Travel Vicariously through the Fitzgerald's

We are happy to provide our experiences as a stay-cation for you! If you have any questions feel free to ask. We have a lot to learn and lots to see!


Friday, December 31, 2010

Welcome 2011!

I can't believe 2010 has come and gone! So much happened in this wonderful year. We can only hope that more good things are in store in 2011.

We wish all our friends and family a spectacular 2011 full of good health, prosperity and happiness!

<3 The Fitzgeralds: Stacy, Kristy & Ethan

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Korea

Merry Christmas friends and family! 
It has been a long time since I posted last and its all because I have a full time job now. Well that began back in November.

Back in October, I went to Japan with the 8th graders and the trip was amazing. We saw so much. I took tons of pictures which are posted on the picture blog. We also celebrated Halloween both at school and at home. I helped the other mothers decorate Ethan's kindergarten classroom and these mothers go all out!

In November, we went to a SK Knights basketball game with the Tim Trotter and his 2 kids. A week later we went to Nami Island with lots of KIS faculty for MK's birthday treat. He's our business manager. It was an amazing island that really puts you in nature. It was beautiful and sunny yet cold. The following week the Spanish classes and club hosted the Spanish Festival which as a new Spanish teacher I had to help coordinate. It was a fabulous event but definitely put some gray hairs on my head. Since the school had a traditional American Thanksgiving meal catered, we didn't have to cook anything. We ate our dinner Wednesday and spent Thursday visiting more palaces. Truly gorgeous architecture and the weather was perfect - not too cold! We spent that evening decorating our house for Christmas and putting up the tree.

Halloween! Ethan is a police officer

SK Knights Basketball game

Nami Island: A view from the island

KIS Spanish Festival

In the month of December, we have had about 3 snow days! That doesn't mean that we got out of going to school it just means that it snowed 3 times. :) We thoroughly enjoyed it...we never made a snowman but our neighbors did. Our social committee coordinated 2 spectacular Christmas parties: one for the adults and one for families with kids. Santa made an appearance at both parties. At the adult party, we had a white elephant gift exchange where I received red lacy thong underwear. It is a running tradition so they won't get used! Sorry Stacy :(. We received our 3rd snowfall the last Friday of finals week which made it really hard to concentrate but made for an exciting start for break!
1st snow fall: From my new classroom view!

3rd Snowfall!

My white elephant gift!

Ethan and Santa

The 2 white elephant gifts we gave: spaghetti sauce and kleenexes :)

Ethan was invited to his best friend's house for a play date. Young, his Korean friend, is in soccer hagwon with him and they are in the same class at KIS. The following day, we invited Young to COEX mall and aquarium with us. They had a great time! Lots of sea life with a tunnel that makes you feel like you are walking through the ocean floor.

To get ready for Christmas we invited the Gibson's to our house for a Mexican dinner and cheesecake and chocolate covered strawberries. We played games and just enjoyed good company. Then we were invited to the Pages house for cookie decorating and video games. Also good fun for Christmas eve.

Christmas came quickly! Santa must have thought that we were all angels this year because Ethan got almost everything he asked Santa for: Bey Blades fighting set, soccer balls, ping pong paddle, DS games, pokemon cards, and more! Stacy got the Kindle he has been asking for since it came out. I got my Nikon D7000 with 2 lenses that I thought I would never get! Thank you Santa! More importantly we feel super blessed to still be in touch with our old friends from back home, to have made new friends in South Korea and to be safe and happy in our new home.

Since we have already celebrated Christmas...we wish YOU a Very Merry Christmas!!! Love, Health and Prosperity to all!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A little more on Lotte World

Ah Lotte World....This was both a magical place and a scary place - for an adult. First off, it's like a bad dream. The characters and decorations are so happy they are scary. I can't imagine what it would be like if Toy Story had never come out. That movie made moving toys friendly.

There was lots to do there of course and lots of attendants managing the rides. Their uniforms were okay made it to their heads. These giant bows fixed to headbands were the rage here. They reminded me of Mini Mouse's bow. Even the guy attendants wore the bows except their clipped into their hair. It was quite a sight actually. I was very happy Ethan didn't ask for any of the headbands. Some had animal ears.

There was food everywhere as you can imagine. There was the familiar smell of hot dogs (& naked dogs) but no funnel cakes. Pizza, crepes, "Mexican" food (still don't know what was Mexican about it), Korean Chinese food, and CHURROS! They were really tasty too. The other big fad here is dessert waffles. It's a huge belgian waffle with ice cream spread on the inside, drizzled with chocolate syrup and folded in half. Quite tasty but, I still like mine with maple syrup. They also had the usual Korean food on a stick. I couldn't tell you what it was even if I wanted. Sorry :(

The entry fee was a combo price of 37,000 won for Ethan and I which was very reasonable. Did I mention it was a beautiful day to go??? Ethan had the perfect companion too. Elka and Ethan are the same size so if one couldn't ride, neither could the other.  English speaking Koreans were everywhere which makes the trip all the more enjoyable. Ethan and Elka had a funtastic time.

2 weekends summed up :)

Wow friends! It's been a while. I've been so tired lately with all that we have going on but here's the update. :)

So the last time I blogged, I told you what was coming up in our schedules. I will categorize the events for you.

Proctoring SATs
Let me begin by saying any day that you have to be at school by 7am on a Saturday is never a good day. Neither Stacy nor I had ever proctored the SATs before but luckily Texas prepared us through giving standardized tests routinely.  It wasn't much different EXCEPT that it was life or death for these students. 8am to 1pm went by v-e-r-y slowly. We did bring laundry to do afterward and we had the kickball/bbq to look forward to also. Ethan stayed home with Zea, our new babysitter, that morning. We spent $50 to make $200. Worth it I would say... 

So every year, KIS social committee organizes this event that is normally in the spring. It has been such a hit that they decided to add one to the fall. For those of you unfamiliar to Kickball, it is  baseball using a round, super bouncy ball and the "pitcher" rolls it out and the "batter" kicks it. You still have to run the bases. There were two games going on at one time; one competitive game and a non-competitive game. Ethan and I were in the latter. :) Guess where Stacy played.

I helped setup the food on the wonderful patio area of the school building. Burgers, hot dogs, and grilled veggies for the vegetarians. There was this fabulous spinach dip that was homemade. I'm craving it as I'm writing. YUM. There were also pies, HUGE pies...and oreos for the kids, now that I think about it we had lots of "BIG" kids eating them. LOL! It was a successful community building event and the weather was perfect the whole afternoon and evening. I think Stacy and I left the school at was a long day!

Myeong-dong shopping district
Sunday was the perfect shopping day. We have been blessed with good outdoor weather lately. It was a girls shopping trip including the Taylor women, the Page-Botelho women and me. We hit up the street vendors, Forever 21, Zara, and others. It was fabulous not having boys complaining about trying on everything. Time flies when you're having fun! I took some fantastic pictures of the area and some store pics to remember what is in the area. We found the infamous ice cream in the area. It's not a store. It's a street vendor that has these crazy long lines. Luckily it's a short wait and cheap price. The area is buzzing with energy, lots to buy and of course lots of women! Spent a whopping $160 and got a nice bag of clothes. Definitely got my money's worth.


Saturday Soccer
Saturdays now consist of morning soccer. Kindergarten through grade 2 soccer activities sponsored by the Elementary PTO and run by KIS ES teachers. It was fabulous, nicely coordinated and a great place to "get to know" the other mothers. Ethan loved it and was very easy to find because he wore his neon yellow Challenger soccer uniform. We found some very nice shin guards but can't for the life of us find soccer socks in his size. Ugh! It's really rather frustrating.

Harnish Wedding Reception
One of the grade 5 teachers at KIS wed his Korean fiance in what I am assuming was an unforgettable wedding. Stacy and I didn't go to the wedding but did attend the reception at Gecko's Bar and Terrace in Jukjeon. Ben and his wife Baek Kyoung are the sweetest couple! She is model material too. It was a great time celebrating the beginning of their lives together, as well as, new friendships.

Lotte World
This was a really fun place. You can liken it to Disney World just a bit smaller. According to Guinness Book of World Records, it is the largest indoor theme park in the world. The park had many recognizable cartoons, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but, she had blonde hair and a bad make-up. The dwarfs didn't look right either. Maybe they can get away with using the characters because they have changed them so much. They also have all these scary happy animal characters instead of Disney Characters. The rides were kid friendly and Ethan loved most of them. I'll let him tell you about the ones he loved. Definitely have to go back because we didn't even touch half of what was there. We will take Stacy back with us since he spent his Sunday working o school stuff. We took the subway to Lotte World and it was super easy transportation. We planned on catching the 80-1 to get home but we had to wait 30 minutes. The kids wanted McDonald's (it's always so convenient) so we made the kids happy. We knew what time the bus left our neighborhood and estimated a 30 minute wait. This didn't happen until AFTER we had booked it to the bus stop. There was this Vietnamese restaurant right next to the bus stop that we chose to sit at so the kids could eat their food. Kris ordered a soup so I thought "perfect opportunity to try a new food!" I loved it! Can't wait to go back.

Amazingly, this whole day of Lotte World, McDonald's, and the last restaurant we used ENGLISH and had no problems. I think the only time we actually used Korean was when we got the taxi home from Sunae because we missed the bus when it finally came around. We really want to learn the language but it makes it really hard when you don't need it.

Social Committee Halloween Party
I'm currently helping plan the Halloween Party and for those of you who know me, I love this! It will entail activities, costumes, photo booth, and trick-or-treating in the dong (neighborhood).  The hardest part of this will be finding decorations and costumes...better get creative!

Our Richwood House
BIG NEWS HERE! We sell our house October 19 which is Tuesday! We are so relieved! Our first home has come and gone with many memories. 

JAPAN...My 3rd Country
So Wednesday I leave for Japan on the 8th grade class trip. Mr. Jay Londgren and I will accompany a group of 14 students to Inchon Airport at 5am or 6am (need to check that). I know I have to be at school by 4am! We will be the first group to arrive in Japan and everyone else will arrive a couple hours later. We will be staying in a new place each night. The trip is 4 days & 3 nights of constant movement. Oh, BTW, my group is the last group to return at midnight. The pluses of the trip are: food, accommodations and airfare are all paid for by the school. My money is for snacks and souvenirs!   (and extra batteries if I run out for the camera)

I don't think I'll actually see Stacy until Sunday evening when he returns from his professional development workshop. Also, we have hired a babysitter/house cleaner named Priscilla from the Philippines who is going to care for Ethan while Stacy and I are both away on Saturday. She came well recommended from all the other families.

Note: It has taken me 3 separate sessions to complete this blog. I think it's kind of long. Sorry :(

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ethan's classroom caterpillar

My mom comes to my classroom always to check me. Sometimes my mom is right next door to my classroom. Sometimes she's not. One time I was in first grade. My teacher's name was Mrs. Nam. I was in that class once but my mom and dad moved me to Kindergarten. My teacher's name now is Mrs. Carscadden. Sometimes Mrs. Carscadden gives us a little much work but, don't worry. We have a big caterpillar.  The caterpillar is something that has all the books that we read. We have to read lots of books everyday. My teacher gives us a piece of paper with a blank caterpillar. It's not a real caterpillar. We had a crazy hat day. I wore a Mickey hat with stars. It was a magic hat! It wasn't really a magic hat. It was just a fake hat and I pretended it was a magic hat. My mom wore a pretend witch hat. It had green hair. It was good. I liked it very much. My mom looked good in that.

**To clarify the caterpillar story, for every book he reads he has to fill out a caterpillar segment with what he liked about the story. Then he colors it and turns it in. He has done at least 15 since it started 3 weeks ago. He loves reading! He also likes seeing how long the classroom caterpillar is getting from the outside window of his classroom.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ethan's introduction to blogging

The wall is great for hitting. My soccer ball, I can use my drying rack for a goal. It is awesome! I like it. It is really awesome! I like it very much.

My school is good. My mom and dad, well, my mom is a substitute. She teaches almost every class. One time my mom teached my class. It was fun! I said "my mom" a lot but I was supposed to call her "Mrs. Fitz". I liked it very much was a little bit hard to do it. Well, I kind of liked it but it was really hard. I got a sad face but it was okay.

Sad face- is a, well, sad face is not good because when you do something bad and you get all three sad faces it is not good because the next day you don't get any recess for the whole day! It's not a bad thing but you get better when you go to school and learn.

I have chapter books. I read my first chapter book. It was fun. First I read to the first chapter. I read to the third. I'm on my third chapter book now. I just finished the first. Then I'm going to read the second one. (There is a trilogy) It was fun. I got to read with my friends and my mom and dad.

International Food Day - I got to try all new kinds of food, Japanese food. My mom cooked burritos from Mexico. Everybody got to try it. They said it was great! They said they liked it. I liked it too! My mom makes the best tacos of Mexico.

My new friends, do you know their names? Their names are Alina, Elka and Mac, Gabrielle, Lorenzo, Lia, Alec. It was good to meet them when I saw them. I met my friends when my mom and dad met them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Busy Little Bees.

Well looking at our schedules, we are going to be very busy from now until the end of October.  Tuesday Ethan has school pictures and swimming lessons. Friday, we get to eat out with one of our favorite families, the Fellers. Saturday (9th) Stacy and I both will be proctoring SAT's at the high school in the morning for some extra $$$! In the afternoon, the social committee (myself included) will be hosting a kickball/bbq gathering. Sunday could include some shopping. The following weekend we have a wedding reception to go to followed by a trip to Lotte World (largest indoor theme park in the world) on Sunday. The weekend of the 23 I will be on my way home from Japan and Stacy will be going to professional development at Seoul International School nearby. The last weekend of October is Halloween which I'm sure all the families will gather to celebrate.  In the middle of all of this we will be signing our house over to new owners (kind of sad but it is a huge relief!).

We could not be in a happier place. We are living the dream, living in another country experiencing life, making new friends, and not looking back. We have already started planning vacations for next year. It is super exciting! I will try to update as often as possible as we will be going places and doing things that you have to see. Thank you for checking up on us! :)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nothing much...

Nothing overly exciting since our last post. This week has been one of those long weeks because there is so much going on yet, short because in the blink of an eye it is Friday. This week was parent/teacher conferences which I will happily say I did not have to worry about. Stacy did though but luckily it was not so bad. As a math teacher, he stayed very busy but because he's a high school teacher he doesn't get gifts. Elementary school parents are really good about bringing gifts to the teachers and this usually lasts into middle school. Getting gifts is nice.  Our schedule this week was modified. Wednesday through Friday were half-days with conferences from 1-4 pm. I spent my afternoons either watching faculty kids or students on the soccer field while their parents met with their teachers.

I have not really had a break from subbing as there have been lots of faculty out because they were sick, their children were sick or school related events had them missing. The school did finally hire a third full-time substitute but it really hasn't changed anything because there is enough work for 3 of us, probably even 4.

This week I have been a PE, Social Studies, Kindergarten, Psychology, and grade 4 teacher. I get around :).

The weather has really cooled off in the last week. It's gorgeous weather. Unfortunately it's also telling me that I need to get the right type of shoes so that my toes don't fall off. Stacy is in hog heaven! I thought it was a bit too cool last night in the apartment so we turned on the heater for the first time. Our floors have "ondol", which is a floor heating system which uses heated water that flows through pipes in the floor. Amazingly it actually heats the entire apartment. It was really nice to walk on the heated floors. This is something I may miss if we ever move back to the states, or anywhere else for that matter!

Who knows what the weekend has in store for us. Well actually I know that this weekend we will go grocery shopping and I will go girl clothes shopping without Stacy and Ethan. We might even plan a trip to a palace...

I missed talking to my family last weekend so I am extremely excited about getting to talk to them this evening! I have really been missing them. Hearing their voices is actually very comforting.

OH YES! BIG NEWS! I'M GOING TO JAPAN IN OCTOBER! It's been confirmed. October 20-23 the 8th grade class at KIS will be going to Japan and I was selected as a chaperone. Sad that Stacy won't get to go but looking at the bright side, I will get to experience it a bit so that when we take a family vacation there it won't be so foreign. And I'll be with a bunch of students so it's not going to be a carefree trip but its FREE!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reflecting on the last 2 months...

As Stacy and I were preparing dinner this evening, I stood at the stove looking out my kitchen window breathing in the fresh air from the mountain in my backyard. It was a refreshing view as the sun was setting giving one last glow to the green mountain and the air was cooling. Thinking to myself "I live in Korea. I am cooking dinner with my husband just like we used to back in Texas. I feel content. I can hear Ethan playing in his room through the open window near the kitchen. This is what life is. Living."

It is almost surreal at times to think we live in a country on the other side of the world. Among a group of people completely alien both in language and tradition. We are embracing the language and the culture the best we can. Time flies and creeps by simultaneously.

Back in Texas, we used to watch the movie Mama Mia! while we cooked and ate dinner dreaming of moving over seas. Of course, our dream was somewhere in Europe or on a Greek Island not Asia. Tonight we listened to the soundtrack of the movie which brought back those dreams we envisioned back in Richwood.  For now we are in Korea, a beautiful country with kind people but when its time we will move on to see all the wonders of the world. God moved us here. When things go smoothly, you know He has a hand in them.

We have had to change the way we live. Stacy, Ethan and I have all had to move outside of our comfort zones. Luckily, we are all strong individuals. We are so thankful we have such an independent and energetic child who is curious about all things. He attracts more attention than anyone I have seen here. Because of Ethan, our experiences here have been richer.

Chusok Break Comes to an End...

What a week! Monday Itaewon; Tuesday rain in Seoul; Wednesday- PERFECT!; Thursday too crowded; Friday rest; Saturday a birthday party; furniture delivery and grocery shopping; and today - preparing for another long stretch of school.

We didn't get near as much done as we wanted to but it was nice not having a schedule. Although we didn't have any big plans, we will get to hear about and see pictures of our colleagues' trips to China, Mongolia, Nepal, and Russia. I'm sure next year we will plan something too.

So, I don't remember if I mentioned Ethan's hanbok in detail but I will talk more about it now. It is a traditional Korean outfit that used to be worn all the time but now it is reserved for special occasions. The colors and details signify your status or at least it used to. Now that they can be purchased anywhere and made in mass quantities, the significance has faded. Ethan picked it out. The color pink is a gender neutral color in Korea. When we were looking for a hanbok for Ethan, the department store clerk kept showing Ethan ones that had pink. He kept saying, "that's a girl color." Society final influenced him because just 2 years ago, pink was his favorite color.  The one he chose consisted of a crimson red vest with an ivory under shirt and dark blue pants. Anyhow, he loved the attention he received as he walked through the streets of Seoul during Chuseok in his hanbok.  There were more girls than boys wearing a hanbok. We were happy to see that Ethan wasn't the only one. The weather was perfectly cool and breezy for him too because his hanbok was long sleeved and the pants were thick so he didn't sweat.

It has been a somewhat relaxing week for us and we are ready to begin the next stretch of school.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chusok Break

We are super exhausted and tomorrow is Thursday. Here is the breakdown of how we have spent our week so far:

Friday, Saturday & Sunday
We took it easy. I honestly can't remember what we did other than shop.

Friday night we went to Traveler's Bar and Grill for a farewell gathering for one of the most important people at KIS. He was important because he was the first face we saw when we landed in Korea and he was one of the key players in making our transition seamless. Keith Ki-Won Choi is leaving KIS to do I don't know what. He will be sorely missed but, we wish him luck.

Saturday, we went to E-mart to buy some groceries and other necessities! At E-mart I made a friend with Mr. O, the 64 year old English translator. He was a sweet man who was trying to be as helpful as possible. He talked my ear off while we shopped and I now know that he has a sister in New York and a son in Arizona. Amazing what you can learn in a few short conversations. Stacy was slightly annoyed because it was late and this poor guy wanted to chat (practice his English). 

Sunday we went to another E-mart location searching for furniture. Here, we purchased some furniture for the apartment. The manager spoke some English and helped us with our order form. I haven't had to write our address in so long that I forgot it. I also forgot the paper the school gave us with our address written in Korean. I thought, "I'll call some friends and ask them to look up our address." They didn't answer. I'm searching through my wallet for something that has it when my visa falls out. I picked it up and was looking at it when Stacy and I noticed-- IT HAS OUR ADDRESS IN KOREAN! Thank you God for that little accident. :)

On to shopping for clothes. Since the weather is beginning to change, we knew Ethan needed some new winter clothes. Assuming clothes would be cheap here, we only brought summer clothes for Ethan. Bad idea. Never assume. Shopping for clothes at E-mart was not easy. I swear everything looked really girly, even what I thought were boy clothes. The whole skinny jean is in for both boys and girls and Ethan doesn't like them. Stacy and I found some long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts but no pants. We gave up and moved on to Lotte. It's easier to shop there because the attendants can look at him and know exactly what size he needs. We went to the Levi's section but Ethan thought the decoration on the jeans back pockets were hearts (they weren't). He said no to all 3 pairs he tried on and the ones the attendants showed him. They are very attentive. One section over we found a place called AskEnquired. We found a winter jacket that is "pimpin", some jeans, sweat pants, and sweatshirt, all purchased for the plump figure of 269,000 won. After feeling the pain of spending that much money on 4 items, we went home to shop online at Children's Place where we selected 18 items for $175 and $5 shipping. Decision made: take the other clothes back!

Stacy, not having been to Itaewon yet, decided we should make it a relaxing visit. The subway seemed like a good idea because we haven't really used it for long trips. It took 3 transfers and over an hour to get there.  We did a lot of walking but didn't really enjoy it because Ethan wasn't minding too well. We walked up to the mosque near the top of the hill. It had great views of the area but I felt very uncomfortable considering we were there during prayer time, near the men's entrance and I was wearing shorts. I was given a skirt to wear to cover my legs. Stacy thought I looked silly in it. What a husband.

We walked around a bit more but didn't really get to look around the areas I was interested in. We'll have to go back another time when we get a babysitter for Ethan. 

We ate lunch at Pancho's. Not the Pancho's we all know (buffet style where you raise the flag). This was a well decorated restaurant with an air of authenticity but the food was terrible. 

We planned a visit to Gwanghwamun and invited the Katz family to join us. Instead of the subway, we took the bus which took like 30 minutes. Much more time efficient. :) It was a rainy day off and on for the first part of our trip. We went to the Seoul Museum of History which we thoroughly enjoyed minus the temperature inside (oven-like temps). We had originally planned to see the palaces nearby but the rain hindered that plan. Stopped off at the gift shop before leaving the museum to find something to eat. 

When you are with another family and looking for something to eat, it can be difficult to agree on a place when one side is picky (mine). We split up and said good-bye. Normally there are places to eat everywhere but, on this rainy day I think we walked 3 blocks before we found one. It was an Italian eatery on the 2nd floor. The 2 things I wanted were cool air and good food.  After peeking at the menu and drying off for a bit we decided it wasn't going to work. We braved the rain again to end up at Mr. Pizza which Ethan was cool with. I think from the moment we split with the Katz's, it rained like "cats and dogs". 

It rained the whole rest of the day into the night...I mean RAINED. Check out the video that Steve Katz took while we were out.

The Day it Rained in Seoul (click here)

Today was officially Chusok! We started the day late but enjoyed it regardless. Ethan wore his hanbok. Stacy and I dressed up because you are supposed to.

We all rode the bus again into Seoul and went to Seoul Museum of History where they were having Chusok performances. There were so many places we wanted to go to but they are so spread out and it was so late in the afternoon by the time we arrived that chose to enjoy one place today. There were SO MANY people out in Seoul. There was a festival going on downtown that we passed by. The palaces were holding special performances. It was very refreshing witnessing Koreans and their culture. They didn't look down on us either for having Ethan wear a hanbok even though he wasn't Korean. They actually complimented us/him many different ways.

The Museum sponsored performances that were delightful to watch. We enjoyed one of the smaller palaces called Gyeonghuigung Palace. The stark contrast of European palaces and Korean palaces was completely eye opening. Having visited castles in England which are full of all kinds of ornate furniture, the Korean palaces seem bare and spacious. Beautifully decorated on the outside. Ethan loved exploring the palace and the museum. He lead us around asking for us to read everything. He was a great model in his outfit not only for me but for other visitors. 

Afterwards, we visited a tent that had an ink imprinting wooden tablet that you could try. Ethan made his own with some mommy supervision. 

We ended up at Outback Steakhouse for an expensive dinner. Stacy enjoyed some ribs. The menu was slightly different. Fried rice was one of the sides. Our dinner was served with kimchi, pickles, and radishes. I had forgotten what a good glass of ice cold tea tasted like and it was quite funny how odd it tasted to my tongue. 

On the bus home, we met 2 American missionaries that we chatted with. It was good conversation and now we have new "friends" to call if we ever need help.

Random Tid-bit
I had been eyeing this very beautiful vanity at a furniture store down the street. The first time we saw it we were told it cost 250,000 won. We went back to inquire again Sunday and were sent to another furniture store back towards our apartment who actually owns the piece. The owner of the store was very friendly and kind. She introduced herself to us as Catherina. She is from Vancouver but lives here most of the year as she owns this business. She absolutely loved Ethan. She spoke very good English and showed us around her store. Anytime Stacy asked how much something cost, she would say "oh, it is very expensive" and then she would tell him the price. Half way through the store we all realize that she is leaving off a zero, so my vanity which was $250 was really $2,500. WHOA! She's right, very expensive. We ended up exchanging phone numbers and she invited me for a cup of coffee some day soon at her home. She wanted someone to visit with as she is very lonely.

Oh, and we ride the city buses so much that the drivers know us. They wave at us as we are walking down the street. They wait an extra minute if they see us coming. Just the other day we were on the bus and weren't paying attention when the bus driver stopped and told us (in Korean) this is our stop. HA! Glad he was paying attention. :)

We have been making Korean acquaintances everywhere it seems like but, it just goes to show you how great Koreans are. From the lady stranger who gave me a ride back to school the first week to Mr. O at E-mart, they all want to help and make our stay in Korea wonderful because that's how they envision it should be.   

Candy maker

Click here to view this video

Jogyesa Prayer Time

Click here to view this video

Monk Chant

Click here to view this video

Monday, September 20, 2010

Free gifts

We have done a lot of shopping since arriving and it seems like we always get a free gift of some sort. Just this week I bought a mop with its own bucket that has a spinning center to wring it out. They gave me an extra mop head!! Then I moved on to buy detergent. An emart employee ran over and helped us pick out a brand and then gave us a package of liquid softener FREE! Moving on to search for clothing for Ethan, we found a hanbok (Chusok traditional  dress) and they gave us the hat and pins for free. Once we paid, we were directed to the customer service counter where we gave them our receipt and in return we were given a FREE package of pancake mix (a Korean version).

Yesterday we went shopping at Lotte department store in search of more clothes for Ethan. We found some insanely expensive clothes for him and purchased them. Ethan received a hooded British blanket FREE, I guess for spending so much.

Sometimes it's great to be a foreigner. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Random thoughts

Students lacking life experiences

Stacy gave a quiz in his Statistics class the other day. Since it is an American based curriculum, the wording is geared towards all things American. In the middle of the quiz, a student raises his hand.
Student: "Mr. Fitz, what is a bolt?"
Stacy: "You are in the middle of a quiz, I can't take time to explain what a bolt is."
Student: "I can not accurately answer the question if I don't understand the question."
Stacy: "Question #? is now a bonus question."
Students: "That's not fair."
Stacy: "I can't help it if you don't have life experiences. There are bolts in Korea, I've seen them."

Stacy is a doting father
One morning, I walked Ethan to the kindergarten playground across from the cafeteria. One of Ethan's classmates is in there already while his mother watches. She looks at me and says good morning. She is Korean and I met her initially at Open House.

Mother: "I met Ethan's father yesterday"
Me: "Oh, that's great! Where?"
Mother: "Afterschool swimming lessons. He is such a good and involved father."
Me: "Yes, Ethan is blessed with a good father and I am happy to have such a helpful husband."
Mother: "He is such a doting father. He was helping dress Ethan after the lessons. He is so good it makes me feel like a bad mother."
Me: "Yes well, I feel even worse because I couldn't be there."

If she feels like a bad mother, I must be horrible. She likely does not work and spends every minute of her day doing something with or for her only son. Myself on the other hand, have so much to do that Stacy and I have to schedule who is going to do what with Ethan.  I went to the bank that day and I'm sure Stacy was the only dad there with the other Korean moms.

Eating out
It's terrible. Now that we have the bus schedule for the 80 and 80-1 we wait less for the bus and consequently feel it is easier to go out to eat. Last week, we ate out 4 or 5 times. We went to Dos Tacos, Butterfinger Pancakes, The Frypan and the Attic. I'm sure there was another that I am missing. Oh, yeah, The Wood Fire Grill. Unfortunately our tummies are happy because of this but our wallets are sad because of this.  The Fitzgerald's would all agree that food is definitely comforting. We have vowed to do a better job of eating at home. I really can't decide if I want to stick to that or not. Wednesday is know what that means!

You might be wondering about the restaurants so let me tell you what we have eaten so far. Dos Tacos is the place to get burritos. Butterfinger Pancakes is the place to get all things breakfast. At The Frypan we order a chicken tender/boneless drumstick set which came with a salad big enough for all 3 of us and the chicken (at least 20 pieces) sat atop a bed of home-made potato chips. This was less than 30,000 won and you get a discount if you order take out instead of dining in. The word "set" is like our word "combo" in the states. Order the set and you get the side and a drink.

The Wood Fire Grill serves pizza and pasta. Surprisingly, it was very tasty! Corn is a big ingredient in pizza. It is actually Ethan's fav....corn and bacon.

Considering this is the home of Taekwondo, it is only natural that Ethan, Stacy and I should take lessons while we are here. Currently, Ethan will take them because he is dying to do it. Maybe Stacy and I will later. With help, we have found a place where he can go 3 times a week and it only costs 120,000 won a month. I think that is fairly cheap.

If you are looking for something to cure your sweet tooth in Korea, you may have to look harder to find something that is actually sweet. Most dessert items are mildly sweet which has left me wanted more. Luckily, our school cafeteria makes some of the best chocolate chip cookies and they are a dollar. We get one almost everyday. It's a nice end of the day snack.

I wonder if it is Ethan or just the way Korean's react to younger children. I can't say that I see it that often with other children. Anytime we go anywhere, Ethan seems to charm the people at the grocery store or candy store into giving him something. They talk to him and treat him so well. It is quite something when a store clerk finds us in the store just to give Ethan something.

Subbing at KIS
If you have to sacrifice a conference period to cover a fellow teacher you receive 25,000 won for each block that you cover. Definitely a motivator.

Birthday party

Sunday was an eventful day. We were invited to a friend's son's birthday party which was going to take place at a bowling alley in Bojeong. We had a late start since Stacy woke at 5am to watch the Sooners play. So he woke me up at 8:30 so he could go back to bed. He slept until noon. I was a good wife and didn't bother him. I cooked breakfast for Ethan and myself, Skyped with Stephanie and called my mom. Stacy ate leftover breakfast and then we all started getting ready for the party.

We were told to arrive around 2pm because that is the least busy time. We made it to the main road at 2 and met the Taylor's who were also running a bit late. We all worked on flagging down taxis who were obviously blowing us off. When we finally got one to stop, Susan and I piled in with the kids and let Stacy and Todd catch another cab. I don't know if it's a good idea to sit in the front seat of a taxi when the trip long. I swear we could have wrecked at least 3 times but miraculously we didn't. I wonder what their drivers ed is like. Maybe the U.S. should make teens wait until their 18 like they do here.  Anyhow, we made it to the bowling alley at 2:43. Late as always but the party was just getting started.

We bowled for maybe an hour and then made our way over to the smallest Baskin Robbin's in the area. Mind you, there were at least 11 kids and 8 adults who crammed into this BR to continue the party. When we walked in, the employees were wide eyed. Steve and Miriam bought a delicious ice cream cake that fed all of us. We sang the birthday song in English, Spanish and Polish. Then we did presents and pictures. We caused quite a spectacle considering the store had glass windows and people on the street were peering in to see what all the fuss was about.

After the hooplah, we left on our own because we were going to catch a bus. When we didn't find the buses we wanted we chose to walk down to Shinsegae mall that was nearby. I took lots of pictures of this area. We found the bus stop that the 390 stops at and caught the bus home.

The 390 drops us off on the main road near our home which means we have to walk about 4 blocks, maybe 5 to get home. Some of our KIS friends were playing at the neighborhood playground. I had picked up some groceries at the store down the street so Stacy took the groceries home while I stayed with Ethan and visited with Jenn. We stayed maybe 30 minutes. I told Ethan it was time to go. As he was walking next to me he thought it would be a good idea to hop on the exercise equipment one last time. BAD IDEA! It moved and hit him square in the shin. The way he dropped to the ground grabbing his leg, I thought he broke something. Everyone at the playground was grabbing at him and checking him. He wailed so hard that it scared me. When we finally concluded that he had not broken anything, I picked him up and walked him home.  He instantly bruised. I felt so sorry for him but there is always a lesson to be taught. Here was the lesson: if we are leaving, is it a good decision to go back and play or should you follow mom/dad? Ethan: I should follow you and not jump on the walking thing. I have a feeling he'll remember this lesson for a while.

We got home and I had to carry this boy who weighs like 50 pounds up 3 flights of stairs. I realized I need to get in better shape. LOL! We put some frozen fruit on it (its all we had) to keep the swelling down. Some friends from the neighborhood came to check on Ethan and let us know that they would be willing to drive us to the doctor if the need arises.

Ethan has not gotten hurt so badly in a really long time. We have been really lucky.

After a long day, we fell into our routine of cooking dinner, doing some laundry, cleaning up, ironing clothes for the week, washing dishes, and the like. I told Stacy that we should shoot for a job in a place where we could have a maid and a cook and a gardner. He laughed and blew me off. :)

I think my next blog will be random things that have been coming up.

Friday, September 3, 2010

JUMP! & A temple excursion

Friday night we surprised Ethan with a theater show called Jump!

There were 72 of us on the bus to a place near Insadong. We all dispersed to find a place to eat and then explored. We went with the Fellers to Burger King and then they showed us around the area. We visited a Buddhist temple and arrived just in time to hear the monk bang the gong. Prayer time. It was a great experience.

We explored an area that I don't know the name of but there were so many shops and eateries. We watched a guy make candy and then bought some.

The show started at 8pm and it was the best money that we have spent so far. We sat in row E which was very close. Half the audience were KIS staff. Ethan laughed so hard that everyone near us heard him. It was like a Korean soap opera comedy. I wish I could have taken pictures but I didn't want to get kicked out.

After the show, we went to the lobby to meet the performers and have them sign Ethan's poster.  They were awesome!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Typhoon Kompasu saves the day!

Oxymoron, right?

Wednesday we get word that Typhoon Kompasu is rolling in and that we should prepare for possible bad weather Thursday. Well wouldn't you know, it was bad enough to cancel school. I don't know if it was worst in other places but it wasn't terrible near our apartment.

I woke up at 5:30 and heard howling winds but that was it. I thought it might be windy waiting for the bus to arrive. I continued getting ready and waking the rest of the family up. Ethan is eating breakfast (kind of) when the phone rings. It's the phone tree and the message is that school has been canceled because of hazardous driving conditions. Since we have students who come from an hour away, the director thought it was safest to just cancel school to prevent students and staff from commuting.

WOOHOO! Is what we thought immediately. I probably should have gotten more done around my house today. I did a load of laundry, dishes, made breakfast, straightened up the house a bit, and skyped with my brother and his family. By noon, the weather seemed to improve. There were some dark clouds in the sky but we chose to brave the weather and make the day productive.


We hopped on the bus at our usual spot and got off at Lotte. This is another fabulous mall like AK Plaza that is super expensive but very fun to window shop in.

Before exploring Lotte, the number one priority was getting our cell phones activated. I think we went into 4 cell phone stores before we were finally directed to the proper store to get prepaid minutes. Paid 10,000 won for about 35 minutes. What a rip off. It's only for the month so I guess we'll look into getting a plan for October.

We spent our most serious time "shopping" in the furniture department. We found a beautiful leather couch for less than 2,000,000. You can't hardly find cloth furniture. I guess it's because of the humidity here. We found a 4,000,000 won tempurpedic mattress that will likely go to the top of the list because we need to get some GOOD sleep. We found a bed that had a hard surface but it had heat/cool controllers for both sides of the bed. That was very enticing considering winters are very cold here. They also had a heating/cooling mat that has a controller which only cost 6,700,000 won. I told Stacy I was worth it if he didn't want to burn up in the winter. Ethan found a bed for himself too. It was adorable and definitely a boy bed. Again, the bed was almost 3,000,000 won. So we decided that we would sleep on it and decide later what we truly wanted to buy. It was all seriously tempting.
Doesn't that look like a fun bed? He'd never fall asleep!

Stacy was getting impatient which meant he was hungry. I have finally learned this after nearly 7 years. We hit up the nearby Quizno's for an early dinner. I know what you're thinking. These crazy Americans want to live in another country but they don't want to eat the food. Sorry peeps. It's just the way its going to be for a while. The sandwiches were good but not filling enough. Paris Baguette (a bakery/pastry store) across the way is where we bought some dessert, a mini-chocolate cake and a mini-cake minus the icing. Stacy thought it was a cheesecake because it looked like one but turned out not to be.
Ethan making faces at Quizno's

Leaving the store we ran into a group of KIS teachers who were enjoying their "day off" too. Luckily this whole time out (about 4 hours) it never rained. It sprinkled but, never rained.
Irish Mexicans in South Korea
So now to prepare for ONE day of school and then our first big event of the month JUMP! We are very excited about this show. It is said to be an awesome show full of martial arts which Ethan should love. We leave around 4 pm from the school and eat near the theater. I should have lots to talk about this weekend.

I hope to get Ethan to blog a little bit about his experiences too.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Got a Routine

Hello all!

I haven't written in a while for 2 reasons: #1- we have gotten into a very unexciting routine #2 - we don't want to bore you.

I feel though that we should check in with our audience to let you know we are still here, happy and healthy, but no excitement at this time.

It has been raining a lot. There is a typhoon at the southern edge of Korea but it should dissipate by Friday. School is going well. I have spent a lot of time in the elementary building lately. Stacy is staying busy with his classes. He has LOTS of grading to do and I have been helping him with his power point presentations.

Most days consist of getting up before the sun, getting ready and out the door by 7:05. Visit with our KIS neighbors while waiting for the bus. Days can be long or short depending on what is going on. Lately we have been staying until 5:20 because of meetings, after school activities, or to just catch up. We arrive home 5:30 and then the domestic goddess comes out in me. I cook, do laundry, help with homework, wash dishes, etc. Stacy continues working or plays with Ethan. Ethan is in bed by 8:00 which is early enough to give Stacy and I time to catch up on our days.

Next week Ethan starts after school swimming lessons and Stacy and I begin Korean lessons. We are going to be very busy but hopefully by next summer when we visit we will be able to speak Korean!

This week is Curriculum Night for all the different grade levels. Tuesday night was elementary so I went to see what Ethan was going to be learning this year. He is going to learn a lot it looks like. He has a great teacher, Mrs. Carscadden. I met several of his classmates' parents. There are only 10 students in his class. What a small class!

All the women/mothers in the Gungnea-dong neighborhood scheduled a ladies night out last Saturday. Susan, Kristin, Kris and myself were going early and meeting up with Melanie and Jen later. The four of us met at the local bus stop and jumped on the 5500 to Itaewon. The bus was full so we had to stand. Normally that wouldn't be a problem for a 20 minute bus ride but considering the bus driver guns it until he absolutely has to stop in which case it feels like he breaks hard, it made ME car sick. I was sick and the girls are asking me if I want to get closer to the door. I was focusing on NOT vomiting all over the other passengers. The moment the door opened and I got off...I let it go. Once that was over with,  we moved on to hailing a taxi. 3 were stolen from us but the 4th one Susan fought for. Well, she walked over and jumped in the front seat while another guy who clearly saw us standing there waiving down taxis was trying to get in the back seat. Yeah Susan for being brave!

Kris Feller, who is our go to person for everything, was our "tour guide."  She got in the front seat of the taxi and told the driver "Hamilton Hotel" because it is the nearest recognizeable place to where we actually wanted to go. I think the driver and Kris repeated themselves 4 times and finally the driver started driving. He seemed confused but probably got the gist. We were less than a block from Hamilton Hotel when we decided to get out and walk the rest of the way since traffic was kind of tight. Kris tells the driver, "here is okay. We'll get out." He looked up and pointed to Hamilton Hotel. We ended up just all getting out instead of arguing with him. Kris handed him the fare and left him confused. Poor guy...

We made appointments at a place called The Green Turtle Spa. The choices were manicure, pedicure, half hour massage, full hour massage, waxing and hair except for the hair was booked. I can't say that the mani/pedi was better or cheaper here but I needed one really bad so it was fine. No massage during the mani/pedi. No foo-foo treatments. Just cut, buff, soak, nail color. For the combination I paid 55,000.  Next time I am getting the one hour massage. I heard it is amazing!!!!

After spa time, we did a little shopping. Itaewon is the most international place in Korea or close enough. Just looking around you see more Americans here than anywhere else. Stacy needed basketball shoes in a size 12. In Korean sizes he would have needed a 29.5. Everywhere we looked in our area they carry up to size 29.0 but many didn't even have that size in stock. Found him some at the Nike store. They were very snazzy!  This is definitely the place to do some good shopping. The next time we go back I'm going to pick up some souvenirs.  We went to an English bookstore called "What the Book?" where I purchased The Calligrapher's Daughter for book club.

We entered this grocery store that was mainly Indian food but I found some staple items that I thought I would never find in Korea and it wasn't too expensive either. I purchased worcerstershire sauce, cumin powder (product of Karachi), what I believe to be pinto beans, and trident gum. Will I ever find this place again? I don't know but I took a picture of the front and plan to print it out the next time I come to Itaewon and show the taxi driver. We'll see if that works. :)

We walked back to the bus stop and hopped on for the return journey at like 11:30. I didn't realize that we were going to be gone from 2pm to midnight. It was a great night though with girl time. Ethan and Stacy were asleep when I got home. I think I failed to mention that it was raining off and on while we were out. Well I had a nice paper Nike bag with Stacy's shoes and my new book, my LV purse, and my groceries. This whole time the shoe bag was getting wet, not soaked but just lightly sprayed. Walking up the hill with these bags to my apartment, I feel the bag shifting. I am literally 20 feet from my apartment entrance when the bag gives and everything hits the WET ground. I juggled the umbrella, grocery bag, purse in one hand while I am trying to pick up the stuff on the ground before it gets too wet. I was happy to make it inside with very little damage to our new stuff.

Sunday, it rained ALL DAY LONG! We stayed in, cleaned house, worked on some stuff, and by dinner time we were ready to get out of the house. Luckily the rain took a break long enough for us to hop the bus, get dinner and return home. That was one of the first times fast food was FAST. Hahaha! I love this place!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Subbing in the 1st grade

"Teacher...this. Teacher...that!"  Fitz is kind of hard to pronounce I guess.

A faculty child was sick with high fever since last Thursday and it was the mom's turn to stay home with her daughter. I was called on to cover Monday and quite possibly Tuesday. I received the message late Sunday night so I didn't have a lot of time to prepare Monday morning. Considering every teacher has a different routine, I was not the least bit prepared to teach first graders. Although I live with one, having 15 of them in one room is quite the eye-opener.

First they come in with these confused looks on their faces asking "Where is Mrs. Randall?" I answered each and every child as they asked. They looked so sad to be missing their teacher. That first day was a whirl wind but we got through it and the students were somewhat used to their routine so they filled in the gaps. I was very impressed with the reading level of these students. I would say they are at a second to third grade level overall. Some were at a fifth grade reading level. Writing and math was the same. They don't have the experiences to go with this but nonetheless, their knowledge and quickness was impressive. All the students love to draw. Boys are obsessed with Pokemon. Almost all of the students have great drawing skills.

Lunch was wild! I did get to eat with Ethan though. Ethan also ate half of my lunch because it was SO good! Pork cutlets breaded and fried covered with some kind of brown gravy over white rice.

I enjoyed the experience and now have a better idea of what goes on in Ethan's classroom. I didn't sub for his class but I was in his hallway. He stopped to say hi several times. We had a talk about that too. He was so proud to have his mom there and all of his friends call me "Ethan's mom." I love it!!

The few things about Korean children who attend our school are:
1. many are very spoiled, to the point that their drivers carry their school bags and walk them into school. Many don't know how to tie their shoes because they have people to do this for them.

2. They are under LOTS of pressure to perform academically which means sometimes they make bad choices.

3. Some students have parents that are VPs, CEOs, and Presidents of major companies. Their fathers may talk down to their employees and so the students believe it is acceptable to talk down to teachers sometimes. It doesn't happen often but it does happen more often to the Korean staff.

Overall, we have great students who are vibrant, creative, and enthusiastic about all things they do. We feel very fortunate to be able to send Ethan to such an amazing school.

E-mart, Pancakes, and Haircuts...oh, my!!

Thank goodness for sleeping in on Saturday mornings. It was a slow morning. Wake up at 8:30. Get ready. Make it to the grocery store by 10. Koreans don't usually get around until noon because they are night owls. Plus if you try to go shopping after noon, it will likely take you twice as long. E-mart is becoming a more enjoyable shopping experience now that we are familiar with its layout and products.

The one unfortunate event of the day...Stacy left his OU hat on the bus that dropped us at Emart. :( Good thing he had MINE as backup.

Remember back in the first week of us living here we purchased a rice cooker because it is like a staple here in Korea??? Well, nearly a month later, I finally used it! I must be super intelligent because all I had was a Korean manual and the internet. Good news is my research paid off. I made perfectly delicious sticky rice to go with our baked teriyaki chicken and teriyaki vegetables.

Sunday is a whole 'nother story! We had planned to eat breakfast at a new place with Caitlin, our new friend. As I mentioned before, we spend a lot of time waiting on the bus. This day was no different and we have a schedule which we were going by. Meeting time was 11am...arrival time was 11:30. We met Caitlin at her 30 floor apartment building "Paragon" in downtown. She lead us to Butterfinger Pancakes, the Paragon secret! They had a feel good breakfast with all of our favorites.  Granted we spent 50,000 won on breakfast, it was money well spent. Our drinks were 15,000 won together. We'll be smarter about ordering the next time we go there. We ordered pancakes, eggs sunny-side-up, potatoes, french toast, bacon, sausage, chocolate milk and I posted pictures on the shutterfly site. I am so glad she shared this secret with us.

Ethan took his first subway ride from Jeong-ja where we had breakfast to Sunea which is where Stacy and Ethan were going to get their hair cut. He thought it was AW-some!!! Now, he wants to ride the subway all the time even when it's impossible. Silly boy!

We had to go to Seohyeon (another district) for a haircut place that we spotted on our way to Bier Gartien Friday night. It had a sign that said cuts were 7,000 won but we paid a couple bucks more. The barber was wicked! He was so artistic and musical about his movements. I liked his work. We'll be going back.

Before heading home, we decided to explore the area a bit more and just walk around. We ran into another grocery store called Lotte Mart where I found the off-brand Nutella!!! Breakfast just got better. ;) lol

Time is already flying by!!

It has been nearly a week since I have enjoyed the company of my blog. Life continues as normally as before thankfully!

Last Thursday was uneventful. No subbing for me. Stacy did his thing and Ethan had another wonderful day.

Friday was a great end to our week. Ethan received a Phoenix Point for being helpful. I should explain the reason behind Phoenix points. Do you remember Harry Potter? Hogwarts had house teams. KIS has house teams which are the four elements: earth, wind, water, fire. Students are assigned to house teams from their first year and they continue in the same team until they reach high school. HS does not participate in house teams. Each year the house team with the most points receives a special prize. The points can be awarded for anything. Ethan received his for volunteering to throw trash away when another student told the teacher "in a minute." I am such a proud momma!

Happy hour this week was at a place called Gartien Bier but everyone called it Bier Gartien. It is most famous for its tables with beer bottle cooler holes in the tables and for its cheap beer that comes in 3 foot cylinders.  Ethan was at the babysitters. His new favorite babysitter who is a student/friend of ours. He loves her! Since I am such a light weight when it comes to alcohol, we decided to eat first. Transportation to happy hour was not provided so we had to take a bus. The bar was at AK Plaza  and it was hilarious because we are walking through this mall full of Korean people and suddenly we hear something to the effect of "eight and a half years..." Having been in Korea for almost a month, you get to a point where you second guess yourself when you hear English. Did I hear that or is it my imagination? Stacy is the one who heard this. He looked at me and then starts looking behind him. It was like 6 guys from KIS walking right behind us. We tagged along with them after we heard they were going to eat at DOS TACOS. We had heard a lot about this hole in the wall. It was one of those holes in the wall that were really good. It had a sign that read "Best Burritos." Compared to Texas food, no it was not fabulous but considering there is less than 1% of Mexican eateries in the was pretty darn scrumptious! This might be my next calling - "Antonio's Mexican Restaurant in Seoul, South Korea" I think it might work!

We were at Dos Tacos for like an hour and a half....8 of us walked in and ordered + small kitchen = 20 minute wait and plates came out one by one. We did eventually make it to Bier Gartien. It was a fabulous bar full of Americans. I felt right at home. Stacy and I had a great time and tried not to spend too much. After feeling like we had hung out long enough, we went to the bus stop. Probably the worst thing about using public transportation is waiting. We got tired of waiting. I flagged down a taxi thinking I had put the card with our address in my wallet. Turns out it was the card with the schools address. We get in the taxi and I say in my English accented Korean "Gungne-dong" then the driver says what I think is the same thing but pronounced CORRECTLY. I reply "ne" which is yes. I think we do this like 5 or 6 times and each time it sounds like he says it differently. I pull out the business card and hand it to him. He really must have thought we were lost because the address to the school is not the same neighborhood as what I was telling him. He drove us to the address on the card anyway. So, I thought, "eh, it's close enough. If the taxi can just get us to that side of town we can get home from there." Stacy and I learned 3 new words in the last week which helped us get home without having to walk. As we near the school, Stacy blurts out "jick-jin" which is straight. I am thinking, "really Stacy. You are going to try to direct this driver on how to get to our apartment?" Yep! Needless to say, we know how to say left and right but we don't have the Korean accent down yet. The taxi driver was making fun of us and correcting our Korean humorously. He was nice...I love Korean people who have the patience to put up with us foreigners. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First official week of school

I have officially completed my first day of subbing. I enjoyed being a fifth grade teacher today! The kids were fantastic and rather mature for 5th graders. I made a little red-headed friend named Rachel today too. She was a spunky girl. I got a "curse you Mrs. Fitzgerald for giving us homework!" said in a joking manner. That's what I assumed it was as I was just the messanger. :) We worked on madlibs as an assignment. They took a test. Finished up the day with creating a madlib from scratch. They loved it!

I ate lunch with Ethan!! yeah! He enjoyed it just as much as I did. Have to enjoy moments like this as I am sure they will not last forever.

A word problem we started the day off with was...there are 12 people in a room. 6 people have socks on. 4 people have shoes on. 3 people have both on. How many people are barefoot? Can you figure it out? I had several 5th graders get it and one decided to use a venn diagram.

Today also happened to be Korea International School's 10 year anniversary. The celebration began in the Performing Arts Center  and then was followed by dinner and refreshments in the conference center. Many Korean leaders and dignitaries attended. The school gave gifts for attending. Nicely imprinted towels.  They are in the washer already!

Wednesday was a good day as well. I worked textbooks again but this time I took my laptop and the scanner to each classroom. This was a better way of doing it since it took minimal time and didn't take away as much instructional time. Tommy Toms showed me how to walk from school to the bank. Got back in time to eat lunch. Finished out my day by running errands at school.

I attended my first Social Committee meeting Wednesday also! It is so exciting and invigorating knowing that everyone in my school enjoys hanging out with one another even though we work with one another daily.  I am now apart of the Who's Who and I am in charge of social calendars. The school has SO MUCH for you to choose from that you could do something almost every single day. You actually have to give yourself a day off from activities. It is awesome to have so many choices!  Did you know that in our WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) report our school received praise for our social involvement. It is an official requirement almost!

September 3rd, Stacy and I will be taking Ethan to JUMP!
Jump tells the story of an idiosyncratic Korean family under the rule of a strict grandfather who insists on keeping up the physical fitness of all family members through vigorous martial arts training. While the daily drills alone leave the audience awestruck, the performance comes to a climax when two stupid thieves break into the house and confront three generations of kung-fu masters, inspiring a series of farcical scenes...

The show was a sell-out in London's West End this February following its success as the Edinburgh Fringe box office No. 1 hit in 2005. A splendid blend of championship-level martial arts such as Tae Kwon Do, acrobatic and gymnastic skills, slick choreography and situation comedy.

We are still going 90 to nothin'. Our next school vacation is September 17 for Chusok. Check out the link to read more about it.  We plan to explore Seoul in its entirety.

The last BIG NEWS is our shipment is finally being delivered! We no longer have to wear the same 3 outfits over and over. Ethan will finally have his toys and our house will look and feel like home. It's going to be a super busy weekend but we'll finally be settled.

***Word problem answer: 5 people had barefeet*** If you need an explanation just ask! I got lots of practice. :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 21 & 22 - Korean BBQ & The never ending bus ride

Korean Barbeque
When your school day ends at 2:45 and begins at 8, it flies by. Well, since I am not in the classroom, it flies by for me but, maybe Stacy doesn't feel that way. Oh, wait, he agrees. :) After a brief meeting with his teacher, I dropped Ethan off with Mr. Feller so he and Elka could play. I went to play volleyball while Stacy finished up his work. We met up with the Fellers around 5pm because they were taking us to eat Korean barbeque for the first time. 

We all piled in their car. Per Korean law, only those sitting in the front seat must wear a seat belt so Kris and I and the kids all sat in the back seat. The restaurant was on the second floor of the building near my dentist's office.

There were 2 places to sit. One area was for the more traditional Koreans where you sit on the floor at this 2 foot high table and the other area is what we are more used to. We chose the standard table and chairs while Ethan and Elka chose the traditional floor seating. Because the menu was in Korean, Kris had someone write down our order at school so we just had to show the waitress. They brought a cart full of food. There was soup, salad, dipping sauces, garlic slivers, onions, squash, lettuce leaves, sesame leaves, mushrooms, jalapeno peppers, kimchi, egg souffle, pickled vegetable of some sort and then there was the pork. It was a very fatty piece of pork. It looked like a super thick piece of bacon.

So the waitress comes to your table with this cart and just starts laying it out. Remember, in Korea everyone shares the food and you don't get your own plate. Then she unwraps the foil that the meat comes in and starts cutting it into pieces with scissors right onto the grill.  She makes room for the veggies on the grill. This is all taking place in the middle of the table where the grill is located. You then take a leaf, with your metal chopsticks pick up a piece of meat, dip it into either the chili paste or into the sesame oil, stick it on your lettuce leaf,  add some veggies to your leaf, then wrap it up and eat it. These can be large bites but small pieces of meat.

It was a neat experience. I think I enjoyed most of the side dishes more than Stacy because their were lots of onions. He enjoyed the meat. Ethan didn't like any of it. He'll learn to like it, I'm pretty confident about that. Elka wasn't crazy about it either. And this is why we went to McDonald's afterwards. The kids got something to eat...and so did the parents, just as a filler. We were on a mission, a food mission. We went for dessert at Baskin Robbins because they have a fondue set. They give you about a dozen pieces of fruit and cake and a dozen or so mini scoops of ice cream. In the center they provide you with a bowl of chocolate for dipping. Okay after all of this, they didn't have it at this location. I was severely bummed.  I decided to try their new Waffle Berry Flinn. It was delicious blueberry ice cream in  a waffle cone.

The never ending bus ride
Saturday we woke up to an overcast sky. Within an hour, the sky turned dark and it started pouring. Apparently we are getting the outerskirts of a typhoon. We were going to go grocery shopping but put it off for a bit. I think it was like 2 in the afternoon when we finally caught the bus. We took the bus to E-mart but what we didn't know is that we had to go into Shinsegea Mall to the bottom level to get to E-mart. So we did some window shopping.  Again super expensive though. Ethan said he was hungry and then I started to get hungry so we went to E-marts food court where we bought sushi from a conveyer belt. You sit down at the counter and pull what you want from the conveyer belt. Then you stack your plates and pay when you are done. We went grocery shopping afterwards. Ate a little more while we were shopping because the store has so much tasty food.

After paying, we head back to our bus stop but didn't stop to look for the stop going the opposite direction. The 390 comes our way so we get on and ride it for about an hour. The driver stops at the end of his route and turns the bus off. He asks us where we need to go. Don't know how we understood that either. After speaking to each other without much communication we figure out that he is taking a 10 minute break and will continue at 7. After a 2 hour bus ride, 2 tunnels, and a sense of deja vu, we finally make it home. It was an exhausting trip but we learned from it. We also got to see other neighborhoods and stores. It was a good experience. You learn through trial and error.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 21 - Busy, Busy, Busy

We are on day 2 of school and it feels like a week. Today was textbook distribution day and I got to help. I finally figured out where to take Ethan first thing in the morning. Lucky little turd gets to take the elevator when he is with me. So after kind of a hectic morning, I grabbed some hot chocolate and a bagle from the morning deli and went back to my room. I was called over to help in the textbook room. I spent the whole day there. I met a lot of kids. Gave several a hard time. :) We had 2 lines going...kind of a drive through window if you will. I was the fastest of the 2. The students were very polite. Names are going to be hard for me so Stacy will definitely have problems. The students are already laughing at him because he's butchering their names. We finally put money on our meal cards so we were able to eat in the cafeteria today.

I am amazed at how many students have cell phones in the elementary level. First graders walking around in the morning and after school on their cell phones. I mean really!! Oh, and many students have DRIVERS! No, I'm not talking golf clubs. Actual drivers like that are paid to chauffeur.  It is even in the handbook. Please parents, guardians, and drivers, drop your children off in the B3 parking garage.

The high school groups still act like teenagers but they actually hurry to class instead of hang out in the hall ways. They all take notes and complete assignments in class. One of my colleagues who teaches grade 3 said she had a student show up with his math workbook completed. His parents purchased the math text book and workbook over the summer and he attended a hagwon (refer to previous blog) where he completed all the lessons. She met with her principal to discuss and he said that this happens a lot. Even though she is teaching grade 3, most students will need more challenging work geared for grade 4.

Stacy was stoked today when he taught his first lesson. They understood the lesson, took notes, were attentive the entire time, and all of them completed their homework that is not due until Monday. They all did great work and he was able to grade them and enter the grades before we left school. Are you exhausted yet because I am!

Since I did textbook duty today, I am severely exhausted from being on my feet all day. I get to do it again tomorrow too. The first issue of The Phoenix Flyer is prepared and ready for publication. You should Google it middle of next week. No need for me to sub just yet but I have had a couple close calls.

The Fellers and us have decided to take turns watching Ethan and Elka after school so we can get work done or have some after school fun time. Today I watched the kids on the playground. It was hilarious watching them work through their differences. They are both talking loudly and argumentatively at one another on the playground that exists between 2 school buildings. The business director must have heard them because he opened his window and watched them from above. I yelled at them to not be so loud because they were disrupting others. Within 10 minutes they were playing "nicely." Kids need to learn to work through differences without adult intervention, right?

We have a family date with the Fellers Friday afterschool to eat Korean bbq downtown. Of course I will be taking my camera and sharing it all with you.  :)

This is completely off topic but, the water is really good. Seoul received an award for the best water system in the world and they are currently working on making it taste better. The Fitzgerald's don't know why though because it has no taste.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day 18 - New Student Orientation & No bus

One umbrella, three people, no bus and rain equals a bad start to the day. All the neighborhood families are huddled together under the few umbrellas present waiting for the bus to arrive. Ten minutes after the scheduled time and no bus. Everyone else decides to start walking since it's only 10 minutes away walking briskly. We walked back to the apartment to phone the school. By the time we make it there, it is pouring down rain. The other families were soaked!

We call the school and are told that the bus schedule changed this morning. It picked up at 7:15. Didn't get that message! OUR email said that it would start Wednesday, not Tuesday. The school calls back. Nope, it came at 8:10. Every one of the families must have missed it. The bus NEVER came. They tell us we will likely have to get a taxi and she was going to see about getting us one and call us back. Stacy calls his boss who says "I'll see what I can do." Within 2 minutes we receive a call saying the bus is on its way. Stacy says, we'll walk down to the stop.

Off we go using the smallest umbrella (because we misplaced our 2 large umbrellas at the school) and all 3 of us, dressed in our Sunday best minus Ethan, huddled under one umbrella. I'm sure we were a sight. Even though I didn't spend a lot of time on my hair this morning, the bit I did was wasted. We get to our stop and within 5 minutes we had 3 KIS vehicles come from 3 different directions. I guess they realized that they missed our neighborhood and were sending vehicles to all the apartments in our neighborhood to pick up any strays.

We were in such a rush to get to school that we left Ethan's bag on the bus. We had no time for breakfast and got to his orientation right at 9am.  I didn't realize we had misplaced his bag until lunch time because we packed Ethan a sandwich. He's still getting to know Korean food. We didn't end up finding his bag until close to 3pm. We did meet his teacher and the good news is Ethan will be going to first grade instead of kindergarten. We had originally signed him up for kindergarten because we thought it would be beneficial for him to begin at the earliest grade at KIS. After considering the pros and cons, it just made sense to keep him on track. So Ethan will have Ms. Nam this year. He was so excited exploring his new classroom that he didn't want to leave it. I must remember to take my camera tomorrow for a new photo of first day of school. Don't worry, I already told Stacy that I'm going to come by and take a picture of him and his new students too.

So it is time for me to hit the sack because we must rise and shine early tomorrow morning. Hello new school year!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 17 - The neighborhood cookout

Sundays are good days. We got to sleep in. Made pancakes. Cleaned house a little. We didn't get out but its because we are broke. Banks aren't open on the weekends here.

The cookout was at 5pm and it was really hot. Within an hour the sun had set enough to still provide light but it had cooled off. The cookout took place in a small fenced area down the street at another apartment complex. The Fellers had a charcoal grill and each family brought food to grill. The kids played. The adults visited. We met more families that we had not met yet.

Almost everyone has lived in other places prior to Korea so they are fountains of information. Mark and Kristen, who are new to KIS but not new to international teaching, recently came from China. Kristen's parents actually were hired by the school that they left in China so they are nearby. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day 16 - Homeplus & the Feller Family

More shopping. You would think I would be excited about more shopping but believe it or not, I'm kind of shopped out. This afternoon we met the Feller family at their apartment down the street. They offered to take us in their car to Homeplus which is the closest and better equivalent to Walmart. It's cheaper shopping, not by much, and has more familiar foods. There's a movie theater on the top floor which is where we plan to take Ethan to watch Toy Story 3. We stopped in at Subway to get a bite to eat. Here we found TURKEY and DR. Pepper!!!! It was delicious! The cans that we are used to in the states cost $2 here. While we were eating, Kris, the wife, stayed with us while Elka and Sean stopped off somewhere else. They showed up with a birthday gift for Ethan. It was the sweetest gesture from a 6 year old. Apparently she had been bugging her parents for this. A little Woody doll from the movie.

Once everyone was done eating we headed down a couple levels to start shopping. Ethan and Elka have a new name...double trouble. They were constantly trying to out do each other. Giving each other not so good ideas but they get along really well.

Stacy and Sean shopped for our grocery list while Kris and I took the kids and looked around. To give you an idea of how much American goods cost here, a small box of Ritz crackers with one sleeve is about $3.50. The store has lots of sampling stations. The kids loved it. Good to go during snack time. We went through the seafood area where the kids wanted to touch the fish, crabs, octupus, and others. The kids were very helpful getting veggies and fruit.

We finished shopping, paid and loaded up so that we could get ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Near BR is a store called I Love Cookie where you can get all kinds of western groceries but they are kind of expensive. I found nutella (7,000 Won) and a small package of corn tortillas (9,000 Won). Stacy and I were excited to find cake mix, sour cream, and American Dr. Pepper. Ethan found a Cars toy that was nearly $50 and in the states it would have been $10. Can't wait to go back and shop sparingly. We get paid Friday!

It was a fun outing and yet again we have more pros to add to our list for a car. Grocery shopping is much easier with a car.

A little info on the Fellers. This is their 4th country. They were in Kazakhstan previously. Their daughter was born in another country so the only life that Elka knows is an international one. It really helps us justify our recent decision.