As our time in Korea comes to a close, I decided to honor our profession and our experience abroad with the ABC’s of being an expat teacher in this great peninsula!
A is for Anju, the most amazing drinking concept since beer pong. Never give into a late-night urge for drunchies when you have endless amounts of everything from peanuts and french fries to nachos and rice snacks coming to your table with the beer.
B is for beondegi, the most wretched stench/snack combination ever concocted. Let’s take silk worm pupa, boil them until crunchy and putrid, then serve them with beer! Um… let’s not. Barf.
Runners-up: bibimbap, Busan
D is for dakgalbi — the cheesy, noodley, oh-so-naughty Korean dish that is so comforting and homey that I had to try to recreate it at home!
Runner-up: Deepin and Deepinto
E is for E-Mart, since we couldn’t have survived without this mega-store around the corner.
F is for fan death. There isn’t anything better than an isolated population believing that you could die from leaving a fan on inside of a room and shutting the door. It will suck out all of the oxygen! Or wait… no, no it won’t.
G is for gamjatang, the spicy pork-back soup that takes you straight into the home of (someone’s) Korean grandmother as she slowly stirs the pot, adding spices just so and making the most perfect bowl of stew you could ever dream up. BEST Korean food. Hands down.
H is for holidays — from the traditional American ones (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day) to the special Korean days (Chu Seok, Solnal, Pepero Day) where we got a taste of real Korean tradition. A rare and wonderful experience.
I is for Itaewon, the “America” away from home and the only place to find hunger-satisfying foreign food, a multi-cultural community and normal-sized clothing all in one place.
J is for Jeonju, forever my home away from home.
K is for kimchi, the national dish of Korea and the star in culinary delights such as kimchi jjigae and kimchi bokumbap!
Runner-up: K-Pop (aka pure musical gold)
L is for Little River Day School, where I had the pleasure of working this past year — it brought me good friends, great memories and taught me a thing or two about teaching (patience. lots of patience.)
M is for the annual Mud Festival in Boryeong! From the rain and the endless amount of mud slides and pits, to the shower-less hotel and the amazing sea food, our experience at this yearly foreigner fun fest was one to remember!
O is for octopus! I’ve never eaten so much of the sea creatures as I have in Korea — from live and wriggling to boiled nicely in a pan, I can say that I will never eat so much octopus again. Trust.
P is for Pizza School, the one place we could run away to and forget we had limited access to all of the foods we were craving — well, we could forget if we ignored pictures of things like sweet potato paste, corn, hot dogs and crumbled tortilla chips and other blasphemous toppings on the various pizzas.
Runner-up: Pizza Maru
Q is for Quiznos, which saved me from sliding into a deep sandwich-less depression over the past year. Every time we went to Seoul, this little gem was on the itinerary, pumping life into me with every bite of the Italian-style sub. Nom nom.
R is for Radio Star, the rockin’ live music venue that has hosted a multitude of awesome bands, kick-ass parties, fundraisers and general debauchery.
S is for sonsaengniiiim, the never-ending cry for (usually Korean) teachers heard by English hagwon workers around the country. So much for not speaking Korean in the class.
T is for Trailer Park Boys, which is (thanks to our good friend Chris) one of our new favorite shows. You’ll never be the same after you experience the hilarity that is these guys from Nova Scotia (especially if you have real Nova Scotians to compare them to)
U is for the Ulsan Cup 2010, one of the best weekends I had during this experience. Me and my girlfriends (the cheerleaders) spent two days rooting, burger-ing and (trying to) cartwheel as the men of JUFC kicked their way to football victory — without ever conceding a goal!
V is for V-Day, the anti-violence campaign that I, along with other committee members, donated time and energy into from October to April, culminating in performances of one of Eve Ensler’s amazing collection of monologues, and a kick-ass concert.
W is for Wa Bar, our (ex) watering hole where we spent many a night icing each other, playing rounds of kings cup and cheering on the USA team in the World Cup — all while enjoying free baskets of french fries. R.I.P. Seoshin-dong location.
X is for xenophobia, the interesting phenomenon that I’ve experienced here. In America, people fight to stand out the most, while being “different” is generally shunned and avoided in Korean culture.
Y is for the year that I’ve been away. The longest I’ve ever been away from home, the time it took to build a new home here in Korea, and one of the scariest/best/awe-inspiring years of my life. I’ve grown so much and am going back a better person because of it!
Z is for zero, the number of regrets I have about leaving my life in the States to try my hand at being a teacher. With my best friend/boyfriend by my side, we made a lot of great memories.