandering over to Doota!, one of the department stores of Dongdaemun market.

SO. The Market. Jason had warned us it would be overwhelming for newbies and the night pretty sufficiently insulated us from being extremely overwhelmed but even in just Doota! … there was a lot going on. First of all, Dongdaemun market has 26 shopping malls. That’s not 26 stores – that’s 26 separate malls. With in each mall, there’s like… A LOT of stores…

Quinn and I wandered around Doota!, speaking German (we decided we need to learn the German word for ‘snazzy’) and marveling at the many-buckled shoes and that crazy sweater thing that zippers across the chest instead of down. I finally got a belt, which I’ve been putting off getting for it seems forever, for no particular reason. Quinn really wanted to get suspenders. I was pretty skeptical that we would find any but somehow, after looking at only two stores on the men’s clothing floor, we found them.

After that, we met back up with Maggie and Jason at Hello A/PM, another mall, where haggling was abound! Jason managed to get a ₩150,000 suit for only ₩100,000. Quinn (who I need to bring with me any time I plan to haggle because he’s pretty much vicious) was able to get a vest and jeans for a pretty great discount. However, it took so long to eventually get to that discount that I can’t remember how much the price was at the beginning. But the guys and gal at that stand of clothing were very friendly and excited to hear we were from the US and Canada.

To end the night, we all went back to the Night Market and picked up a couple of small things. Knowing that soon my sneakers will be giving out, I picked up a pretty cool pair of blue hiking boots (picture to come), which will hopefully come in handy when the weather starts getting nicer and I try hiking around the mountains of Suwon.

Today I woke up at the early hour of 9 am so I could shower and then go back to sleep. Why did I wake up so early to shower, only to then go right back to sleep? So that my hair could be nice and dry for 11:30am of course!

At 11:30am, all the Yeongtong (Suwon) and Dongtan (Hwaseong) teachers, April and CDI, had to meet at the Yeongtong community center for a seminar, dressed in our best attire. So everyone was there at 11:30 (an easy two minute walk for me since the community center is on the other side of the park I live next to) and then we waited for about an hour. Don’t know why we had to be there so early, but we did.

After waiting, we lined up with April teachers in one line and CDI teachers in another and we walked like grown-up Madelines into the seminar room. Then we stood on the stage and bowed to the parents as our schools and programs were introduced. Then we stood a little longer while my listening class head instructor gave a speak about how our school is awesome and the parents should continue to send their children to Chung Dahm Learning. And then we left, side-by-side in two straight lines, back to the room we were waiting in before where we were given little bento box lunches.

And then we went home.

So basically we were at the seminar (which was for the parents, not for us) to just be eye candy. One of the teachers was telling me that they had seminars like these throughout the year but usually they only send one teacher to represent the school. I don’t know why they had all of us from both Yeongtong and Dongtan come out…

Also, next Monday we’re set to get two new teachers at CDI. Yay! I won’t be the newbie anymore.

Today, I woke up at the early hour of 10 am (early considering today is possibly my only day off of this year – which meant I’d have to take advantage of it) and set out for the 5100 bus to Gangnam. I decided to go to Namsangol Hanok Village because that had specific activities for the New Year, whereas the Korean Folk Village, as far as I could tell, did not.

I was suppose to go with Quinn, who spent Saturday night in Seoul and came back Sunday night, but he didn’t answer his phone. Half-way to Gangnam, I got a call from Quinn. Apparently, he ended up staying Sunday night in Seoul too so we decided to meet up at the Village.

Namsangol Hanok Village is just outside the Chungmuro subway station (that’s the cool subway station – although not literally; it’s well heated). Before the Village were a bunch of street stalls selling kites and food and Quinn and I finally bought some street food: meat-on-a-stick. Verdict: delicious.

The Village was definitely a worth while trip. At the entrance there’s a little village made up of buildings that used to be elsewhere in Seoul but have been moved to the Village for preservation. In one of the buildings, you can make a reservation to learn how to wear a hanbok, but it was far too cold for that today. For Lunar New Year, they had musical performances in the Court and arts and crafts projects around it.

Before I get to the arts and crafts, let me also touch on the Time Capsule. Towards the back of the Village, there’s an area that houses the Time Capsule that Seoul buried in 1994. They plan to open it again in 2394 and when I read that I thought “Oh cool, I’ll come back to see that – oh wait… No… I won’t…”. There was a display talking about the different things they put in the Time Capsule(600 items! miniatures and CDs!), which included a plan for what they hope the future will be like. Pretty cool.

Also, the stone that covered the Time Capsule had quotes from different heads of states. However, the representative from the United States was not the president but… the governor of Honolulu. Whaaa?

And back to the arts and crafts! We bought tickets to make a traditional Korean kite (or as the Engrish sign said ‘a traditional kit’) and eat the traditional Korean ‘party’ food. I’m not entirely sure what they meant by ‘party’ food but I think they may have meant ‘festival’ food. The kite making was fun but it was extremely cold by the time we got a spot on the crafts table to make ours and I had to glue everything together with my (freezing cold to the point of numbness) bare hands. BUT! My kite came out magnificently. Then we ate.

The food ticket got us what I thought would be sweet porridge and a Korean pancake. It was not sweet porridge; it was Makgeolli (막걸리 – rice wine), and even though its a Korean tradition, neither Quinn nor I cared for it. The pancake was a seafood (해물파전 –haemul pajeon) complete with tentacles but I was too hungry and cold to really care about how I don’t like seafood, let alone tentacles.

After eating, we watched a really cool drumming and dance performance but sadly I still can’t get WordPress to accept my videos so we’ll just have to wait on that for a little while.

All in all, it was a very nice trip. Now sit back and enjoy some pictures!

Behold the entrance!

I don't know what this says or what it's for. But Koreans were taking pictures of it so I thought that I should too.

I like to think my rabbits will do this if a tiger ever breaks into my apartment.

Makegeolli and Haemuel Pajeon

Unfortunately you couldn't walk into this building, but you could take pictures. At least... as far as I knew you could.

My hand-made, traditional Korean kit(e)! It hasn't yet been flown but on its maiden flight I have ever intention of getting it up in the air to the tune of 'Highway to the Danger Zone'.

Woo! Two holidays in one!

First of all, the holiday you’re all probably familiar with: Valentine’s Day (밸런타인데이 – literally ‘Valentine’s Day’). They do celebrate Valentine’s Day here in South Korea – and in fact some of my students asked me if I would be giving them chocolate in celebration… Oops. I actually would have given them chocolate and maybe even made them little cards but… it did not occur to me… But the last week of term is coming up so I might be buying mygood classes pizza. You read that right: my GOOD classes. The students in my 4pm Thursday Bridge Listening class said that on week 13 we’ll have a pizza party (as if it was mandatory, which it’s not); they are not getting pizza, but that’s another story.

To get back to Valentine’s Day, the holiday works a little differently here than in the US. On Valentine’s Day, girls give guys chocolates, present, etc. On March 14th, Koreans (as well as the Japanese and Taiwanese) celebrate White Day (화 이 트 데 이 – literally pronounced ‘white day’), when its the guys turn to give girls chocolates, presents, etc. White Day was started in Japan as an ‘answer day’ to Valentine’s Day, with men expected to give nicer gifts to the girls who gave them chocolate on Valentine’s Day.

Holiday number two, in our holiday double-feature, is Lunar New Year (음력설날 – eum-nyeok seol-lal). Lunar New Year is supposed to be one of the big holidays in Korea, lasting three days, and people spend it visiting their families. On Friday my students asked me if I would be going home to the United States. Nope, kiddos. Teacher doesn’t have that kind of time or money (even though Friday was also Pay Day). Instead I spent the first day of Lunar New Year having out with the Training Gang in Seoul because two of us were celebrating birthdays this week. Here’s  are the two main things we did that day:

  1. First thing, we visited Bau House, a dog cafe, and got delicious chocolate milk shakes. Now you’re probably wondering, what’s a dog cafe? No, it is not where people eat dogs (although they do eat dog soup here). It is where people dine with dogs. Yes. Dogs. Once you get used to the smell, it’s delightful. Basically the owners’ dogs run around the tables/on the tables/under the tables and chill out with you. People can also board their dogs there for the day. And foreign English teachers can visit when they miss their dogs and want something to cuddle with.

AAR LAND-LUBBER, I be Captain Jack. If ye gots issue with the Bau House, ye be takin' it up with Captain Jack.

Most. Chill. Dog. Ever.

  1. After getting dinner and chilling out for a while, we went salsa dancing. Except it turn out it was line dancing. Except that turned out to be swing dancing. But there was dancing. The problem was… we didn’t really know how to swing dance. Some of us did, but for the most part we were all rookies. But it was still a lot of fun. And I got a bunch of free oranges from the place.

(Eventually a video of sweet, sweet swing dancing will go here, but I have to figure out how to get the video into a blog appropriate format first…)

Although Saturday was fun, I am a little bummed that the stuff I had been looking into doing (going to Jeju island for the Fire Festival or actually doing something festive for Lunar New Year) didn’t pan out… I was really interested in going to see the Namsangol Hanok Village in Seoul, which is supposed to put on traditional performances for the holiday but I couldn’t convince the others to go. Unfortunately the performances are only the 14th and 15th, but cultural activities continue until the 16th.

Tomorrow I plan to either go to the Namsangol Hanok Village and check it out or go to the Korean Folk Village outside of Suwon. Either way, I’m doing something traditional tomorrow!

Oh I almost forgot, Mr. Yun who runs the Suwon Yeongtong (where I worked) and Hwaseong Dongtan (where I was supposed to work) branches of Chung Dahm Learning bought all the teachers gift sets for Lunar New Year. A lot of the teachers were hoping that inside the boxes would be food but there was no food to be found. Instead, there was soap, toothpaste and shampoo (… what is Mr. Yun trying to tell us?). I was actually happy about that and since one of the other teachers didn’t need to supplies and gave me his gift set, I now have eight 180g bottles of shampoo, six bars of soap (avocado, tea tree oil and rose soap) and 12 tubes of toothpaste (various mint flavors). Which basically means I won’t have to go shopping for those things for a really long time. 감 사 합 니 다, Mr. Yun!

Here's the outside of the box (that is now gracing my wall as a decoration)!

Behold! Glorious hygiene products!

About two weeks ago, the fact I have a rabbit came up in one of my classes (because Sherlock chewed a hole in the answer sheet to one of the exams I was giving). Most of my students were delighted to hear this. One student seemed particularly happy. She came to me during break and was asking me questions about my rabbit. Then she said that she had a rabbit. And her mom wouldn’t let her keep it anymore. And her mom was telling her she had to find someone else to take her rabbit. And my student seemed fairly upset about the whole matter.

So after class, I told her if she absolutely COULD NOT find someone else to take her rabbit, I could take care of it, knowing full well she probably wouldn’t find someone else to take care of her rabbit and would just tell her mom that her English reading teacher was willing to take the little rodent off their hands.

Yesterday, my student came back to me and asked if I could take her rabbit today because her family wouldn’t be traveling at the end of the week. And I said I could. So today, she brought the rabbit to my classroom (in a shoe box) and I ran it back to my apartment (leaving her in the shoe box) and planned to officially introduce her to Sherlock after my classes.

When I came back, I called Quinn in case he wanted to relive his Snowball days and it’s a good thing I did because… things did not go well. It started off fine, they were sniffing each other and Sherlock seemed okay with having another rabbit around… and then the chaos ensued.

It seems the problem is, as the Dog Whisperer might say, that Sherlock is a ‘insecure aggressive’ type who clearly wanted to assert her dominance over her new bunny buddy invader!, who is now called Watson (that’s right, Sherlock and Watson – Watson has a monocle!). And I was anticipating some aggression but Sherlock was trying to bite poor Watson in the eyes… yeah… not a good thing.

Quinn and I tried holding them down, introducing them to each other in unfamiliar territory (that’s what all the websites said to do!) and generally keep Sherlock in particular in check. They’ve calmed down but… Sherlock is not quite okay with this.

And I’m not quite okay with Watson. She is not litter trained at all. And her bunny droppings are quite large in comparison to Sherlock’s.

Well, we’ll see if time is enough to get them to live happily together. Otherwise we have a problem and Watson is going to live with Quinn (whether Quinn knows this or not).

My up-coming schedule for the next three weeks has been altered because two teachers are finishing their year-long contract and another teacher is going on vacation. Which brings me to my two points (hmm, two points a post seems to be becoming theme here…).

Point #1: Because my year-long contract would end in December and thus prevent me from entering graduate school in 2010 (which had been my plan), right now I’m planning on extending my contract by seven months so I’d be ending in July instead. It turns out extending your contract is actually really easy to do because you can do it on a term-by-term basis instead of committing to a whole year, which would just put me back in the same situation I’m in now.

Point #2: Eventually I will have a week of vacation to take advantage of and I had wanted to go to Jeju island but I realized to late that the festival I wanted to see, the Fire Festival (들불축제), is during Lunar New Year (February 15) so it’s too late for me to go this year. But remember… I’ll probably be here next February to so I could go then.

This blog entry will be duel purposed. Purpose 1: Discuss the Level-Up test. Purpose 2: Continue to log my interactions with the counselors.

This week (week 10 of the 13 week winter term) in my three listening classes, my students had to take their level up tests. That’s basically their final exam. Having finished proctoring my first three Level-Up tests, I’d like to break down how they seem to run.

15 minutesBriefly explain test and pass out answer keys (Scantron for Reading and Listening; writing paper for Writing and Speaking)

  • Have them fill in their information (name, address, home phone number, etc)
  • Tell them 10 different times they need to put BOTH their KOREAN and their ENGLISH names on all sheets
  • Tell them five different times they need to write in their home phone number and NOT  a cell phone number; if they don’t know their home number, leave it blank
  • Tell at least three different students, if they don’t know something, leave it blank
  • Explain to them the very important steps they MUST take to fill out the Scantron – pencil first, raise your hand so I can check it, then go back with their computer pens and fill in their answers

5 minutes – BREAK!

  • They must leave my classroom and walk around because the test is long and they aren’t allowed to leave or go to the bathroom.

45 minutes – Writing Section (pass out test booklets)

  • Tell them how to do the writing section, which runs as follows:
  1. Read the short passage
  2. Listen to lecture on CD
  3. On the answer sheet, first SUMMARIZE THE READING then explain HOW THAT RELATES TO THE LECTURE
  • Repeat writing section  instructions because inevitably they don’t get it, even though we do this in EVERY SINGLE LISTENING CLASS.
  • Repeat writing section instructions again for one or two students specifically.
  • Play the CD and continue to explain the section as the CD plays because, even though we do this in EVERY SINGLE LISTENING CLASS, they still don’t understand what to do.
  • Tell at least three students I don’t care what they write in, pencil and pen are both fine.
  • Tell at least one student not to go ahead in the test.
  • Tell at least one student not to write in the space for the speaking section, because that’s for me to use
  • Inevitably forget to give them their note-taking paper for the lecture but still pass it out just in time (because I have awesomely fast paper-passing-out-skills)

40 minutes – Reading Section

  • Tell them again, WRITE IN PENCIL FIRST when answering the Scantron
  • I grade the writing section while they work
  • Tell at least five different students to stop using their computer pens and answer in pencil.
  • Tell at least two of those same students to stop using their computer pens and answer in pencil
  • Rub it (nicely) in their faces when all five of those student inevitably make a mistake filling in the Scantron because they’re not doing it in pencil but still give them the correction tape.
  • Tell at least one kid he (it’s always a boy) filled the Scantron out incorrectly in pencil because he made huge X/check marks they go into the zone of the above/below answer (you know how Scantrons work…)
  • Count down the remaining minutes on the white board but inevitably mess it up a little because I’m doing a bunch of other more important stuff

35 minutes – Listening Section

  • Tell them again firmly that they MUST write in pencil first and too many people are making mistakes with the computer pen (at this point all but one of the students finally used the pencil first)
  • Count down the remaining minutes on the white board
  • Collected answer sheets and tell at least three more students AGAIN they need to have both their Korean and English names on it; collect the test booklets

5 minutes – BREAK!

45 minutes – Speaking Section

  • Explain how the Speaking Section works, which is as follows:
  1. Students go one my one to the room next door, where I will wait for them and give them the question they must answer. (We switch rooms so students going later can’t hear the answers from the ones who went before them and get ideas)
  2. Students have 15 seconds to brainstorm (so they should bring note-taking paper and a pencil) and then 45 seconds to speak (although I’m flexible with that time)
  3. Students MAY NOT talk during the Speaking Section while they’re still in my classroom. The other teacher from the room next door will be in my class and she’ll be watching them to make sure they don’t talk.
  • Inevitably, students don’t like the order I put them in to do the Speaking Section, but they have to just deal with it because my classes are maxed out in terms of size and I don’t have time to argue with them and put them in the order they want.
  • While they’re waiting, they can do the Word Search I gave them
  • I go over to Bethany or Jaemi’s room and proctor their students as my students come over one by one.

5 minutes – Tell them about their homework

  • And they play hangman with them (and I’m mean so I give them hard words, like vex and schizophrenia – Don’t think vex is a hard word to get in hangman? Oh, it is my friend. It is.)

Then I grade the Speaking Section and input the grades into the computer.

And that’s the Level-Up test. The basic information from that (schedule, no speaking rules, time left information, how to fill out the Scantrons) I have written up on the whiteboard for them. Which brings me to the next purpose.

One of the teachers, Alex (not the newbie Alex) decided to start his vacation today… which I don’t really get. Couldn’t he wait until not-today? Anyway, because our branch of Chung Dahm is split between the 3rd floor (where I am) and the 6th floor, they try to have all the teachers come down to the 3rd floor to do the Level-Up test. Which I also don’t get because 1. The students that are used to having their classes on the 6th floor and probably get confused by this and 2. Where are they getting these extra class rooms?!

Today, Kevin was proctoring Alex’s iBT class (a class dedicated entirely to studying for internet-based tests) but his classroom is on the 6th floor. He had been scheduled to teach the class in Alex’s room but of course that makes waaay too much sense. So for some reason, he was moved to my room. The iBT kids are coming into my class and since I wasn’t told about this I was sending them away to Alex’s room on the other side of the hall. Plus, I’m still working in my class room because I need to imput the grades and prepare for my Monday classes. Well, eventually a counselor comes in and sets up the computer for Kevin… without telling me what’s going on. Then Kevin comes in and explains what’s going on and that he was apparently JUST told about the classroom change (and doesn’t know why it was changed). Also, in case it’s not clear, all the testing logistics, like room changes, are handled by the counselors.

And I am left to hunt down a free computer to finish working on while wondering if I’m even going to vote for a counselor when at the end of the term we have to choose who the best teacher and best counselor is. However, I will say the CDI counselors are better than the April counselors, from what I’ve heard, but that might be for another post.

PS If you think, from looking at the bolded words, I get annoyed at my classes, I don’t (…usually…) but it does get bothersome having to repeat yourself after you literally just said what you’re repeating.

That’s right: cultural shock. If I were teaching one of my classes the breakdown of this post might read as follows:

T(opic): Culture Shock

(Implied) M(ain) I(dea): People visiting foreign countries experience culture shock in some form or another, however some cases of culture shock are less extreme than others.

S(upporting) D(etails):

Okay, so more seriously, before coming to South Korea, I actually kind of geared myself up for culture shock. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew I could expect something. When I first arrived in Suwon one of the other teachers (who is shockingly jaded, on a side note) told me I should expect a lot of culture shock here because Koreans are, as he put it, ‘weird’. But honestly, I really haven’t experienced any culture shock, emphasis on the word shock. I’ve noticed cultural differences but all in all they haven’t been all that shocking, surprising, startling, etc.

HOWEVER (contrast transition!), there is one thing I’ve noticed that I would call a culture confusion. In Korea, they do not use paper towels. Oh, they SELL paper towels, if you look hard enough. And they certainly do things that either require paper towels or would be simplified through the use of paper towels, ie cleaning up spills or eating cake in breakrooms (not super fun eating off of a sticky, flimsy piece of plastic Saran wrap). But as far as I can tell, paper towels are not  one of the gadgets found in the handy-dandy Korean tool belt.

Today I was in HomePlus picking up some groceries (after lugging my personal paper towels to work so I could clean my white board using something more substantial than toilet paper) and while walking past the juice aisle, I noticed two employees mopping up a sizable orange juice spill. With toilet paper. A great, big roll of toilet paper that easily comes apart under saturation of that magnitude. And only three rows down, maybe four, they sold paper towels. Plush, absorbent, made-especially-for-situations-like-this paper towels. I did not understand this scenario.  It was not what one might call culture shock, but it was rather confusing.