Stoves at every table!

It has officially been a week since I landed in Asia but at this point, it feels like a year. Already when I walk down the street, I scoff at the other foreigners and try to avoid people speaking English. I haven’t been in an American store yet (save the McDonalds I went in for some soft-serve ice cream… no judging!) and I’ve been eating Korean food nonstop (again, except for that damn soft-serve ice cream. It had to be done. It just looked so cold and refreshing.)

But I am nowhere near accustomed yet. I mean, come on, I’m half way around the world. It really wasn’t until today that I think my body realized that I indeed did want to reverse my sleep schedule.  Aside from the insomnia ordeal, there’s also the fact that day one in Asia I was teaching 9-13 year olds how to read and write English while surviving on instant coffee, instant oatmeal, Korean style sushi (kimbpabp), and kimchi. Oh and there’s the small issue that it’s about 85 degrees here every day, and feels like I’m walking through a humidifier 24/7. You know that feeling when it’s hot, and you sweat, but it doesn’t actually leave your body, but sits like a soft, moist film right under your arm hair? Yeah, it’s like that but worse.  Hopefully the weather will break soon and a huge monsoon will just wipe away my film.

On the whole, life here is awesome though! I mean, it’s a big city with movement at every hour of the day – from coffee shops to street vendors to restaurants open all night long to clubs that bump American hip-hop, this place is alive. And that’s what I look for in a place to live.

Enough dancing around what my life is like here, let’s hit you up with a day in the life of me run-down. Each morning I’ve woken up to go for a run in the park by the Han river (Hangang river), come back to my building, swiped my card to get into the lobby, ran up the 3 flights of stairs to my door, typed in a code into my door’s lock (no key!) and showered, had a cup of tea and a few bites of oatmeal while listening to “Lucifer” by SHINee, and run off to work (about a 4 minute walk from my apartment). My apartment is a nice size – one main room with an automatic light, a bathroom, and a long kitchen (where the wardrobe also sits) located in an alleyway. But then again, all streets – save about ten majors ones – are alleyways in Seoul. No street names, just roads. Want directions? Well then go to the 7-11 turn right, go straight until the Natuur store, and take a left.

My work day really is a lot of quick preparations for the next class (each 50 minutes long) and class management. These kids are sweet baby angel children except for when they decide to start chatting in Korean or refuse to do work. No big. When they look at me with wide eyes and giggle, I tell them to chat in English and their response isn’t “okay” or “yes sir” it’s “hello hello hello hello hello goodbye.” These kids are smart too – they can talk in good English, but instead it’s all about mockery. But they are smart as hell. Like, smarter than kids their age in America, and English is American kid’s first language.

Right now I either teach a reading class or a writing class. The reading classes provide me with so much trivial knowledge, I’d be able to rock out on Who Wants to be a Millionaire or Jeopardy. Who discovered the Northwest Passage? Amundsen. What did he also do? Make it to Antarctica first. What’s the largest earthquake on record? Chile in the 1960s (it as a 9.5 out of 12). What was the biggest in America? Alaska (9.2). What happened as a result of the Alaskan earthquake? Houston was raised up by 4 inches. I could keep going, about Easter Island or Galveston, Texas or or or. But I’ll skip it.

Writing classes are all about giving the kids prompts to write for about twenty minutes. Be the prompt for a newspaper article, biography, travel journal, or what have you, it always ends up just being a story. More often then not, the story involves trash or eating.

After work is the time for food. And what food there is. Shabu Shabu or Golbi or Kimbab or Kimchi or Bibimbap or name it and I’ve probably eaten it by this point. Probably one of the best parts about the food here, though, is that you get to feel a part of the food preparation. No, I’m not back in the kitchen, chatting it up with the chef in fluent Korean while tossing raw egg and rice together for some good old fashioned fried rice. But I am talking about grilling raw meat, mushrooms, and garlic for barbeque on a stove in the middle of my table. Or tossing all of the ingredients together to make bibimbap what it is known to be. Think: make your own fajitas at Applebee’s but better. Think: Iron Chef America where all the ingredients are given to you and you just have to put them together in a cool way.

Today, after my stint in a dope coffee shop in a college neighborhood, I’m off to a vegan restaurant to grab some imitation pork cutlet then to a flea market on a rooftop. No big. I’ll be sporting cuffed jeans, a colorful shirt, some fried mandu (dumplings) from the street vendor and listening to “Bad girl, Good girl” by f(x) on my ipod and standing out like the white boy I am.

Ps the pictures aren’t mine (oh no!) — I’m still looking for a cheap camera. But thanks google image finder!


4 thoughts on “Stoves at every table!

  1. Great information! The last part reminds me of your days in Brooklyn 🙂 Coffee, flea market, music and food!!
    Really glad you are getting into the routine.

  2. Oh, I love this. No judgment here on the soft serve.

    Thanks for the update & be well, friend.

    with love from Kentucky,

  3. Wonderful, vicarious way to enjoy your experiences with you and to learn a bit of Korea at the same time. Fun ‘watching’ you grow as a teacher and comparing your challenges with those here in the states.

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