Sunday, December 28, 2008

ReadingTown/Avalon End of the Year Party

Last night, our schools hosted an end of the year party. Our boss talked about the "history" of our company even though it's not that old and basically how he made it great. Then we had a super delicious buffet. It must have had fifty different dishes to load your plates with. I ate so much sushi and sashimi! 
Me, Caitlin, Haewon, Rebekah, and Lisa

Here are some of my coworkers and Sue, the Director, is second from the right. (It's safe to say I have mixed feelings about her, but everyone else is sweet and really nice to work with).
Then there was the talent show portion of the evening. This past week was one of the most frustrating disorganized weeks at ReadingTown. Everyone was stressed because we were starting our Intensive session the day after Christmas and there wasn't a lot of time to prepare for it, which also didn't leave much time to enjoy Christmas either. So, this week we were all also supposed to prepare something to do with our group for the talent show. Yeah right. Our group decided to do an improvisational skit talking about what we should do for the talent show. It was meant to really jab at our boss and the insane idea that we were supposed to plan and practice something this week! WE WON! I thought we were going to get the "dead last" award, but we won. 

Matt organized a skit with the other foreign guys called, "Making Beans". They were really funny and got second place. Here is a video of the award winning "Making Beans" and Matt's debut as a thespian. 


Matt and I went to Seoul last weekend instead of exchanging gifts this year. We wanted to see some art, eat some international food, which is difficult to come by in Gwangju, and see the mega-city of Korea. One fifth of Korea's population lives in Seoul, it's huge. 

I apologize for the lack of description in this post- I'm feeling lame. Here are some more pictures from the weekend.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Cell Phone Stitch

Every cell phone needs a bauble.

Here is my newest stitch. These are our cell phones with their baubles.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas in Korea

Unfortunately, being abroad for a year means even though you are exploring and doing new things, you still miss the good stuff about home... like Christmas.... with your family... and your friends.... and not much can be done about it. 

Alas, there is still a bit of Christmas in Korea. There is the occasional tree in a store window, some kids are mentioning it at school unlike at home where every kid is hardwired into Christmas over drive right now. My foreign co-workers and I switch between groans about missing home and squeals when packages of presents and cards arrive from home. Groan- no real tree or ornaments, squeal- one week 'til Christmas! Groan- No roast turkey or grandma's baking, squeal- our first day off months! One of my coworkers has begun playing Christmas music in our teachers' room to try to feel Christmas-y. I think he has the Xmas blues the worst.  

On the up-side, this will be my first of hopefully many Christmases with Matt. I've done a bit of holiday decorating around our apartment. Last Saturday, we went on a hunt for pine boughs.  Unable to find any pine the woods behind our building (bamboo just doesn't feel so Christmasy), I made an ethical decision that I needed the pine from that apartment complex's landscaping more than they did and that they probably wouldn't miss the shopping bag's worth I took. I spent the rest of the day making a wreath, paper snow flakes and arranging pine boughs and candles in empty glass bottles. 

This is the wreath I made out of fresh hijacked pine on our front door. It's a little lop-sided, but it gives it character. 

This is my "Christmas Altar". I threw a blanket on our TV, which we hardly watch anyway and added a few festive touches. I found directions for making these snowflakes here. I made the little Christmas tree by balling up little pieces of magazine paper on a cardboard cone with double stick tape. Its intended size was about twice as big, but it was a slow process so I cut it down. Below are some presents from my parents and grandparents and a card from Utah! We are excited to open them Christmas morning. 

Matt and I have decided to forego gifts for one another in exchange for a weekend in Seoul. We have been in Korea for seven months, but have yet to make it to the ultra modern mega city of Korea. We are going in search of art, western food, a theater show, and hopefully some Christmas lights and decorations. All of these things can be sparse in Gwangju. We will take the train up early Saturday morning. 

On Christmas day, we  will get together with our friends for some wine, food and probably a secret santa exchange.  I miss you all at home and it'll be a blue Christmas without you..... 

Monday, December 15, 2008


This past Saturday a few of us decided to visit a local norebang (a small kareoke room that you rent with friends by the hour) in our neighborhood. We first tried one, the Tomato Norebang, that was across the street from our apartment building. Our building is on an essentially abandoned block, so we did not expect much. It was weird and kind of sketchy, so we left and walked to a more legit norebang.  

It can safely be assumed that if you are Korean and drinking heavily with friends or co-workers, you might end up at a norebang. It is an extrememly popular activity and they are peppered along any street that has a bar or drinking establishment. It is so popular because it is so fun!!! You choose the song and level of embarrassment and then rock out. At the end of the song, the machine gives you a score out of 100. I don't think it goes lower than 80 to not hurt their users' self-esteem. We definitely should have gotten some Cs, Ds, and Fs for our performances. If only those karaoke machines could see our performances instead of hearing them, we surely would have gotten better scores! As you can see below, we were rocking out. 
Here, I think, we are rocking out to some Led Zeppelin. Norebang rock star. 

I think these could be a big hit in America. Matt and I have all kinds of plans for Korean things that would be really popular in America. Don't steal them! 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving in Korea

As we were all far away from our families and we all had to work on Thursday, we had a Thanksgiving get together at our place on Saturday. We pulled all over resources, pots, pans, and tiny kitchens together to come up with the closest we could to an American Thanksgiving. I think we did a pretty good job. We couldn't find turkey without going an hour an half away to a Costco, so we did with chicken. I made a potato soup, some chicken, and gravy. We also had stuffing, mashed potatoes, and a little Korean food and a little curry. 
Here are Kelly and Nasil piecing a chicken in our very full tiny kitchen. Below is part of our Thanksgiving Spread. This photo is lacking a delicious salad Caitlin and Justin made and Kelly's pumpkin pie.
Here is Stu enjoying his plateful even though he's British and doesn't know a thing about Thanksgiving!

Then we drank too much wine and beer and were too merry for the rest of the night. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Gwangju Stitch!

Here is my most recent embroidery. It's the view from the rooftop of my school building. We have our lunch room on the roof. Korea has an interesting skyline. Most buildings are no more than four stories except for these giant high-rise apartment buildings. They speckle the skyline, which makes them seem more overbearing than if all the buildings were that tall, like in New York City. Korea has really lost their eye for architecture in the name of rapid growth. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Matt is a bum / It's snowing in Gwangju!

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present evidence article number 1:
This is Mr. Raue sitting next to a very large heap of climbing equipment remaining from aforementioned climbing trip. Please note, that on this heap, is  a note. Also note, that he is just eating some nuts. 
This leads me to evidence article number 2: the note on the heap. 

The defendant has "gotten home" several times since this note was laid. The court of Ashley's blog finds Matt Raue guilty on the charges of being a bum. Mr. Raue is now subject to being called a "bum" for an indefinite period of time. 

In other news..... It snowed in Gwangju last night! It has hardly been that cold until this week. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

(Not) Climbing Trip

This weekend, Matt, our new friend and recent arrival to Korea- Shane, and I went to Seonusan Provincial Park to go climbing. Well, I didn't climb. I just tagged along to get outside and enjoy the end of fall while it's still not too cold and there are still a few colorful trees. Matt and I went to this park earlier this summer to try to find the climbing, but we failed to find it.  This time we found the cliffs and the other foreign climbers that Matt planned to meet online. He was really psyched to do some outdoor climbing. 
I spent most of the afternoon sitting on top of the rock that Matt and many other people were climbing. I ate my sandwich, worked on my embroidery, and even laid down and took a nap while sun was still warming the rock.  

We stayed overnight at the base of the park. Matt stayed in the park Sunday to climb more, but Shane and I headed back to Gwangju. But before we left, we decided to check out Gochangeupseong Fortress. It was just a short walk from the Gochang bus terminal. Gochang is the closest city to Seonusan Park. The inside of the fortress was full of your standard traditional Korean buildings, but the wall surrounding the fortress was pretty cool. This fortress was built mainly by women, but I haven't found out yet why. It is said that if a woman walks the wall three times during a leap month with a stone on her head her life will be prolonged and will probably go straight to heaven after death. I was going to walk it three  times, but I found out I need a stone and it needed to be a leap month once I got there. So we only went half-way around. 
Below is the wall with a view of the little city of Gochang, known for its bokbuncha, raspberry liquor, and watermelons. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stitchin' on Paper

Here is a little experiment I did on some very grassy and fibrous paper I bought from a Korean  paper store. It's holds up to stitching better than I would have guessed. Maybe my next project will be on this paper. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pepero Day!

November 11th is Pepero Day! Peperos are cookie-like sticks dipped in chocolate. The Pepero company invented this holiday to sell more of their snack candies and it worked! School children all over Korea (and probably Japan, too) buy tons of Peperos and give them to their friends or in my case- to their teachers. Pepero Day is on November 11th because 11/11 resembles the silhouette of the stick-shaped snack.

 As an adult, this feels ridiculous and I think most adults feel this way, but the kids love it. Matt told some of his students last week that Pepero Day was invented by the company. A few of them realized that this was a ploy on children to make more money and were outraged. Matt may have started a tiny Pepero revolution, but it will take a lot more to take on this day- PEPERO DAY! On Monday night, I saw a girl buy about twenty boxes of Pepero at the little mart near my apartment. All day there were freezing convenience store workers standing outside trying to hawk more Peperos. I laughed at them wrapped in blankets selling these candies after work (Disclaimer- I didn't laugh at their misfortune, just laughing because it wasn't really that cold.) Below is a photo of my Pepero stash received from students. I have even given some away already. Matt said he ate all of his at school and doesn't want to eat any more Peperos.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekend of Not Boozing our Faces Off

Almost every weekend in October was one our friend's birthdays or my birthday or Halloween. We did a lot of boozing and we were all starting to feel it. So, this weekend everyone independently decided to sober up a bit and get outside. Matt, Kent, and I went to Wolchusan National Park for a hike. It's only about an hour and a half from Gwangju and very beautiful. It's a pretty rough hike, for me anyhow, it was pretty up and down. Parts were steep. My thighs are still sore two days later. It was about a six hour hike. However, there were sweet views around every corner and there is also a sweet suspension bridge. 

Koreans leave the cities in great numbers for hiking on the weekends. Well, middle aged adults do. Young Koreans are hardly interested in hiking for the most part. You are never alone on the mountain and everyone has better gear than you do. Anything short of head to toe breathable high performance gear from head to toe is pretty unacceptable. If you see anyone on the mountain with a sub-par gear ensemble, they are probably a foreigner. Despite their gear, they are rather friendly, or can be. One group of men sat us down on their rock and literally shoved food in my mouth as I sat down. They gave us cold beer and offered us a bunch of food and some soju. 
What is this crazy miguk girl doing on this mountain in cotton?!?!? That is not gear! Also, the sweet aforementioned suspension bridge. 

Hiker on top of the next peak.

Fall happening in a valley. 
The gingko trees turn bright yellow in fall (on the mountain anyway- I'm still waiting for this yellow on the gingkos in my neighborhood). 

This is Matt reading some of his poems at an open mic on Saturday night. 

Also, because we didn't booz hard, I got out of the apartment before noon on Sunday and caught the things I hadn't seen yet in the Gwangju Biennale that were scattered at different locations throughout town. I went to a little museum on Mudeung mountain, the Gwangju Museum of Art, and checked out the installations at Daein Market- a traditional fish market near downtown. I took advantage of the free shuttle the Biennale offered and saved a bunch in cab fare. It was a pretty cool thing to have in Gwangju. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Halloween in Korea

Halloween is a largely North American phenomenon. However, it is a greatly treasured N.A. phenomenon and foreigners in Korea are basically unwilling to give it up even though there's no Halloween in Korea. My friends and fellow foreign teachers around Gwangju wore our costumes to school on Friday and got the kids all excited about Halloween. Maybe in 10 or 15 years, so many foreign English teachers will have brought Halloween to Korean children that it will become popular. I think it would be a meaningful cultural exchange- Koreans probably need more zombies or "sexy ___(insert fun costume here)___". 

(Here are my Gwangju friends. From left to right: Leah- pregnant; Caitlin- Eve; Song- Bar Owner who like Foreigners; Kelly- Doll; Haewon- Pirate Girl; Steve- Pirate; Matt- My Man Martian; Stuart- in a borrowed Lee Myung Bak mask, but originally dressed as his gf, Leah; Justin- Adam(to match Eve); and me as Martian. )

We dressed up and went downtown in costume on both Friday and Saturday night. We mostly headed to the foreigner bars, but also wandered the streets, hung out at the Mini-Stop, and scared a few locals. Speakeasy, the most-popular foreigner bar, was packed! We packed in with other waygeuks in costume and enjoyed a band dressed as Ghostbusters. We drank too much and generally had too much fun. I think this coming weekend will be low-key for everyone. 
Oh this? This is some martian love. 

Cross fingers for Obama!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My new favorite song.

This is my new favorite song. It's by my friend, Stuart Beesely from Essex. It's called "Peanut Butter."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ginkgo Embroidery

My latest (kind of) project. I actually started this is June or July, neglected it for a long time, and then finished it September. Now it's late October and I'm finally getting around to posting it! Also, this picture is not very good. This past week, I did a small embroidery for my friend's birthday, but I didn't take a picture of it. This week, I'm busy working, yoga-ing, and working on my Halloween costume! I'm going to be a martian. Yesterday, I rode my bike down to the big market and bought some silver and shiny purple fabrics and gathered other necessary martian supplies.  Then, I begin my next embroidery projects, which will be of Gwangju sky-rise apartment buildings. I'm going to try to be more on top of getting art projects done. We've been here 5 months now. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

You can have a birthday in Korea and it can be longer than one day.

As it turns out, ASHfest is an international festival.  ASHfest 2008 was headquartered this year in Gwangju, South Korea. The day began with shopping at TIMEZONE, our headquarters of cheap Korean fashion. Actually, I think 99% of clothes I've bought in Korea have come from this fine establishment. My girlfriends and I met at 10 am and were there till almost noon. My prized purchase that day- shiny purple leggings that will somehow work into my Halloween costume. 

At work, there was a delicious cake! It was coffee flavored! Surprisingly, Korea really does cakes well. Also, everyone gets at least one cake on their birthday sometimes more. My school buys everyone a cake on their birthday. No one makes cakes because no one has an oven and the store bought cakes are really well done. My first period class surprised me with a lights off "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" when I walked in. They also drew a lovely birthday montage on the white board. 

That evening we decided to have a fairly quiet evening on our roof. (It turned out to be not so quiet and one of our mysterious neighbors who we never see left us a nasty note. Oops.) Leah and Stu stormed in with birthday cake #2!

Matt wrote me a sonnet, which I'm pretty sure he whoo-ed  everyone with, not just me. He also promised me many beauty and bath products, a whole lotta lovin', a delicious sushi dinner, and bottomless respect and adoration. I got a certificate, which means it's real. Below, he is reading the sonnet by candlelight. Poet boyfriends have their ups. 
Too rowdy for Korea!

(I stole the above photos from my friend, Justin- he has a neat camera.)

The next day was the Gwangju Kimchi Festival, one of Gwangju's most talked about festivals. Kimchi as far as the eye can see. I neglected to get a photo of the long and varied kimchi spreads, but these guys were pretty awesome. A: They are the only people I've seen with crazy haircuts to be crazy (not because they think they are fashionable) in Korea. One guy had dreads! There are no dreads in Korea. B: They were playing these sweet hand-made vegetable instruments! They hollowed out gourds, squashes, carrots, and radishes to make instruments. They must be from Seoul. 
Ack! This photo is sideways, but it's Matt making kimchi at the "Foreigner Making Kimchi Experience". You basically rub red pepper sauce and a few other things on cabbage and they put it in a bucket for you to take home. Now, we have a lot of kimchi in our fridge. I doubt we'll eat it all. 
Photo Op with a radish! (Note: I'm holding our bucket of kimchi.)

Saturday was Kent's birthday. This is Kent. We all went out to a steamed pork restaurant.
Then we went back to Stu and Leah's apartment for a fake facial hair party. Matt really fell into his character that evening, Fernando Fernando. I gave myself the ever-stylish chin strap.

Also, here is a video of my friend Leah singing her song, "Take Me From Behind on Tuesdays." She'd be CXXX material if she weren't so Canadian

So, now I'm 24.