Posts Tagged 'culture'

How to fend off evangelical Koreans…

Korea, for some reason or another, has a tremendous number of various sorts of evangelical Christians.  There are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses galore, as well as your standard run-of-the-mill crazy Southern Baptist you-will-burn-in-hell-for-dancing type evangelicals.  And man, they are really evangelical.  Very persistent, and very bold in stating their beliefs.  In class the other day, we were talking about Tibet, and I mentioned that I have met the Dalai Lama, and one of the students blurted out “Some day I want to meet him and tell him that he needs to find God or he and all his people will burn in hell.”.  Those are her verbatim words.  I honestly didn’t know how to respond to such a thing being said in an academic setting, and so I just nervously changed the subject.

However, I digress.

I mentioned the high number (and high tenacity) of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses at the beginning, and that’s really what this (originally supposed to be humorous) post is about.  I get approached at LEAST 2-3 times a week by one or more of them (they often travel as families, and they all speak excellent English), and I have begun to find it downright irritating.

But recently, I have discovered a really hilarious way to deal with it.

They almost all start off by saying something akin to “Do you have a moment?  I’d like to tell you about my faith.” before they start off on trying to hook you or push their literature into your (generally unwilling) hands.  Well, I have begun to have a bit of fun with this.  After that first question/statement, they generally ask “Are you a Christian?”.  I have begun to answer this with “Well, I’m a Quaker.” (which I consider to be true, these days) when they ask said question.  They almost invariably reply with “What is a Quaker?”, to which I reply…

“Well, do you have a moment?  I’ll tell you about it…”

The look of panic on their faces when they realize their own tables have been turned on them is priceless, and they almost always begin to stutter and then eventually leave.  Yay for beating them at their own game.  It has become quite entertaining, actually.

crossposted to Shut Up and Listen

From Namwon…


Temple Ceiling

Temple Ceiling

“Teachaa wear purple bras! I see her!”

Awkward moment a little while ago:

It started pouring down rain, and I realized that I had laundry out on the line (dryers are a luxury only for the majorly rich here) attempting to dry. I was wearing a pair of boxers and my bra, and ran outside into the rain to drag the laundry in. As I was frantically trying to undo the pins, I heard laughing, and looked up to see that two of my students, one boy, one girl, were standing on the small ledge that looks into my house’s courtyard, laughing at me.

Great. Never gonna live this one down.

I love living in the countryside, but the fact that I see my students EVERYWHERE means that I have very little privacy, which can actually get quite exhausting, over time, and often is actively irritating. This is a prime example, as is hearing “Teachaa, what beer you drink?” the next day at school after they see me sitting outside the Family Mart with the other foreigners, drinking. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do about it, other than to continue to teach them that just because we’re foreigners doesn’t make their actions suddenly not rude.

There will be more on this topic later.


Sorry for taking so long, but I’ve been working and I don’t have reliable internet yet.

My first few days here were hard.  The culture shock was pretty heavy, even for me.  I have traveled a lot, but Asia is, well, non-Western, and it’s a much bigger shock than I had anticipated.  At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it here, but the place is growing on me.  So, take some of the negative things I said at the beginning with a grain of salt.  It was more frustration than anything, I think.

In other news, I’m able to eat more western food than I thought I would, here.  I found yogurt, so in the morning I have yogurt, sausage patties, and eggs.  It’s a bit protein-heavy, but I get tired during the day.  My students are very tiring, as they are quite ill-behaved.  Korean food is mostly carbs and vegetables, with a small amount of pork or fish as a side dish.  It’s good, but not very conducive to keeping me awake.

In other news, it’s almost June and I just turned on my heat.   It gets down to about 55-60 at night (last night my thermometer said 14˚C).  Before this, I had slept with my windows open, to allow some air circulation, but 60 is a bit chilly for that.  Unfortunately, the heating is done through water pipes in the floor.  While it’s very nice when you’re sitting on the floor, or walking/standing, it takes awhile to dissipate into the air.  I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually.  One thing that I’m having trouble with is remembering to turn on the water heater in the morning.  You see, when you have the heat on, it’s *on*, kind of how a stove is on until you turn it off.  It doesn’t turn off when things get warm (well, the floor heat does, but not the water), so if you’re not careful, you’ll go through heating oil pretty fast.  So, if you’re not using hot water, you turn the heater off.  But, it takes about 10-15 minutes to get up to temperature, once turned on, so you have to plan your showers accordingly.  All but this morning I have forgotten to turn it on.  Sometimes I get in the bathroom, turn the water on, and then stand there for three or four minutes before remembering why it’s not hot yet.  I have made myself a note, that I have taped to the door between the main room, where my bed is, and the rest of the apartment (the kitchen, bathroom, entryway, small second room).  I keep that door closed at night, to limit the sounds from the rest of the apartment (pipes, etc), so in the morning, it’s the first thing I see.  My morning routine is such:


  • 1. Boil water.  Since the water is not generally good to drink here, I boil a pot of water in the morning and put it in the fridge.  I use that to brush my teeth, wash my face, etc.  I use bottled water to drink
  • 2. Turn on hot water.
  • 3. Put boiled water in fridge.
  • 4. Turn off stove gas line.  (I also have a note about this on my door.  I’m so worried about leaving the apartment with the gas on.)
  • 5. Turn off hot water.


Sometime today I’ll do a video walkthrough of my apartment, and stick it up in the podcast section.  My apartment isn’t bad, but it certainly has “character”.


True Stereotype #1

One nice thing about living in “rural” Korea (my opinion of what is “rural” clearly differs from theirs) is that there are nice, natural places to walk within a short distance of my apartment.  From my roof I can see rice paddies, and they’re only about a 5 minute walk away.  I’m considering taking morning walks through them, depending on how early I find myself waking up in the mornings.  It’s definitely nice to have them so close, because they are so peaceful in comparison to my town, which is pretty universally full of crazy drivers and smelly side streets of decaying, ramshackle buildings.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the smell can be a bit much at times, and I can’t really safely walk with my headphones on, because I’d probably be hit by a car within 5 minutes.  Thankfully, my school is literally right around the corner (as is the educational office), so I don’t really have to go into town except for groceries and supplies, and right now, for internet.



It is very strange to be living so close to something which I had previously considered a stereotype about Asia.  At the same time, having the rice paddies so nearby makes the town feel a bit more like my definition of a rural area.  It’s not exactly what I’d call “bucolic”, but it’s better than nothing.


On the effects of humidity in sub-tropical Korea…

Having grown up in Houston, where it’s so humid you can basically feel the atmosphere on your skin, I thought I would be prepared for the humidity here.  I was wrong.  Well, partly, anyway.  I am fine with the humidity itself, especially since the nights are cooler due to the proximity of the town to the ocean.  However, what I was not prepared for was how the Koreans deal with it.  Or rather, how they don’t.

Koreans, as far as I can tell, are not big fans of air conditioning, and they’re not overly fond of oscillating fans either.  The result is that when you walk into a store or restaurant (or, for that matter, my apartment), the air is virtually the same as it is outside, and, in restaurants, frequently slightly warmer.  It is good that I spent three summers living in Boston, where most people don’t have air conditioning either, or this would be an even bigger shock to my system. 
The other side effect of this seeming lack of concern about the humidity is that the town as a whole is very dingy and moldy.  Thankfully it does not appear to be any of the bad kinds of mold, but I will not be surprised if I return to the US with a mold allergy next summer.  They don’t seem to take too much care of their buildings, letting mold grow not only on the outer walls but sometimes the inner walls as well.
When you combine this with their habit of throwing trash on the street (which I find odd, considering this country is generally obsessed with recycling everything) and of urinating on the walls, it means that the town as a whole has quite a distinct smell.  I wouldn’t quite qualify it as a “stench” just yet (we’ll see if I say that when August rolls around), but it is definitely not something I would prefer to be smelling as I wander around getting food from street markets.  Thankfully, I’d estimate that you can’t walk more than two miles in any given direction without hitting a mountain of some sort, so I’m hoping that in the afternoons after school I can go hiking, or take a bus to the pretty beach I keep seeing in pictures.  That way I’ll be able to minimize the amount of time I end up spending in the town itself.   
I had forgotten that rural Asia is not like rural America.  Well, perhaps it is similar to rural West Virginia, or one of the more depressed central-South states, but it is certainly not like rural New England or even rural Louisiana, for that matter.  I think that this strange combination of neon lights and run-down-buildings is probably the biggest piece of culture shock that I have experienced thus far.

I am considering purchasing a moped of some sort, depending on how much they cost, at some point, provided that I can sell it when I leave.  I need to figure out how far away the beach is, but I think that having a moped would allow me a great deal more freedom in moving around the island.  I don’t think I would use it here in town all that much, but I could certainly see it being useful to get around to the other little villages.  I will have to ask around and determine how much they cost.  I may not get one because it will probably take a couple months for me to have enough money saved for it and to pay for my part of Marc’s trip here to Korea, but we shall see.  I think that being able to go somewhere other than the town on my own schedule, even if it’s just to another dingy village, would probably make me feel less claustrophobic.

News and Observations

Positive side of living on the Korean island known for its famous dogs: I never have to worry about eating dog, and there are friendly dogs everywhere that I can pet.

Negative side of living on the Korean island known for its famous dogs: The cacophony of barking at all hours. IT NEVER ENDS.

My apartment is big, but a little on the dingy side. But, that’s not the end of the world. For Hampshire-people, it’s about the level of dinginess of Greenwich. Supposedly they may move me to a newly renovated apartment in 2 months. We’ll see. That would be nice. I’d settle for a smaller place if it was newer. Though, I do have a bathtub, which is pretty awesome. Bathtubs are very rare here, and are considered something of a luxury item.

The weather is nice, though. It’s probably about 65˚F (18˚C) right now, and the mountains are shrouded in mist.


A few observations and notes thus far:



  • People drive like madmen here. It’s insane. I have witnessed SO many near-accidents here, including ones involving the car I’m in! No way in hell will I ever drive here.
  • Korean food is less spicy than I was led to believe (with the exception of kimchi, which I can barely eat two bites of), though virtually everything is spicy to some degree. The upside of this is that I drink water like a fiend here, which I never did in the US.
  • FOOD IS SO CHEAP! Like, a whole watermelon = 4,000won ($4). A can of real, 100% juice from a vending machine = 700won (.70 cents). A Coke from a vending machine = 600won (.60 cents). My co-teacher and supervisor(? – I’m still not quite sure what she is in relation to me) took me out to lunch yesterday, and we had a huge meal for three people, for about $15.
  • The food here is really healthy. Very, very balanced diet. It makes my burps taste funny though.
  • Their milk smells weird. I keep thinking it’s spoiled, when it’s not.
  • My washing machine sings a little song when you start it. I assume it does the same when it’s finished. Drying my laundry here is going to be somewhat of a task, because, being an island, it’s very humid here, and everyone line-dries their laundry. I guess it will keep me from waiting until the last minute to do laundry, though, which has always been a bad habit of mine.
  • I am convinced that Koreans hate air conditioning. I have now driven in three cars, and everyone opens the windows instead of using the (perfectly functional) air conditioner. They don’t use them in their homes either, even when they have them.
  • Koreans hate fans. This, plus the above, means I am always feeling slightly damp and warm, even when it’s in the 60s. Apparently they have some weird superstitious belief that if you have a fan on and the windows closed, you will die. Yeah, I have a really hard time not laughing at that one when they say it. As a result, if they have a fan (or air conditioning, which they consider to be related to a fan) running, they have the window open as well. The same thing goes in winter, apparently – they leave the heat on full blast, but keep the windows open. I had heard that Koreans go through heating oil like crazy, and now I think I know why.
  • Peter, they have those little Japanese chocolate mushroom cookies that you like, here. They’re everywhere, in fact. The boxes cost 500won (.50 cents). Pocky (which I have seen, but not as frequently), is similarly cheap. Man, I had no idea what a premium Americans pay to get it.
  • My mattress is hard as a rock. For now, I have laid down the (rather old and dingy) blankets they gave me on top of the mattress, and then covered them with my sheets, to make something of a really ineffectual featherbed. I need to buy myself a blanket. The ones they gave me push my OCD buttons in the wrong way. Mysterious stains = Kelsey trying to sleep without actually touching the blanket (thank god I brought my own sheets).
  • My apartment needs some serious cheerfulness, and soon. I can deal with lumpy linoleum and random mold spots (not huge, but enough to make it look dingy), so long as I have things around me that make it feel more homey. So, as soon as I figure out what the hell my address is, and how to recieve mail, I would absolutely love to get small mail from you guys. Little things to remind me of home would be awesome. I brought some photos, but that’s about it. In exchange, I would be glad to send things to you guys as well, if you give me requests.
  • The bus station has little computer terminals that you can play Diablo II, City of Heroes, and World of Warcraft on. And yet, I have yet to find open wireless. Bizarre.
  • The govt. is in the process of changing the national standards for romanization of words. This means that I see more than one name for places when I’m looking at signs, documents, etc. Not too bad, but certainly confusing at times. Examples are (old version first): Pusan = Busan, Kwangju = Gwangju, Cheollanamdo = Jeollanamdo. It’s not too hard to figure out, but it means I sometimes have to take a second look at things.
  • Holy crap, so much staring. Little kids point and giggle, and old ladies look at me like I’m some sort of strange animal. I’ve had 4 women tell me (according to my co-teacher, who translates for me) that I’m pretty/beautiful. I’ll have to be careful, or this is going to go to my head. According to my co-teacher and the woman I’m replacing, I will likely be the first blonde-haired person my students have ever seen outside of a movie or TV. This should be…interesting.
  • My supervisor’s daughters think Marc is very handsome and that he looks like a movie star (I was showing them photos of my friends). I agree on the handsome bit, but I still find it really funny. Marc, they also think you’re like, a giant, for being 6 feet tall.
  • They are mindboggled that I speak more than English. I spoke a little bit of French and German for my supervisor’s kids, and they thought it was like, the coolest thing ever.
  • Most people here, despite going through a minimum of 8 years of mandatory English classes, speak next to no English. I knew their language education system was bad, but man, it must truly be terrible. I guess I’ll find out soon enough!



Okay, that’s enough for now. My co-teacher is coming by in a few hours to take me out and show me around. I need to buy some groceries, cleaning supplies (the bathroom, kitchen, and fridge could all use a wipedown), a blanket, and a power strip. Later in the week I need to get a lamp (so my only source of light is not the ugly overhead), some clothes hangers, a rug, and a water purifier (or bottled water). I’m not supposed to drink the water (even restaurants use bottled water), especially here on the island, which is way, way more inconvenient than I had previously realized. I strongly suspect that when at home here in the apartment, I’ll probably drink mostly juice (which is common and cheap here), and save my water for things like brushing my teeth.

After that, I’m going to go to the internet cafe I saw earlier, to see if I can use their wireless. It’ll be a few weeks before I get wireless here at my apartment, because I can’t get it until I get my ARC (alien registration card – the Korean equivalent of a green card), and that may take a couple weeks. Thankfully, internet cafes are like 200won ($2) an hour here, and they give you free food and drinks, so it’s not so bad. I need to figure out what their hours are though. I hope they’re open late, so I can chat with you guys today. I’ll try to get down there tomorrow morning, so I can chat with you all (it’ll be Saturday night for you folks) for sure before I start work on Monday. During the week I’ll probably be harder to get ahold of, due to the time difference and my work schedule, but during the weekends, I should be okay.

I’m mostly over my jetlag, after only two nights and a day. Not bad, for a 14 hour difference.

One more thing: Okay, it’s officially weird that I now qualify as an “expat”. WEIRD. Also, by Korean standards, I’m classified as a Civil Servant. ALSO WEIRD.

July 2020

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