Monday, May 28

umbrellas and nothing in particular

It rained lightly most of the day today. It means that I can't ride my new (used) red bike, but I like the pattern of umbrellas on campus and the coziness of reading a book under a blanket on the couch.
There are a lot of times when I don't feel like I'm a foreigner. But, there are times when I feel totally foreign. For some reason, when I walk into the building where I teach and I see these announcement posters that I can't read, I feel it every time. One of my friends said she feels it when she sees elementary students wearing their red neck scarves. Lately I've been more conscious of people staring at me. You'd think I'd be over it.

Tomorrow, I'm showing a movie in the American Culture class I teach. I'm pretty excited to not have to prepare a lecture. Today has been much more fun as a result. This is the door going in to the language lab where there is one computer screen for every two students. The doorway is funny to me...with the big lock and metal door it looks sorta like a medieval torture chamber.

These two styles of stockings are popular now. Especially the one on the right. The one on the left is perhaps a little dated now. But, doesn't it look like these girls could have just bought one pair of black stockings and shared them?

I've baked two birthday cakes in the past two weeks. This one has imported sprinkles and pudding frosting from the States and cute candles that say happy birthday in Korean. Today I went to a bakery supply store that has cocoa (no need to import it from America anymore!) and cupcake liners! They had something that looked like shortening and frozen nondairy whipped cream too, but I was a little leery.

Sunday, May 20


plus me is 25. That's how many students (from my beginner English class) I fed in my little apartment last night. I made spaghetti and meatballs - partly because that was one of the things we talked about in the food unit (they had no idea what it was) and partly because it's not too hard to make.
Having a large number (more than 4) over to my apartment requires a little thought. I have an oven (most people don't here) but it's only big enough to hold very small things (like the length of a loaf pan and not quite twice the width of one) so baking things for large numbers of people isn't really an option unless it's a side or a dessert. I was even having issues yesterday with spaghetti, though, because I needed the one big pot I have to keep the sauce cooking in while I cooked the noodles. I ended up putting the sauce into two smaller pans and rotating them on one burner while I boiled the noodles in stages in the big pot on the other burner (and then put them in a covered bowl until we served them). We also had salad, baguette bread (which they sell here -I was so glad I didn't have to bake the bread!), the students brought loads of fruit and drinks, and everybody got a small piece of hot milk sponge cake for dessert. The girls who helped me serve were putting the salad and dressing on top of the spaghetti at first, but I suggested to put it on the side and people could mix it if they wanted :). We were a little crowded for seating (around two low folding tables on the floor), but we had a good time. They especially loved looking at my pictures after dinner.

I thought the hills were beautiful last weekend, but yesterday they were even more so. We're getting a little rain almost every day, too, so it's getting greener and greener around here!

Monday, May 14

a mountain and more blossoms

Went up a little mountain on Saturday that I've been meaning to go up ever since I moved here. It was really nice - it was in between rains, so it was cool and breezy while we were walking. It also wasn't crowded, which was an extra bonus. We packed a picnic lunch to eat after we went up and down, but then abandoned our picnic spot when I found a tick crawling on me. The fern like plant in the first pic is something called go-sa-ri in Korean. I've heard it's poisonous if eaten raw, but Koreans know how to dry it and then cook it so that it's not. They serve it a lot in the cafeteria. I've heard of Koreans in foreign countries who pick it illegally from parks.

The apple pear orchards are in bloom on the hill now and they're beautiful.

Except, on the side of the road, you see trash. One friend I went to Korea with said that he thinks all Chinese citizens should be required to have a one week holiday in Korea to observe how clean and relatively noise free it is in comparison.

A mobile corn saleswoman on the street.

My new photo display, using binder clips. They knock over kinda easily, but they're cheap and cute! I think I got the idea for this in Real Simple, or somewhere like that.

Friday, May 11

rain and cake

It's raining outside and it sounds so wonderful, like a mix of cymbals played softly with those brushy type things and tapping a dry bamboo stick. I thought it might be hail, but I can't see any bouncing and I can't put my hand out the window because the screens don't come off easily. Hot milk sponge cake is in the oven for guests coming tomorrow. The sweet cake smell mixing with the smell of fresh rain probably wouldn't sell well as a candle scent, but it sure is nice.

I'm excited about the idea of going to bed with an extra blanket and opening the window so I can listen to the rain as I go to sleep.

Here's the recipe, for Jenni:

Hot Milk Sponge Cake
(From the More-with-Less Cookbook, a great cookbook for people who don't live in a place where you can run to the store for a box of gelatin or a package of cream cheese. This cookbook uses simple ingredients that can be found in most places. It was first introduced to me in Romania by the Richardsons.)

Preheat oven to 325 (F) or 165 (C).
Beat 2 eggs
Add 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla
Combine separately (or if you're lazy like me, in the same bowl)
1 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt and fold into egg mixture.
Bring to boil in small saucepan:
1/2 cup milk and 1 tsp. margarine.
Add slowly to batter, stirring gently.
Pour into greased and floured 7x12 or 9x9 inch pan.
Bake 30-35 minutes.

The cookbook recommends this topping, and I do too:
Coconut Topping (use only half of this recipe for the cake above)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup margarine
1/4 cup cream or milk
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup coconut

Combine and spread on cake when partially cool. Broil 2-4 minutes until brown.


I get a kick out of how brand names are imitated or copied here. This is today's example. Not Suzuki, but Sozuki!
In Korea and Beijing, I bought cheese, sour cream, and mint dark chocolate. So, I had some people over this week for sour cream chicken enchiladas using the sour cream and pepper jack cheese and homemade flour tortillas from here. The enchiladas were tasty, but not as good as my Aunt Marla makes. She's definitely the standard for those. I think I need a refresher course. One of my British guests asked "this is called chicken in what?" I guess they don't really know about Tex-Mex over there. The mint dark chocolate obviously wasn't included in the mix, but I get a square or two out of the freezer after dinner with a hot cup of tea or coffee... yum.

Even though I had a bad experience last year, I am considering doing something funny to my hair again. Not a perm, for sure, but maybe some red streaks? I'm going with a friend who is planning on getting a zig zag frizz perm that's popular here now.

I have a swimming partner who I meet almost every Friday at the new pool at the back of the uni where I teach now. We swim for about an hour and I'm always amazed at how tired and hungry I am after that hour. After I finish a workout at the gym, I usually feel energized. Why does the water take it out of me? I love it, though, and I'm glad to have a buddy to keep me going!

We've been having lovely warm, sunny weather here. For a few days, I wondered if spring had already ended, but summer's not quite here yet.

I'm in the middle of grading 48 mostly essay American Culture midterm exams. They're not as bad as I expected, but still they're not exactly fun. I'm so thankful that the conversation class I teach only requires an oral midterm exam!

To anyone who knows me and lives in the States, I'll be there for about 6 months or so beginning late August - a mix of Kentucky and Texas, mostly. I'm looking forward to it, but also kinda wondering how all that time will get filled up. I'll try to keep a regular schedule of language study and maybe some other studies/training and with all the people I want to spend quality (not just fly through town) time with, I'm sure it'll go by quickly.

Sunday, May 6

Beijing, China

A picture from the hutong where I stayed in a hostel. Everybody had their Chinese flags out, I think, because of the May day holiday. Staying in the hutong allows you to see so many interesting things: people getting their hair dyed or permed on the street outside the hair shop, old people gathering together to sit outside, laundry hanging on the street, little glimpses of their life in the city but separate from the city.

My dumpling breakfast (3 yuan) on a street corner in a hutong.

I went to the silk market for the first time (a popular shopping place for foreigners). They had this sign posted near the elevator. I think it was for the Chinese merchants to learn some responses to foreigners who are bugging them (although in my experience, it's usually the other way around). I can't read much of the Chinese, but the English translations themselves are pretty crazy!

***Update...I asked my Chinese tutor what the title in white says and it's actually a list of phrases you shouldn't say. I should give them more credit! I should have recognized the first character anyhow. I think it's the same one that they use on no smoking signs.

In the morning on Wangfujing street, these workers are doing their daily exercises together before they open the store.

The beautiful tulips in the park near the Forbidden City.

Pusan, Korea

An overcast day in Pusan on the Haeundae beach.

A vending machine for books on the Pusan subway. (In Korea, most people are occupied by reading, listening to their mp3, playing with their phone, or sometimes watching their personal video players. In China, they seem to be less concerned with filling up every second of their time when on public transportation. Even when I take a long train ride in China, I've never seen anyone reading anything other than the occasional magazine.)

In Korea...
I saw a man getting his nails done at a manicure shop in the mall.

I was walking with my friends on the beach where we walked in front of a large group of middle school age boys on a field trip. As we walked, they started to leave in groups and pass us. As they passed us, almost every group would dare the others to talk to us, the foreigners. We tried to talk to a few in English, but they were too embarrassed or didn't understand. So, I spoke to one of the boys in Korean and he just opened his mouth and stared. He wouldn't say anything. After he ran away, one of my friends said "He reacted to you speaking Korean as if a dog had just spoken something understandable!"

The lady checking my luggage for liquids at the airport on the way out of Korea saw my Korean study book and then started to speak to me in Korean. She asked me where I was studying and I told her I was a teacher. She then said "You teach Korean?" Although if she had talked to me longer, she would have realized I wasn't qualified, I was flattered at first.

Thursday, May 3

biking in Beijing

It's a nice day in Beijing - warm and clear. I rented a bike today from the hostel I'm staying at and set off to find a cup of coffee and a park to enjoy it in, but those two things didn't work together. Instead, I settled for a 3 yuan bamboo basket of baozi (steamed dumplings) on the corner street of a hutong (old neighborhood), then bought a bottle of milk tea and some cookies in a convenience store before paying the entrance fee for a park just west of the Forbidden City. The entrance fee was doubled because they are having a tulip festival there. It was worth it to enjoy all the wonderful varieties of beautiful tulips. I found a semi-quiet hill where I was half hidden under a tree to read and nap. As the morning went on, the park became more and more crowded (most people still have the day off for May holiday) and I was observed by more people passing by. One girl and her friend asked if they could lay in the grass like me and have their picture taken beside me. Beijing is more used to foreigners, but still not completely!

The rest of the day has been spent on a quest for cheese to take back. I've found two stores with it and will probably go back tomorrow just before leaving. I'm not seeing any sites this trip to Beijing because I've seen all the big ones. This trip has been fun to just relax and act like I live here, which is made much easier with the bike. People don't approach me as much on the bike - not just because I'm faster, but I look less like a tourist!

Wednesday, May 2

May holiday

I paid for an hour of internet at the PC room near my hostel in Beijing, but the hour is almost up after cleaning out my email inbox, so I can't promise much here except for a little update.

I went to Korea on Saturday with some other friends from Yanji. We got to our hotel (booked by the bride's family...on the beach!) just a few hours before the ceremony started. It was a lovely wedding, a mixture of Korean, American and Dutch culture. A wonderful reception dinner, too, in a room overlooking the beach. After the wedding, most of the younger guests went bowling with the bride and groom in their wedding clothes! Great pictures.

The next day I took the fast train up to Seoul just for the day to see some friends. I came back to Pusan to enjoy the beach. Even though the weather was a little gray, it was wonderful to spend time next to that wonderful place where sand meets water and water meets sky.

I came back through Beijing and am going to spend a few days here exploring new places and visiting a few shopping places. Maybe some anecdotes and pics later.