Guess what? It’s cold.

17 02 2012
Photo credit goes to Roooooommate.

These earmuffs were made from lace. Better keep that fabric on the flossy stuff. It doesn't keep you warm.

Aaaaaand COLD = Winter.

Winter = Holidays.

Holidays = Story time.

I’m currently in bed wearing sweats, wool-ish giraffe socks, a dozen layers, a scarf and a hat. I’m underneath 3 comforters and still chilly. It’s only right that it’s snowing outside and my heater is struggling more to heat up now than I do in the mornings. Seriously, getting out of my massive nest of warm blankets and pillows with hot water nalgenes is an epic battle that can only rival the fight scenes of 300... just in slowER motion and not so gory. (PS, I seriously couldn’t help myself on that link.)

Anyway, I haven’t really updated on holiday shenanigans. You should be used to that since I’ve failed as a blogger since I haven’t done too much out of the normal Korea routine. I don’t have a single photo of Thanksgiving. My memory card was full and all my pictures from the spring magically got deleted… so I was nervous. There are people just as bad as me, because there isn’t a single one on facebook either. Moving on. There was lots of wine, lots of people, lots of firewood and lots of fun. Karaoke, cooking, card games, bonfires, and a game that used lots of adjectives and adverbs to describe a few choice body parts. We made it all the way to Y and them for some reason everybody stood up and yelled “good game!” and left for bed. Xenophobic? Zesty? Come on people! Still fun though!

And here it's snowing!!

The weekend after Thanksgiving was Rubber Seoul, which is a fundraiser for an AIDS/HIV education and prevention group. We got to see a whole bunch of live shows at the bars in Hongdae, and that was a lot of fun. Dancing and general silliness ensued. A certain somebody that isn’t me ran into not one, but two of the guys she was seeing while out dancing. Not awkward at all. Hysterical, actually. On a more normal note, one of the bands we saw was Angry Bear, and they had a pretty good show at Gogo’s 2.  Check them out here.

The weekend after that was also amazing. SANTACON 2011.
I got to see my Thanksgiving cooking partner in crime, Kita.  We were a tad slow coming from Gugal (What else is new?) and we missed the mass transit migration of Santas en masse. We rallied in Hongdae at the Ho Bar III, aka “Ho Ho Ho!” There were drinks, dancing Santas, and a generally fun pub crawl. I proudly taught the bartenders at Shamrock how to make Washington apple martinis. Yum.

Rooommate and I at Santacon


We thought it was a brilliant idea to purchase RED red lipstick... hilarity ensued. (This is Kita, btw!)

After SantaCon, we had an awesome Christmas. I traveled yet again with When in Korea and cooked a delicious dinner. Met a slew of new awesome people. It was too cold to play any games outside, but there was a white elephant exchange, and norae-cabin. So much fun singing Christmas carols and ABBA songs.

I also enjoyed photobombing pictures. 🙂

New Years Eve was also pretty exciting. We went to COEX mall in Seoul, where there was a fancy wine buffet. We got classy. I wore a dress and heels that haven’t been touched since they got unpacked last February. More cool new friends and silly stories. Lauren, Kayla and I missed midnight fireworks by missing the subway and having to take the next one. Oops. We hit the karaoke place for several hours and rode the first trains home in the morning. Such a fun night!

The hooligans of NYE.


Even classy pictures get photobombed. I got to play with Andy's fancy camera. Here's one of Lauren.


Why is this always my candid photo face? I'm like my mom in the regard that I can never take a normal candid. Seriously.


Well, here’s to 2012 and another year in Korea!

Exam week in Korea

5 12 2011

Last week, I had to grade the speaking tests for the second semester. Kids worked in pairs and memorized a dialog that is so easy, I could do it in Korean. They had to either role play a restaurant scene or one in a shoe store. Plain and simple, it is way below where they should be for having been taught English since early elementary school.

Before the test, I did a quick review of pronunciation on a few words- the th sound in “thirty three,” the zh sound in “measurement,” and just making an f sound instead of b or p. (In that dialog, lots of priends ate prench pries.) I also told them that gestures, expression, and intonation were also something that I would grade on. This is not new information to my kids. They all know that standing there with a poker face and talking like a robot gets you nowhere close to a top score. They’ve known that since week 1.

poker face. flat expression. flat voice.

I listened and scored something close to 360 students in 2 days. It was pretty easy to score them on a 5-10 scale. No, not 0, but 5. If you just stood there and did nothing, I had to give a 5. Total crap, because I was only allowed to give out so many of each score, just like last semester. If only there were a more accurate scoring system and a more accurate test in which to asses actual speaking abilities… hmm…

During testing of my class that I like to call the “Future Diplomats Club,” (they’re all really bright and many have lived abroad,) I was really disappointed in many of the girls. Usually, my girls are much more active and involved than the boys. In English, they’re also usually much more charismatic than they were on test day. They all acted like they had no clue what they were doing. We had even delayed the test 3 days so that they could have some extra time to prepare for the speaking test. So they should be up to par, right?


Anyway, after I finished with the class, I showed them their scores. One of my girls was absolutely livid that she got a 9 out of 10. She was furious. She demanded to my co-teacher that I change her test, because she “did better than her partner,” who also earned a 9. Her partner was a girl who was always active in my class, came to see me the day before for help with the test, and is generally a much better student in my class. Miss Dramatic here went ranting and raving about how I grade unfairly and blah blah blah. I told her she should have been more expressive and pronounce things better. Then I left.

My co-teacher was nervous, I could see it. I asked her why that whole thing just happened. Apparently Miss Dramatic is the student with the best GPA in her grade, and she has the mom to back it up. I told my co-teacher that if the Tiger Mom had anything to say, she could come talk to me, since I did the grading, and I didn’t plan on changing the score of the little hellion.

MD is still mad at me, but whatever. I haven’t heard from her mother, and neither has my co-teacher. Thank god!

Pretty accurate portrayal of Miss Dramatic can be found in the video below. Enjoy!

Minsu = Miss Dramatic

Let’s be honest…

23 11 2011

I’m a terrible blogger.

I haven’t written since August, even though I promised I’d post pictures and whatnot from the Philippines.

My bad.

So since the last time we saw our heroine, many people have come and gone from Gugal, crazy stuff has happened, and some life plans have been changed.

I didn’t talk about Boryeong Mud Festival from July, how Laura fell off a bus and broke her legs.

Stuck in bed for weeks at a time = everybody brings pizza.

I didn’t talk about Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and the trip to Busan for Mychaela’s Korean birthday…

Me on Chuseok in front of the bridge at Gwanganli Beach, Busan


And I haven’t mentioned the ridiculous clothes that Korea sells…

Why is it that the only things I can wear in Korea are hideous and/or prison uniforms?


So the fall was pretty slow in my neck of the woods, so there’s not really much to update through September/October. November has been fun so far. But cold. Oh, so cold.

I swear once I find my pictures (the spring/summer folder is mysteriously gone…) I’ll post on facebook. But there are 3 computers (2 of which are in Korean) and a hard drive that might have them hiding… “I’ll put them somewhere safe where I won’t forget!”

Right. Because when you’re Dani, that always works out in your favor.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Spend some time with my family and give them lots of love for me!

Komusta from the Philippines!!

8 08 2011

Hey all!

I really haven’t updated much, but that’s because there’s just been a lot of deskwarming and classes, so not much to tell. However, my friend Lauren sent me a message on Facebook about Bali… which brought us to the discovery that we had the same vacation dates, and the discovery that Bali was too expensive to get to for this last minute vacation. Through scouring the flight sites, we found a cheap ticket for her, and then it became us. That was never a plan before that fateful facebook chat.

I’m impulsive, and I know it. I am a Phillips.

It was a really last minute decision (like 3 days before the flight last minute) and so far, it has been totally worth it! Our whole first day was in Busan, because that’s where the flight was from. Our train was super early, as it was the only one still available, while the flight was late at night (we landed just before 1 AM.) We killed time in cafes and a Lotte department store. After all, we had about 7 hours to burn.

When we got to Cebu airport, it was a little overwhelming and disorienting. We just needed a taxi that wasn’t going to rip us off hardcore, like all the books and blogs told about. Strangely, the taxi we took, which was a local metered taxi, was a lot cheaper than the fixed rate guys (almost $5 cheaper.) We stayed at Cebu Guesthouse, which was about as basic as you can get in a sketch “historic and traditional” neighborhood. But hey, for $6 per night, you can’t expect much! It was kind of funny seeing Lauren’s reaction to a few things, but that’s mostly because she’s never been in travel situations like I have. I think she’s more of the all-inclusive/no-bug-net-needed breed.

We had planned on splitting the trip between Bohol and Boracay, a little yin and yang to our travel types. Bohol has my kind of places, and is a little more rugged, and everywhere you look, people are singing praises about the diving. OBVIOUSLY I would want to go there, since well, the last time I went diving was over a year ago in Thailand, and one of them left scars.

Mind you, we’re only here for 5 days/5 nights. We had heard that flights to Boracay are super cheap and leave from Cebu almost every hour. That would have meant that we’d spend Sunday-Tuesday AM in Bohol and leave Tuesday afternoon for Boracay, returning mid-Thursday for our flight home. However, prices for the flights to Boracay have somehow managed to get jacked up, at nearly $250 round trip. Nope. I’m not going to drop that much money for literally a day and a half.

Lauren isn’t diving/snorkeling, so she says that she’s bored. I still don’t know what we’ll do for the next few days, but I’m fine here. I’m on a beach. I went diving today and it was pretty awesome, it’s sunny and cooler than Korea, and the people are pretty nice. All around wins!! I’m thinking we’ll rent a motorbike tomorrow and go check out the Chocolate Hills and the Tarsier Preservation Center. It looked like it was going to rain this afternoon, so we pushed off that plan from today. So we chilled at the beach and got pedicures. Life is so hard for travelers here.


It’s a cake walk.

Life is awesome. 

AND I saw my first frog fish today. It was white and hiding in some coral. It looked creepy as hell! Google it.


You’ll get pictures when I get home!

I feel like a worksheet making MACHINE

30 06 2011



Care to use a couple fun ESL worksheets? Well here are two that I made today while deskwarming and watching youtube videos. One is for “Oktapodi,” an adorable short film about octopi in Greece. Click here for the worksheet: Oktopodi Worksheet.

Here’s the video:


And I also made one for the Pixar clip, “For the Birds.” My kids are going to learn about being bullies and how it comes back to bite you in the ass. Here’s the worksheet: “For the Birds” worksheet.

And here’s the video for that:






Nothing like being underwater on a hot day…

27 06 2011

Legit swimming pools: they’re really hard to find. Monsoon season hit my beloved little city last week and I think it may have decided to take it easy today. Right now, Yongin is hot and muggy, and it feels like the tropical rainforest… just minus the trees, animals and delicious fruit. As stuffy as it is, it makes me want to hit up a pool like no other.

A few weeks ago, Laura, Jessica and I decided to check out the pool at the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon, Seoul. It was one of the only pools we could find, plus it was on the roof of a tall building, so there was going to be some sun in order. Not to mention that Itaewon is Little America, so there wouldn’t be a lot of criticism of swim wear like there is everywhere else. Also, it was an Adjumma free zone. No perms, track suits or flying elbows to be found.

It was pretty pricey to get in at W16,000, but it was a nice hot day so it was worth it. It was pretty hilarious for people watching. You have the Korean body builder guys in Speedos workin’ on their fitness, the Korean girls wearing bikinis, but covered in a shirt, hat and sunglasses under an umbrella, and then you have the Waygooks. We’re all shapes and sizes, and if we’re by a pool, we’re getting tan and just maybe a little drunk.

Believe me, with some of the people there, the beer in hand rule applied BIG TIME. It was hilarious to see some of these people. Lots of US military guys and an international slow-pitch softball team from St. Louis. They gave Laura a lot of crap for her STL tattoo on her arm, which was a funny story in and of itself. The funniest part of my day (mostly because it wasn’t directed at me) was the um, ridiculously well-endowed Marine in a poor choice of swimwear who caught Jessica checking him out. Once he noticed her, he proceeded to follow her like a puppy and hit on her for most of the afternoon.

“You’re so hot. Your eyes are so exotic.” Blah blah blah. (Please push play on the link.)
“Yeah, and I’m smart. And rich. Really rich.”

Was she provoking him or directly making fun of his failed attempts? I think a little of both. Either way, it was funny to me and Laura.

Back to serious matters. Two things from that trip that I didn’t understand. 1) Why on Earth would a man wear a flossy little G-string to a pool? and 2) If you’re going to pay $16 to go to a pool, why don’t you get in the pool? Maybe it’s me being the aquatic type, but I didn’t get it. Although I was really glad that Mr. Flossy of G-string fame steered clear of the water…


Jessica and Laura at the Hamilton Hotel pool

Make it happen, Cap’n– err, Robocop.

23 06 2011

I want this to happen to the next kid who swears in my class.

One big problem I have at my school, and all over the place with kids in Korea, is that they swear like sailors. I’ve made it a rule that if I hear a bad word in English, the student must stand at the back of the classroom holding up a desk. Yes, a desk.

It’s like the swear jar, but worse. 4 minutes for a 4-letter word. It’s gotten a little bit better, but there are still the kids who insist on running around yelling “Oh SHIT!” when their friends are chasing them in the hallway at break.

My current project of the day is learning the proper way to say, “If your mother knew what you just said, she would murder you.” This was actually brought about by being sick and tired of the 3rd grade ELEMENTARY school boy next door who yells out the window, “Hey man, F*** you!” every day when I walk by. Teachers obviously don’t pay much attention to the bombs being dropped in English every 5 seconds. The sad part is that the teachers all know what the kids are saying, but just ignore it.

Teachers out there, what do you do to combat swearing in class? Help me out here!


You Gotta Fight (BAM BAM) For Right… for AAAaaiiiiiiirrrrrr-CON!

22 06 2011

I get it, I get it. I fail as a blogger and you have not been entertained by my ridiculous stories for over 2 months.

Well, I’m busy living the life… Sweating it out, if you will.

Yesterday was summer solstice, and today, monsoon season reared its ugly head. I know a lot of you have kept up pretty well on the apartment issue, but let me catch you up. Somehow the crazy recluse who lived here before me managed to melt the insides of the air conditioner. Yes. Melt.  The air-con repair guy came in, tore it apart, and his face got all twisted up. I have never seen a Korean so confused. Thankfully my co-teacher was there to explain that no, Dani didn’t melt it, but she would like to use it. Well, lucky for me he unplugged the thing and said “Ha-ji-ma,” which basically means “Don’t do that.” He said that the entire unit will have to be replaced, so the earliest we could get somebody in would be 3 weeks from then. That would put me at, oh, July 11th. I have one fan, but it doesn’t do much. Mrs. Lee gave me that half shrug, half “that really sucks for you” look.

Well crap. My apartment is already poorly ventilated, and it got so muggy today that when I came home, my bunny was panting (BTW I rescued a bunny from certain doom. More on that later.) and three stalks on my monster mint plant (it’s over 2 feet tall.) were wilted. (Man, I really need to update you guys more often!) My blankets on my bed felt damp. This is not good. Right now they’re dry, but I’m going to have to be ridiculously tedious to make sure my apartment is mold free. I already have to mop/vacuum/sweep almost daily because it gets so dusty… Curse you China and your Yellow Dust!!!

Moving on.

Next day, we find out that the apartment building doesn’t own the AC unit. It isn’t owned by the school, either. It is owned by the city, who pays for my housing, and more importantly my salary as well. We call the office to find out about replacing the thing, but Korean Process wins again. There is a contract that says the city won’t buy a new one until Fall 2012. Over a year from now. This is 2011, and it is frigging hot out. It has been so hot that since April I’ve been sleeping on top of the blankets.

Next step: You need to read about FAN DEATH, the Korean superstition that today, hopefully worked to my advantage. 

When talking to the older crowd in the admin office, I mentioned that it is so hot that I keep my fan on ALL NIGHT LONG. I could potentially die from fan death. Better watch it, or you’ll have a potentially sticky situation. Ha. I really hope that one worked, because right now it’s 1 AM and it is so hot in my apartment that I can’t sleep. I’ll update you as I hear more back. Cross your fingers and think cold thoughts for me… And my overheated bunny with a really exciting name: Tokki. (토끼. It means “rabbit.”)

I’ll have more pictures and stories up next week, as I’ll have a lot more deskwarming time ahead!

This is my bunny, Tokki, when I first got him 2 months ago. He's much bigger now!



Things That Make Me Feel 5 Again

19 04 2011

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a Wednesday ritual after school. I live about a block away from a Baskin Robbins, which is delicious and dangerous, because they have Rainbow Sherbet. Or, if you’re me and my family, “Sherbert.”


Momentary childhood flashback time! I lived in Pendleton and Mom worked for Gramma at “Lynne’s Poodle Palace” in Hermiston. (Billy, this is where all the jokes come from.) We would drive there every day to work, and I would play with all the animals and generally love life. On the way home, in our awesome, slightly sparkly Chevy truck, we would occasionally stop at the little cafe place that served ice cream. Mom and I would rumble up to the Wheatland Dairy’s drive through window and get a couple sugar cones with our favorite flavor scooped right on top.

Our favorite employee was an older guy. He knew what was up. There was a tight corner on the overpass, and he squished each scoop down so that if you were barreling around that corner at 60 or so, that delicious gob of colorful goodness stayed put.

We developed a tangible hatred for the younger woman that worked there. She was dainty and frail in her work, and in the ice cream business, that just doesn’t cut it. Her scoops would sit lightly on top of the cone, as if she wanted it to fall off. It was like a company selling equipment that will only last a short while and then crap out. (cough cough Dell cough cough) It’s good for business, but terrible for the consumer.

I remember one time Mom and I got sherbert and were heading home, across the overpass. The dumb chick served us, and I was 5 year old oblivious Dani, enjoying my after work treat. (Don’t worry, no child labor laws were broken!) It was hot out, I was happy, and we headed home… Right towards the monster corner on the overpass.

If you’ve ever met my mom, you know she likes to go fast. Cars, trucks, whatever. That dreadful day was no different. We went sailing around that corner like always, and it was like watching a glass fall from a high cabinet and shattering: it all happens in slow motion and you’re helpless. My happy scoop of rainbow goodness became a mucky mess on the floor of the Chevy, changing from my treat to Patsy’s treat in an instant.  Ultimate feeling of bummed. Maybe that’s why I always felt bad for the big guy on Lilo and Stitch!


Back to the future, err, recent past, and I’m getting some delicious rainbow sherbert from BR’s down the block. An older Ajumma and her family work there. They’re really friendly, and the youngest girl always tries to show her mom/grandma? how to say things in English to me. Last Wednesday, I walked in and got my usual. It was nice out, so I paid and decided to walk down the street to the park by my house to enjoy the warm weather and my reward for not strangling the Ke$ha-esque boy, U~Ganda in class.

As I was walking out the door, a delivery motorcycle zoomed past, bumping my bag and sending me flying. Again, slow-motion helplessness kicked in, as my bag hit the ground and I saw the beautiful colors go flying right onto the doorstep of Baskin Robbins.

Really?!? Awww...

Ultimate bummer. I felt completely defeated by that stupid motorcycle delivery guy. I picked up my bag, completely bummed, and started to clean up the ice cream off my pant leg with the napkins I got for my cone. Just as I was throwing the whole mess in the trash, the old Ajumma walked up with a new cone, patted my shoulder and asked, “Are you okay?” I said that I was fine, and I was so shocked by the fact that she actually asked me something in English that I didn’t realize that she was offering me a fresh scoop of wonder. “Here, for you.”


I tried to pay for it, but she just wasn’t having it. I thanked her again and went to the park. I’m pretty sure that second cone tasted way better than the first. Minus the motorbike jerk faces, I LOVE MY NEIGHBORHOOD!

English Names Just Aren’t for Everybody

4 04 2011

During my first couple weeks at school, I tried my best to learn students’ real names, in Korean. Well, I’m obviously not the best at the language, and during my main getting situated time, I kind of gave up, but not really. I asked the kids if they wanted to choose English names, and the overall reaction was positive. I found a website that had 100 names for boys and 100 names for girls, and let the kids pick off the list or choose their own. Some kids got REALLY creative, others didn’t want to choose a name, so they just kept their own.

One student was really offended by me asking if he wanted an English name for our class. We meet just once a week, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Well, not exactly. Apparently I needed to brush up on my Korean history prior to offering names to students. The student who didn’t like the idea is great, one of my best students. After class he asked if he could talk to me about it. He told me that his grandparents were all forced to take Japanese names when they were young and in school, during the occupation. I had no clue about this. None at all. He said that he wanted to honor his family and always use his real, Korean name. I respected that and was sure to mention to the rest of my students that they didn’t have to take a name, it was just for fun.

Seriousness aside, there are some AWESOME kids in my school. One of my 8th grade classes has three boys, sitting in a row. They are collectively known as “Pepperoni Pizza.” Individually, there’s Pepe, Ronny, and Pizza. (Yeah, we couldn’t avoid that last one.) Class 2-6 has boys named Chocolate Milk, Strawberry Milk and Coffee Milk. Their choice, not mine. There’s a girl named Ryan and a boy named Sophie, and there’s the one younger student who is so androgynous that I still can’t tell picked the one name on both lists: Alex. I have 3 Baracks, 2 Lincolns, the names of a dozen K-pop bands, and I don’t even know how many girls named Amy.

There are a few students that tend to sit together that have awesome names as well. Angie and Emily sit together (as well as an Emily and Tyler in 9th grade), Hannah and Elizabeth sit together (close enough), Branden and Thomas (COUSINS!), and one of my favorite duos, BEN and JERRY sit together. I mentioned it on the first day, and they really didn’t get it. Sadly, B&J’s doesn’t exist here, only Haggen Daas. After everybody chose their names, I discovered two things: They must deep down love my Severns/Ray/Ehrenfelt family and my other family, the Brodericks, and food.

Yesterday, for my after school program, I was given an attendance sheet. It was all in Hangul (Korean). Nearly 6 weeks in and I was able to read most of the names well enough. I get by… (with a little help from my friends!)

Have a good day!

**Edit: There are 5 Jeremy kids in the 9th grade, and I’m pretty sure every 8th grade class has one, too.

Also, there are 4 boys who chose the name Donald. One is one of my after-school program kids, so he’s basically one of my favorites… And the others? Well, they’re on my list. Not the good one, either.

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