Found Another One

on layver in Tokyo we find the strangest flavor yet: Rum Raisin!

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Open Apology to Prospective Hires

I’ve been getting a lot of emails from people applying to Chadwick.  I have to say, I am so sorry but I do not have time to reply to you right now.  Take a look at my blog–I barely have time to post much.  Mostly this is for good reason:  I’m either working hard, traveling, or training.  So rather than reply to you separately, I’ll answer some of the more frequent questions here, once (again I truly am sorry–many of you sound very cool and I would like to be able to have extended conversations with you all, but that’s just not possible at the moment):

Can I support my family on a Chadwick salary?

Probably.  I guess it depends on your lifestyle.  You’re probably not going to be traveling much if you’re supporting a family of 4 or more, but yes you can live on one salary.  The provided housing is very nice and big enough for a family with multiple children.

Do you enjoy teaching at Chadwick?

Mostly.  I do find the administration supportive and the kids are very nice.  There are a lot of great personal and professional benefits and we are treated with respect.  It’s a new school and due to its structure, it’s a bit unique in its problems and opportunities compared to other more established international schools.  There are certainly going to be a lot of growing pains.  Like any international school, if you want to teach here, you need to be open-minded and flexible.  My husband and I are staying for a fourth year and possibly a fifth after that.  I’m happy here for now.

How are your colleagues?

For the most part, the teachers are excellent here.  So excellent, in fact, that there’s a lot of internal pressure that we put on ourselves–thus the extended work hours.  People are generally very collegial.  People are active and healthy, which I appreciate.  The nature of the city is much more comfortable for families.  Singles don’t last very long even though they may love the school.  So, if you are fellow DINKS, please apply and make a good showing–I need people to hang out with 🙂

Do the teachers go on the outdoor ed trips?

Yes–and they’re great, and you have the opportunity to take kids on trips of your own design.

Okay, that’s that for now.  Please don’t be upset with me if I didn’t respond to your email.  I hope that your interview process goes well.  Put on a good game-face for the hiring fair and hopefully we’ll see you here.

If you’re reading this because you subscribed back when you were looking into Chadwick and now you’re here, please feel free to pipe in down in the comments.  Maybe your experience is different from mine or feel you have a nugget of info that would help prospective hires that you wish someone had told you.

The Unbearable Awesomeness of Regional Japanese Kit-Kat Flavors

Since our move to Korea, we’ve been to Japan 4 times, and in January we go for our 5th trip.  This makes me an expert on this current topic.  I could tell you about how great the skiing is (it’s great), or about how good the food is (it’s good), or about how interesting the culture is (it’s very interesting), but today I’m going to tell you about Kit-Kat.    What’s really cool about Japan is that there is so much to do and see.  Every region is unique, fascinating, and worth visiting.  Take a look at the guidebook at your local library–it’s huge.  And it’s not a huge country.  As a side-note, I have noticed that this is good measure of how cool a country will be.  There is a secret algorithm by which you can divide the square mileage of a country by the weight of it’s Lonely Planet to determine whether not you should visit and exactly how many times.

Out of 5 trips, 3 were/are purely ski trips and 2 were tourism/sight-seeing, Fuji-hiking sorts of trips.  Every trip was to a different region of Japan.  Whenever we go to a new country, I’m always looking for what’s different and while I’m not a foodie, I think that you can tell a lot about a people by what kind of packaged-processed food you can find.  So I pay attention to that:  flavors of potato chips, candy, ice cream flavors, etc.  And because I loved Kit-Kat when I was little, I picked up pretty quickly that Japan had a couple of different flavors.  Everywhere, we saw dark chocolate, strawberry and green tea flavors.  Fun, right?  I assumed this was it until we were leaving the country after that first trip.  We were on the Northern tip of the main island, in Aomori.  We found hot chili pepper Kit Kat.  Wow.  That was a find.  I figured, at the time, you could get them anywhere–just maybe at specialty stores or something.

By our third trip, while in Kyoto, I began to realize that the Kit Kat flavors vary by region–and now, by season.  Fun! We tried in vain to find the chili pepper variety, but have never seen those little babies again.  Kyoto has my favorite variety.  They are white chocolate with the famous, Kyoto wafer-cookie crumbled up into the chocolate.  The cookie is like a cross between a graham cracker and those yummy cinnamon biscuits from some random country in Europe that come individually wrapped.  You know the ones.  The package is red?……

Since this realization, I have been mildly obsessed with discovering the varieties of the region I’m in.   Near Mt. Fuji, there were mango flavored Kit Kats.  They also, of course, had special commemorative Mt. Fuji  Kit Kats in a Fuji-shaped box.  Those were blueberry cheesecake flavor.  On the Izu peninsula, we had wasabi flavored Kit Kat which are just as awesome as they sound, and for Halloween, we found pumpkin flavored ones (see picture below).  How awesome is that?  I know:  awesome.

I really love this about Japan.  I like a lot of things about the culture, one of those being the attention to detail.  And while Kit Kat is owned by Nestle, scourge of the 3rd world and evil corporation, even that gigantic conglomerate will let tiny batches of this candy be made and sold by region.  I love it that the Izu peninsula is the only place where you can get Wasabi Kit Kat.  And so I continue to search.

We will go to Sapporo this winter for a ski trip.  I’m *almost* equally excited to discover the regional flavor.

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This Happened

Yesterday, our city hosted a marathon, half marathon, 10k and 5k.  Many people from school participated and it seemed like a good-sized event that maybe grows each year.  I ran the 10k after careful consideration of the boring-factor.  We run in this tiny city everyday.  It’s flat.  It’s all on road.  I chose the shorter distance and still used my ipod to combate the boredom–something I’ve never done for a race this short.  Race organization was fine–not much to complain about there.  The course was straightforward and well-marked and each race wave began 5 minutes later than the one preceding it.  This meant that there was always someone to catch up ahead until the 8km mark where the 10k race veered off to head to the finish.  There were 3 water stations, so that seemed plenty.  The only bad thing about the race was that the 10k was long.   Multiple people recorded it to be 10.7km.  Because I am so very familiar with the city and distances, I knew something was screwy when we still weren’t turning towards the finish when I thought we should be.  But, I took their markings on faith that maybe I was somehow wrong, and let me tell you people:  that last kilometer was the most painful of my life.  Because it was more like 1.7 and I gave my all at the 1.  My time was 50:30.  Having not broken 50 in a 10k in my previous adult life, this was frustrating, but at the same time, I’m pretty easy-going and really happy to know that at the real 10k, I was under 50.  I also came in 7th woman.  1st-5th place got money.  I got:

7th place

6 kilos of rice.  Yep, 6 KILOS of rice.  And a fancy certificate.  I may have been 7th, but on this day, I was a winner!

Still There?

Yes!!  I still live in Songdo and still work for Chadwick International.  What’s with the year hiatus, you ask?  Actually, I’m not sure.  We were just so busy.  I won’t lie–working for CI is incredibly demanding.  At times it was not always rewarding, and so I didn’t feel like writing much.  But it’s a new school year, I’ve moved to high school, and so I’m feeling a bit more like writing these days.  So there you have it.

What happens in a year in a rapidly-filling brand new city raised from the mud?

–They began and are close to finishing building the Lotte Mart half of the Lotte Mall complex 2 blocks from our house.

–The new Green Climate Fund (GCF) secretariat to the UN chose Songdo as it’s homebase, promising an influx of 500 families of multinational background.  But in the wake of all that silly media circus about North Korea last spring, their arrival is delayed.  Songdo is still as Korean as the next city and remains “International” in name only.

–A bar owned and run by expats finally opened.  Cinder Bar is great.  They open at 5:30, officially making them the only bar anywhere nearby that opens when Westerners actually want to drink.

–As the city fills, but people still drive erratically, the number of bike wrecks is on the rise.  We constantly beg the kids to wear their helmets.  But they still won’t.  This is a constant source of anxiety for me.

–I’m coaching cross country and we actually have a real season this year, complete with multiple scored meets.  This has been awesome, yet exhausting.  Totally worth it, though.  The kids are incredible.

–Many more restaurants and bars are opening–we even got a second Starbucks.  There are also many new stores, but none of these things have me particularly excited.  Except of course for the addition of many Korean cosmetic stores.  I love that stuff.  Guilty secret, but I’m putting it out there now.  So there.  Now you know.  I love makeup shaped like cats and bunnies.  Truth.

–Tim and I bought a summer home in the mountains of Colorado.  I have a picture of it by my desk.  I look at it often.

Just a snippet of things to come.

I’m feeling much more at-home in Korea this year.  The food has really grown on me and I feel like I finally really understand the culture, which helps me let go of a lot of things that upset me about people here before.  I’m feeling quite satisfied with where I am in life at the moment.  Maybe that’s why I feel like writing again.

Trials and Triumphs of Technology

While moving to the extreme far East has been a gigantic step and shift in living for us, both culturally and because of the size and modernity of the city and Korea, what is most fascinating for many people is that we have additionally moved to a brand new “smart” city.  “Smart” because it is Leeds certified, is hardwired with the fastest internet in the world, is built beside a major Asian airport hub, and also because its every detail is planned out for residents who do not yet exist.

So I can say things like, I live in a “smart city” or I live in a new “aerotropolis”–but what does this actually mean?  The internets are full of information about the concept of New Songdo City, the plans, how the economic crunch has affected the dream, etc etc.  But what is it really like to live in a smart city?  What is it like to have technology in your face everywhere you look?  My experiences will not be much different from someone living in Seoul or Tokyo or Hong Kong, except that I get to experience these things with a lot of space, clean streets and a lack of gross city smell.  All the things now apart of my daily life are especially astounding (and frustrating) to me as I grew up in a small Appalachian town and only moved to a slightly larger town in my 20s.  I never lived in New York or Shanghai or London.  So try to look at what follows through my particular lens of experience.

In our house, there have been some adjustments.  Let’s begin with the first moment you walk in the door.  Our front door is computerized and the whole thing is battery operated.  You cannot enter our house with a regular, tongue-in-groove key.  This is highly disconcerting to me.  I can open my door with my fingerprint or a code punched into a touch-screen, but what will we do if the batteries die?  We’re locked out and it’s not some flimsy wooden door you can kick in.  The door does sing to us and gives lots of warning if the batteries are dying so we can change them in time.  But this is a mechanized, computerized, sensitive and therefore susceptible to breaking device.  Does that not scare anyone else?
Out in the hallway is our trash chute.  We have one chute for food waste and one chute for regular trash.  This is good and bad.  On the one hand, I put a bag of trash into a little hole, and it gets whisked away underground to some processing center.  Amazing!  There are no dumpsters.  No smelly trash cans waiting for the dump truck.  However, because it’s a vacuum chute, if someone on the 27th floor doesn’t close the door just right (and you do have to slam it just right), no one in the building can throw away their trash until the problem is solved.  This can be a weekly nuisance.

Next, and what has taken the most getting used to, is the Home Net computer system.  This is the system by which, eventually, people will be able to teleconference with their doctor or teacher or whatever–part of the whole “smart” city concept.  Right now, the system works to regulate the house temperature, lights, gives you lots of information on weather and traffic, and gives you video conferencing capabilities with your neighbors.  The Home Net also shows you a video of who is at the main building door and who rings your door bell in hallway.  This is especially convenient and nice.  For example, we can easily identify the Bible salesman and pretend we’re not home.  In addition to the main screen in the living room, there are also consoles with screens in the kitchen and in the master bathroom.  So, if someone rings the door while you’re on the john, you can let them in.  This is highly convenient but freaked me out the first time I was using the bathroom and the door rang and the video popped up on the screen in the bathtub.  I couldn’t shake the feeling the caller could see me!

While a source of convenience, the Home Net often makes me crazy.  When we moved in, the system was all set up and functional.  But it turns out that if it ever resets, you have to enter a specific code to re-boot it or else an alarm will sound.  And not just a little beeping alarm.  It’s a full on intruder/emergency alert.  Right.  Guess what happened in the middle of one night when the power went out?  The stupid thing went off every hour until I could locate our housing assistant to give me the code.

If that wasn’t invasive enough, there’s a speaker just above the main console through which the housing guards talk at all the residents.  It’s loud.  It’s in Korean.  And I’ve been told that the content of their sometimes three-a-day announcements include such earthshatteringly important things as telling people to remember to sort the trash and to close the windows because in case we didn’t notice, it’s windy out.  Obviously, this is highly frustrating, and makes me wonder how this concept gained popularity.  Who wants their phone calls, shows, sleep, and lives interrupted by someone jabbering at you to remember that recycling time is over at 10am?  But I think this is a Korean thing.  Not a “smart city” thing.  Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate.

I’ll end this commentary with my favorite item.  I’m sure this is not specific to our city and our house, just as all of our singing appliances are a totally new concept to us, but so normal to Koreans–but the foot pedal at the sink is indispensable.  You can turn the water on at the kitchen faucet and then turn it off and on with a tap of your foot.  There’s no dishwasher, so in the course of washing dishes, so much water is saved by tapping that foot pedal!  I’ve become so accustomed to this little gem that I found myself back in the States this summer stomping in front of my friends’ and family’s sinks to try to turn on the water.  I mean, why wouldn’t you want this device?  Everyone should have one of these.

A year in I am still learning about my house.  I’m sure I would know even more about all it’s amazing capabilities if buttons and instructions were in English.  But through trial and triumph, we’re slowly figuring it out.

Haven’t heard enough?  If you’d like to know more, I had a small hand in the following articles:

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/sim-city-inside-south-koreas-35-billion-plan-to-build-a-city-from-scratch.php

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/cities-as-gadgets-8-features-this-brand-new-city-has-that-yours-doesnt.php

 

Some Summer Pics…

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