Wednesday, August 30, 2006

a message from kiyeong

제가 좋아하는 컴퓨터게임은 메이플스토리 입니다. 아주 좋아합니다.
My favorite computer game is Maple Story. I like it a lot.

안녕하세요 저는 한국에사는 이기영입니다.
Hello, I am Kiyeong from Korea.
(This is Kiyeong playing the piano. He won a giant trophy for it).

케라 선생님과 유익하게 잘 지내고 있습니다.
Cara teacher, it is good and interesting that she is here (or something along those lines, I am really not quite Korean could only hold out for so long).

Here is one of the whole fam. As you can see from the glare on the pictures and the fact that the top one is of the boys when they were host mom is having me take pictures of the pictures on the fridge using PhotoBooth (Kiyeong called her over to see that he had written you a message and she got very excited. There are actually a few more of them, but I'm going to hope that she doesn't notice I haven't posted them all). The body posture and positioning in this shot is very telling of the fam's dynamics.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

*updated address*

Updated again 10/22 (The Hangul--Korean alphabet--address was on there correctly, but the romanized one had 25 instead of 203. I have no idea why):

Cara Chebuske
충청남도 공주시 203번지
Gongju Gyodong Elementary School
203 Gyodong Gong-ju Chung-cheong namdo
Republic of Korea 314-090

Write to me! I promise to write back--on
cunnin' Korean stationery, no less.


The staff of Gongju Gyodong Chodung Hakkyo on what I will be doing the first day of classes (Fri):

Teacher 1 (head of scheduling): Normal schedule (This would mean 2 fifth grade classes and 2 second grade classes).

Teacher 2 (head of "Engrishy" learning): Teach 5-2 instead of 2-3, 3rd period instead of second period and 5-1 the period before lunch instead of the one after (this was mainly conveyed through gestures and the word "this," lest you think the head of Engrishy learning can actually speak Engrishy).

Coteacher: "I think you no classes. Just come to school and uh...sitting."


Monday, August 28, 2006

is it delicious?

This is my chingu (friend) James. He is another ETA living in Gongju--he teaches at an elite boarding school for high school boys and lives across the city from me. My host mom thinks he is way smarter than I am because he works at such an impressive school...even though he actually has it wicked easy: there are 4 English teachers at his school who speak fluent English and many of his students have lived/studied in America/other English-speaking places. His homestay family has 3 fluent English-speaking members and his school has gotten an ETA for the past 7 years, so they really know how to deal with him. As you may be able to tell, I'm a bit jealous of his situation. On Sunday, James and I went to a festival at his school and yesterday we went to the beach with my coteacher. Having a friend with me made it so much easier to relax and enjoy the hilarity and awesomeness of both adventures. It's amazing how experiences that would definitely have been super awkward and somewhat uncomfortable if I had been by myself were just funny with James there.
Yesterday, I went to school for lunch as usual. My coteacher was there for the first time, because the night before I had called her and asked her to be there. I spent 15 minutes trying to explain to her that I wanted to know the school's calendar for the year, like when vacations and days off are. After my explanations she went and conferred with the vice principal for a while and they presented me with...a map of the school. She then said, "Let's go, we go to the beach." I gave up on trying to find out about my job and just went with it. We went and picked up James and embarked on a Ride of Terror to the beach (James was pretty thoroughly shocked and terrified, as he was unused to the sort of crazy Korean driving that is my everyday experience). The conversation in the car was absolutely hilarious and it went by really quickly. At the beach my coteacher, in her little velour boyshorts and matching midriff-baring velour sweatshirt, floated around on a giant yellow inner tube watching James and me swim. The water was warm and the waves were nonexistant, and it was really relaxing to just be at the beach in the water and sun. After hanging out on the beach for a few hours and then showering off at this sketchy shower place, we went to dinner. When you go to the beach, apparently dinner means hui (raw fish). All the restaurants along the waterfront boast giant tanks of fish, shellfish, and other scary looking sea creatures. The above picture is an example of some of the poor animals: sharks, flounder, random other fish, and the pic to the right is of my coteacher playing God and choosing which fish would die for our meal. For dinner we had raw snails, raw sea urchins, raw oysters, raw scallops, raw fish eggs, cooked little snails, cooked big snails, and raw even bigger snails,a cooked smacky, a cooked, mushy sort of other fish (see pic below). Missing from the picture is the main dish: a gigantic plate of silvery raw fish flesh. The fish's head, tail, and bones reappeared at the end of the meal in a giant fish soup as well. By far the most disgusting part of the meal is on the plate in front of my left elbow in the picture. When they brought it out I turned to James and said, "Oh my god those things look exactly like dog...things." My host teacher (who can't understand us when we talk to each other and can't understand James at all because he isn't used to Koreans who don't speak English fluently) saw us looking at them and said, "That is [Korean words]. that makes pee." The actual name of the food we were supposed to consume is 'dog penis.' Good lord. Then James grabbed my arm in horror and said in sort of a shocked whisper, "I think they're moving!" Sure enough, the 'dog penises' were SQUIRMING AROUND ON THE PLATE. I am not talking little twitches like the big main dish either, these things were actually crossing the length of their plate. My coteacher admitted that she had never eaten one either and that her friends say they're disgusting. Overall I was much more adventurous than James--he stuck to the main dish and the smackerel pretty exclusively, but I tried almost everything (not the dog penii, I was not quite up to that). I wouldn't really say that I liked any of it (the texture was just revolting and seeing the poor things alive right before eating them was not exactly up my recently-vegetarian alley) but it was really, really fun.

guess i'll go eat worms

I don’t know why, but tonight--perhaps somehow subconsciously wanting to top the still-twitching raw sea creatures that my coteacher had fed me for dinner (I will post about this when James sends me pictures)—my host mom rolled out a spicy soup full of BUGS tonight as we all sat watching our favorite Korean drama. The bugs are actually silkworm larvae or some such nasty nonsense, and Koreans love them. Dis. Gus. Ting.

In other news, a magical thing happened when I was taking my furtive, 3 minute hand shower today—the water started to get warm! It was amazing. I had to force myself to turn it off. Also, we had a random blackout for about 10 minutes. This would be unremarkable, except for the fact that now my internet is no longer functional. My AirPort shows that I am connected to the network, and the bars are full, but Safari, Mail, Firefox, and iChat all say that I am not connected to the internet. Does anyone know how to deal with this (Will)?

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Here are a some pics of Kibeom (on the right) and Kiyeong (making the peace sign). Last night the three of us were home alone and we played with my camera for a while. It was so much fun--the boys loved trying to work my camera and laughed hysterically when they got to see the pictures of themselves come up on the screen--but it sent my camera over the deep end from functionally broken to just plain broken. It's so depressing. I love my poor cam. There are also so many things to photograph here and it sucks that I can't take pictures of them. I want to be able to take pictures of Gongju, of my school, of my students...especially now that I have a shiny new blog to post them in. I need to go to Seoul and try to find a camera shop that knows Minoltas. Or maybe just try to order a new lense online (assuming I can afford it).
We had a nice evening together (until the strange arrival of the adults and the Vienna sausages and things, although that wasn't bad either). They tried to teach me to play the Korean verson of chess--unsuccessful, due to my inability to understand them when they get excited and forget I can't speak Korean. They also wrestled each other and showed of some of their taekwondo moves, which was both cute and really impressive. They are incredible. We had some preem frozen yogurt pops too. The best part about them is that they weren't flavored like instant coffee.

Aren't they so cute? They are definitely better to have around than a bed. I'd still like to be allowed to unpack fully though.

an apology

I know I told some people (namely Mom, Dad, and Rue) that I would post pics of me playing with my host bros tonight. Unfortunately right as I was starting (and right as the poor boys were going to bed) my host parents came home with two of their friends, some potato chips, beer, "rice cookie," and Vienna sausages. I was forced to eat Vienna sausages, drink beer, and watch the strangest Korean TV show I've ever seen--and this is really saying a lot because I once watched a combination dating/talent/stupid physical challenge show complete with animated hearts and dried squid and fish jewelry. I would describe the show in detail but I honestly just can't. Just try to imagine a staged horror scavenger hunt for adults in a school, combined with singing, a rock-paper-scissors-like game against a "ghost," and a giant-marshmellow-on-velour-pole fight against a giant blond man...that's as much as I can say. I will post the pics and such sometime tomorrow, sorry!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

honor code

My host mom often does some of the boys' schoolwork. Last night she stayed up really late (past 1) working on some posters for not only Kibeom and Kiyeong, but also for a random friend of Kibeom's who was briefly over here for dinner. The posters are very elaborate and neat and definitely not something 8 and 10 year old boys could ever come up with. It's weird because it's not like the boys are slackers and their mom does their all their work for them while they play around all day--both of them went to piano lessons at 8:30 am and then came home and studied until dinner time as well as before bed. (They are, by the way, amazing piano players. Last night they put on a little piano recital for me and showed me their giant piano trophies. It was so impressive. When you add this to their tkd black belts and Kibeom's prize-winning's kind of scary). I also don't know what this homework is is not in session until Friday and she seems to be in a hurry to finish these things. Maybe because she has other homework to do? It could be for hagwon (private academy) or something, but I was under the impression that the boys only go to hagwon for English and piano right now...mysterious

Friday, August 25, 2006

Lovely Binnie

My coteacher brought me back a gift from Jeju-do...a cell phone charm! Most people in Asia hang little charms off their cell phones (and some off their cameras too). My host mom has a little beaded mouse, my host dad has a manly little jade thing...most of them are small
and cutesy and usually involve beads. My cell phone "charm" (as you can see) is a pink stuffed bear that's larger than my phone. Now my cell phone is huge and ungainly and doesn't have a chance of fitting in my pocket.

No clothes!

Two days ago, Kibeom came in my room and told me we were going to look at "lake." I asked (with some difficulty) what I should bring and the mom seemed to be saying that only the children swim and that I would not be swimming. Then she said "Clothes no. No clothes. No clothes." Taking my cue from this, I did not bring any clothes with me. I had jeans and a white striped t-shirt on. We piled in the van of the family friends I mentioned in the last post and drove to a little river/stream thing. It was pretty shallow, with little rapids and pools of deeper water, and Koreans were wading and floating in it, wearing their regular clothes. The first thing we had to do was cross the water (I'm not sure why this was necessary, and it certainly caused a lot of problems...but it's not like I had the power to question the decision or anything). This was difficult because the stream had a pretty powerful current and the rocks at the bottom were covered in slimy algae and were extremely slippery. The kids all fell/jumped in right away (Kibeom dropping the pan in which our lunch was to be cooked on his way), leaving the adults to carefully pick their way across. The family-friend-dad (from now on, ffd) was leading the way intrepidly as the two moms clutched each other and shrieked, but he fell in hardcore. I almost fell a few times--my host mom did not help by violently grabbing my arm whenever I moved. Eventually we all made it across and had a tasty picnic of samgyupsal (3-layer pork) on the bank of the stream. After lunch, they told me to go play in the water. I told them I didn't have a change of clothes and they all laughed at me. I guess by no clothes, my host mom meant that I should bring a change of clothes. They told me to just go play in the water anyway. I had a ton of fun playing with the boys and sliding around on the rocks in the water. Everyone was really impressed that I know how to swim (it's kind of a rare skill here) and the boys wanted me to teach them and to race them different places. Kibeom learned some basic swimming things very quickly, Kiyeong just sank a lot, and Hojun--the family-friend-son--didn't really try. (Aside about Hojun: he is the same age as Kibeom, but he is at least a foot taller and pretty fat. He doesn't have Kiyeong or Kibeom's fearlessness or enthusiasm...he was afraid of sliding through the rapids and of putting his face in the water. He whines a lot and smacks the other boys when they have something he wants. He does not speak to me at all, even though his mom is always prodding him to). Kiyeong was too small to resist the current and spent a lot of time riding around on my back and riding down the rapids on my lap. He had a lot of fun making up adventures for the two of us. The ffd came swimming too, and he was a lot of fun. He is a really nice guy and knows a bit of English. The moms came down to watch and make fun of us. They both slipped and fell, and were pretty hilarious about it. When it was time to leave, the boys all changed clothes, before crossing the stream we all knew to be wicked slippery. Hojun, Kiyeong, and the dad all slipped and got soaked. I actually felt better, because instead of being the only wet person in the car, I was way in the majority (only Kibeom was dry, in case anyone reading this has lost track). After the swimming, we went home to change and then to the park for a picnic dinner where we all met up with my host dad and his older sister. She was wearing the world's largest sun visor, despite the fact that the sun had set, and was really nice, although she doesn't speak a word of English.

Instant coffee update: The whole day I only had 4 cups of regular, hot instant coffee, a record low. This was compensated for by 2 coffee flavored popsicles, 2 things of canned coffee, and a stick of coffee flavored gum. Coffee flavored gum? It really tasted exactly like the instant coffee...very weird...and not very breath freshening.

oh my god, we gotta get outta here!

I've been in Gongju for a week now. In that time, I have narrowly escaped at least 10 automotive accidents. Traffic laws do not seem to hold any particular importance to at least 80% of the people on the road. While driving the two of us to a school dinner tonight, my coteacher cheerfully ran every red light we came across--regardless of the amount of traffic we were headed into. After particularly narrow misses, she would briefly flash her hazards and wave semi-apologetically at whatever vehicle she had nearly sideswiped. My favorite car experience occurred not with my coteacher, however, but with the random friend of my homestay family who almost always (along with his wife and son) accompanies my host fam and me on our adventures. While driving us to Magoksa, a famous Buddhist temple, he missed the exit we were supposed to take. When this unfortunate fact was realized, he proceeded to DRIVE BACKWARDS ON THE HIGHWAY until we re-arrived at our exit. There were cars whizzing at us at highway speeds as we backed up madly...and not just for a little bit either, a substantial distance was covered. Keep in mind that the 4 people crammed into the backseat of the car were completely seatbeltless, as was little Kiyeong (he was perched on the family-friend-lady's lap in the front seat). Another awesome thing about driving here is that drunk driving doesn't seem to be all that stigmatized. I have definitely been driven home by random-family-friend-man when he's been drinking more than is wise. I can't really think of any way to get out of getting in the car with him--I would both mortally offend him and effectively strand myself. Any advice?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

picture! (now that i've figured out how to post them, i can't be stopped)

Since my camera is broken, Photo Booth is the best I can manage. Here's a shot of my younger host brother, Kiyeong, and a random little girl who inexplicably came home with us from the library and hung out all night. Aren't they cute?

language barrier

Most of my friends seem to be able to communicate with people at their schools--mainly through English teachers at the schools. My school doesn't have any English teachers except for me, and it's pretty much impossible for me to communicate with anyone. Yesterday when I was at school, hanging out in the gyomushil, all the teachers and the vice principal gathered together in a corner, giggling and talking and shooting surreptitious glances at me. Eventually they all came over to me in a big, giggling herd. The vice principal came over to stand behind me and stare intensely over my shoulder, while all the teachers gathered across the table in front of me. The lady who is in charge of meals at the school managed between giggles to ask me, "what do you liking eating?" They then presented me with a sheet of paper that had two choices written on it: a). soybean paste and b). bean curd paste. The vice principal (who my coteacher refers to as the vice president) reached over my shoulder and pointed imperiously at each of the choices in turn, saying "and lice." As soybean paste and bean curd paste mean exactly the same thing, the distinction between my two lunch options definitely got lost during their painstaking translation. Also, my vice "president" was not offering bugs with my's just that the r/l distinction is really difficult for Korean speakers. I went with bean curd paste and ended up getting a spicy soft tofu and egg soup with clams in it. The other option turned out to be the spicy hard tofu soup with the pond snails that I've eaten before. They are both pretty tasty, once you get past the whole pond snail thing.

my host brother is sitting next to me as I type this, sucking on an "ice cuba." The Fulbright office wants me to assert my contract and demand my own room (like I can possibly do that with the language barrier in effect), but I would really miss having him in here all the time.

Are you boring?

Most important thing that happened today: my coteacher came back from her vacation in Jeju-do! Finally there is someone in this city who actually somewhat understands me! and is required to answer my questions! She is really cute...cutesy Korean cute: today she had on a bright pink headband, giant pink ceramic dangly rose earrings with the Chanel logo on them, a bright pink t-shirt dress with a denim skirt under it, and very high-heeled, almost platform bright pink shoes...and she can actually say complete English sentences (they are sentences like"who is your favorite movie star?" "do you think yogurt ice cream is interesting?" and "are you boring?" but still, sentences. It's pretty exciting). We went to a movie and then to get "yogurt ice cream," or frozen yogurt with blueberry sauce, kiwi, and frosted flakes on it. Best of all, I figured out a few things about my future. On Friday I have to attend a school assembly and give a speech in Korean to all the students, teachers, and administration. Then I have to go out drinking with the teachers. My coteacher told me that I should try very hard to drink as much as I can. I am also officially starting teaching on Sept 1. I have no idea what I am going to do until then.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

flashback to the good ol' days

This is a pic of all 63 ETAs on Yonsei Day (the day we met our co-teachers and principals and were flung out across Korea to start our jobs). Yes, I am wearing a suit and, yes, I look funny in it.

Before beginning my adventures in Gongju, I spent almost 6 weeks in a city called Chuncheon with this group of people in a back-to-freshman-year-of-college-like setting at Kangwon National University. We had language classes in the mornings, cultural workshops/practice classes at Camp Fulbright (an English immersion summer camp for Korean kids created solely to help us learn to teach) in the afternoons, and the rest of the time we were free to explore the restaurants, stationary stores, street food stands, bath houses, and nightlife of Chuncheon. I met some incredibly amazing people, ate some incredibly amazing food, and fell in love with some Korean institutions like the munbangu (stationary store) and E-matu (like Walmart, but Korean and awesome).

The pic on the right is my favorite food ever (American or Korean): cheesy pork rice. It comes in two rounds--first little thin pieces of pork that gets cooked on a piece of tinfoil on the little stove in the middle of the table. The pork is gloriously devoid of the giant pieces of fat and bits of bone that ruin almost every other meat dish I've had here, and it's cooked in the most delicious sauce imaginable. You then put pieces of the pork on a big piece of lettuce along with some really good salty paste, garlic, radish, soybean sprouts, and other random things and make it into a little wrap. So good. Round 2 is even better. The cheese man comes and adds rice, more sauce, and a few vegetables to the remains of pork and sauce in a complicated sort of dance, working it into a log shape. Then he opens his big bucket of cheese and sprinkles it all over the top. The tinfoil is folded up into a little envelope and the cheese melts all through the rice. It is so amazingly good. I get so clearly excited when the cheese comes out that the cheese man always laughs at me and gives me tons of extra cheese. I am definitely going back to Chuncheon just for this dish.

These are a few other Chuncheon faves: dakkalbi and patbingsu (spicy, spicy chicken, rice cake noodles, cabbage, and potato-y things, and ice cream, sugar, condensed milk, red bean, sweet rice cake, and fresh fruit. both sooo good).

This is a pic of me with one of my language teachers. We actually formed a really close bond over the 5 weeks we had language instruction, and saying goodbye at the end was really emotional. She (and our other teacher, pic below) was a really great teacher and we all learned an impressive amount of Korean in such a short time...although it doesn't seem like it now. I wish I could have another 5 months or so of language instruction and then come back and try this again.

This is a picture of our whole class. The teachers are the two cute Korean women in white and pink. The girl in the green skirt on the left is holding one of the "diplomas" we all earned at the end of the program. They took our "graduation" very seriously with speeches, presentations, and performances given by each class, and prizes awarded for outstanding achievement. We also each got a Korea University t-shirt. Mine is too big, so feel free to claim it. The girl standing to the left of me is Melissa Yasinow, my roommate for orientation. She is actually shorter than I am...pretty amazing.

These last few pics are just a random few of some of my friends and me. I can't believe I only had 6 weeks to spend with them. I would tell some stories, but this post is already very long and Kibeom says that we are going to look at some water--whatever that means.


This entire country must be in a perpetual state of dehydration. All the meals I've eaten here have been wicked salty, but there's never been anything to drink with the food. Instead, after the meal, my host brothers and I share a small cup of "water." They call it water in both Engrishy and Korean, but the stuff is actually a sort of wheat-flavored iced tea that tastes like nothing so much as water that's been strained through some cardboard several times. My favorite is when my host mom breaks the nasty-wheat-iced-tea out early and upends it over my bowl of rice. It's just like cereal...only it tastes disgusting and has a disconcerting consistency.

pishy out of water

I apologize for the wicky long post, but there's just so much going on. I know I should have broken it up...sorry.

So I've made it through 5 weeks of Fulbright Orientation Summer Camp-ness in Chuncheon, several days of playing in Seoul, and a trip to the DMZ. I'm finally at my placement, living in my homestay in Gongju. My host family (mom, dad, and two boys in elementary school) is really nice, although the language barrier is very much in effect. The boys have the best English...and sadly, it's not far off from my Korean. My host mom is working very hard to improve her English, and she's already gotten much better since I got here on Thursday. Most of our interactions involve charades, one word sentences in English and Korean, laughter followed by an unintellible stream of Korean, and then me being pulled somewhere by the arm with absolutely no idea what is happening. I spend most of my time smiling, laughing, and looking confused.

My host mom is a really nice lady, although I have to admit I feel frustrated with her on occasion (it's just a really hard situation for both of us and I feel bad about it, but still). I am a huge burden for her, and I'm reasonably certain she thinks I'm a freak. The sacrifices Korean mothers make for their kids are pretty amazing (it's pretty clear that the reason I'm living here is to help the boys improve their English). She feeds me breakfast and dinner every day, is mainly responsible for (futile attempts at) giving me an idea of what's going on, and has had to make room for me and my mountain of stuff in her tiny, jam-packed apartment. She studies English with me and on her own and gets really worried if I have to be left alone for even short amounts of time. She definitely gets a big kick out of me, as she laughs hysterically about almost every single thing that I do or say. My frustration really just comes down to the language barrier--many, many times a day my host mother will say something in Korean that I don't understand, and I will respond with "I don't understand" (in Korean). Then she will say the sentence again, look at me, and then say "Yongorul" (which means English). I will say again that I don't understand, and then she will say "Yongo" (English again...the 'rul' thing is just a particle that, believe me, you don't want to know about) in a louder voice. So I say again that I don't understand, and she will get very close to my face and say the word or sentence again really loudly and then say "YONG-O-RUL," and then "ENGRISHY," like that is the part I don't understand. This exchange happens many times a day and has never resulted in me figuring out what she is trying to say.

My host little brothers are both absolutely adorable. Their names are Kibom and Kiyeong, and I already feel really attached to them. They seem to like me a lot too, although it's mainly due to the fact that I can run faster than they can. According to the Korean age system they are 12 and 10 years old respectively, which means that in American they are 10-11 and 8-9. They are tiny though...I would probably have guessed Kiyeong's age at about 6. They are both hyper and full of enthusiasm about everything--they're always running and jumping and destroying things. They like to capture all the giant, nasty bugs that live around here and bring them to me to wonder at. They're not scared to try out every English word they can think of, usually at the tops of their lungs. They are both taekwondo blackbelts so they often do crazy things like run up and flip off walls or jump up, spin around, and then kick the other one in the face. It's a little like being in a video game. They also have to study more than I have ever studied in my life--school is not even in session for them right now, and they both spent 10 hours in the library on Saturday studying diligently. Kibom gets a lot of pressure from his mom to practice speaking English with me. She will say something in Korean and order him to say it to me in English. We also read two English books together every evening and sometimes in the morning too. He has a lot of responsibility in leading me around places and giving me information, and he takes this very seriously. Kiyeong is completely carefree and has the cutest smile I've ever seen. He is probably my favorite person ever. We communicate really well even though we can't really speak to each other at all. He likes holding my hand, coming and sitting with me in my room and playing with my mousepad, playing games with me (although he makes no attempt at telling me the rules), and making faces.

My host dad works all day, and has only been home for dinner once. He is this giant, muscular man, but seems pretty quiet and is really nice to me. He is affectionate, in sort of a rough way, with the two kids, and it is really cute to see. Every evening he comes home and rings the doorbell. The whole family, myself included, lines up at the door to insa him (bow and say hello formally). He then settles down in front of the T.V. and the rest of the family scrambles to bring him whatever he wants. His job is somewhat of a mystery. The little piece of paper that Fulbright gave us about our homestay families translates as "self-employed ironsmith," and my host mom, a dictionary, and I spent 45 minutes deciding that he is a "self-employed maker of doors."

Everyone at my school is really nice too, although most of them seem to be scared of me. The principal is a pretty laid back guy who cracks me up. He has two stock English phrases, "Hello," and "Numbah 1." This last is delivered right in my face with a big thumbs up. He doesn't let anyone at the school speak Korean to me, and will yell any any teacher who dares. Almost all of the teachers are too embarrassed to speak English, so they mainly just giggle at me and gesture. The vice principal is more formal, but very kind. He worked very hard to learn my last name and calls me "Chebuske," (not Cara Chebuske or Miss Chebuske or Chebuske teacher, just Chebuske), and worries a lot that I am not eating enough.

Food here ranges from delicious to difficult to gag down. This morning I woke up to a big pot of throat-scorchingly spicy fish soup, rice, little anchovy things with the heads and eyes still on, and kimchi (fermented cabbage covered in chili pepper). There was, of course, nothing to drink with this meal; the soup provided all necessary fluid intake. I also found out that yesterday the small, rubbery things I was smilingly told to ingest were actually snails from the local pond. Hooray schisto. Overall though, my host mom is a really good cook, if a little overly attached to seafood (her kimchi is wicked good, just not for breakfast).

I'm eating a ton here, mainly because no one, either at school or at my homestay--English levels at both places are very low, and my Korean is pretty much nonexistent--has any idea how to deal with me. They have all resorted to shoving food at me whenever I start to ask questions they don't understand. The result of this is that I have no idea when/what/who/how I'm teaching, I can't get my host family to let me unpack, and I drink about 20 cups of instant coffee a day--often one right after another. I'm also given tons of random meals and snacks. For example, yesterday in addition to all the coffee I had breakfast, two packages of nasty Ritz "cheese" crackers (they were sweet), lunch, lunch no. 2, ramen, a bag of disgusting shrimp-flavored crisps (I threw them away as soon as I was unmonitored), 3 popsicles, dinner, fruit, 3 marshmellow chocobars, a late night meal of fried chicken and pickled radishes, more fruit, and then (my fav) just before bed my host mom went to the fridge and pulled out a plastic bag that contained a mix of peanuts, lemon hard candies, and dried squid. She topped this off with some hot, sweetened fish skin. I am not kidding. Really.

My biggest problem here is definitely that, despite contractual stipulations, I have neither a bed nor a room of my own. I sleep on a yo (which is an upgrade from the first three nights when it was just me, blanket, floor) in a room that is communal space. I don't mind the floor thing--it's definitely preferable to kicking family members out of their beds, and the communal space thing has both ups and downs (I have to dress in terror, and I can't skype or use ichat whenever I want to. But, last night I was lying on my "bed" reading and Kiyeong just came right in and snuggled up next to me to show me his comic book and read next to me. It made me happy). The bad thing is that I can't unpack my stuff. It's driving me absolutely crazy to still be living out of my suitcase. I've tried talking about this to my host mom and teachers at my school, but so far all I've managed to get is 7 hangers and some space to hang them on. I want shelves! and drawers!