Thursday, August 30, 2007

cool pic

Here is a cool picture one of my co-teachers took ... this is a big road ... as you can see ... between my neighborhood and the where the school is. I thought you would enjoy what I see everyday. Although it never looks this cool, even at night ... perhaps I need new eyes or just a cool camera. I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, August 27, 2007

this is funny ...

I want you to look closely at both of the photos I posted here ... This a brochure that the school has just put out about their new library. I guess it's a rather new and nice feature so they want all the parents and others to know about it.

So ... just to let you know ... my career as a model has begun ... and in Korea! haha! I will sign a bunch of copies and send them home so you can start selling them on Ebay. I would like a portion of the proceeds though, my manager will be in touch with you. Who even knows where this will lead ... besides more laughs ... perahaps you will see my face on the side of a bus or some hip new fad that will make you want to vomit ... I have new goals for my life now. Enjoy!


Sunday, August 26, 2007

and the winner is ...

ok, some of you have participated in my re-naming of the blog contest and I must say I was happy with some of the results and some where funny but there is no way that I would put that up as a blog name, Steve Mersinger I'm talking to you buddy!

So ... the winner is ... Molly! She dug down deep and got super creatvie with "The Adventures of J-Mitch" which I like, and seeing as how most friends lovingly call me this from time to time, I will go with it. Good job Molls! I will send you a phone card soon!

Other than that, nothing new to report.

But possibly coming soon ... I am thinking about taking Tae kwon do ... I figure while I'm hear to teach and observe a new culture, why not learn how to kick some ass while I'm at it? I think if I stick with it, I could be a black belt by next summer time, just in time to come home and clean up everyone who's out of line back home! So watch yourself ... me and Chuck Norris will come knockin' and there'll be hell to pay! ha!

I'll let you know what I decide soon ...

Enjoy the random photo I took with my lappy camera!


Saturday, August 25, 2007

random info

So the photos are the updated and "improved" status of my apartment. And if you are wondering ... that's right, I have tin foil on my windows, I love the sun up at 530am and everything but this is the cheapest and most cost effective way of keeping the sun out so I can sleep the whole night through! I know it probably looks silly and I truly have to laugh at myself ... but the curtains were like 40 bucks! I'll get curtains when I get married, so until then ... it's foil that does the job! (sorry if you are grossed out by the pic of my bathroom, I just wanted to show you what it looks like!)

Moving on ... things have been good with me. This past week I do believe I finally have gotten over my jet lag. I still am getting used to the still bed, my back doesn't hurt when I wake up which is a good thing but still getting used to things in general. I do not have anything amazing and exciting to report ... just some random cultural things I have found to be interesting and to keep my readers occupied for a bit longer until something cool happens to me ... wait, what am I talking about, I'm living in South Korea! So I hope you are able to laugh and raise an eyebrow with interest as you read ...

- with the exception of the grocery store, there are no lines in South Korea, you either take a number and sit down or you just push your way to the front ... so that makes a fun time anywhere you go.

- the parking situation here is like any big city ... scarce ... so everywhere there is double parking. The interesting thing is that every, or almost every car, has the owners cell number in plain view on the dash so if you need it moved, rather than towed, you call the number and have them move it. Or you can simply push the car out of the way ... most of the people who are double parked simply leave their car in neutral so people can push them around and move them out of the way. Now that is trust!

- when I give something to someone who I respect, I give it to them with my right hand and support it with my left, this is a sign of respect.

- it's polite to slurp your noodles and soup and to eat with your mouth open, it's shows that you are enjoying it ...

- you never tip when you eat out ... this is considered rude and implies that your server is not making enough money to support him/herself ... this I like!

- it is not polite to look someone in the eye who you do not know, it is considered disrespectful.

- there are two channels on the TV that are specifially for "video game sporting events." I'm sure this will catch on in America soon ... so you can enjoy it too!

Ok, that's all that comes to mind right now. Oh yes ... to my family and friends I was thinking about coming home during the week I had off for Christmas but after thinking about it, I think it would be a long trip for such a short time so I will not be coming home during Christmas this year ... sorry! I'm not sure exactly what I am doing, possibly sitting on a beach in Thailand but I will let you know and take lots of pictures. I will miss everyone during the holiday season but I know I will see everyone again in good time. So that pretty much updates you on my life for the moment.

Take Care!


Monday, August 20, 2007

... thoughts ...

These are some recent photos of a little trip I took with some co-teachers to a river nearby Daejeon to go for a swim ... the water was great and the weather was hot enough to make us pant for the cool and refreshing waters. For the life of me I cannot remember the name of the river or of the bridge where we were near ... I can assure you that it was a name long enough for me to just forget about because I knew neither I nor my friends/family back home could say it either! ha! (the two on the right are from Canada, the young man in the Manchester United jersey, a British football club, is from Scotland, and the guy on the left is from Bangalore, India ... a rather international mix I would say.

Now for the real reason of this post ... finally! I love the Koreans sense of community. We drove up and down the river looking for less populated areas where we could swim and be "alone" from the kids and throngs of people. We must have stopped by half a dozen people on the road and asked them where we could go and they all pointed us back in the direction of the bridge, where we ended regardless of our search. This at first was rather annoying, but then it dawned on me how much they love to be around one another. We in the West love our space, our individualistic freedom, our sense of ownership and separate-ness from the masses ... yet what do I see when I think of this ... all the truly lonely and disconnected people in America. Ok, I'm not preaching ... back to the story ... South Korea is home to something like 12 of the largest churches in the world, one is close to a million people in Seoul. I don't think they hate to be alone, but more like they just love to be around one another. Even if they don't know each other. They certainly didn't know us as outsiders to their culture, but as soon as we walked up, as we got many intriguing looks we also got many smiles and waves of greeting. Now, I don't know what kind of person you are with regards to community like this but I'm the kind where I truly do love to be around good company but I do need my time alone to do my "own thing" whatever that is. As I ponder on what this means for the culture and society as a whole and how it makes up the collective psyche of all the communities of South Korea, it seems to come to a result of truly being that "good neighbor" or even giving itself to the loving thy neighbor mindset where there is no room for fear of someone unknown to you. I have only been here a short time, but there doesn't seem to be as much fear in the people that I come across on my daily activities, which I love and is very disarming to me.

So that's all I really wanted to write, just thoughts on community as I've witnessed here. If I learn nothing else from this point on, I will have felt blessed to have learned what I have this far into my journey.

Grace and Peace to you!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The basics aren't so basic anymore ...

Today was offically my first day to get some things done in my new villa ... needing to get grocerys and various things that just don't come with the place, like laundry detergent and a mattress pad ... so today was a day off due to the Korean holiday Independence Day and I decided to venture out and get some things picked up, also I knew this would help with my settling in feeling, which as it turns out, it does.

Last night I hung out with some friends from work and got home around midnight, I was beat and I didn't wake up until noon today ... just a note, I don't usually sleep that late and I knew my body needed it to fight off sickness and exhaustion. So I was glad for the long and needed rest. After I got going I hailed a cab and asked to be taken to the E-mart, which as I said before is about the same as a Super Target back home. As far as public transportation works around here, it's a bit of a change of pace for the most part. I walk to and from work and if I need to get anywhere outside of a mile from my place, I have to take a cab or bus or subway. There are lots of cars here so I'm not sure what percentage of people actually drive and which don't, I think alot don't. For the most part, the Korean taxi drivers don't speak English so I just say the name of the place I need to go and hope he understands what I'm saying, I've been lucky so far. My friends Andrew and Christina, a married couple from the school, have these neat little flash cards with the various destination in both English and Korean, they are pretty handy and hopefully I'll be able to secure a set for myself.

Shopping itself was easy enough, you have to pay 100 Won to use a cart, which you get back after you use it and when you buy grocerys you have to pay for each plastic bag, which is rather a smart way of doing things while considering the environment. Most places I've been to have ample opportunity to recycle and you basically have to separate your trash when you go to throw it away. I like this aspect of the culture, they respect the small things we can do and just learn to adapt if it is something of "huge" burden like having to buy plastic bags for grocerys. Back to my shopping experience ... for the most part, the western food was easy to find and purchase, I bought some PB and J and also some bread. Although items like butter are pretty expensive so I waited to go to Costco for that one. As I said before, alot of the food that is considered traditional Korean is seafood and so you'll see unique items in the food isles like octopus or squid or eels. On a side note, I had some octopus last night with dinner and I must say it was rather good ... truthfully it didn't taste like anything much, and it was a little strange looking at it and then putting it in your mouth, tentacles and head and brains and all ... I would recommend it though, try something new!

Moving on ... after the regular grocery store, my friend Andrew and I traveled to Costco to pick up a few specific items you can't find at regular grocery stores. You know the place, everything is in bulk and truly this has been the only place I've actually felt like I was back home, weird I know. So now I'm pretty well set with a tonage of spagetti, a Korean favorite ... seriously ... and other things like raisins and cheese and some M&M's ... yummy. I am going to try to make an effort to get more Korean food on a regular basis, it's very healthy and sometimes can be an adventure itself just eating it! And as I said before, it's really, really cheap.

After I got some laundry detergent I have finally been able to get some clothes cleaned. My place came with a washer but no dryer so I just have to hang my clothes out to dry, which takes a little while because there isn't any room outside to place my clothes so I just have to improvise with what I have and hang my clothes here and there and everywhere.

My bathroom, or washroom as the Koreans call it, is pretty small and basic. No shower or tub like we have in the West, just a hand-held nozzle while you just stand there in front of your sink, next to you toilet taking a shower. All and all my bathroom is about 4 by 4 feet and the whole thing serves as a multi-purpose room, it's hasn't been too hard really to get used to it but I could imagine it would if you like to do stuff and have a process of bathing like some of my friends in the States! Actually I'm enjoying everything and all the new adventures I seem to go on daily, everything is new and here it's like I'm learning how to live more simply, even though I thought I lived rather simply in the States! I really enjoy public transportation but it does have it's draw-backs like going to the grocery story and having to carry your stuff to the cab, then to your apartment when you don't know how to direct the driver to your place yet. I like the Koreans view on life and living, they seem to be always ready for a good laugh and don't seem to be easily offened, even by forigeners.

In September I've got a bit of a holiday called Chusok, which is basically the same as Thanksgiving back home so this'll be a chance for a bit of travel. I don't have too much of a desire to go into China or Japan but North Korea sounds inviting and from what I hear, American are actually allowed into Pyongyang. To my family: it's totally safe, one of my friends at work went and she said it's super-structured, like only a Communist government could and it's simply and utterly interesting. So it I do end up going I'm sure it'll be a blast. If not, no worries, I'm just as happy to explore the mountains that surround Daejeon. There aren't any towering peaks like in the Western States but it does remind me of the Appalachians in the Eastern US. I'll let you know the closer it gets, the break is still about a month off.

For all who read this I have a little reader participation for you ... I would like to rename my blog ... now I know I could do this and rename is something weird and obscure or try to be deep and meaningful but that's just not my specialty thus "Living Abroad." So if you have 5 seconds and would like to give me a hand and help me rename this thing I will send the winner a calling card just so they can call me up! Yeaaa! I know, I know, it's an amazing prize, I know. But I thought it might be fun and interesting to see what people think I could call this other than "living abroad," that seems so "captain obvious." Or ... if you do like the Living Abroad title, then you should be ashamed of yourself ... I'm kidding ... funny though.

Grace and peace to you all!


Monday, August 13, 2007


Hey everyone! Sorry it has taken me so long to post ... well ... anything on the blog site ... I've been over here in Daejeon for about a week and I just now got into my new villa tonight literally a couple of hours ago as I write this! It's got basically everything I need, kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, small living room with TV ... I still have to get my phone hooked up ... I'm actually "borrowing" this wireless signal off someone in the building. So for those of you who really want to talk to me, have some patience and hopefully I'll be getting a phone number by the end of this week, possibly sooner.

As I said before it has been officially one week. Although I will be honest and tell you it's felt more like 2 months already ... so much has happened in that little short time of seven days ... I've gone through ever emotion there is to have in the midst of culture shock ... love, hate, confusion (lots of that), joy, happiness, sadness, loneliness, closeness ... the list can go on and on I'm sure. I truly do not know where to begin to tell you all that has happened, there are so many things and my thougts on the each are equally diverse. From culture to food to the people to my co-workers to the new people I've been meeting randomly through simply being a foriegner.

Where to begin ... where to begin ...

Let's first talk about the food ... although I'm still getting used to most of it, it's all rather healthy. I do believe the Koreans eat anything that comes out of the ocean, well everything except the sand and water of course. There are octopus, squid, jellyfish, seaweed, the list goes on. I did find that when I ate Korean food and then came back to Western food, my stomach was wrecked from the oils and overall greasiness of it all. Much of the food here is very cheap, you can get a large meal for about 4 or 5 dollars and it's considered rude to tip.

Now on to Daejeon itself ... the city here is great. It's a very modern and advanced city to be living in and another upside of that is that my villa and school where I work are very close to the stores that I will need to get me through the year, like E-mart, which is like Super-Target. Oh yes, I don't want to forget the fact that there are tons of opportunities for "American food" should I feel that I'm missing out. There are pizza places everywhere, I saw a TGI Fridays yesterday, of course there is McDonalds, KFC, Popeys, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Subway, and I think I saw someone eating Burger King food today at work. So in that respect I'm sure I'll be ok. Another that's rather nice about living over here is the technology is a little more advanced than what we have in America. The digital cameras are a bit cheaper too, which is nice and the cell phones are pretty much right out of the factory being so close to Japan.

I've learned only how to say a few things like the area where I live so as to catch a taxi home and 'hello' and 'thank you.' So I would say I've got just enough to get by, although I still do use my hands to make gestures like telephone or bag or something like that. The people here are nice enough and they can tell I'm clearly American. Most people over here like Americans, though they may not like our governmental leaders ... suprise, suprise. I work with lots of Canadians which has been pretty fun. As you may have guessed, they say "Aaa" alot and they are all great and loving people, willing to help me out whenever they can. I've also met some folks from the States and also from Africa and Europe who are working here.

As for the teaching situation ... it gets better daily. Everyday I learn something more about my teaching abilities and about the kids I am teaching, what works, what doesn't work. In the morning I teach kindergarten and in the afternoon older kids in elementary and up into middle school age. Somedays I love them all and somedays the little ones are so, so much easier than the older ones. All my classes are taught in English and for the most part they do well, althought it is basically a lesson in frustration to try and have a conversation with any of them. But it's ok, there are also English speaking Korean teachers here too, they are fun to chat with and are all very nice.

When I get some pictures of my kids I'll post them on the blog ... other than that, it's about all I can think to write. I will be writing more soon I think. I miss you all my friends and family! I will let you know a number you can phone me at soon enough, just a little more patience. Buy those calilng cards! Grace and peace to all of you!


Friday, August 3, 2007

On my way ...

Hello, hello all!

I am writing to you from Atlanta, GA ... where I will remain for the rest of today and will catch my flight to Seoul tomorrow afternoon. I had to stay over in Atlanta because I didn't have my passport and visa intact ... so now that I do ... I can finally decompress a bit. Plus I've got this amazing hotel room for one night with lots of time to just relax and think about things to come.

Crazy adventures are already abounding ... I have to be honest though, you should have seen me lugging my two gigantic 50-pound duffle bags to the bus terminal, it must have been a sight. Thankfully I'm able to drop off my luggage at the hotel and go with my backpack into the downtown area. On my way to downtown I find out my taxi driver is from Ghana, which is interesting and we strike up conversation about traveling and living abroad, he of course is the one living abroad from his home and I, on the other hand, am heading out myself. We finally find the building where the Consulate is located ... downtown Atlanta is crazy and nice at the same time, like any big city I suppose. After I picked up my visa, which was a huge relief, I grabbed a bite at the mall and just as I'm sitting down by myself, two random strangers ask if they can sit with me and I end up having lunch with a nice married couple from Las Vegas. Apparently there are at least a million conferences going on in downtown Atlanta so after I told them what I was doing here we continued on the small talk until I finished up and said good bye.

At this point, I fairly amazed just at traveling this short distance and the overall kindness of complete strangers. Maybe I have some sign on my head that says, "HEY, I'm here by myself, COME TALK TO ME!" And that's not the end ... as I leave lunch to pick up a cab back to my hotel, yet another random person strikes up a conversation with me and decides to walk with me for the next couple of blocks and helps me find where all the cabbies are located. It was funny, we talked about a little bit of everything and when I found a cab and decided to take off he gave me a big hug, probably just for talking to him and spending a few minutes of my day to chat ... and this was all before noon people! What a day already ...

What am I doing now, you ask? I'll field that question ... besides writing this little blog, I'm just relaxing and enjoying my last few hours in the States. Up to this point, I've been a little nervous about traveling by myself, but today is just another example that all I need to do is look around me and there I will find a new friend. That sounds pretty cheesy. Hang with me though, I'm only working on about 2 hours of sleep.

I should be arriving into the Incheon Airport at 5 pm Sunday, where I will then get on a bus for 3 hours to travel south to Daejeon. Then, Monday morning is my first day of work. I'll probably be going through training and orientation. My friend Steve and I figured out it will take me about 20 days to get adjusted to the new time zone, only 13 hours ahead. So if you really, really want to know about the future, don't read those horoscope things, just call me and I will tell you what's it's like.

Well that's all for now ... I will write more once I get to South Korea and get a little settled. I'm sure I'll have lots to write about. So until then ...

And in case you were wondering ... I didn't have an interesting picture this time, so I chose Molly's dog Lucy to do the blog justice ... probably the cutest dog, ever!