Caption Studies 2016 Virtual Conference!

Invested, interested or just merely curious about captioning and accessibility issues?

Check this out- free registration for the August 1st-2nd, 2016 Caption Studies Virtual Conference through Western Oregon University.

Because accessibility for all is important AND captioning is incredibly useful in the ESL field!

captionstudies.wou.edu

On Twitter @captionstudies.

(and yes, I am inordinately proud of my university for not only caring about these issues but actually taking action and raising awareness!)

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Making documents accessible for screen readers…

For the past 2 1/2 years I’ve been plinking away at my MSED (thank goodness for online courses!) and have nearly another year to go since required courses are only offered certain terms of the year.  One thing I’m working on right now is converting a document into something that addresses accessibility issues by making it work with screen readers.

Holy mother.

If this is something that you are interested in let me suggest learning about what makes documents and web pages accessible BEFORE you start authoring content!  It is FAR simpler to create content with accessibility in mind from the beginning rather than try and convert something that has already been finished.  My project included a document that had all sorts of images grouped together with directions for an activity and to make things more difficult, included simple language translations throughout.  Something that, come to find out, screen readers don’t always automatically read properly.  That second language requires HTML tweaking and a couple of Excedrin.  Since I’m in the final couple of weeks of this term and this ballooning project isn’t even my final project, I was about at my wits end.  Fortunately, my instructor just agreed there is value in stopping where I am in the process and doing an in-depth write up with examples of the challenges thus far.  Thank goodness I’ve been taking screen shots of the mess as I go and will be able to do a fairly decent explanation.

Just in case it helps anyone else, I will paste links below for web pages I frantically read through for bits of understanding here and there and are just enough to get you started down the path (these are in no particular order):

http://www.nvaccess.org/

http://www.freedomscientific.com/Downloads/JAWS

http://www.ssbbartgroup.com/blog/how-browsers-interact-with-screen-readers-and-where-aria-fits-in-the-mix/

https://soap.stanford.edu/tips-and-tools/screen-reader-testing

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/edit-html-word-54837.html

http://www.washington.edu/accessibility/checklist/language/

https://www.w3.org/International/articles/language-tags/

http://www.filemaker.com/help/12/fmp/html/edit_layout.10.34.html

http://webaim.org/techniques/word/

http://webaim.org/techniques/word/#checker

http://webaim.org/techniques/screenreader/

http://www.brighthub.com/computing/windows-platform/articles/26119.aspx

http://www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/accessibility/pdfs/accessing-pdf-sr.pdf

http://www.adobe.com/accessibility.html

http://whatsock.com/

 

It’s true, time DOES fly!

It’s hard to believe that time has gone by so quickly.  I fell off the ‘blogging’ wagon but thought, in case anyone does search for DGEV and ends up here, that I should post an update/wrap up/what have you.  This will probably be long and this will really just be more about what it was like to work at DGEV and not so much life in Korea as a whole.  Maybe I’ll write more about that eventually but really,  a lot of other people have written detailed blogs about expat life in Korea so it’s likely that I won’t.  I hope you have a cup of tea in hand…

DGEV
YJC DGEV

So, in a nutshell, I succesfully completed two 12-month contracts at Yeungjin College Daegu Gyeongbuk English Village.  For 9 months of that, I brought my teenage daughters to live with me (online high school and I had to pave the way for them socially but it was FABULOUS!).  It was an unforgettable experience and one that I am grateful for.  I was lucky- I didn’t have the horrible experiences that some people working in South Korean hagwons have.  However, it was not perfect.  There were challenges as well as rewards and I will try and put as much as I can here to help someone trying to make an informed decision if they are considering applying there.

I have been back in the states for a couple of months now and have had time to re-adjust and reflect.   I have no obligation to DGEV as they are no longer my employer.  Of course, I don’t want to be taken to task for slander and I try hard not to be unfair or rude regardless, but I will relay my thoughts and feelings as earnestly as possible.  My experience was great but not the stuff that Disney dreams are made of and I did tire fairly quickly of whiny people which will probably be reflected down below here and there hahaha.

First of all, DGEV is not for everyone and not everyone is wanted at DGEV.  Ouch.  Sounds harsh.  But it’s a unique environment that just isn’t a good fit for every personality and attitude.  Seriously- personality and attitude are extremely important because of the situation!  You may have years of experience and impressive teaching credentials or look like a Barbie doll (which, sadly, some of Korea thinks is the first, best qualification for an English teacher…), but a few months into your contract it will be obvious to many that you are not a good fit.  On the other hand, you may have zero experience teaching, have majored in wine studies, and go on to become one of the most valuable teachers that DGEV has ever employed.  Personality and attitude…

One of the biggest lessons I learned in Korea was that wherever two or more expats are gathered…complaining will happen.  It’s just the way it is.  You just have to let it roll off and not get involved in the drama.  And trust me- there WILL be drama!  These types of jobs seem to attract people that thrive on crisis and if there isn’t one to be found, they will create one.  Keep a handle on why YOU are traveling and living overseas and don’t get bogged down by other people.  Think about what you really enjoy doing and then force yourself to make time to do those things.  Hiking?  Soccer/Football?  Ice hockey?  Keep at least one of your hobbies alive!   It’s a sanity saver and some of the best advice anyone ever gave me (Thank you, JM!).  And keep an eye open for the positive people because they are out there.  DGEV always had at least several people on staff that were cornerstones and held the place together.  Why?  Because they were positive, their smiles were infectious, they had strong work ethics, and they weren’t selfless but also not selfish!

And more importantly- maintain your work ethic or get busy and build one. Don’t let yourself get sucked into thinking you are getting paid to be on vacation in a foreign country because then when you have to work a normal 40-hour work week you will feel put upon and disgruntled.  Sound silly?  Trust me…I’ve seen the mentality.  It makes life difficult for the people that end up picking up the slack when someone calls in repeatedly because they feel the unfairness of working too many hours and only getting a 1 hour midday break instead of the usual 2.

Important things

Money!  DGEV always paid on the 25th.  The bottom line- that really was my #1 reason for choosing DGEV to begin with.  No matter what else someone may not like, they WILL get paid.  That being said, there were a couple of occasions when overtime pay was inadvertently missed and the pay had to be added to the next paycheck after the mistake was found.  I had no problems getting my pension (DGEV paid their half and I received back all of what both of us paid into my pension).  I received my severance and flight as promised.  No problems there. Money isn’t everything…but it is very important in this situation.

Housing!  The dormitory housing on campus is 100% free.  There are rules about having overnight guests or inviting people on campus (there are children on campus- it’s a no brainer but if it makes you uncomfortable to ask permission for guests…look elsewhere) and everyone gets their own private dorm room and bathroom with a mini-fridge and basic furniture – bed, desk, armoire.  Utilities are included (air con during the hottest summer months, ondol during winter months and ceiling heat/fan during winter).  I bought a box fan for that time before the main A/C was switched on since the dorm rooms can get hot and stuffy.  Much simpler/faster solution than whining about the temperature to everyone within earshot and since I didn’t have to pay the electric bill I didn’t mind forking over 40 bucks for a fan.  Again, no brainer.  I wanted to be comfortable. I actually carried it to my classrooms, as well, since nothing buys you the love of children faster than a blast of cool fan air in a hot, humid classroom! *^^*

I found that I loved ondol heating when I lived in the dorms but once I moved to a school-sponsored apartment, it was too expensive for my tastes.  I miss it.

Dormitory privacy- the dormitories were… welp, they were dorm life.  This is one of those challenges I mentioned.  Sometimes the people walking down the hallway at 2am were noisy.  Sometimes people complained because there was too much noise in the communal lounge and at other times people complained because teachers didn’t hang out and visit with each other enough.  Everybody knew everyone else’s business.

Add to that the wide variety of ages, lifestyles, nationalities and life experiences in the mix of dorm-dwellers then it makes sense that there is always going to be some sort of upset somewhere about something.  The happiest people just let it roll off.  They took care of their own problems with their neighbors.  If the lounge was too noisy they walked down on their own two feet and asked people to be quiet.  But they also were tolerant of others.  And they went away on the weekends.  If you live in the dorms you can probably afford a motel or jjimjilbang or a hostel somewhere on the weekend to get away from the people you are tired of being around.  If you are not comfortable with dorm life…look elsewhere.   One big plus of dorm life to think about before writing it off completely…it’s a fantastic way to save money and/or pay off student loans or credit card debt.  It’s possible to have nearly zero living expenses if you stick with the dormitory option, use only free shuttles, and eat all meals in the campus cafeteria.  Maybe not ideal or the most fun ever…but totally possible.

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Basic apartment with living room, small bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and balcony (excuse the mattress propped up in the kitchen…)

There are a limited number of apartments near Yeungjin College that are available to DGEV faculty on a seniority basis.  They are rent-free but teachers pay their own utilities and internet, if they want it.  There is aircon and ondol available year-round but once I moved to an apartment I wound up using a space heater I bought at Costco.  Much cheaper!  (Costco is about a 20-25 minute walk away but there are city buses to/from. I both loved and hated having it that close.).

Also, the apartments come with the challenge of a long (but free) shuttle bus commute to and from work each day.  The morning commute only runs about 30 minutes but the evening commute is anywhere from 60-90 minutes.  But the freedom on the weekends is worth it for some people.  Since I had my daughters living with me then I definitely needed the apartment so the commute wasn’t really a deciding factor for me.  It just didn’t matter.  The utilities sometimes are a source of frustration for foreigners since the bills are in Hangul and difficult to decipher.  We never did quite figure out if the charges are running 1 month or 2 months behind but sometimes neighbors with similar usages would receive very different bills (which may go back to the 2 months behind, thing!).  The natural gas bill is separate from the all-in-one electricity/water/building fees bill.

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The FREE food in the cafeteria…aaah this was a bone of contention for some people.  Let me just say this- if you are a picky eater, if you are a whiner, if you find yourself complaining at restaurants and sending food back to the kitchen because you don’t like the way it’s cooked, or griping because there aren’t enough vegetarian/gluten-free/dairy-free/low-salt/low-sugar options around you then DO NOT GO TO KOREA UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO BUY/PREPARE YOUR OWN FOOD!  Yes, capitals mean shouting.  Seriously, people.  Grow the Fudgesicle up.  If you have special food needs that’s fine as long as you are adult enough to feed yourself without making other people miserable.  I experienced first hand what it’s like to live with very different types of people with special food needs.  Some were amazing- they quietly went about their lives without dragging the rest of us into their nutritional woes.  They always had back-up food items in their dorms (or lunch bags) for when the free cafeteria food didn’t suffice.  I loved those people.  No, seriously, there were days when I was hot, tired, hungry and so incredibly grateful that they didn’t put their problems on other people.  I actually loved them.

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Isolation- DGEV is at least 30 minutes from town by shuttle bus and maybe 15-20 by taxi.  If you need instant gratification when it comes to food or drink or entertainment then do yourself a favor and don’t work at a place that’s on top of a hill surrounded by farm land.  However, if you love being outdoors, if you like waking up to chirpy birds outside your window, if you don’t mind the occasional wriggly thing (centipedes!),

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if you are not horribly allergic to pine trees (at DGEV…it’s not the dreaded poison ‘yellow dust’ that is coating everything outside that particular time of year- it’s copious amounts of pollen from the pine trees. Just flick those yellow looking buds at the ends of the branches.  You’ll see what I mean.  Clouds of it.  And DGEV is completely surrounded on all sides by pine.  Beautiful.  Fresh smelling.  But a LOT of pollen.)- if you can handle those things, then go.  People sometimes forget that taxis are cheap in Korea compared to a lot of other places.  A taxi from Chilgok to DGEV usually costs on average about 20,000 won.  From Waegwan to DGEV maybe 15,000 won.  If you want to stay out late, it’s worth it!  If you can arrange to share the taxi with others, it’s even better!

 

Working/Teaching

DGEV is a full-time job.  It may be possible to find a place that offers a full-time salary for only 4-6 hours of work a day… But DGEV isn’t one of them.  Usually, there is a 2 hour break in the middle of the day but sometimes, if it’s busy, there may *only* be a 1 hour break.  Sigh.  As a teacher, my first year there were days when I was exhausted from being on my feet much of the day so I understood when people complained because of back/knee pains and being tired…  but for those that have worked harder jobs, both physically and mentally, it was a head-shaker when people would threaten to quit because their working conditions were unbearable or they weren’t appreciated enough (not enough gold stars on their charts, I suppose).

If you are going to be working overseas just be honest with yourself and decide…am I willing to put in the hours required for a full-time job?  If you aren’t, and no judgement here, but please just be honest with yourself and don’t try to force a school to bend to your….fluid work ethic.  Find a school whose demands will fit your lifestyle or the lifestyle you prefer as you will NOT change a Korean administration.

DGEV is an English camp.  It is not a school where lessons build on each other week to week.  You may only see your group of 17 students for 45-minutes one time during the week.  It is not a public school.  It is a for-profit institution.  In that regard, DGEV can be challenging because it is a business that must turn a profit or the doors will close.  There were times when I connected with students and wished I could be a part of their education for an entire school year and watch them grow!  However, there were weeks when 5 days was more than enough and I looked forward to the opportunity to welcome new students the following Monday.  If you are looking to challenge yourself in the manner of a public school teacher then do not work at DGEV.  Like I said, DGEV is a camp.  It is meant to be fun and, ideally, the students learn a little English come Friday.  However, there were weeks where the biggest thing was that the students lost their fear of English and foreigners.  Sometimes that was a HUGE accomplishment and still important.

If you want to see test results that prove you are the most productive English teacher ever, though, perhaps you should look elsewhere.  I know teachers that would just gripe endlessly that they weren’t ‘real’ teachers at DGEV.  That the whole thing was a joke.  Well, the experience is what you make of it.  If someone wasn’t a ‘real’ teacher then they weren’t really trying to teach, were they?  A real teacher can make learning happen anywhere.

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If you have ever been a camp counselor at outdoor school, or worked at a girl/boy scouts camp, or run a community-center summer soccer program…those types of things are closer to the DGEV teaching experience than a certified K-12 teacher career.  DGEV teachers can volunteer to produce workbooks for the students in special programs and some teachers do take pride in what they do.  They take to heart the advice that the experience is in their hands and they make it work for them.

As teachers, we created our own classes in addition to the situationals (the ‘realia’ rooms) and sometimes would teach the same class 4, 7, 10 times in one week along with our other classes.  It can be repetitive.  If you are someone that doesn’t like the thought of that…look elsewhere.  On a positive note, it limits the number of classes you have to prepare for so if you have other interests (perhaps you are learning Korean? Studying for your master’s degree online?) then it frees up a little time.

One trap that people fall into is volunteering for too many programs which can take up ALL of your free time.  Make sure you keep some time for yourself on at least 2 weekends a month.  Everyone loves the people that volunteer but then when they take on too much and break…it’s extremely unpleasant.  It’s not worth it.  ='(    Someone who volunteers for too much can be just as unpleasant to work with as someone who does nothing (right there- proof that DGEV is not paying me to write this as a publicity stunt for them hahaha DON’T VOLUNTEER TOO MUCH!).

Sometimes people need accolades for all that they do and become frustrated when everyone else is too busy working to pat them on the back for their good deeds.  If this sounds like you… look elsewhere.  At the same time, DGEV tries to reward people that go above and beyond and have great work ethics.   Unfortunately, some people are just a little…needier than others.  There’s no judgement there, but if you are one of those people that need all eyes to focus on you and your accomplishments…look elsewhere.  If you are quietly pleased with the occasional treat left on your desk because someone knows you volunteered to spend half the night editing a workbook that needed to go to the publisher…then by all means, look into DGEV.  *^^*  The academic director/lead coordinator/program coordinator will appreciate you more than you know.

One thing that I liked was the number of opportunities to choose from for experience.  If you are looking to build  your resume then there are a lot of ways to do that.  I left with curriculum design experience, teaching experience with Kindergarten through Adult students, and a whole host of new people/human resources skills.   The experience is what you make of it.

This part may be challenging for some people- it is entirely possible to be a good teacher, put in your hours, and not do a minute of extra work so you have all the free time possible.  Your weekends will be worry free and you can have all the sleep or fun that you can manage… But to be perfectly honest- that does not go over well in Korea or anywhere in the states (that I know of. I could be wrong…).  You will not be rewarded with extra money or favors for just doing what your contract states and no more.  If you want a job where people respect you for doing the bare minimum…look elsewhere.  Sorry.  It’s just the truth.  It’s the same at every job I ever had here in the states.  Nobody has ever applauded me for doing what I was required to do and nothing more.  But if you don’t need the applause and just want to do the bit you are hired to do then it’s quite possible and you WILL have a lot of free weekends to travel and have fun.  *^^*

I will admit to LOVING those easy weeks when I averaged maybe 10 classes TOTAL and had maybe 10-15 hours of desk and planning time and yet still drew full pay. hahaha So I understand that it’s fun but perhaps better to think of it as winning the lottery instead of an entitlement. *^^*

One good thing about starting off your living/working overseas experience at a place like an English village is that you have security and a large expat community to engage with which could help you decide where you want to go next.  Even people that reallllly enjoyed working at DGEV found the ideal total contract length was 18 months to 2 years before moving on.

Other shtuff

Being back in the U.S. I do miss all the things I could easily do on the weekends and during vacations for fun.  Food excursions (I miss the jjambbong that made my face feel like it was on fire!).  Cultural excursions.  Busan is less than an hour away from Daegu on the KTX.  Jeju!  So many teachers would use their vacations to go to Japan, The Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and countless other places.

So the biggest question of all.  Would I go back and work at DGEV again?

Well, it wasn’t perfect.  It wasn’t paradise.  It could be hard, thankless work at times but I always got paid fully and on time and I enjoyed the students, the culture (even the less than lovely bits) and the food.  I loved the experiences.  The sense of adventure even when I was in the middle of stressful and mundane aspects of real life and real work.

But yes. I would and we will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to normal… well, almost.

The ferry accident is never far from anyone’s mind but things are slowly beginning to settle around here.  The students are arriving once again even if there are more one-day programs than before, but that’s alright.  The P.E. class conundrum has been resolved for the most part through some aggressively creative lesson planning by a team of teachers here so physical education classes have resumed.  We have some new teachers arriving, semi-new settling in (like myself), and several teachers that have either already left or are in the process.  It makes me wonder what it’s like for the long term folks around here to constantly watch this revolving door bringing people into their lives and then right back out again.

 

On a happier note, I have discovered some interesting food choices when out and about.

Dominoes Pizza for the first time since I’ve been here.  It’s overpriced but worth it one time.  It helps if you divvy it up.  I got a pack that had a medium pizza, chicken tenders, ‘secret sticks’ (it was and ever shall remain a complete mystery to me what those things are made of), mini corndogs, garlic chicken wings, and plain roasted potatoes for about 25-26,000 won.  It’s a lot to plunk down all at once if you’re used to 2,000won tteokbokki but it definitely will last through 4 or 5 meals.  I guess if I look at it that way it’s really not that expensive… Well, anyway, here’s a pic of the potato, bacon, mushroom, and corn pizza with a swirl of mayo on top for good measure.  And actually- I kinda liked the corn!  Didn’t think I would, but I did.  And this one is good cold for breakfast.  ;o)

Dominoes Potato, Bacon, Corn, and Mayo
Dominoes: Potato, Bacon, Corn, Mushroom, and Mayo

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Another interesting find-  mock strawberries!   I was out taking a walk and found a patch of these by chance.  I thought they were strawberries but after testing them out they tasted more like…well, not much really.  Maybe a very bland blueberry.  Anyway, it made me giggle to find them.  They’re so tiny and cute!

 

Speaking of tiny and cute:

Saves on gas...
Saves on gas…

 

And speaking of speaking:  Vocal cord nodules are a real thing and they are annoying.  The ENT is inexpensive here, though, so I went in to see what was up with this constant hoarseness (to the point of totally losing my voice at the end of the day) and had her poke around in there with her camera.  Prednisolone, Ilaprazole, and resting my voice were her answer so I’m trying to stick to the plan.   It’s really hard not to talk in this profession… but I was able to teach this morning with marginal success.  Okay, maybe ‘success’ is too strong of a word… but I didn’t want to use up my vacation time so the poor students had to suffer through my sign language, white board writing, and computer-aided vocalizations for pronunciation.

I have to work on breathing techniques and be more protective of my voice from here on out.  I love being silly in the classroom and singing and making sound effects, but have to learn new ways to still teach like ‘me’ without shredding my cords!

 

Struggling to understand the Korean government right now…

Because of decisions made in ‘The House’, there are many teachers charged with revamping physical education lesson plans in order to phase out group physical activity.  You know, to keep the children safe.  We ALL want the children to be safe.  We do.  But we want them to enjoy themselves, too….  Can it be done?  We have yet to see….  Are we up to the challenge?  Absolutely!  But dang….seriously now?  *sigh*

Still, I love Korea.  I’m exploring a little farther each time I go out and finding new things to love and new things to go hmmmmmmm about.

On Children’s Day this year I was visiting friends in Seoul and we went to Insadeong- as did what felt like a good 1/3 of South Korea.

 

Children's Day, Insadeong
Children’s Day, Insadeong

There are opportunities to participate in some fun crafts and my friends and I sat down at a little table and did some wood carving/engraving at this workshop.  It was a fantastic experience!

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Woodcarving (engraving?), Insadeong
Woodcarving (engraving?) workshop, Insadeong

On to more mundane things, I’ve been on a quest for unscented hairspray but have only been marginally successful.  I did find an aerosol spray at HomePlus that is only lightly scented.  It says, “Olive Essence- Helps maintain and protect styles all day long time.”  Yeah, so I might be laughing at the translation a little bit…  Anyway, it works- if you use at least 3 coats.  Also, did I mention it’s aerosol?  Not a big fan of that. Tends to gum up my lungs.  So, that will be my emergency can.

I also found out that what I previously assumed was only hair perfume at Daiso is actually spray!  I was going through and sniffing each scent and came to one that smelled kinda funky- like hairspray.  Turned the bottle over and it said:

Super Hard Water Spray
Super Hard Water Spray

So, now I know to stop looking for the word “Hairspray” and start paying attention to anything in English that even remotely looks like “Hard Water” (there actually are often random English words here and there on products so this just might work)!  It kind of makes sense since in the states we think of ‘hard water’ as being full of minerals and such so if it’s just water that’s full of “stuff” then the hairspray is totally hard water.

Random happiness is fabulous and I found a piece in Chilgok:

I love seeing little bits of happy here and there.  Chilgok.
I love seeing little bits of happy here and there. Chilgok.

Happy U.S. Mother’s Day, everyone!

Look, Ma! No corn!

So, just some random pictures of food and whatnot.

Boboli pizza shells and shelf-stable bacon travel VERY well from the U.S.!  Yippee!!!  I approached the communal convection/microwave/what-the-??? oven with not a little trepidation today but was determined to make a pizza.  First job- figure out what the buttons/dial say…. (aka keep pushing/turning things til the oven made noise!)

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Finished product (got two bites in before I remembered that I wanted to take a picture for my daughter and her fiance since they sent me the deliciousness!).  And NO CORN!  I do enjoy corn quite a bit, actually, but was happy this pizza was sans maize:

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There are lots of food choices in Korea and if you aren’t successfully reading labels yet then in my humble opinion I think it helps to know what a few of the not-awful things in the markets and shops look like.  Like giving directions with landmarks instead of street names… Subjective information, of course, but in my experience so far the following fall into the not-awful category.  =D  Actually, some of them are fan-freaking-tastic!

Paris Baguette shops are everywhere here and they have some delicious items that I really like.  The vegetable croquette is fantastic (a tiny bit spicy).  In fact, it’s so fantastic that it was in my belly before I remembered the camera…. haha!  In this pic:

(Left)- a twist of some sort (a bit like a deep fried, crispy croissant with a hint of cinnamon and sugar)

(Center)- Pie sticks?  Fantastic if you love pie crust (I do) as they are only lightly sweet with a very thin layer of brown sugar icing on top.  Very flaky and 10 kinds of fabulous

(Right)- Sesame, rice flour, sweet glazed chewy stick (no, that’s not what it’s really called).  I don’t remember the name but it was lightly glazed, only lightly sweet, plenty of black sesame seeds, and had a fantastically chewy bread texture.  Just look for the stick with black specks.

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Red bean paste is one of my favorite treats so I was incredibly happy to find the Coco Hodo shop in Chilgok.  Only 5,000 Won for a bag of 20 (plus a number of free ones since it was my first visit!) and they are fantastic.  Like many other foods I tend to really like, they aren’t overly sweet and the 1/4 walnut piece tucked inside just makes them heavenly.  The waffle-type coating on the outside is great!  Warm and crisp at first and much softer as they sit in the bag for a while (or in the fridge overnight).  Fresh is best but they were definitely still fantastic three days later.  Just keep them in the zipper baggie.

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Maybe not for everyone, but these tiny hard-boiled quail eggs are a great snack.  They aren’t really spicy and are a bit salty.  Tastes like a bit of soy sauce and brown sugar syrup in the can with 1 pepper thrown in (but still- not very spicy).  These are so good cooked with carrots, sweet potatoes, and onions.  I like them right out of the can.  =P  Yum!

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For pre-packaged food, this next dish is pretty darn good!  Spaghetti noodles with a cream sauce, bacon, mushrooms, and garlic.  I didn’t really notice the broccoli much so they must have been tiny pieces.  I’ve had MUCH worse prepackaged food than this and now I keep a package for emergency meals. Microwave package.

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Oh, there was an elderly gentleman selling giant bags of snacks out of the back of his truck and I found these.  It was 3,000 won for a huge bag of the 4-5 inch rounds, and they taste just like crispy waffle cones with a couple of tiny peanut bits in the center.  Incredible with tea!

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And crackers from the grocery store.  These are pretty cheap in those small markets you find on the streets that spill out onto the sidewalks under awnings.  I picked up a large box of these for 2,000 won (and a fairly large bottle of makkoli for 900 won- about 90 cents- but that’s neither here nor there…).  They are crisp, a bit sweet, and heavy on the sesame so if you love sesame seeds, you will want to try these!!!   I go by pictures a lot at this stage, so just look for the girl on the bicycle riding across the yellow box!  These are strangely addictive…

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Okay, so before I came to Korea if I heard the word ‘cider’ I would think of apple cider.  Or, preferably, 2 Towns Ciderhouse hard cider!!!  But here ‘cider’ mostly seems to mean a Sprite or 7up type soda.  I now have two favorites.  One is a diet soda that tastes like 7up and is fantastic for a 0-calorie drink:  Narangd Cider zero.   The other is Cheon Yeon cider and it doesn’t taste at ALL like a citrus soda.  It’s somewhere between strawberry, raspberry, and bubblegum….but not sickeningly sweet.  Love it.  The bottle on the far left is a cute water bottle I got from Paris Baguette that I’ve been reusing just because it reminds of a little android…

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Now, for some non-food favorite things so far…. (I have many so I will just put a couple here for now)

For some reason I have a hard time finding non-aerosol hairsprays here- maybe I’m just not looking in the right places yet, but I am happy with this Mise en Scene pump hairspray that I found at HomePlus.  A little spendy- I think it was about 6,000-7,000won (update:  it was 9,000won) for a 200ml bottle, but it works!  I think the giant poof on the model was what reeled me in!  It smells vaguely of juniper and grapes, unless my sniffer is broken, and stands up well to a very light, misty rain as long as you DO NOT TOUCH YOUR HAIR until it dries.  That was a tip my grandmother gave me and it’s still one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten.

If you are an unscented-all-the-way type of person then this hairspray will NOT please you.  It is definitely scented.  I’ll post if I find an unscented one since I do prefer them (although, I love perfume…go figure).

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A little bizarre maybe, but these snail face masks actually made my skin feel fabulous for a couple of days afterward!  It’s messy and sure as heck ain’t pretty when it’s on…. but I’ll be getting more of these.  I think maybe only 1,200 won or so.

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Side note:  Sunscreen is pretty expensive here but not cost-prohibitive.  I spent about 20,000won on a 200ml/6.76oz bottle of Nivea ‘Sun’ with SPF50 but HomePlus has a lot of 1+1 items (buy one get one free) and this was one of them!  SOOO I really only spent 10,000 won each for good sized bottles of sunscreen.  I love to be outside so I’ll be using enough of it to justify the expense (and skin cancer would be so much more expensive!).

So much sadness but still found something beautiful tonight…

There is so much sadness everywhere right now as the entire country struggles with how to move on from the deaths of so many young people.  The children who came to the English Village over the last two weeks have all gotten just a little extra love and affection and I was especially happy to see and hear my own girls talk about ‘everyday’ stuff via Skype.  It’s good.  It’s very good.

In the midst of all this sadness, I saw something beautiful tonight so I will just post this one picture.  I don’t want to know if it damages crops or eats flowers or attacks honey bees.  It was just beautiful in that moment.

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