Thursday, March 5, 2015

Welcome Back

As the new school year approaches, I've been thinking about writing in this journal again. I returned to South Korea to teach. I have been here about six months. Starting in the middle of a school year has been a heck of a challenge, but like I mentioned already, the new school year has just begun.  I refrained from journaling earlier for reasons which I'll bring up later. ..but now I think it will be important to start writing again. I think it will be more helpful to keep things in account for personal reference as well as to help anyone who comes across this blog and would like to know more about teaching in Korea.

So, here's to a new start! The first week of school is nearly over, and the real work will begin. Follow me on my journey.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Unexpected Trip to Dreamland

Hi everyone! Shirby here. Let me tell you about my trip to Dreamland.

In May 2012, the elementary school I worked at had their first field trip day of the year. Everyone except a few select staff were left at school to "hold down the fort".

A majority of the school was going to go to Cheongju… or Daegu… or Daejeon… or somewhere fancy like that. I can't remember now, it's been too long. …and the kindergarten was going to an amusement park called Dreamland.

Now, I hadn't known about the kindergarteners going on a field trip. Since I worked with 1st-6th grade, I only ever heard about their activities. I had been told to arrive at school early in the morning so I could join them.

I was waiting on the bus with first and fifth graders. They were so excited, and it was quickly rubbing off on me. This would be my first field trip with them. This was also my first time being a chaperone on a school-related trip.

Then the bad news came.

I had to get off the bus. The teachers and staff told me (in the best way they could) that I would not be able to join them because they had miscounted. I was taking the spot of another teacher. I would need to stay at school.

So, I was feeling pretty down, pretty sad.
--(I mean, I'm pretty sure I'd taken a taxi that day because I wasn't yet able to read the bus schedule and figure out which bus to take so early in the morning. It was one of those stressful moments of life that engulfed me with fear... only to disappear when I successfully overcome them).--
The teachers and staff are apologizing a lot, and ushering me away from the chaos of the busses. I'm wondering how the rest of my day will go. I ask my teacher if I can go home. The students won't return until well after my classes end. She tells me I must stay at school for a few hours, and then I can go home.

*pause, makes a face*

Ok. Ok. So, I head into the school. The busses are driving off behind me. The classroom where my desk is is locked, so I sit in the office. (This was before I knew how to ...or even that I had permission to... ask the staff for the room key). After about 5 minutes, I decide to go play on the school piano.

After about 10 minutes of piano playing, I hear my name being called. One of the teachers finds me and tells me (in Korean) that I can go on the kindergarten field trip. I don't understand most of what he's saying, but I just nod and follow him to the kindergarten side of the building, where the head teacher translates for me... and I hesitantly agree.

I have a lot of dumb questions running through my head.

What? Why haven't they left yet? Why is there room for me to go with the kindergarteners and not the classes I work with every day?

Then, I tell myself to shut up and be happy that I don't have to sit in a near-empty school for 2+ hours. This is an adventure, I tell myself. Accept it!

And so I did. It went a little like this:

As I look through the footage, one part of the trip stands out most in my mind. Lunch time. The kids had packed lunches, and the teachers had prepared lunches for themselves. It was one of those moments where I was truly grateful and thankful for the sharing culture that exists in Korea. Not only did the teachers share their lunch and extra drinks with me, but they made a show of sharing bites of lunch from student lunches. Honestly, it looked kind of like they were abusing the sharing culture a bit, but as a result of the teachers walking around and nibbling bits of food from each student, some of the students got up and shared food with me. I hadn't prepared a lunch. I hadn't known to prepare a lunch. I wished I had known, because then I would've gotten up and shared whatever I had with the others, too. As I sat there and shared lunch with everyone, I wondered how lunch time would've gone at the other field trip I was suppose to be on.

When I arrived back at school with the kindergartners, the staff who had stayed at school kept asking me if I'd really had fun on the trip. I had this feeling that they were either set on making up with me, or they couldn't believe that I'd enjoy running around with little kiddies all day.

Let me tell you, I made crazy brownie points that day. The kindergarteners were a portion of the students who I would ordinarily never have gotten to meet during my time at that school. Suddenly, they all knew me. For the remainder of the school year, they would greet me in the hallways and shout HELLO at the top of their lungs during lunch. The trip also allowed me to get to know the kindy teachers better. I found them to be great people, teachers whom I also wouldn't have gotten close to had it not been for the field trip.

Dreamland was a fun experience, and a great adventure.

'Til next time,

Even More Tales From The Past (As They Come).

Hi again!

It's been awhile! I've spent the past two weeks converting my camcorder videos to editable clips for my new laptop. Aside from not having the CD for the digital camera (nor being able to find a useable online version), I also switched over to a Mac! Despite the changes, simply waiting for 5-6 months of video footage to convert has been the hardest part of the work.

So! I'm going to mash up video clips in various ways (haven't decided the creative angle yet), and post them on YouTube. ...but since I'm doing that, I might as well post them here. Some videos don't have a blog story to go with them, so in those cases I will just write one. The first one will be about my trip to Dreamland.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Last Week

The last week in Korea went by slow enough. I am satisfied. (The last hours in Jecheon, however, were filled with nervousness, sadness, and other "leaving a familiar place" emotions).

Let's start with Monday. Even though I'd taken the week off, I came to school on this day. It was just to make sure the piƱata mess was really cleaned up, and to talk to my mentor teacher whom was finally returning to school after her vacation. That evening, I boarded a train to Seoul (Hongdae to be exact) in anticipation for my second-ever LanguageCast visit! It led to spending some quality time with a Korean friend I'd made way back at orientation; officially meeting Noe of ROK On! (noealz1 on Youtube); and eating some of the tastiest Japanese ramen in the... ok in MY world.

Tuesday, I had come back to Jecheon. That is all I remember right now. I believe I was running errands (mailing packages, writing post cards and thank-you letters, washing clothes, etc.) on this day. I also most likely visited my friends' phone shop. I made sure to spend most of my free time there since it was the last week.

Wednesday evening, I went to Jipyeong. It's this small country town on the way to Seoul (by train) where my nurse friend and her family currently live. Upon arrival, we drove into the nearby town (whose name escapes me right now) and met a very wonderful artist and her family. Oh! That reminds me! I need to send her a message!

Thursday I came back to Jecheon. More errand-running and phone-shop-haunting.

Friday night, I headed back to Seoul for a night of whatever-happens-happens. What happened? I met up with some more friends that I wanted to say farewell to, and they wanted to go clubbing. Around 3:30 AM,  a completely sober (there was a conversation about how ridiculous I was for not drinking alcohol), danced-out Me parted ways with the last friend. I headed to a manhwa cafe that I'd visited only once before and quietly snoozed in the comfy chairs until the subways opened up again. I caught the first subway back to the train station and attempted to sleep ... but to no avail. It's really hard to sleep when you fear missing your stop, no matter how long the trip.

Saturday I went to the phone shop (I'd promised them that I'd buy them lunch). Actually, first I went home to rid myself of smoke-filled clothing and all-nighter's fatigue. The former was a success. Even after lunch, I was having a hard time looking alert. So I went home and took another cat nap before heading off to another scheduled good-bye dinner with friends.

Sunday was full of cleaning and packing, none of which I finished that day. In the evening, I had a third good-bye dinner with some of the other foreigner English teachers. We feasted on ribs that tasted out of this world. They honestly belonged in the States, and even though I would be returning to the U.S. in a few days, I really felt it necessary to eat there before going "home."

I tell you, I ate A LOT that week. The weekend before all of this, I'd gone to Times Square (Korea's version) with a Korean friend and pigged out on yummy food as well. That makes 3 planned goodbye meals and 3 separate trips to Seoul in a 7-day period. There were plenty of unplanned feasts that week as well, but it's not necessary to count. :)

'Til next time,

Friday, February 8, 2013


I just want to say I'm back! I'm back in the States. I will take some time to write about my last week (and final hours) in Korea. I have much to say. I even wrote a little while waiting for the first plane. Those notes will be copied here. I feel like even though my journey in Korea has ended, my writing here hasn't. I still have untold memories and accounts to mention (all in due time).

Meanwhile, it has been two days since I landed in the U.S. Today was the first day in a year that I drove a car. I have many errands to do (including manually adding phone numbers into a new phone, and buying a new laptop). With that in mind, it may take awhile, but I'm dedicated to finishing those stories untold.

There are many projects that I will start once things settle down. One includes "wrecking" a journal (thanks to my friend, Adina). I'd like to film the process. It should be entertaining. I also want to develop my multimedia skills. That means a lot of video editing in my future!

So, yes, even though I've left Korea, I can continue to talk about it. I am keeping in touch with Korean friends via KakaoTalk. I am staying up-to-date on the latest crazes (like that Korean Les Miserables parody video that's viral right now). I can finally play all those smartphone games like Dragon Flight and Anipang (both of which I still suck at playing) on my own phone. Yes, Korea has stolen a piece of my heart it seems. Through troubles and triumphs, I'm glad to come to that conclusion.

More later!

'Til next time,

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wrapping Up

Things are wrapping up here in Korea.

I've got about two weeks to go. Two busy weeks of trying to make the most of every moment. Tomorrow's my last day teaching. I asked for the last week off in order to take care of errands without the stress of rushing around. I plan to visit the school again during my "vacation" so that I can say final goodbyes, talk to the kids again, and hand out thank-you cards. Ah, I don't like goodbyes.

I said goodbye to my Australian friend this morning. I helped her call a taxi so she could head off to meet her family in Hong Kong for some travelling time. The taxi driver was baffled by the two suitcases she carried to the curb. Apparently, Korean people don't need so many bags while moving away. Still, through his "Aigooooo" 's and struggles to fit the bags in his car, my friend and I chuckled and gave each other hugs. It felt significant to be speaking to the driver in Korean as I helped send my friend off. A mark of how this place has changed me. Then, as it was 4:30 in the morning, I crawled back into bed and slept restlessly until my third alarm went off.

I have so many things I want to start doing when I get back home. All are because of my experiences here. I feel like the motivation is truly there this time. I just hope that I can accomplish some of those dreams and goals.

I have so many things I need to take care of before heading out, all of which involve the people I've met in Korea. I have thank-you cards to write; friends to track down; last-minute souvenirs to buy; last-minute friends to make (it will happen, whether I want it to or not); favorite Korean food to savor before it becomes too far out of reach; .... ah, the list goes on.

At school, I'm making pinatas with the 1st and 2nd graders. The 3rd and 4th graders are learning to move in time with Daft Punk via notecards and dance moves. The 5/6 graders made a time capsule. I hope that they don't truly lose it and it never gets opened.

I'd like to come to Korea again. I'd like to continue studying the language. I'd like to see all the friends I've made here in the future (whenever that time may come). I have so many hopes now, so many dreams. I pray that God will help me find the right path, and walk with me along it.

'Til next time,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Growing Up

I'm sitting at my desk. I hear the squeaky voice of a 6th grader I know in the stairwell. Why is he here, I think. Then more voices pour down from the upstairs classrooms and into the stairwell. Why are all the 6th graders here so suddenly?

Awww. The sixth graders are going to a middle school today. I don't (of course) have all the details, but it sounds like some sort of field trip. I week or so ago, one 6th grader told me that they would all find out which middle school they'll be going to on some day in January. Perhaps this is that day. But it seems strange for them to all be meeting at school in order to visit their future middle schools. Maybe it's like a shuttle service provided by the elementary school. Hmm. I'll have to ask when they come back.

'Til next time,