Posts Tagged ‘Korea-isms’

Thanks to my fellow English teacher friends for sharing your honest perspectives. Cheers to our own unique blend of Korea! This post is for all of you English teachers out there!


There’s a special kind of tea called omija cha, or five flavor tea, that is known for its unique blend of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent flavors. I really like omija because of its sweetness, sourness, bitterness and tart-ness. It’s almost like pomegranate juice, except all the flavors kind of hit you at the same time. And that’s actually what makes the tea so special.

oh me jaw

Why am I writing about omija tea? I think it’s a good way to describe what Korea has been like for many of us English teachers. A strange mixture of sweet, sour, bitter, and even pungent experiences that come at us all at once. This is something I’ll to refer to as the Five Flavors of Korea. I know there are a myriad of “flavors” (good and bad) in Korea, but just go with my little omija metaphor! I asked some of my English teacher friends to describe their experiences in Korea. Everyone had a different response. Many described their experiences as sweet or bitter, some sour and some even said pungent.

  • Sweet
    Most of my blog posts are about the sweet side of living in Korea. I was fortunate to have been served a sweet blend of omija tea in Korea. I love my school and my co-teacher. My administrator is very generous and all my co-teachers are very good. Even my landlord and landlady are very nice. I don’t have much to complain about to be honest and I feel a bit guilty sometimes when I know some people have worse situations.
    A fellow teacher said, “I was prepared for the culture, as I grew up around it. Moreover, I can describe it as sweet, because after overcoming the many obstacles here, I really feel a sense of strong satisfaction”
  • Bitter
    As one of my friends describes his/her experience, “It’s like experiencing the good and the bad, but having the bad things outweigh the good. Although bitter is something not so horrible, it stills leave this bad taste in your mouth.” Not palatable at all.
  • Pungent
    Another friend describes the transition as very sharp and drastic, like a “crash landing.” “Korea is in the far east! Meaning its friggin far from home!!!! Not only distance wise but also cultural wise! I think I had major culture shock in the beginning! I think my advice would be not to do too much research. I over researched and thus had expectations and thought I knew what I was going to get! Nothing panned out as I had imagined it! Whereas when I worked and traveled in England for a year I had very few expectations thus fewer disappointments! Korea is like a crash landing. It’s rough and wild and completely disorientating, but if you can make it through the impact and find your way through the rubble I think you will be fine! And last, there is a lingering odor of sewage in some parts of town.” How pungent!
  • Sweet-n-Sour
    “Everyday there is something that goes wrong. Or something that is a pain in the ass. Or something that I don’t like. Some days I want to cry and call my mommy.”
    “Then there are days where I literally want to skip to work. Where everything is exciting and new. Where I just want to dance through the streets and smile at every ajumma and ajosshi”
    “Anyway, the experience has been an overall pleasant one with some bumps. I think what it is, is that if you keep an open mind, you’ll have fun. If you’re set in your ways and want the world to change for you, then you’re going to experience problems.”
  • Bittersweet
    “Things are getting easier, but living in a country like Korea is never easy”
    “I love it here! I love challenging myself! And I am having such a great time being here and experiencing everything new! Even teaching, it’s much better than I imagined it would be! I love it here, but the bitter sweet part is that I miss my family and friends so much! On one hand I am sooo happy, if it wasn’t for the missing everyone factor! that’s the hardest part!”

Living in Korea is like drinking omija cha, it’s hard to put a finger on its “flavor”. Is it sweet? Bitter? Good or bad? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell! So we often find ourselves frustrated and confused. Or sometimes it’s hard to decipher our feelings because they change so fast. One moment everything’s as sweet as pie and the next, sour lemons. Wae, omija/Korea??

Or maybe it’s because the flavors seem to blend together. Things aren’t simply sweet, sour or bitter just like things aren’t simply good or bad. It’s everything at the same time! Good and bad and “so-so”. With some input from my English teacher friends, here are five things we’ve learned and observed about living in Korea:

  1. Things will not always be clear-cut. There are times you’ll feel unsure and uncertain. At some point, you’ll feel like that all the time.
  2. Things will not be what you expect. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Definitely keeps you on your toes.
  3. You’re not alone! Use your seonsaengnim network – foreigners and locals. Help each other out.
  4. No matter what people tell you about their experiences, you really won’t know until you get here.
  5. And, every day is a different day. To put a little spin on a classic quote, “Korea is like omija cha; you never know what you’re gonna get.”

We all get served a different mix of this blend. Some have it more bitter and some have it more sweet, but it’s all the same Korea. That’s the good and the dark side of it all. In the end, all I can say is…

Korea is definitely a unique blend

This post is my way of coping with the different facets of living and working in Korea. It was originally a post about how grateful I am to be at my school but how unfair it is that some people are placed in really bad situations. But, it slowly transitioned into a different kind of post. During the process of writing, I realized how much we have in common as English teachers despite how different our experiences have been. We’re all in it together – swirling in the cup of omija cha that is Korea.

Read Full Post »

Food Part 2

Okay here are another bunch of pictures of some of the stuff I’ve been eating. Hope you enjoy!

Kkultarae –  This was a dessert served to Korean kings back in the day. It’s made of honey and malt. It looks really interesting, almost like a cocoon because the honey is stretched into long, thin, white strands and wrapped around crushed peanuts and walnuts. It’s usually kept in the refrigerator to keep cool. I brought some back for the teachers at my school. They really appreciated it!

Oh and for some reason, the guys that make kkultarae on the street are really lively. They can speak English and Japanese, maybe even Chinese. They have chants and entertain the crowd while they make desserts. Check out the video I found on youtube. Not my video, okay! Some other person from California.

Sweet, crunchy, and chewy!

Street food – not sure what it’s called, I’ll update after I find out. Got this one downtown since my friend was craving one. Costs 700원 about 50-60 cents. It’s a hot dog on a stick dipped in seasoned batter then fried. Pretty good snack.

The corndog's cousin. Or as Peter called it, a "battered sausage" hmm not sure about that one...

English teachers’ dinner – we had bulgogi somewhere near school. VP paid for all of us. Yeeeahh free dinners are the best!

Bulgogi mmm

Rice mmm

Costco -Yes, there’s a Costco in Daegu! Tempted to get the “Triple Threat” but I wasn’t that hungry. So I tried the Bulgogi Pizza and the churro. Pizza was pretty good but the churro didn’t have enough sugar 😦 sad!

Half-eaten Bulgogi Pizza. I almost didn't take a picture. I interrupted my meal just to take a picture for this blog, gosh.

Needs more sugar!

Dog soup – Yes, I ate dog, don’t judge me! Not all Koreans like dog or have even eaten dog. But, it is still a common enough dish that it is served in some Korean restaurants. The meat is sliced into small, thin pieces like pork or beef and it’s cooked in a sort of stew. The meat comes from dogs raised for their meat, not just any dog off the street. It didn’t really phase me that I was eating dog because it didn’t taste strange. It tasted like MEAT. Therefore, I enjoyed my meal.  (I know some of you must hate me now!) 😀

Dog soup

woof! lol see it's good! I ate the whole thing!

Pizza – I ordered a pizza just to try it out. Okay, that makes it sound like I ordered it over the phone. I walked to the pizza store and ordered it there, then walked home with it. I got a cheese pizza but when I opened it, I realized it was a cheese and corn pizza. Not what I expected but it tasted good so I didn’t mind!

Deluxe Cheese Pizza + Corn

Shabu Shabu – took my co-teacher out to eat since I got my paycheck that day! I also got my cell phone that day!

Shabu shabu

18 번완당집 – In the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) Square in Busan. My co-teacher recommended this restaurant, which specializes in 완당 wandang. Wandang is like the more commonly known wonton soup. I also got the 유부초밥 vinegar rice in bean curd wrapper, kind of like inari. The food was great and prices were good! 5,000원 for the 완당 + 면 and 3,000원 for the 유부초밥. The restaurant makes all the 완당 fresh. So fresh you can watch them make it right there next to the cash register!

완당+면 wandang and noodles

Half-eaten again! 유부초밥

삼겹살 – Samgyeopsal (literally means three fold flesh) is sliced pork belly.. I think. My school administrator took me to dinner to try some samgyeopsal and have some beer. Then his wife and daughter met us there and we ate some more. Ahh, this is the life!

삼겹살 kinda looks like bacon. No wonder I liked it!

Gorilla Burger – Went back to Gorilla Burger for some lunch on my day off with my friend, Bethany. Last time, I had a hot dog so this time I tried a burger and the chili cheese fries. I got the Oasis Burger: fried egg, hash brown, bacon, and of course a beef patty. Sounds good right??

Chili cheese fries

Oasis Burger > Sausage McMuffin

Should be called Brunch Burger haha

Bethany got the Classic Burger.

TGI Friday’s – I know, I know… Friday’s in Korea of all things to eat? I should be sick of Fridays by now after going there for EVERYONE’S birthdays and for happy hour and because it’s the only place open in La Jolla after 10pm. But, the food here is actually pretty good! Costs more than back home, but not that much more expensive after you add tax and tip. And the Friday’s in Korea is the only place I’ve been to that charges tax extra. At least they have an appetizer, main course, dessert and drink set menu for 17,000원.

TGI Friday's in Daegu >x100 TGI Friday's in La Jolla

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts