Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lost in Translation

It's not hard to believe that we are constantly laughing at our student's attempts at English. I'm sure they are on the other end laughing at our attempts at Korean. I've been meaning to post about this for a while, so I have been randomly writing things down on post-its for over a month of some of the funny things we hear. And now it is time for a Lost in Translation Update!

It is so common for us to be walking on the streets, and random kids (sometimes adults) start talking to us. It is usually just "hello". Sometimes if there is a group of friends, one brave soul will say hello, then run back to the group giggling.

Andrew and I were on our walk to school the other day, and three or four tiny kids started talking to us. Now when I say tiny, I'm guessing they were about 5-7 years old.

"Hello! Hello!"

We responded with a friendly hello, passed them, and kept walking

"F*ck you! F*ck you! F*ck you!"

I turned to Andrew, "Are they saying what I think they are saying?"

"You bet."

They probably heard it in movies and knew it was English, but didn't know what it actually meant.


Every so often I go to get manicures at a place next to our school. I figure, in America most of the nail salons are run by Asians, so I'm at the hub of nail care in Korea. I walked in to the salon, and pointed to my nails and did a hand gesture for painting nails.

"Ahh.. mm..." and she rattled something off in Korean

"Moh lie yo" (I don't know)

"Ahh... poop stick."

"Uhhh... Mo lie yo"

She turned to a customer and rattled off korean. The customer turned to me and said, "Poop stick."

"Nay... poop stick," The worker added. (yes... poopstick)

"Uh.... Mo lie yo.... aniyo?" (Uh.. I don't know... no?"

"Nay... poop stick." (Yes... poop stick)

I walked out of there more confused than when I went in!


In one of my classes "dirty" was a vocabulary word. I usually say the word several times and the students repeat. After they pronounce it correctly a few times, I ask them what the word means. The three students sat there, confused for a while.

Suddenly Vicky smiled, 'Teacher. Poop. Poop is dirty."

"Well, yes, that is right. But what else can you think of that is dirty?"

"hehehe. Teacher. Poop. POOP! Poop is dirty!"

"Yes, Vicky... that is right. Can you think of anything else that is dirty?"

"heheeh. Pee. Pee is dirty. Pee and POOP! Dirty!"

The other two students sat there confused, they must not have known those words. She turned to them and said it in Korean. Now I had three giggling students, "HAHA! POOP! PEE! Poop and pee are dirty! DIRTY! DIRTY! DIRTY!"


The kids absolutely love playing Bingo. I give them blank cards and a list of vocabulary words they can choose from to put in the spaces. While calling out words, often the students get confused and they can't understand what I am saying.

I have a new student, Luke, who from the back looks like a girl. He has long beautiful wavy hair. He wears boy pants, and girl snow boots with his pants tucked in. He is missing several teeth and always smiles huge, exposing his holey mouth.

He must not know the word "spell" or "spelling" like my other students, because when he doesn't understand a word, especially in Bingo, he yells out something a little more unique.

This is how a usual episode of Bingo goes:

"The first word is log... log"




"L... O... G... log"


"Teacher, me yes!"

"Me, no," other students chime in.

"The second word is toad... toad..."




"T... O... A... D..."


"Teacher, me yes. Me yes."

"Teacher, me no."

"Me yes!" 



When checking some homework in an intermediate level class, the students had to define the word "wiggle" and use it in a sentence.

One student wrote: "I wiggle with my family"

Another wrote, "Get a wiggle on you!"

I love grading book reports and writing tests. These usually show our student's shining colors. Andrew and I have started making photocopies of our favorites. I will share a few with you:

Directions: Imagine you are a prince or a princess, and you have to get married. Write down some of the traits you would like your new husband or wife to have...

"If I am a prince, I marry a princess. My wife is very kind and pretty. But she is not funny. So, I am bores. We play the game. Then we are happy. And go to the camping with her. Then she love me. And me too."

(This next report is a writing test)

Topic: What are your three favorite playground rides?

There are many things you can do at the playground. Choose your favorite playground ride and tell me why you like those things. First "I like sea saw because go up and down. Go down is fast and fun. You like too. I think. Ha Ha and I like too!!! You and me play the very very very funny seasaw play woo. 

Second, I like pull-up-bar because fun and sport and game. I win a game you I know pull-up-bar finig fighting? I know? me this game very well. You too very well? Oh my god!!! You am me game start!!!

Finally, I like ladder wall because fun and jump down fast. Go down and foot is say ouch!!! It is fun. You like this too. I like the ladder wall too. you too? You too? Ha Ha!!! Good bye. bye bye~"

(This next one is also a writing test)

The student had to choose if he would prefer a traditional or modern wedding ceremony, and support it with three details.

If I were to get married soon, I would choose traditional for my big day. It would be held "in old palace on nearby beautiful beach in island. Because it look like romantic in great and then we do paragliding, seawalking and boat riding and eat lunch in seafood restaurant. We will wear king and queen crown and clothes. finish wedding ceremony we see Polynasian shows and dance. We eat shark's fin and Tuna in tomorrow in wedding day. We see how to polynasian live in island. We see polinesian people walk on the fire. We see center of polinesia trip (honey moon) and wedding center to be very fancy."

From a book report:
Directions: What was the plot of the story "The Terrible Tidybot"?

"he bought tidybot but he bloken remote so tidybot do higgledy home"

This next report, the student had to describe the animal they would like to have as a pet:

My Pet: Asiatic chipuck
Name: toly
Activity list:
    - take a turn
    - eat of rice

The last one is probably my favorite. The book report has a letter from the cows to Farmer Brown. The cows say:

Dear Farmer Brown,

The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets.

The Cows

She had to write a response from Farmer brown to the cows. She wrote:

"Dear Cows,

You have black and white fur and thick skin. So you are not cold. You need not electric blankets. I demand milk, or I will sell you. I wish you a good choice. 

Farmer Brown"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What's that?

Today I had Howard choose something for me for lunch. This is usually a good idea because I try new things and, well, I can't read Korean menus so I just have him order for me. He said he ordered me a white soup from a restaurant in our building. It got delivered and I started eating it. It was delicious. It was a clear-ish broth with a little bit of spice, and dumplings.

But hey... what's that? I saw something that looked peculiar in my soup. I took my chopsticks... started pulling it up... and I'll be damned it was a squid lurking in my soup!

I ate several of the legs, but couldn't bring myself to biting in to it's head.

Snow Clean Up

As I said before, they use construction diggers to move around snow here. I saw some when I had my camera on me. Korea, I have one word for you: snowplows.

A Spa Experience

Last Saturday I tried out my first Korean spa. Howard's friend just opened up a new spa and he said he could get me a discount. After looking at the menu (basically just the pictures because it was all in Korean) I chose a two hour massage. It was supposed to be about $70, but with the discount it came to about $45. Can't go wrong, right? Well... Korean spas aren't quite as relaxing as you might think.

The spa was on the other side of town, so Howard picked me up and took me there. We had a cup of tea with his friend (the owner) and then he left and I was on my way to, what I thought, would be my most relaxing two hours in Korea so far. I have had several massages at spas in the states, so I had expectations going in.

I first stepped in to the changing room. This wasn't what you'd think. It was a very small room with a few lockers, a mirror, slippers, and two doors. One door went to the lobby, the other door went to the spa room. Howard's friend (her English name is April) showed me my locker, and handed me my "robe". The robe was a sheet with some Velcro on it. Figuring the robe wasn't very crucial, as I'd be taking it off soon anyway, I shrugged it off, put on my slippers, and made my way through the door to the "spa". (Yes, this spa now gets quotation marks).

There were about five massage tables in the same room. One lady was already occupying a table and getting  a face treatment. I was ushered to my table and was told to lay down with my head in the hole. Standard procedure. I did so and was covered up with a sheet. I left my underwear on, I usually do when getting  a massage. April pulled back my sheet, undid my Velcro to expose my back, then, upon seeing my underwear, hoisted it down with a soft, "excuse me".

Luckily my face was through that hole because my cheeks must have turned three shades of pink. I focused my eyes on the floor, where there was a candle directly beneath my hole. I saw April's feet shuffle around me several times before I heard "cold" as oil was being poured on my back. Okay. The table is heated. This is nice. I can get used to this. So what if my butt is exposed for everyone in the room to see? No biggie. It's fine. Okay. Rubbing. This is nice. That feels good. WHAT?! Her fingers slipped down my crack.

My face, again, turned dark pink as I jumped and winced in embarrassment. Okay. That had to have been a mistake. My back is very oily. She is probably just as embarrassed. Okay. Look at the candle. No big deal. She's just your co-worker's good friend. She won't tell right? WHAT? There it was again.

Okay. Accident. That had to have been an accident. An honest mistake. But again? Thank God my face is in this hole and she can't see me. Okay. Yes, it is slippery. She is probably nervous because I am her friend's co-worker. She just has to be as embarrassed as I am. Breathe. It's okay. La la la. Relax. Okay, she's on the shoulders. This is good. Up is good. Uh oh, she's going back down. WHAT? AGAIN? REALLY? ARE YOU SERIOUS?

And this went on. Over and over again her fingers "slipped" in my personals.

About an hour was finished, and she said, "Okay, turn". The second half of the massage, was supposed to be my face. An hour on my face? Really? Whatever. But shit. Now my face is going to be exposed. But really, what can she do to my face that would cause me to make faces?

All of a sudden she put a very hot steamer a few inches away from my face. It was so damn hot. I didn't want it anymore. I have troubles breathing in humidity because of my asthma. I opened my eyes just a smidgen, as I saw gooey hands nearing my face. I only caught a glimpse of it but it had a striking resemblance to honey. In about two seconds I thought, "HONEY? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME? ALL OVER MY FACE?'

But as her hands touched me, it was actually just some oil. Several times she put on oils and took them off with very very hot, wet towels. At one point she put a liquid on my face that burned like nothing I've ever felt before. It hurt so bad I wanted it off, and I wanted it off now. Maybe she didn't warn me because she didn't know the English for it? I can't be sure. But all of a sudden she has a bright light and is doing some sort of light therapy to my skin. Okay, a warning would have been nice. Get it off. Get it off now.

After what felt like a full hour, the burning stopped and she carried on with more oils and more massaging. All of a sudden she goes down my neck, and starts massaging my boobs. ARE YOU SERIOUS!? I was biting my cheeks so hard I think they started to bleed.

Now, her assistant takes my sheet and lifts it up off my legs towards my crotch. WHAT IS HAPPENING?! She lifts up one leg and places it down, then the other. Then she zippered something from my feet all the way up towards my crotch. You have got to be kidding me. What is going on?

All of a sudden I hear a beep and something is inflating around my legs. It was very similar to a blood pressure checker... covering my entire legs. All the while April is having a nice time with my boobs. WHAT IS THIS PLACE?! After about twenty minutes with the legs, the machines stopped.

April was back on my face with more oils. She wasn't just keeping the oils to my face, however. She was rubbing them all over in my hair and around my head. One last towel... she puts it on my face and it must have just come out of the freezer because without warning my face felt like it had been dipped in ice water. What a nice way to end such a relaxing massage.

As if it couldn't have gotten more awkward and uncomfortable, April, at the end of my massage said, "Are you going home now?"


"Okay, I will drive you home."

April doesn't speak much English... so we didn't talk. April put the radio on in her car until thirty minutes into the drive. It was pure awkward silence for the whole hour ride home.

I think I came out of there more uptight than when I went in. Oddly enough, I think that might be my last massage in Korea.

Snow Day

It was a Sunday night and at about 2:00 am Andrew went to our "laundry room" to put something out there. He saw it was snowing so we decided to go have some fun in the snow in our pajamas. Of course I brought my camera along.

The next day Andrew went to work two hours early, because we started teaching special winter classes. I didn't have an early class so I slept in. I was just about to jump in the shower when he came back. He had dunkin donuts in hand and said that school was cancelled. I looked outside and there was about a foot of snow on the ground. This country doesn't know how to handle their snow!

Later in the day we went out to get some pizza. I haven't seen one person in Korea with a shovel or a plow. They use home-made stick brooms, cardboard, buckets, and ice chisels. A friend who used to live in Korea said she saw people using a hose to get ride of snow. What a nice idea... that makes a perfect blanket of ice! On the main roads we saw a few construction diggers picking up snow. Are you kidding me? No wonder they had to cancel school!

The next day at work one of my co-workers tried having a conversation with me. I say tried because her English is not very good. I can tell it has improved since we started, but maybe she is just getting more confident talking to us. She is one of the front desk workers, and is really cute. She tried telling Howard so he could translate for her. He said he wouldn't translate and she had to try.

"Hm. Where are from?"

"Near Chicago. North of Chicago." (People understand that much better than Wisconsin)

"Hm. You snow?"

"Yes. Much more. Many many many many. And much colder than Korea."

"Ah. hm. Korea... one hundred.... three... years... hm. First time I see... hm. OKAY!"

Apparently it does snow here, but not that much at one time. That was the first time in 103 years that it snowed that much and they had to cancel school. We also had a nice little treat when returning to work. There was no heat. If I had known, I wouldn't have worn a short sleeved dress.

The kids were freezing, and so were the teachers. Everyone was wearing their coats. I tried writing on the board while wearing gloves. (note: that doesn't work). The repairman said he couldn't come until the next day to fix it.

Well the next day came, and the next day went. The repair man had come, but he said he couldn't fix it until sometime maybe next week. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

I was bringing mugs of hot water with me to class so I could hold it to keep my fingers from being numb. At one point I set down my mug to write on the board. I turned back around and one of my students had her fingers cupped around my mug so she could warm up. I had my classes doing jumping jacks, group hugs, and I went around the room with my warmer hands trying to warm theirs up. It was ridiculous.

Luckily, we only had two days of no heat before one of our co-workers got mad enough that he went out and fixed the problem himself.

The following pictures are all of us playing in the snow at 2 am in our pajamas.

My Birthday

Two days after Christmas was my birthday. This day had our first "major" snowstorm. And when I say major I mean about 2 inches. We wished the snow had come before Christmas so it would have felt a little more like the holiday. We decided to go to the Coex Aquarium in Seoul. It wasn't on a major train stop, so it took an hour and 1/2 to get there by subway from Suwon. By the time we got there, we were tired and ready to go home.

We decided to go in anyway. The aquarium was in the Coex mall. This mall was insanely large. While walking though the mall to get to the aquarium we stopped at ate Sbarros pizza. I was really excited to see the taste from home here. I don't really like Sbarros very much, but it was more so the fact that it was a taste from home that made it more delicious.

The highlight of the aquarium was supposed to be the walk-through tunnel where sharks and other sea creatures swim all around and over you. There was a little conveyor belt (much like at airports) that went through this area. The way the glass was bent gave Andrew and I both pretty bad headaches.

We decided we were too tired to ride the subway home so we were going to catch a taxi from the mall to the main train station. That way we could catch the 20 minute fast train home. Wrong-o. Because of the snow (and being in a city that has a population of 23 million) we were stopped in five lane dead stop traffic for over an hour. I fell asleep and woke up later to hear Andrew telling the driver to stop here. He realized we were at a closer station. Being in the taxi for that long only cost about $17. Not bad!!!

When we got back to Suwon we trekked through the snow to find a birthday cake. Luckily there was a free hat with purchase (like those animal hats I wrote about earlier). We got home, had the cake, then cashed in for work the next day.

Happy Birthday to me... thanks for the mailed gifts!

My birthday cake! Delicious fresh fruits on top.

My new hat.

The side view of my hat makes me laugh. It sticks out so far! Luckily this hat is reversible. The wolf can be flipped to go on top of the sheep. Oddly enough... I haven't worn this hat once since these pictures. Today, I saw one of my students wearing the same hat. Awesome.

Friday, January 1, 2010


This year somewhat feels like the year with out holidays. We were determined to make Christmas feel like Christmas. We were constantly listening to Christmas tunes (I was sure to not download any songs with "I'll be home for Christmas" in them). Yet it still didn't quite feel right. I guess part of it is because two days before Christmas we had a high of 50 degrees.

Christmas Eve was a bit colder. We still had to go to work. As I've said before, Christmas really isn't that big of a deal here. I guess we were lucky to get Christmas Day off.

I had organized a Secret Santa gift exchange at work. Everyone came in to work Christmas Eve and put their gifts in one of the classrooms. Once everyone arrived, we went in the room together and found our gifts. The Koreans must have been a bit confused because they stood there awkwardly holding their gifts, said "thank you" and started walking out of the room. I said, "No, open them!"

"Ahhhh, open them!"

After everything was opened, we stood there awkwardly again. Then finally one by one we filed out of the room.

A little while later I had gone to get some hot water to make some coffee. Rosella, the head teacher, came out to get me. She was pretending to cry. And it was very obvious that she was pretending to cry. I had no idea why she was so blatantly being ridiculous. She pulled me back into the teacher's room. Everyone was looking at me. Everyone was standing there.

All of a sudden the lights went out, and in came a birthday cake for me. They all started singing Happy Birthday. When it came time in the song they sang, "Happy Birthday, dear hammmmnnaahhhh.... HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!" It is a tradition in Korea that if it is your birthday, you are supposed to be the one to cut the cake. So they handed me a knife and I tried cutting it. It was a very soft cake with a hard cookie and hardened chocolate on top. It was impossible to cut. And everyone was watching!

We were supposed to work until 8:30 pm Christmas Eve. Our boss left early to go to Hong Kong for the weekend. After the last students left at 5:30, the head teacher told the foreigners we could go home, because Christmas is a bigger deal for us than them.

We made one last stop at the grocery store before heading home. I made my family's traditional shrimp meal for Christmas Eve (at home we usually have steak too, but beef is ridiculously expensive here). We watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which I watch with my family every Christmas Eve, and a few more Christmas movies before turning in for the night.

We were very thankful that our families and friends sent us such wonderful gifts for us to open on Christmas. We got a ton of good reading, because we can't find books in English here. And a bunch of food we have been craving. Andrew's mom sent me a few recipes, one including Polish Noodles. So Christmas night I went to the grocery store and bought a chicken. I boiled it, pulled the meat off, then made chicken dumpling soup. It was so delicious... I'll definitely be making many more Polish noodles in my future!

Andrew hard at work the day before Christmas Eve.

My birthday cake.

My birthday cake.

Christmas Eve... with the Christmas Tree at work.

Christmas Eve with our little tree and all of our gifts!

Our mess Christmas morning.

Our gifts, covering our bed! What a mess!