Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lunar New Year Weekend

Happy Korean New Year! It is the year of the tiger. Rawr.

In honor of the new year, my branch had Monday off. Awesome! Although I have to make it up on Saturday.* Traditionally, Koreans spend Korean New Year (which does, as you may suspect, generally coincide with Chinese New Year, Vietnamese New Year, etc.) with their families doing basically what we do on Thanksgiving. Traditions include eating Tteokguk (떡국), giving money for good luck, and wearing traditional dress.

Since us foreigners don't have any family out here, we decided to meet up in Hongdae, the university part of town. Jon and I ate at an awesome Greek place and then went to a cafe called A Twosome Place, which we thought was apt because we were a twosome. We got these enormous, rich cakes and sweet coffees. After eating them, we both felt sick, but in a good way.

Yes, that is a macaron on top of my cake. 

[Also, why are there huge gaps between my pictures? I don't know how to use this thing.]

Next we met up with our friends for some soju-drinking. It was Sara and Quinn's birthdays last week so we were there to celebrate. After summoning sufficient courage, we headed to a swing club. I never actually thought my swing dancing skills (and by skills I mean the fact that I took a weekly, one-credit class from which I remember very little) would come in handy! It was a lot of fun and there were a few Korean couples who were very good.

It looked a little sketchy from the outside.
But the door said "Swing Dance" so we figured it was OK.


On Sunday, a bunch of coworkers met up for some games, mainly Guitar Hero, which was totally awesome.

Monday, I went to Jamsil with Jon since he had to work  (*cough* loser *cough) and then we went back to Butterfinger Pancakes, or Heaven, as I like to call it. It's this brunch place that seems taken right out of Southern California. It's hard to describe, but if you can imagine if IHOP were designed specifically for college students, complete with suede orange armchairs, huuuuge portions, and an eponymously named dish which is exactly what it sounds like. Butterfinger pancakes. They also have this ice cream waffle thing, featuring five types of ice cream (yes, cookies and cream is one of the flavors). Anywho, it was amazing but we spent so long there that the subway shut down and we had to grab a taxi back to Pyeongchon.

So I'm back to work now and we're in week 12 of the 13-week term and the students are a little distracted. They find out whether or not they get to go to the next level this week. And pretty soon I'll find out my schedule. I have this unfortunate sinking feeling that I will be teaching on Saturdays next term. Updates to come.

*Actually, I was told that those of us who have only one class on Monday (which I do) would most likely not have to make up the class on Saturday, so I spent the entire weekend bragging to everyone how I didn't have to make up my class. Of course, in a classic case of karma, or Murphy's Law or whatever I find out today that not only do I have to make up the class, but they're combining my class with another so I have to teach twice as many kids on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I haven't talked about teaching much so I thought I'd give it a quick update. We're coming to the end of the term, which means the students took their level-up tests last week, the tests that decide whether they  will advance to the next level. For some reason, Chung Dahm administers this test during week 10 of the 13-week term. Let's think about this for a second...How would you feel if, in college, you had your final exam three weeks before the end of the term? How much effort do you suppose you'd put into those three weeks, knowing that they essentially count for nothing? Probably not a lot. And these wily Korean students are no exception to that logic. I don't blame them, I wouldn't put in any effort to my classes if I'd already taken the test. Especially when it's not real school, it's just hagwon (an after school class). Especially especially when my teacher isn't very strict with me when it comes to homework. (Guilty as charged).

The level-up (or Achievement) test administration was kind of a mess. Having never done it before I was caught a little off-guard. The first day I forgot to record a couple of the kids' speaking tests (like an oral exam), and then had to ask them to do it again. On the second day I accidentally handed out the test booklets too early. When it came to grading their essays, I have to be honest, I just kind of handed out scores randomly. Hopefully it will be OK.

In better news, I'm getting to know my co-workers a lot better and they seem very nice. We went out to a bar on Friday where they apparently go regularly. It's called Happidus and I guess a lot of the foreign hagwon teachers in Pyeongchon go there. And tomorrow is pay day (woot!) which means pay day dinner (woot woot!) at a Mexican restaurant called Tom Taylor's (authentic-sounding, I know).

Next weekend, the training group is meeting up for a day or two in Seoul and Sunday is Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More kebabs, pie, an Australian breakie and Tim Tam slamming!

A weekend of food! Jon and I decided to go back to Itaewon to continue our search for pie and other things that are delicious. We stopped in a different kebab shop (or kebaberie, if you like), called Mr. Kebab, which is right next to the subway station (we were pretty hungry, didn't want to walk any further). Personally, I thought it it was better than Petra, and it came with a bunch of yummy sauces.

Next we went back to the international grocery store where I picked up some nutella, and then we both got chocolate bars. Clearly we had dessert on the brain. We wandered around Itaewon a little bit more and went up this hill which led to a very narrow street with cute bars and restaurants on it. You'd never even know they were there. We spotted an Aussi bar which had a comprehensive menu of delicious-sounding fried meals like fish and chips, a good English breakie, etc as well as a selection of beers, and, get this, Cadbury's and Tim Tam chocolate bars. Sweeeeeet! I've been looking everywhere for Cadbury's chocolates and all I could find was the inferior Hershey*. And Tim Tams? Awesome! We made a mental note to come back later, and then headed out for that elusive pie shop, Tartine.

Apparently, yesterday Chef Garrett of Tartine commented on my post about how we hadn't been able to make it to Tartine two weekends ago. I don't know if it's really Chef Garrett and if it is I really don't know how he found my blog, but if it is him then he can rest assured that we did make it to Tartine last weekend and it was all it was cracked up to be. Check it out:

Tartine is buried away in an alley off the main road of Itaewon but it is instantly recognizable. First, there is the adorable pie sign (sorry, no pic) and second, there is the long line of people waiting to get in. It is very small and cozy inside, and features beret-ed (that is, they were wearing berets) waiter and waitresses, cutesy French country decor, and dozens of Korean couples (more about K-couples later). Unfortunately we didn't have reservations so we had to get our pies to go. I got the strawberry rhubarb and Jon went for apple. 

On our way out, we saw this:

Pies in hand, we planned to head back to Anyang but for some reason our sweet teeth had yet to be quenched (sorry, not sure if that idiom works). We stopped in at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to pick up some cheesecake and then headed home, pies and cheesecake in tow.

We went home, ate our pies, and then went over to the apartment of two coworkers of mine, Gary and Lisa, to play some games, eat some pizza, and drink some wine. 

If you thought we were fooded out from Saturday you were sorely mistaken, my friend. Because on Sunday we decided to go back to Itaewon to try out the Aussie bar and bistro. What an adorable little place! Owned and operated by Tony, an Australian fellow, and I think his wife, it's a tiny but very nicely decorated place with homemade Australian (well, if you ask me, English) food. According to Tony they make everything from scratch, including the hashbrowns, which were delicious. Before we left, we made sure to buy some Tim Tams (I got the original, Jon got the "crazy" caramel) and Tony told us how to Tim Tam Slam! (I feel like there should always be an exclamation mark at the end of Tim Tam Slam!) Then we went home and had cheesecake and Tim Tams and Jon tried to Twix Slam but it didn't work out too well.

*Hershey is OK, I just like insulting it because Jon is from Pennsylvania and it's like a weird pride thing with Pennsylvanians. Speaking of Pennsylvania, that groundhog apparently saw his shadow today so we're supposed to have 6 more weeks of winter. Boo.