Friday, December 28, 2012

More Musings

I've got a lot on my mind these days.

There are things that I started to write but either deleted, never finished writing, or never had the time to write down.

So, I was writing about my latest adventures at the gym. This is a story that will hopefully be posted soon. I've started going to the gym with the phone friend and two others. The trainers are interesting people, and nice, and friendly. Despite all this, I still would...

- - - -
... And then this post became one of those which I'm explaining now. I meant to finish writing this yesterday. So, now, I'll continue. Now, where was I?

Despite all this, I still wouldn't go to the gym without the others. What I'm doing instead is working out with my friends, and then partaking in an after-workout workout! What is this, you ask? I've downloaded K-pop and J-pop dance videos and started practicing them at home. Most of them are dances I started learning in Kurabu Dancin'.

In the past couple of weeks I've traveled some more. I went to Daegu for my personal culture trip. I took a bus tour and had an interesting time talking to the bus driver in Korean. Once he discovered that I knew a little Korean, he started a long conversation that I can only GUESS the contents of. I do know that we talked about my Jecheon and Daegu. He also also talked about the three major cities in South Korea (and possibly explaining something I read about before the trip: Daegu is considered more favorable to some (over Seoul) because it offers many of the same things minus the crowd). Then he went on explaining some things that make Daegu great, most of which I couldn't comprehend. By the time we arrived at the stop for the museum, I had done a lot of smiling and nodding, and a little bit of comprehension. The rest of the Daegu trip was, overall, enjoyable. I really hope to visit the city again.

In other news, I also attended the TaLK Farewell Dinner in Cheongju. It was nice see friends from orientation that I hadn't seen in months. The highlight may've been the singing contest. One guy wore a red wig (-type thing) out of pipe cleaners, and sang "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. He was one of the first prize winners.

There was also yet another trip to Seoul (Insa-dong) with a friend to look around and for Christmas party gifts. Last weekend was said Christmas Party with the other foreigner English teachers in Jecheon. I wore my blue wig and tiger hat for the occasion. We did the White Elephant game (pick a random present; open it up; choose to keep it or steal someone else's gift), which was really fun. Oh, and I made chicken pot pie which was probably the first big meal I've cooked here and shared with people. No, that shepard's pie that I made for the teachers doesn't count. Not even a little bit.

The last day of school was a teary event. One second grader rushed up to me with a smile after the school ceremony and hugged me. Several seconds later, when she did not let go, I looked down and found that she was crying. Oh no, I thought. If she cries, I might start crying. So, I begged her to stop, but soon other students came over to give me a good-bye hug and joined in the crying... which soon turned into wailing, shouting, and screaming. ...At which point I was mobbed by several students who asked for my phone number. I'm wondering, if I give out my information to these students, will they keep in touch with me? Do they really want to, or is it just an in-the-moment  feeling that one feels obligated to do. After all, this is an elementary school. How many of these kids will really want to talk to me once the new TaLK scholar arrives in March?  Haha :) At least I can still see some of the students during winter camp and vacation classes (yes, even though school is out, they're still coming here to learn)!

Last night was the school's teacher farewell dinner. It was full of good memories that I hope to never forget. One teacher got especially drunk, and it was nice to find that all the other teachers (also mostly drunk) watched over this teacher carefully. The entire event consisted of a sashimi dinner (which I tried very hard to eat), an hour and a half at the noraebang above the restaurant (where I sang two songs), and a trip to a coffee shop around the corner (where the truly drunk tried to regain composure). Again, there were many good memories that I hope to never forget.

There's a new student at my school (yes, hard to believe that a new student can be accepted days before the last day of school here in Korea). She's a Korean-American from Colorado. I cannot tell you how ... what's the right word... "good" it's felt to speak to a young person without broken English. Not only that, but I can speak quickly when I'm just chatting with her. It's really put things into perspective for me, as well as for the other students. I'm positive they've noticed the difference in our conversations. I'm trying really hard to keep an equal amount of conversation time and general friendly chatting with this new student and all the other children. I see some of them being encouraged to speak to me more, while others are backing a way a bit. I really wonder how things will be if the new student attends my classes in January. Another challenge has appeared!

I'm also concerned about her a bit. I know what it's like moving to different schools (even in another country) in the middle of the year, and I know what it's like to be really different from the other students around you. I wonder how this student's time here will be.

Well, there's just one more day of English camp. Tomorrow is my birthday. I hope I can have fun. I try not to plan things for my birthday. I'm really getting the hang of going with the flow. It helps in so many ways.

'Til next time!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas, Indeed

My thoughts this morning:
What? I only have 15 minutes to take a shower, get dressed, and pack my things? .... Well then, I'm not eating breakfast.

My MT's supposed thoughts this morning:
What? You can't eat breakfast, too? Oh, well.... *looks around* here is some cake. I'll pack some for you. Oh, and you can eat if for lunch, too!

Why can't I just walk down to the store and buy some juice? I suppose I should be happy. Thankful. Thank you for thinking of me.

My MT and her husband thought of me again on the car ride to school. They turned the radio to an English station. However, it wasn't the normal station I was expecting to hear. The news was broadcasted in English, then Korean, and then the announcers became teachers and the English news report was broken down and thoroughly explained. I wasn't expecting to have an English lesson.

We arrived at school and my request to walk to the nearby grocery store and buy a drink was refused. My MT made me some tea in the teacher's office, and we headed for the classroom. Then, I proceeded to spill the tea on my way out the door. Fortunately, the scalding hot water did not leave a burn on my hands. I think the water's competition with the 1 degree weather outside prevented any serious pain.

So, how was my Christmas? Monday evening, I went to Wonju with my MT to watch performances at her church. They were funny and incredibly entertaining, but some of the skits weren't as enjoyable as they could have been (language barrier). Still, thanks to the universal language of gestures, the night proved quite enjoyable. The other members of the church spent the night caroling around town. My MT and I returned home and waited for one of the groups to arrive at her door. It was far more reasonable to sit in the warm room, though I can't remember the last time I went caroling. Perhaps I was nine years old? No, there was that time in high school with the French club... Ah, anyways!

Christmas day was also spent at church. There was a service, and then my MT's family and I went to go eat lunch together. Afterwards, we returned home and everyone agreed that it was best to take a nap. Only, I hadn't felt like taking a nap. The kids had only had 4.5 hours of sleep due to caroling way past midnight. I'm not sure how much sleep the parents had had. I had somehow slept quite well, though after every meal a slight "food coma" would start to affect me. So while everyone went to nap, I sat in the kitchen making a fancy paper snowflake (the 3D kind). In the evening, we went out for dinner at a restaurant not too far from home. We feasted on yummy samgyeopsal! Upon returning home, I played a few rounds of Go! Stop! with the kids. Seriously, no matter how many times they explain it, that game remains the most intensely confusing game I've ever played. I somehow managed to win a few rounds, but I still don't understand why I won.

That brings us to this morning, which I've already informed you about. Hee, hee. :D

'Til next time,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

So Much

Wow, I've fallen behind again. Ok, what's happened so far?

I finally found out my schedule for the rest of my time here. Two weekends ago... let's see, what did I do? Ah! Well, I finally rested at home. The weekends before that involved going out of town. Actually, on Sunday, I did go out of town, but not too far way. A friend of my phone friend (he calls him his  "photo friend") invited us over to his sister's house for the afternoon. Actually, this explanation is a little more complicated. My phone friend's girlfriend wanted to practice making cookies (Korean households don't really make a lot of use of ovens, and they don't make a habit of baking cookies. It's more of a luxury thing, like American's making bread from scratch, or a perfect flan on a regular basis). So, I was invited along. There was also a little girl who came along, too. She hadn't met anyone except the girlfriend before. She kept saying everyone was strange, had strange voices, looked strange, and was basically the "only child who looks for attention" kind of child. Still, she wasn't too bad, and even though she was too shy to directly talk to me at first, by the end of the evening we'd read an English pop-up book together.

The house was amazing. The first floor was a super cozy coffee shop, while the upstairs was the actual home. I didn't go upstairs, but I got a really nice view of the downstairs. The husband is an architect, and he built the home (maybe, designed it himself?). My phone friend said, "Take a lot of pictures." I'm not sure why, but I complied. The area was really beautiful. The family also had a pet German Shepherd, who was very sweet. It' been a long time since I interacted with a dog that was taller than my ankle (slight exaggeration. I really don't like small dogs all too much).

Alas, I've been writing this short post all day, and I haven't even finished telling you everything. I will have to go soon, but I'd like to say that I will be writing about a day trip to Daegu, as well as my newest exercise habits. If there's time, I'll also share a ton of random happenings from school.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I've been thinking of creating a memory book and having my students sign and write messages in it. I especially want the 6th graders to write in it since I haven't seen them (in my class) in weeks. It feels weird that I didn't get to work with them that much. I was really looking forward to teaching them during the second semester because I personally feel that my teaching skills (and class lessons) sucked at the beginning.

Something happened during summer classes, and it suddenly got a bit easier to teach the kids, to work with them. Something must've clicked, because I began to relax a bit and handle things better. The kids who've stuck with me all year willingly come to class even if they can't stay a long time. Most of these kids are ones who were terrified of trying to understand what I was saying. They've been the hardest to teach (especially with regards to attention spans), and so any improvements made with them are big accomplishments in my book.

So, I was thinking the same thing with the 5th and 6th graders. They were some of the hardest to teach, especially in the beginning. I thought, Ok! This second semester will be better. I understand more things now. However, their attendance rapidly declined. There were a few days where a bunch of students would randomly show up to class 15 minutes late. It's really overwhelming when you have to create an activity on the spot like that. Ah, *sigh*

Well, despite difficulties, I really had fun getting to know them. I really hope that if they want to keep in touch, that they won't hesitate to talk to me in the future. It seems like school and studying become such a big focus after elementary school (not that the elementary school students are slacking at all!) I want to tell them, "If you have questions about English, or just want to practice talking, you can ask me!"  I mean, they already know me, right? There's also the fact that I can practice Korean with them, hehehe. Yes, mutual benefits!

In other news:

Sometimes I spot kids on their way from the cafeteria. They work in teams (the smaller ones, at least) to carry the basket of milk cartons up tho their classrooms. They see me and say hi. It's funny that students will shake their head (as if to say no) when their hands are full. Dear kids, there's no need to wave your head. It's not a requirement to say hi. You can just. say. hi.  :D

Be careful of flying trash bags. I was walking down a neighborhood street one morning, on my way to the bus stop, when a trash bag flew over the high school's brick wall. It landed about 5 feet in front of me. I stopped, wondering if  I should shout, 야!  (Yah!  or Hey! in English) to the person on the other side. Then, I figured they were probably done tossing bags, so I started to walk again. Then another bag flew. I stepped around the area and continued on. Why had I been walking so close to the wall in the first place? This road is like a large-ish alley, but when cars drive by, I have to move over to the "gutter" area to avoid getting run over. My coat hood is large enough to block peripheral vision and distort sound (I can't tell which direction some sounds are coming from when it's up). Rather than walk with it down and get an earache from the cold wind, I just walk close to the wall. It should be said that this was the first time that I walked by at the same time someone was throwing garbage bags over the wall.

'Til next time,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Message From The Past

Last night I was looking through some paperwork that I'd brought with me to Korea. In between the various pages, I found a journal entry from orientation that I'd written but never posted online. Here it is, from February 14, 2012.
(I'll do my best to type word-for-word).

Valentines Day:
The day went pretty well overall. Still getting used to full days of lectures (even the 2 hour ones). I was, overall, happy when the day started, but as it progressed my mood began to change. At lunch, the cafeteria surprised us with choco-dipped waffles.  They were pretty tasty, and a nice, thoughtful treat to all of us scholars. As I ate, I saw some people (girls) sitting with choco-boxes beside their trays. This, I hought, was neat, but I wondered if they had signif others here close by. By dinner, I'd see girls dressed fancy, as if going on an evening date, and everyone (girls, at least) seemed to be disappointed that there would be no second dessert. By this point in time, I was feeling moody. I remember when celebrating Val-day simply meant sharing choco/candy/cards w/ everyone. As adults there's hardly a requirement to do so. It might even seem awkward to some. Val-day, as one of my dinner-mates pointed out, has become singles-awareness day. Very unfair. I long for simplicity of group-sharings, and so that evening my mood was quite sour. I wanted to go for a walk. Get some fresh air. Everyone was already out, or in optional evening classes, unavailable to help me escape my emotions. I went to the piano room and tried playing Namikaze Satellite (among other tunes) but my impending self-awareness prevented any consistent, pleasant tunage. This being frustrating, I turned to roaming to my room, to the hallway, etc. until I finally gave in and went to Nurse Linda's office. Her son, Optimus Prime was there as usual, having an unusually bad day (due to impending rise in [body] temperature... possibly getting sick), but he let me play with his legos and help him build things (he did the building. I was only allowed to pass blocks). One of the last things that happened before it was time to go was that O.P. gave me some choco treats. It was prob at the request of his mother at first, but O.P. sat w/ me and had his [own] choco treat. We took bites one at a time and compared the sizes in b/t [each interval... like a science experiment lol] . He let me have some of his own and I shared mine... and then I realized that this little boy had just given me the kind of Val gift I wanted. Needed. It is truly a Val-day that I will have to remember, and be thankful for. With all my heart I love the gift God and O.P gave me that day. Needless to say, there was a smile on my face the rest of the evening.
Ok, I know. A little sappy at the end, but seriously. I was able to have the kind of honest, friendly moment I wanted to that day.... ...and O.P. probably forgot about not feeling well with someone there to play with and help distract him from an oncoming fever.

'Til next time,

The Wedding

So, I didn't actually write the wedding details, did I? (Sorry, Katie. I was just explaining an event before the wedding day :) ).

I arrived at Shinhwa Yeshikjang (Wedding Hall) thirty minutes before the ceremony began. People were already milling around.  A lady in the lobby told me to go upstairs to the second floor. I walked up with other relatives and friends who had just arrived. On the second floor, the first person I spotted in the crowd was the groom. He was standing in the open room greeting guests. Various people (probably family members) occasionally walked up to him to adjust his tie. We exchanged greetings, and he told me that our other mutual friend would arriving soon. He asked where Corey was. I didn't know, I told him. I'd waited outside the Dunkin Donuts at 12 like we'd arranged the night before, but he never showed up. I didn't tell him that part though. Instead, I went to go peek at the bride. She was in a small sitting room off to the side. It was decorated beautifully for photo-taking. I think people could just go up and ask to take a picture with her. I'm not quite sure if people were going in to take pics with her, or if they were going in to greet her while she was in the middle of taking pictures. Still, when there was a free moment, I peeked my head in and said hi. 너무 예뻐요, very beautiful, I told her. I might've mispronounced a syllable, now that I think of it. Still, she smiled kindly and said thank you. Afterwards, I headed back downstairs to wait for the phone friend.

Instead of seeing my phone friend arrive, I saw Corey come in. A-ha! He responded with the same phrase. There was a moment where he explained what had happened to him. He'd forgotten about the wedding and was about to settle down to watch a movie, when suddenly, the word wedding popped into his head and he rushed over! Ah, I see.... I told him what was happening upstairs ( i.e. everything), and we went upstairs to greet the groom again. Look! Corey has arrived!

There was a moment of watching all the other people in the room and guessing who they were, which side of the family they were on. Some people we'd met at the phone shop came over to talk to us. Then, Corey and I noticed white envelopes everywhere. We asked someone about them. Is it some gift you give to the bride and groom?  Maybe. Every time I asked about these envelopes in the past, someone would start to explain, and then say, "...but you don't need to do it." I wanted to know why! So the person we asked started to explain. He said something about you putting money in the envelope and writing your name on the outside. You return it to the desk where they hand out the envelopes, and your name is recorded (somewhere, but someone). Then, in the future, if you have a wedding (or wedding-related event), "they" will give you some money towards the event. I guess it's an investment of some sort. Corey and I decided to give some money anyways. We wrote our names on the outside of our envelopes. They looked drastically different from all the others (English letters vs. Korean hangeul). Then we were told that women return their envelopes on one station, and men turn theirs in to a separate station. There wasn't time to ask why, as our informant started going to talk to other people. We mosied about for a little while until our phone friend showed up. After that, there were just a few minutes left until the ceremony began.

Ok, so let me explain the layout of the room. When you walk up the stairs, there's this open area. On the left is the little half-room (the size of a large closet) that the bride sat in. On the right is a second room (only set apart by the change in decoration and flooring). The second room is where the ceremony takes place. Down the center of the room was a raised glass (or most likely plastic?) platform, which the bride, groom, etc. would use to walk to the front of the room. At the front was a stage of sorts, with a few steps at the front (which came in handy during picture-taking time). The room itself was decorated very nicely. There were many lights everywhere: chandeliers, fake candelabras, etc. In the minutes before the ceremony, the fancy lights above the platform went on and off like timed Christmas lights. As Corey correctly pointed out, it looked like the inside of a noraebang. It was a little TOO flashy. An announcer near the front corner introduced all the event thereafter. The mothers-in-law walked the platform first, turned away from each other and walked to opposite ends of the stage to each light a candle. Then the came to the front of the stage and bowed before taking their seats. Then it was time for the groom to enter. He walked up the platform and bowed to the audience, too. Following him was the bride and her father. Here, the lights did more fancy synchronizing. The bride and groom joined and the ceremony ensued. There was about 10 minutes of speech from a priest-like person in the front of the room. From what I could understand, he talked about normal marriage things: happiness, love, the city they live in... things like that. Then the ceremony was somehow complete and the couple turned to the audience to bow. I suppose that here, the priest-like person pronounced them a married couple. The couple then turned to the bride's family and bowed. I couldn't see clearly from my seat, but I suppose the groom did a full-body bow (including kneeling down), because he would disappear completely from view during this time. The bride did a modest bow. The couple then turned to the groom's family and repeated the gestures. After much bowing, the bride and groom faced the announcer, who was standing next to the wedding singers. At this time, the singers sang a romantic song ...or tried to. The female singer, she's a really good singer, normally, so I mistook her performance as her feeling under the weather and not having recovered enough to sing the whole song. Later I found out she wasn't sick, just nervous. You see the female singer got a case of stage fright. Finally, everyone was to clap again for the couple, signalling the end of the ceremony.

Now, I should've written this earlier, because I can't remember if they exited via the platform or just stayed on the stage. It matters because after the ceremony was about 20 minutes of picture-taking. There were pictures with immediate family, pictures with all relatives, and pictures with friends. I was happy to take part in the last picture! I hope that when they are old and grey and looking at their wedding pictures, they will remember my name... *daydreams*

Erm, anyways. Some comments about the ceremony. During the ENTIRE ceremony, the people standing in the open hall would NOT stop talking. This wasn't just whispering commentary about the happenings of the ceremony. No. The people talked with normal voice levels, sometimes higher. Sometimes they could be heard over the priest-like person's speech. They were talking loud enough (and not paying attention enough) to not clap when all the sitting guests clapped. Later, it was explained that the family members were merely catching up because they hadn't seen/heard from each other in so long. ...Still! I say, if you traveled this far to see a wedding, you should WATCH THE WEDDING!

Another somewhat funny thing to mention is the use of music during the ceremony. It was like filming a movie. You know, when you watch a series of scenes, and they each have their own background music? This is what the wedding was like. Some of the sounds were odd, like when the priest-like person began his speech. The sound of birds and woodland creatures played on the speakers. Corey and I looked at each other, baffled.

After the ceremony and pictures, there was lunch two floors down. The bride and groom shared a special room with immediate relatives on the first floor, while other guests ate together in the kitchen area below.  One of the dishes served was a bowl of noodles. Noodles symbolize long life and happiness. After lunch, everyone was free to go, but most just continued to mingle.

Yes, so that was the wedding! Overall, it was really enjoyable. I'm glad to have witnessed a Korean wedding.

'Til next time,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happy Birthday

Last week, it was one of the first grader's birthdays. This kid was throwing a birthday party. I didn't see it start, but soon everyone in the classroom was holding little paper cutouts. Invitations. By milk-break time everyone in class was talking excitedly. This party was such a big deal that several students took the time to tell me all about it.
"Shannon Teacher, Lotte Mart! 2!"
"Two," I asked? Two students looked at each other for a moment, then agreed to make hand movements simulating going up the flat escalators (those moving sidewalks, only they're elevated) in the store.
"Upstairs," I asked? They almost nodded. They weren't sure. Then I moved my fingers as if to walk up the stairs, and pointed up.
"Yes, 2!" Alright we were on the same page. What's happening up on the second floor?

After much more charades and random Korean/English words, they had successfully told me the event, location, time, and persons hosting. It was the hardest I think I'd ever seen them trying to speak English. Well, that's not quite true. There have been instances where these little guys hastily attempt to tell me who's been fighting  in the hallway. They give me all the details in the form of replays. Who started the fight, how it was started, where they are now. Still, I felt especially proud of them for telling me about the birthday party because they had to think of altogether different English words, and rather than be satisfied with sound effects, they took the time to think of the words to say.

While all this explaining was happening, it seemed like every kid in the classroom pulled out their cellphones to call their parents about the party. They looked like little businessmen and women, seeing when they had an opening in their busy schedules. One of the students, whose mom is the 3rd grade teacher down the hall, called his mom while she was teaching to ask about the party. Why couldn't he just walk down the hall and ask? Better yet, why couldn't he just wait until lunch time to talk to her when she wasn't busy? I left the classroom and saw her standing in the hallway, on the phone. Ridiculously funny.

You know, I've heard that Korean birthdays are celebrated differently from western cultures. I haven't experienced a Korean birthday party yet, but I've heard that it is the birthday boy/girl who pays for everything if they want to, say, go out to dinner with friends. I find this strange. Shouldn't friends/family pull together to do something special for the birthday girl/boy? Another thing I've learned is that its customary to eat seaweed soup on your birthday. I don't know the exact details, but I believe it's a traditional food because it's what the mother would eat while she was pregnant (for the baby).

Well, I like seaweed soup, provided it has bits of cooked beef floating around in it. Though, since my birthday falls in between Christmas and New Years, I wonder who I'll be spending it with. You see, Christmas in Korea is a dating holiday, and New Years is spent watching the sun rise in the East. I have a feeling people will have plans (as always).

'Til next time,

Friday, November 23, 2012

Evening Outing

Yesterday after lunch, the first graders captured me and pulled me down the hallway, shouting, "Come on! Come on!"  They also said some things in Korean and laughed and squealed like little children who have something disturbing to show you. I was led down the stairs and around the back of the building. Finally, I recognized a Korean word. Dong. Poop.  Oh dear.

They all shouted my name, telling me to look at what they'd found. The pointed to some stones on the ground. One kid lifted one of the stones and the others squealed and laughed louder. A bunch of students pointed to their butts. Look, Shannon! Poo! Smelly! Ahahahah! Of course, all that was in Korean, but I don't need confirmation to know what they were telling me.

I'm not afraid of seeing poo. I raised a dog from early puppyhood, and I usually ended up being the first to find and clean up every mess that occurred.  Still, my imagination went a little wild and I started wondering a few things as the kids ran around me. Why were they so excited about this particular amount of poo? Why was it more special than the poo I saw out by my bus stop? Surely, they walked past that without making a fuss. Was this poo, by any chance, human poo? It was possible. Why were rocks covering it? Was that to prevent others from stepping in it while they played back there? Possibly. Still....


Last night, I had dinner at the daycare teacher's house. I got to meet her husband and baby boy. As her husband picked me up from my home, we chatted in English. At school earlier that day, the daycare teacher told me that the health teacher (one of the teachers I regularly have dinners with.. you know, those "secret" dinners) would be coming over too. So as the husband and I were driving along, I expected us to stop by the health teacher's house. Instead, we drove over to the down town area and stopped outside a hospital. The husband said she was in there visiting her boyfriend. Boyfriend? Who? Oh, maybe... but does he mean boyfriend, or BOY friend? What happened? So, we waited for her to come out. Instead of one person, two people came out. It was the previous 4th grade teacher that I'd suspected. He was wearing a jacket over hospital clothes. When we were all in the car, they told me he'd been in a car accident, and he'd been in the hospital for back strain pain.

Ok. Now, if not for this dinner, I have a very strong feeling that I would never have found out that he'd been in an accident, or in the hospital. Sure, nothing was super serious. He was able to come join us for dinner, after all. Yet, I feel like the lack of info I get from my Korean FRIENDS extends beyond the school grounds. I settled for being unusually talkative and asking him questions about the accident. It had happened on Monday. Today was Wednesday. Hmm.

Dinner was great. Samgyeopsal at home is awesome. The daycare teacher's son was very hesitant to interact with me at first (I look very different, after all), but by the end of the night, he had successfully given me an apple slice and one of his toys. I also made friends with the husband. He proposed that I join his family for traveling trips whenever there was free time. He said I must be lonely (even though I expressed having several foreign and Korean friends). He said I should be more of a people-person. Honestly, why are all my Korean friends telling me to be more talkative? It's called being quiet and shy. It's a personality type. Despite that, I DO talk to people. I have somehow managed to make tons of friends here in Korea, despite not appearing to be a "people-person". But, Mr., I'll take your advice. You, like all the other Korean friends I've made, seem to know me better than I know myself.

He is the typical caring Korean, who wants to know what you eat for breakfast (if it doesn't sound as filling as a Korean breakfast, you fail); how many friends you have; and how you spend your time outside of work. The daycare teacher and her husband are very nice people. I wish I'd met them earlier, because I truly felt more alone earlier in the year than I do now. Now, I've gained many friends, especially Korean friends. There's much less time to interact with them all, but I hope that our friendships won't die when I leave Korea.

'Til next time,

Thursday, November 22, 2012

On The Side...

This week so far has been filled with evening events. On Tuesday, my school had another hweshik. Near the end of the dinner, people began changing tables as usual, moving to exchange drinks and chat. At some point, one lady who works at my school (I'm not quite sure what her title is, but she works with the principal and vice prinicpal often) came to sit at my table. Her English isn't very good and so with the help of other teachers she asked me questions about universities in the U.S.  Which universities were the best for a major in chemical biology?  Well, of course, I had no idea. I told her so, but I also told her I'd look it up for her. Her son wanted to study in the U.S., she said. Chemical genius, another teacher said. There was a moment where the the translating teachers were trying to figure out how to translate the Korean word for chemical biology.

At school the next day, I had time to spare, so I set to work researching. It began with looking up the meaning of chemical biology. Was it it's own major, or was it part of a bigger subject? I'd never really heard of a chemical biology major before, but it seemed completely possible to exist. Turns out, the phrase "chemical biology" is still relatively new in the U.S. There are several schools and research facilities that offer special courses in chemical biology today, but most schools only offer it as a single class (if at all).  As my research went on I became uneasy. I compiled a list of every university that offered undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemical biology. The list of names featured top tier universities (Harvard, Yale, etc.) Sure, they called him a genius at dinner last night, but was he looking to go to the most expensive schools in the U.S.? Still, I continued making the list.

Before leaving school, I printed out the list and went to go give it to her. There wasn't time (or any translators nearby) to go explain the list to her, however, and besides, she wasn't at her desk. I settled for writing my thoughts and an explanation of the list at home that night.

I went out to pay bills that evening and paid a visit to the phone shop. I asked my Korean friend, if I wrote a short explanation down on paper, could he translate it for me. He agreed, so I explained the situation (as well as my concerns) to him. We worked together on the translation, and I soon had a nicely written, printed note to give the lady at work.

Today is the day I give her the note. She is busy ... teaching... or something, right now, so I'll have to wait. I hope that my efforts will be helpful.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Minor Details

My computer... somehow... deleted my TaLK essay as I was typing it. It deleted the file and closed Microsoft Word. While I would like to correct my computer from every doing that again, I am prevented from doing so as it operates in Korean. If only I could remember all those buttons I memorized way back when. Then I wouldn't need to double check my actions by reading the words in each prompt. Well, despite my essay being forever lost, writing it helped me realize some things. I  might end up writing about the topic here in this blog, but in less words, of course.

Did I tell you that I haven't seen my 5/6 grade students in a million years? Well, my MT took the time to notice that I was browsing the web instead of teaching an empty class. She made a phone call, and the next day one 5th grader showed up. After that day, it was back to usual: no students. One of the 6th graders told me that he and the other get told to stay in class and study, or go home and study, rather than come to my class. I say, what am I hear for? Plus, how will I become a better 5/6 grade teacher if the students don't show up?

Well, it's time to catch the bus.

'Til next time,

함 (Ham)

No, not the food. The wedding ham (pronounced hahm).  This tradition is no longer practiced on a usual basis, but a few of my friends and I had the pleasure of witnessing one Monday night.

One of my phone friends is getting married. He (for whatever reason) decided to do this ceremony with his wife's family. The groom will travel to the mother-in-law's house with his friends on one scheduled day. He comes with a "treasure box" containing gifts. It's kind of like a dowry that a bride might bring with her, only the groom offers this to the bride. Before entering the perimeter (passing the fence that surrounds the house), the bride must break a basket (by stepping on it). This is done to ward off misfortune, as the sound supposedly scares away any bad luck/spirits/etc. Once successfully done, he can now enter through the gate and go to the front door, where he must shout "Ham saseyo!" or "Buy the treasure box!"

...There's actually a lot more to all this than I'm explaining. The ceremony that we watched was a very shortened version of the historical tradition. Therefore, I can only continue by telling you what I saw Monday night.

The bride's maids (or really anyone except the bride) may answer the door to let the groom in. If he is let in, then he presents the box, bows to the family, and food celebrations begin.

Before going to see this, my friends and I were all at the phone shop talking about what was going to happen later that night. It was kind of hard for our Korean friend to thoroughly explain every part of the tradition. For example, he mentioned  that the groom's friends would find entry into the house much more difficult. They had to get some sort of permission to enter, just as the groom does. People from inside the house would try to bribe the others with food, etc. The friends might be able to get in by being handed envelopes with money inside. They could recieve these and take one step closer to the house. We, luckily, didn't have to do this. We were swiftly pulled into the house after the groom.

At this point, I feel like I'm doing a really bad job at explaining all of this. I will resort to researching the correct information later, so that I don't fill your mind with a made-up tradition. So, please wait a bit! I will finish by saying that dinner (cooked by the mother-in-law) was fantastic! There was more than enough to go around, and it felt like an early Thanksgiving dinner. There were two separate tables (probably because there wasn't enough room to bring the two together), one with the bride's family and the other with the groom and his friends. From time to time, the bride would join our table and eat with us for a bit before going to sit with her family again. Our Korean friend mentioned that this time together was especially important because during the wedding, the groom might not be able to spend much time with his friends. Instead, he would be busy greeting everyone in attendence, and speaking to elders and other family members. This time was a good moment for him to be with his friends before the big day.

'Till next time,

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Weekend

Friday afternoon, I finished teaching and surfed the web a bit before running out of school in my attempt to catch the bus. I was not lucky, however, and missed the last bus to arrive for another 2-3 hours. I hadn't even left the school perimeter yet; from one corner of the school building, I could see the bus driving through the intersection, leaving me behind. Luckily, the kindergarten teacher kindly offered to drive me home.

Though I was cold, tired, and hungry once I got home, I went back out into the cold night to buy dinner, buy a train ticket to Seoul, and get money from the bank. With all that taken care of, I made a last-minute decision to straighten my hair (something that took many hours). It was close to 1 AM before I fell asleep.

I woke up early and caught a 7 AM train to Seoul. I needed to arrive early enough to take the subway down to the Gangnam area. What was happening there? SeoulTube November 2012 was happening! This gathering was particularly special. It would be different from previous gatherings in that Youtube would be helping to host the event. (I've written about SeoulTube before, haven't I? Well, if not, I'll explain in better detail later). Rather than just a simple gathering of Youtubers, fans, and the in-betweens, this event was complete with guest speakers, seminars, and workshops. It started at 10:30 AM and ended at 5:30 PM. Hyunwoo Sun, Simon & Martina, and Manjoong Kim. A lot of the speaking was done in Korea, though there were people of many different nationalities in attendance. Lunch was served, and people were able to mingle and film together. All of the guest speakers were very kind, funny, and helpful in their explanations during the Q&A sessions, as well as during the workshops they each had to lead. Despite not understanding every word that was said, it was interesting and fun being there and seeing everyone in their various stages of video production. What I mean is that some people chose to interview or create videos while they were there (during lunch breaks or chatting time), and during the workshops, many of the guest speakers started creating videos and including all the attendees in the production process. For me, someone who wants to do more of this kind of work, it was a very good feeling being surrounded by like-minded people, and just watching them work.

All of the attendees were split up into three groups: Team Create; Team Curate; and Team Engage. I was a part of  Team Create (go team!), taught by Manjoong Kim. We basically created a video from scratch. We started with an idea (pre-thought by the leaders/teachers) and created a script. After that, some people were chosen to be characters. There were props available and equipment a-plenty. Other people from the group volunteered to do other important tasks like film and edit. We filmed the actors, transferred the files to the computer, and began editing. Filming the actors was quite entertaining, despite any language barriers I faced. Editing (something I personally enjoy doing) was interesting to watch. The group watched Mr. Kim speedily cut down the video, deleting bad takes and creating special effects. Some others from the group got to help add other effects and text to the video. With at least 30 minutes to spare, we all watched the video get converted and uploaded to Youtube. Because this event was partly hosted by Youtube, there was talk about how to utilize Youtube's many editing functions after a video has been uploaded. It was amazing seeing all this work I attempt to do over the course of several days get done in the span of a few hours. It think it helped immensely that there were so many people available to help.

Here's links to the guest speaker's Youtube channels, if you don't already know them:
Hyunwoo Sun []
Simon & Martina []
Manjoong Kim []

AFTER ALL THAT, I went over to Itaewon to check into a hostel. This was my first time spending the night in Itaewon, so checking in required searching for the place for the first time. My stomach started furiously complaining though, so I cut my search short and stopped in a small shop for some ramyeon. All the while, I'd been talking to my friend from TaLK, a Korean co-teacher whom I met during my regional orientation. She wanted to meet up and lived close by so she found me at the ramyeon shop, and we searched for the hostel together. After much settling in, and meeting nice owners, we went back out into the populated streets, pondering what to munch on while we caught up. She took me to a nice cafe with amazing patbingsu, and we talked about what we'd been doing since we last saw each other face to face. Before the night was over, I found out that her birthday was the next day, so we planned an outing together.

Sunday morning my friend and I headed to COEX mall for a buffet lunch. We spent 3 hours there eating and talking, laughing and asking each other language questions. After realizing we couldn't stuff ourselves any further, we reluctantly left the restaurant and walked around the mall. COEX mall, by the way, is the largest underground mall in Asia! I thought that was pretty cool, and felt it necessary to visit at least once (considering all the times I've been to Seoul and never once set foot inside COEX mall... AND the fact that I'll be leaving Korea soon). We were able to catch up on a lot of things, and I was able to get some things off my chest that I'd been unable to discuss at length with other friends. We both had a really good time, and it's just another good memory to add to my life. I caught the 8 PM train back to Jecheon. There were no seats available, so I stood for most of the trip, but that's ok. It was still a good day. I got to enjoy buttery pretzel sticks from Auntie Ann's and listen to music on the ride home.

'Til next time,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Monday Night Dinner (and other thoughts)

There's something to be said about making Korean friends (in Korea). On the bright side, there's a much easier cultural exchange. Actually, there are a lot of good reasons. I really just want to mention the bad side.
Even though I've been actively studying the Korean language since I got here (some months not as dilligently as others), to this day, I still can not understand most of what is said in a random conversation between two people speaking Korean.

I told you about my occasional outings with some of the teachers at my school, right? Just when I start to think it's been a super long time since I last had dinner with the teachers, I get a text message.
<unknown number> where are you?? we want to have dinner today.
<me> Who is this?
<un> im teacher of 4-1^^*

Oooh. I was wondering when I'd get her number again. When my last phone broke, I told the others that I 'd gotten a new phone and didn't have their numbers. Since they hint at things, I thought it'd be ok to do so, too. Stupid me, though. They didn't give me their numbers. I was forced to wait until they sent me messages, and therefore react this way.

Anywho, we went out for ribs (real ribs! They tasted like something from the States, and my taste buds were the happiest they've ever been in a long time!). It was a "take-a-break" dinner for the sports teacher. He'd just taken one of several difficult exams to become an official teacher. This dinner wasn't really to celebrate any results; rather, just to highlight him accomplishing one step in his goal. As usual, the conversations took place in Korean. Sometimes, one of them would say something or ask me something in English. I felt like they were making progress including me in the conversation like that. I thought about the first casual dinner I had with teachers and staff when I started working here. In contrast to last night's dinner, I wasn't talked to after the first 10 minutes. I spent almost 3 hours watching the others at the table gossip fiercely in Korean. Near the end of it all, when a server came over, one looked up and asked what after-dinner drink I wanted. Orange juice, please. Then they all dipped their heads again and began talking excitedly. It wasn't one of them had to leave that they all raised their heads and allowed me to join their reality. Welcome back, I think. In the car, on the way home, my MT apologizes several times. She doesn't say it, exactly, but she knows that  they all forgot I was there and got carried away.  Instead, she says that they rarely get to meet outside of school and talk casually, so this is why all that happened back there. In later months, I come across many instances where they are all gathered around talking and chatting.

My point in all this is that, at the beginning, I hardly knew more than a few words. There was absolutely no way I would ever guess what two people were talking about if I listened in. Today, my chances are much better; still, it's really difficult. At most, I can guess what the subject is (students at school, co-workers, hairstyles, etc.), but I have no idea what else is going on. I can't figure out why their talking about a co-worker, or what happened with 3 students in the 4th grade class. So, I still sit there trying to entertain myself until someone brings me into the conversation. Every once in awhile I'll try and tune in and see how many words I can understand, wonder what connection these words have with their facial expressions and gestures, and then give up and go back to entertaining myself.

Why go to these dinners if I feel this way? Again, because of the bright side. I'm becoming their friends somehow, if they constantly think of inviting me out time after time. I'm (in a way) learning Korean, and studying my friend's social habits. ...And, like I stated earlier, they're learning to include me in the conversations. We don't meet often, but each time, they talk to me a little more. Call it progress, no matter how freakin slow it's taking. It's better than sitting at home with nothing to do. Plus, the ribs were really delicious.

'Til next time,

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rainy Days

It's warmer when it's raining than when it's just windy (and/or sunny). Why is that?

The halls of the school are cold again, like when I first started working here. However, I have to remind myself that the temperatures I thought were cold were actually those of winter's end. If winter has even begun here (I think it's still fall. The leaves haven't completely fallen off yet), this is only the beginning. Here in the mountains, it will only get colder. I should bring a blanket.

I have to reconsider letting the first graders use the candy box I made. They just discovered how to use it (answer an English-related question, get a candy). I can imagine the whole class discovering the box, and me spending 40 mins trying to help everyone answer a question. Maybe for them I'll just have them work in groups to answer questions.... On top of that, 5th graders, who aren't even in my English class, have been coming to use the candy box quite often. I'll have to buy some more candy tonight. I can feel the bottom of the box. I don't mind though, because it's probably the only time I'll get to mini-teach every student in the school.

Last weekend was the second culture trip (one every semester, since I'm here for a year). I went with my MT, her husband, Leanne, and her MT. We went up to Gangneun, where the coast is, and enjoyed "sushi" (more like sashimi), a Thomas Edison museum, and a museum about a famous Korean scholar and his mother.

After a forty-minute bus ride to Wonju, three of us were picked up by my MT and her husband at the bus terminal. From there, we drove towards Gangneun, stopping at one rest stop along the way. The Korean scholar (something.. Yi Yi) is featured on the 5,000 won note. His mother's face is on the 50,000 won note. We visited an estate where they lived. Most of it had been turned into public grounds (complete with statues), while most of the houses has been converted into museums and gift shops. We didn't go in all the buildings, but we did take pictures, look at artwork, and buy some souvenirs.

After the estate, we got back in the car and drove up to the Thomas Edison museum. The building is actually privately owned, and features a massive collection of inventions and newspaper articles. One man dedicated his time to collecting all these items, and houses them there. There were tons of gramophones, and millions of other trinkets (lightbulbs, phones, washing machines, an old electric car, etc.) inside the building. Many school children get taken to this museum for educational field trips. It was actually cool seeing all the stuff. There was a waffle iron with (what looked like) real waffles inside. My friend and I wondered how long they'd been in there, behind the glass. The entrance was decorated with movie posters, and ads that featured some of Edison's inventions and improvements. Outside the building, old (old!) music played on loud speakers. My friend and I started waltzing with ourselves.

After the museum, we drove up to Jumunjin, a seaside town with a famous harbor. We ate lunch (well, we tried. Honestly, I have to stop getting into situations where I have to consume raw fish.). They brought out heaps of various raw fish, and the elders in the group were concerned that Leanne and I didn't eagerly wolf down the food. I managed a few bites here and there. I tried at least one of everything, to be fair. After lunch, we walked across the street and gawked at the huge turbulent waves that crashed into the shore. One particularly giant wave jumped across the huge concrete jacks (barriers in the shape of jacks... you know, the game with the bouncy ball?) that line the shore. It soaked my MT's husband's leg, and got a few of us wet as well. It was so random and funny, but we decided to move away from the water and continued up the street.

Up the street was a large fish market. The area was packed and bustling with people conducting business. Occasionally, a car would try and drive through the swarms of people in the larger alleys of the market. Our group walked up and down all the aisles, scouting. I didn't know it at the time, but my MT's husband was planning on buying something. One thing I noticed was the lack of fishy smell. I mean, it was there, the smell, but it wasn't strong like I expected it to be. I wondered if it was because it was raining. Even though seeing all the fish and busy, yelling people was exciting, Leanne and I found ourselves waiting beside a tank of barely moving fish, waiting for purchases to be made so we could go home. After awhile, we became "road blocks" to all the people trying to get by. We moved a bit. Then, we were in the way of one lady's fish. She kept telling us "chamshi manyo" (excuse me) and pausing in between scooping up various fish to stare at us. If we weren't there to buy her fish, why were we standing there?

I asked my MT if Leanne and I could go walk around outside the tents. She agreed, and we walked outside, seeing what else there was to look at. Not much. Just the harbor and seagulls, and hot street food that we weren't allowed to buy (on the culture trip, everything bought must fit within the budget).  We walked under an overpass near the harbor and watched lines of cars drive here and there. We were hungry, a bit cold, and slightly wet. Rather than stay in one place, we moved on, walking among the crowds, until we made it to the car. Near the parking lot entrance, one of the traffic directors built a fire in a barrel, and we moved over to it while he was directing traffic. We overstayed our welcome by his fire, because he soon shooed us away (we were kind of in the way of cars, as well), and we walked away from the warmth. By now, the sun had gone down and it was still raining. Leanne suggested we call my MT in 5 minutes if she didn't call us. When the 5th minute struck, I reached for my phone and it began to ring. About 10 minutes later, my MT arrived at the car and we sat inside, waiting for the men to show up. Maybe 20 minutes later, they showed up, and we headed back to Wonju. Overall, it was a long day.

Another stop at a rest stop to eat dinner, and we finally arrived in Wonju. Another 40 minute bus ride, and three of us arrived at the Jecheon bus terminal. The trip had taken all day. It was a good, but tiring trip.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

...What now?

This month's weekend schedule is filling up fast. There's a wedding, a birthday, a cultural trip, and a seminar to think about attending. There's a Perfume concert in Seoul that I'm wishing I knew about earlier (I don't think I'll make it). I've got to finish an essay for TaLK. ...Why are the kids in punishment position near my desk? Honestly, I'm trapped behind their wall. On the bright side, it looks like I have a cubicle now! Anyways....

I should be writing things down when I think, Oh, I should look into that when I get to school tomorrow.  When I sit in front of my computer at school, my brain promptly goes blank and I forget important (and non-important) things I meant to find the answers to. Perhaps, I should just visit a PC bang. Nah...

I'm worried about some upcoming stress. I'm trying hard to come at the situation in a practical way. Levelheaded, and open-minded.  The issue: What to do after TaLK. The problem: What's the best solution; what's my favorite solution; what's the most probable solution? I don't like this kind of uncertainty, but I'm trying hard to just do what I can and leave the rest to God and time. It's times like these when I need someone to talk to. Sometimes I need many people to talk to. It often happens that when you let out all your thoughts, all that's left in your head is the right answer. I need that right now.

Well, I really don't have anything too important to say. On the bright side, this will be a short and sweet post. :D

'Til next time

Thursday, November 1, 2012

TaLK Day

Note: I've decided to explain TaLK Day by recycling. Below are bits of all the conversations and posts I've made since I found out I'd have to help host this year. Hope it's not too confusing.
Noooooo~! I have to do TaLK Day! Both my mentor teacher and I are crying. *big sigh* ... 화이팅! T_T
My class is going to have a Skype session Oct. 30 at 2PM. Is anyone available at this time? I need someone who will absolutely do it (not forget), because this is for TaLK Day. Officials will be present during the class. o_O

If it's someone from Texas, it'll be around midnight between Monday and Tuesday your time. If you can do it, I'll give you more info.
My school is hosting an open class where teachers from other cities will be invited to view a 40 minute ESL class. My topic will be self-introduction (meeting someone new). The class will be a mix of 3rd and 4th graders. Their English skills ranging widely. Some students are also shy about speaking.
The Skype session will 15 minutes long. During that time, students and the guest (you) will take turns asking and answering questions. The teacher will guide the conversation.
I'll make a short list of questions to pass to the students. I'll also send this list to the guest. Questions may include, "What is your name," or "How many sisters do you have?" You can ask the same questions multiple times. Assuming all things go well (internet connection, video streaming smoothness, sound, etc.), the whole thing should be really easy and fun for both the students and the guest. I just want to give the students a chance to talk to another native-English speaker. They can practice describing themselves to you. Hopefully each student will be able to ask (or answer) at least one question. ...Oh, I'm not sure yet, but I might have around 12 students.
The Skype session is scheduled for 2:18 PM (Korean time) in the lesson plan, but I'll want to connect with the guest early to save time. Also, I'll need to do a test run sometime before October 30 to make sure things will run smoothly.

If you're still willing and able to do this with my class, I'd really appreciate it! Thanks!
Here is the info. Please let me know if you're still able to do it after reading. If more than one person is able, I'll pick the person at random.  
I flipped a coin and you won. I'm going to ask the other person if they'll be on standby.

Shall we schedule a day where we can do a test run? I think Tuesdays/Thursdays are best if we do the test run at the same time that the class will be held. However, I'd like to hear what works best for you.

Thanks for volunteering!
What times are you available???
The classroom I use is shared with my mentor teacher, so I can't come in and do test runs whenever I please. I WILL, however, see if I can hook my laptop up to some internet cord in another room if possible. (That way I won't need to worry about interrupting her).
The following are some questions I'll give them. They may come up with their own questions during class (so you've been warned). To answer them, you can repeat the question. Ex. What's your favorite food? "My favorite food is ___." Or you can just answer : Meatloaf. Then I'll have to explain what meatloaf
[insert loud scream]
Why am I freaking out? TaLK Day is tomorrow!!!!!!!! Only 30 mins tomorrow to practice/talk to/ retunite with kids I haven't taught since last semester. Let us work together and be comrades, kids! Even if just for one day... please? T_T *deeeep breath*
[minutes before the mock class]
S: see you soon! >~<
T: Correct
S: my students are eager to see you ^^
T: Oh god, lol
T: Who calls whom?

[a few hours after the mock class]
S: Thomas, first of all let me say thank you very very very much for participating with my class. Sorry but something went wrong with the camera and it wouldnt connect, so i just disconnected. i wasn't able to stop the class and tell you about it so that's why i said the quick goodbye. my class was really happy to meet you! i'll talk to you again later. sorry again for the weird ending!

[the next day]
T: It was no problem for me. I had fun, and the kids were kinda adorable.
S: kinda adorable... lolol
T: Like that one girl who looked at me as ran back to her seat
S: lol oh yes. the one girl who asked you if you liked ice cream. she was too shy to get out of her seat, but when you asked her to repeat the question, she shouted it from her seat. so everyone started laughing and you still couldn't hear her. but it was funniest cuz she shouted "DO. YOU. LI.KU. I.SU.CU.REEM."
T: Well there was times when the sound just went quiet
S: oh really?? hmm. I'm still wondering what happened w/ the camera. cuz my MT was holding it, but she kept waving it around when students were walking up. maybe there was a sound and motion overload
T: Which is why I kept asking you to repeat
S: yeah, well that was fine. everything worked out pretty well considering. it could've been worse, for example.
T: it could have. i thought it went fantastically
S: yaaay~ XD thanks again, seriously.
T: it was no problem. I just felt bad for the lost of connection at the end. plus the parents got a kick out of my doing ganganm style when they brought it up  
Below is part of an email to my mom about TaLK Day:

Yesterday (around midnight Monday, your time) was TaLK Day. As I told you before, I had to teach in front of supervisors from the Education office, as well as other TaLK scholars, their mentor and co-teachers. They said I did well.

I did a Skype chat with my friend Thomas from UTSA (whom you've met before during one of the many dinner gatherings at our house haha). We were able to get through many questions, before some technical difficulty with the camera happened, and we had to quit the conversation short. There was about 15 mins of class left so I had to fill time with a role-play game. I'd only thought of it the night before, but hadn't planned a game in any detail so much of it was very last-minute.

I recieved a lot of praise, as well as constructive criticism. I'm really glad it's over and that I was able to do it. I'm glad my students were able to participate (many of them were really shy once they tried to speak to Thomas).

What did I do to avoid nervousness? The night before, I listened to a song from Kiki's Delivery Service to calm my nerves. hahaha Then, the day of, I decided to ignore all the visitors during the mock class. I tuned them out and just focused on the students. So, after the students were dismissed, all the nervousness and adrenaline just rushed out and I was nervous and shaking a little and looked tired (people were telling me i looked nervous and tired).

Well, this has been a super long post! 'Til next time,


Last Saturday, I spent most of the afternoon and evening at the phone shop. Between helping customers, counting money in Korean, taking turns drawing in my sketchbook, and lots of other mini random conversations, one of the guys asked me which movie inspired me. Later that night, I wrote this short passage in my sketchbook:

They asked me what movie moved me the most. I knew the answer instantly, but tried to think of another, and hide my original thought. Eventually, I cam clean. I couldn't think of anything else, anyway. Not too quickly. The answer? Kiki's Delivery Service.
They got the answer (part of it) in a roundabout way. It's a cartoon, I told them. By Studio Ghibli. From Hayao Miyazaki. I explained to them that the particular movie has been more inspiring to me than it will probably be to anyone I show it to. It was moving when I first watched it (around 7 or 8 years old) and, to this day, the same inspiration can be found. I only have to watch a small scene or hear part of a song, and my soul knows.
...So then I came across the ending theme song hidden on my e-reader. (A gift to myself? I was/am so happy)! I started thinking about the movie, and I realized something profound. I remembered that Kiki was on a year-long trip away from home in order to complete her training (to become a witch). So, then I asked myself: Am I on Kiki's trip, following her path? Is this my trip away from home, my year of training? At the end of the year, will I have "become a witch"? Will I have earned my title... whatever it is? What's my skill?
Right now, that last question seems like the most important one. What skill will I take home with me?
I want to write Miyazaki a letter asking what happens to Kiki after her year. Maybe it's cheating, but I'm curious about what he might answer. 
I should mention: My friend (who asked me this question first) told me the movie that moved him was Braveheart.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


MT is too preoccupied to realize that one of the girls is crying. I call over one of her friends who is walking by.
"Dan Bi, why is Hye Jin sad?"
"Jo Ju Young," she says. I stare their way, and watch the two arguing. The boy holds up a piece of stationary paper, waves it at her, then pulls it back. In the next few minutes (and thanks to Dan Bi's account about what happened), I can tell what has happened. I tell her to go sit down, and call over Ju Young.
"Why's Hye Jin sad?" I ask him.
"Shannon, Ye Jin no. Shin HYE Jin."
 ...-_-... "Why's HYE JIN sad?" I ask, a bit louder. Then he proceeds to describe some arm wrestling battle that happened between Dan Bi and Hye Jin. Dan Bi walks over and starts telling him off. Then Hye Jin and a bunch of other kids walk over. The paper appears, and I point to it.
"Ju Young, what's this? Whose is it? Hye Jin's?"  He says no. I ask him if it's his. He says no. Then, he reenacts finding it on the floor and picking it up. Another girl disappears for a bit, then returns with her Hello Kitty Stationary book. Dan Bi and Hye Jin explain (with charades) that Seong Ju gave it to Hye Jin.

Dan Bi points to the paper in Ju Young's hand, and the paper gets ripped in their squabble. At this point, I'm thinking, "Well, whatever. Don't make a girl cry." Seong Ju gives Hye Jin a new piece of paper. I demand the ripped paper. I say, "Hye Jin, be careful. Keep it," and pet the paper and hold it to me. She nods. To Ju Young, I solemnly tell him, "Be good."  He doesn't understand this phrase, but know's my look. At this point, a second wave of students comes running to my desk, shouting and laughing, so I shoo the first group away and prepare my defenses. I'm busy writing in this blog.

'Til next time,


My laptop is broken. Since last Friday, the screen stopped working.

This means that I am unusually bored at home. I have therefore taken "extreme" measures to prevent such feelings from happening. I've pulled out the sketchbook I bought a few months ago, and have been steadily filling its pages. Last Sunday I spent several hours at two different coffee shops. I guess I'll be spending a lot more money at these places. Oh, and I can't film anything anymore, because I'd have no way to take the files of my camcorder. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

Without my laptop, I can't browse the internet at home anymore. I can't listen to songs outside my iPod  and e-reader playists. (Actually, my iPod's dead, and I haven't yet taken it to school to recharge it). I can't check my Hotmail account (!) because Hotmail is blocked at school. I luckily had one email from my mom saved in my Gmail account, so I didn't have to think too hard about what her address was. I don't know what's happening with the Jecheonians once I leave school and head home, whether they're planning a last-minute dinner, or scheduling a group outing over the weekend (if it's a Friday). ... Ok, that's not so much a problem since I don't usually hang out with them anyways. Still, things become a bit more of a hassle without easy access.

--Aah, well this isn't how I wanted to write all this down, but the classroom is really distracting right now. The boys are in the back acting out ways to fake out someone in mid-punch, and everyone else is just shouting and running around the room, or giggling with classmates across the room. I'll try again.---

Yeah, so I can't check my usual email or talk to my mom over the weekend. It's harder to find out about events (I don't even have KakaoTalk anymore. Sadness T_T ). I'm really thankful that I have any music at all to listen to. My room is small, and I'm sure that long periods of time in that quiet, small room would lead to some sort of minor madness. I should never be alone for too long with my worrisome thoughts.

After having to create a dance for the first and second graders'  festival performance, I figured I'd try seeing what else I could make a dance for. Choreography  is kind of fun, but I think I'll give the professionals credit for having such a huge dance move library stored in their brain. I've also been learning the words to another Korean song. TVXQ's Catch Me is quite... catchy. I printed out the lyrics during work yesterday, so now I can practice at home (I don't have the song file, but I've memorized the tune).

I plan to visit one of the universities this week as well and check out their library. I just want a place to sit for long periods of time and write or draw. If not the library, I'd have to spend hours in a coffee shop. Not that that's a bad thing, but I'd probably have to do it every day (or every other day). I really want to get out of my room until it's close to bed time. If I get too cozy at home and it's only 6 PM, I might fall asleep. It would suck to wake up at 3 AM every night because I took an evening nap.

Here's to a future of changes. My habits, lifestyle, etc. will all surely change drastically with this latest development. I might start to hang out with more people during the week. I might spend more money per week on Green Tea Lattes and Hot Chocolate. I might run into new people and find new hangouts. Why, just yesterday, I ran into a friend whom I hadn't seen in (probably) a month or two, just because we work and live on different sides of town, and I'd usually be at home during the time we ran into each other. Hmm, not to say that I didn't get out much, but it sure smells like a new beginning. The only trick is battling this new cold weather. Where's that scarf?

'Til next time,

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Korean Morning

How was my morning?
My Facebook post:
After seeing my mom off at the bus terminal, I headed to my own bus stop, munching on a choco donut and drinking some marshmallow hot choco. 
The kimbab 아줌마 (whose store is at my other bus stop) saw me as she was walking down the street. She now knows the bus stop I prefer to wait at. She almost knows everything about me. o.o
Then two 할머니s looked me up and down and asked if I was Filipino.
Just another bittersweet Korean morning.

The details:
My mom and I jointly packed all of her belongings two nights ago. Last night we spent one last outing with my phone friend and one of his OTHER 형 (brothers). Afterwards, my mom and I feasted on the smallest serving of 감자탕  (because you can feast on a small serving here. This restaurant gives you way more than you can eat; that's why we love them!).  In the morning, my mom was anxious about getting a bus ticket. She woke me up several times before my alarm went off (a huge pet peeve of mine), asking about when I was going to wake up, so I eventually just got up and went to go buy her ticket. We weren't able to buy a ticket earlier in the week, so she (I was, too) was concerned about not getting a spot on the bus. The bus would be her only option to go directly from my town to the airport (nonstop) without my aid or guidance. I bought her ticket while she got ready. When I returned home, I got ready for work, and then we lugged the suitcases down to the corner of the street and caught a taxi to the terminal. I sat with her and helped her find the right bus. During the wait, some ladies tried talking to my mom, asking her where she was from (and going), and how her hair became the way it was (it was in braids). With a mix of my Korean and my mom's "sign language,"  we held the conversation until the ladies departed. It wasn't 'til my mom was on the bus waving to me that I started to feel that old sadness I've felt many times before whenever my mom went for long-term journeys without me. Still, I thought, I should be used to it. Besides, she came to visit me, so it's more like I'm leaving her again. Well, no matter how I should think about it, I waved and blew kisses until she was out of sight.

The donut and hot choco was a treat, not something I needed. The day before, I'd had to wake up earlier than usual to visit the bank. I'd had just enough time to grab two donuts from Dunkin Donuts and a bottle of water from the convenient store before catching my bus. This morning was more of the same thing: time to kill (though, I shouldn't have had another round of donuts for breakfast). It started to rain mist outside, so I walked with treats in hand down the long street to my stop. While waiting for the bus, the kimbab lady (I wrote about before) appeared down the street. "Hi," she called out when she recognized me, and then rambled in  Korean. From her gestures and some Korean words I was able to pick up, I could tell she was a bit annoyed that I waited at this bus stop rather than at the one in front of her shop. Honestly, waiting at her stop means I'm running late. I'm not sure how to convey this to her. I also slightly avoid waiting at her stop because I can't always answer the many questions she wants to ask me. After she passed by and wished me a safe trip (she was headed somewhere today), I watched her leave, and stared down the street for signs of my bus. ... I didn't realize right away the two grandmas who had stopped in front of me. I turned and saw them, and they both looked me up and down, smiling. The first one asked me where I was from. Before I could answer, she guessed. Philippines? I told her, America. Then she and the other lady said some things quickly in Korean (to me and to each other), that I didn't quite catch. The first lady smiled again, gave me a solid pat on the shoulder, and they both departed. I wished them a safe journey and they nodded, hobbling along in the rain with their umbrellas.


'Til next time,

Monday, October 15, 2012

Weekend of Walking

That's what I will tell people from now on: If you plan to visit Seoul (for any reason that doesn't involve sitting in a single room for a long period of time), expect to do A LOT of walking!

Last weekend was pretty eventful, nearly jam-packed, and I'm surprised I'm not exhausted. It may've had to do with sleeping in nice beds. Friday after school, my MT (mentor teacher), her husband, and I went to pick up my mom from my apartment. We then drove to Wonju to spend the evening. We ate tasty Chinese food, perused the many floors and aisles of HomePlus, and retired to my MT's home for a few hours of TV-watching, fried chicken-eating, and general chit-chat. My mom got to meet my MT's family and sleep in a bed comfier than my own lol.

The next day, they fed us a Korean-style breakfast (which my mom found quite interesting and a little hard to get used to) and then drove us to the train station. There were no more regular seats (standing only), so we paid a bit extra for some "first-class" seats. They weren't as enjoyable as you'd expect. We enjoyed the lovely smells of cigarette smoke (remember, no smoking allowed on the trains, people!) and train fumes. Hmmm... first class? Really?  Anyhow, we just needed to get to Seoul by a certain time and the trip was only an hour long.

After the train ride, there was about 30 minutes of subway riding to do. We arrived in Hongdae, found the hotel, and realized that there was, indeed, a check-in time. Two hours later... one hour after the time I said we'd show up in the reservation. No one was in the office. So, we walked over to a Paris Baguette and munched on things to kill time. An hour later I checked my phone and noticed a missed call and text message from the hotel. We walked over to the hotel, and someone was waiting in the office. Luckily, we were able to check in early. After receiving an upgraded room (You see... since we showed up so early, our room was still in the process of being cleaned. ..So, they gave us a different room at no extra charge! :D) and dumping our bags there, we headed back to the subways.

I took my mom to Namdaemun market and Cheongyecheon (River?), and we walked all the way over to the palace and took pictures of King Sejong (the king responsible for creating Hangul, the Korean alphabet), as well as everything in between destinations.  The walking became quite tiring, especially for my mom who wasn't as seasoned as I now am at surviving the subway stairs (Of Death). Still, we did manage to see everything I had planned to show her. We decided to save the palace tour for Sunday and headed back to the hotel. Good thing, too, because NO ONE wants to be in the subway station around Hongdae by 6 PM. All the party people come out to play.

We slept comfortably in the nice hotel room (really, it was so nice, and about 43,000 won a person). [Ha, I guess I should mention the name, right? A friend recommended it, and I will, too. The place is called 2nville. You can look it up online.]  I watched a bit of TV (since I don't have any at my apartment, it was quite a luxury). I reveled in watching anime in Japanese with Korean subtitles. There was a Chinese animation channel as well which I watched for about 20 seconds before stopping at BBC's CBeebies channel and CNN International. Oh! There was also a TeleNovela channel! I watched that for about 20 seconds, too, delighting in this little piece of culture that I hadn't realized I missed so much. Yes, I also dedicated about 30 seconds to the gaming channel, where League of Legends was being broadcast. I should really start playing that again....

The next day, my mom woke up well-rested, but still a bit sore. She firmly decided against visiting the palace (she did get to take a picture of the entrance anyway), so we checked out and headed home early. On the way home, we stopped at a small town called Jipyeong. This is where a friend of mine (the nurse whom I met at orientation, and her son, Optimus Prime) lives. She met us at the station and we spent a few hours with her family, touring a few military sites in the town. I didn't know this before, but Jipyeong (previously written Chip'yong) is the site of a famous battle during the Korean War. Allied Forces had very little casualties, while enemy forces suffered heavily. We toured a small museum and some memorial grounds at the suggestion my friend's father. He had heard (through her, through me) about my mom being in the military and thought it'd be an interesting addition to my mom's first trip to Korea. It turned out he was right. My mom was so moved by the museum and sights, by the stories of two soldiers who had taken part in the war and now operated the museum, and by the memorials which honored multiple nationalities for their support during the war. At the end of the museum tour, my mom walked away with a packet of memorabilia, including a medal. The old men (the retired soldiers working there) said that a medal was given to foreigners who had served in the military and visited the museum. My mom was really honored.

We visited my friend's parent's house for a short while, where her son proceeded to throw several small tantrums because the visitors were not specifically there to see him. So, I left the "grown-up" table and played with him for a while before we headed off to eat a late lunch. Heh, I know how it feels to be an only child, and how tiresome it is to have to entertain yourself even when new people arrive at your house. In fact, it's annoying! See, I understand.

At the restaurant, we feasted on a ginormous meal of Korean food (I took a picture, but honestly who know's when you'll get to see it lolol). Afterwards, we drove quickly to a temple gate entrance (just so my mom could see it), then headed back to the train station. All in all, that was the perfect ending to my mom's weekend trip. I know that she'll have a lot of stories to tell when she gets home.

Hmmm... 2nd, 5th, and 6th grade didn't show up today. Oh well, at least I was able to write all this down. Plus, the school is getting ready for another kind of festival being held on Thursday. I don't know all the details, but I can say now that there will be a lot of singing, as well as a fashion show.

'Til next time,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Show & Tell

You know, I'd learn a whole lot more Korean if my desk wasn't right underneath the TV. Instead, I can only listen to the first graders recite things I can't hope to comprehend without a visual aid. Oh well. On the plus side, I'd probably just be studying with them instead of getting work done. Still, sometimes the TV is turned up to high during their educational songs and videos and it's hard to focus anyway.

I brought my mom to school today. Let's see how it goes. Unfortunately, the 6th graders are on a 3-day field trip. It sucks because one of them (the one I wrote about before, the one who's mom was in the hospital) really wanted to meet my mom. I had no idea they'd be gone today. Well, I was informed about them going on a trip, but I didn't know it'd be today. Oh well. Maybe I can tell him to meet us at Lotteria or something. At least his sister gets to meet my mom.

My mom got mobbed by the first graders, but now they are focusing on their work. I think that later they will go back to mobbing her. Especially when she pulls out the candy she brought them. More later.

'Til next time,

Monday, October 8, 2012

Family Fun

It's been a few days since my mom arrived in Korea. Since her vacation time would be longer than mine if I had gone to the States instead, we decided it'd be better for her to visit me. Going to Seoul to get her was a bit of a hassle. There were no seats available for the bus that went directly from my town to the airport, so I thought taking the train was my next best option. I knew it ahead of time, but the trip was long and tiring. The train goes directly to Seoul, but it stops at one end of Seoul. I had to go to the exact opposite side, and even further, to get to the airport. Incheon airport is on an island west of mainland Seoul. It is even further away than Gimpo airport. Since I don't have a car, I took the subway all the way to the airport once I got into Seoul. Between standing on the train (the seats were full there, too), alternately standing and sitting on the subway, and standing in wait for my mom to get past the arrival gate, it had turned into an incredibly long day. With the help of my phone friend, we were able take the subway to the Express Bus Terminal (only halfway across the city), and take a bus home.

I've mostly focused on getting my mom to experience food culture here. Since I still have to work, the best thing we can do with our time together (on weekdays, at least) is go out to eat. Last weekend, I took her to the Andong Maskdance Festival. There was so much going on there that I think she got a little taste of almost all the culture Korea has to offer.

Taking my mom around has been a bit difficult. Though I'm studying Korean, there's only so much I can say (translate) or explain, only so much I can convey between my mom and Korean strangers who don't speak English. I was soooooo happy when the English translators at the festival came over to walk with us. My mom has many questions that are simple (in general), but that I still can't successfully answer.  Every day is a still a learning process for me as well, and I think my mom sometimes forgets that.

Still, because of my mom, I've had to interact with Korean people on a level way past my personal quota. I've also made some new friends (who I may or may not be able to continue talking to after my mom leaves). Honestly, my mom .... She really wanted to know about some beads being sold at a store in the train station. I really didn't know how to ask about it, and I didn't understand answer once I figured out how to ask. Even so, we ended up talking to the lady for an hour. By the end of the visit, I had the shop lady's phone number, she had mine, and my mom told the lady that she could be my aunt since the two of them had become friends. ...smh....  ...And at the festival, one of the translators told me to add him on Facebook. ....smh.... That's what happens when two or more people go on an adventure together.

Since she's been here... well, actually I noticed I do this when I'm with anyone: I think I have a friendlier face while walking around. It's easier to smile or have a content expression because usually I'm in the middle of a conversation with the other person. I believe that for this reason alone, strangers find the bravery they need to approach me (us) and talk. I'm trying to put myself in their shoes, but I wouldn't have a problem smiling to a lone person as I walked down the street, or choosing a random person to ask a question too. For them, the usually only talk to me when I'm with others (if at all). Maybe my face looks scary. Well, I don't feel like smiling the entire time I walk down the street. That would invite too many people....

'Til next time,

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

To Japan and Back Again

Three weekends ago (I think? Yes, it should be three.) I went to Japan with a TaLK scholar friend to see a Crystal Kay in concert. The three messages below summarize my trip. Sorry for not writing about it earlier!

Tonight is the last night I have to get a good night's sleep for awhile. 

I teach three classes tomorrow; head to the train station right after school; arrive in Seoul and find Vincent; get settled then head to a birthday party; get back to the hotel before the subway shuts down; fly to Japan the next day; go to a Crystal Kay's concert; [whatever happens after a concert]; fly back to Korea the next day; take the train home; rest and get ready to teach 3 classes the next day.

*GAME FACE* ... tbh, this is my game face: o _ o
Bittersweet weekend. Lessons were learned. ...I didn't realize just how much I missed Japan. Hachioji is a nice place, was a pleasant surprise. Waiting to visit again already. Until next time, Japan. Until next time.
Hey dad,

I'm back in Korea now. I told mom about the trip beforehand, but let me explain the trip so you know what happened :)

A friend and I (we met in SA and came to Korea for the TaLK program together) went to Japan for 2 days to see a concert. We left Seoul Saturday morning and came back Sunday evening. I made the mistake of thinking there'd be time (the day of the flight) to get money out in Korea, but we ended up rushing to our flight with minutes to spare. I thought, Ok. I'll get money out in Japan and exchange it at the airport. I had my American credit card and Korean debit card on the trip. I didn't think about telling the Korean bank that I'd be out of the country, so when I tried it at the ATMs, it didn't work at all. I suspect they just blocked the transactions since they were from another country. I tried the Visa, but I've never used a credit card at an ATM before. I was surprised when it asked for a pin number. We tried so many machines that day. I looked online after I texted you, and it said that all 7-11 stores and post offices (besides banks) in Japan would have international ATMs. So we left the airport and tried at 7-11s. By the time we found a post office, it was closed (Saturday), and the banks weren't open either. So! I couldn't get any money out. I gave my friend what little Korean money I had on me to add to his amount. He exchanged it for Yen when we were at the airport. By the time I got your reply, we had left the airport, so I couldn't get any travellers checks.

There also wasn't time to go to a base. We were almost late meeting my friend's relative because of the money issue at the airport. When we met up with him, he took us to some more 7-11s and a post office, but no luck. By then, it was time to go to the concert. After the concert, we had to take a long subway ride to the relative's house. The next day, (after you send the next round of messages), I tried at a 7-11 down the street, but it still didn't work. We had to leave Japan in the early afternoon, so there wasn't much point trying to get money out.

I really didn't know about credit cards being used at ATMs, especially with PIN numbers. Needless to say, I will remember now to just take out trip money days before the trip, in case I run out of time the day of.

I have to go to school now, but I'll email you again when I get back home.
so yes...

I am stupid. Even though I wouldn't have made an effort to talk to the Korean banks anyways (in case I needed to speak more Korean than I knew), I still could've taken money out earlier. ...And that birthday party, I never got to go to it. It took so long to meet up with my friend once I arrived in Seoul; took so long to find a hotel; took such a long subway ride (almost an hour from the Gangnam area to the Gimpo airport area) that there was no hope to even stop by for 10 minutes. Instead I sent her text messages and stared longingly at the fancy cupcake I'd bought her. I didn't even get to eat the cupcake. I accidentally left it in the hotel fridge. I hope someone else enjoyed it. It looked delicious.

The Crystal Kay concert was AMAZING. It was my first official concert (I won't count the ones at anime conventions... nope). Though I didn't have any strong attachment to her or her music beforehand, I truly came to respect her, her music, and her performance by the end of the concert. The atmosphere was great. Plus, my Korean friend got it right. Japanese people do like to sit and enjoy the music when they go to concerts. So many calm, quiet people during the slow songs! Yet, they were totally in love with the music, so I know they appreciated it, too.

Meeting my friends relatives was awesome, too. We both struggled so hard to remember the Japanese that we'd learned in SA (in order to talk to the nephew, cousin, and her husband), but all the Korean and English kept getting in the way. His cousin made an amazing Japanese-style breakfast, which I can still imagine clearly in my mind. Dinner was also really good, but I will never say I like sushi again. I didn't realize that wasabi could be snuck into sushi! Bleh! The parents laughed at me so much.

Just being in Japan was amazing. Despite all the troubles and stressful situations, I could feel a strong sense of happiness underneath it all. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed Japan, and how much I wanted to be back. I somewhat expected it to be like returning and only seeing changes, and not liking them. However, true love might exist (at least, true good memories) because how else could I maintain a happy mood underneath all the troubles??? I really hope to go back under better circumstances (staying longer, not rushing, being completely prepared), and discover if I really do still love Japan as much as I seemed to a few weeks ago.

Oh! Oh! I have to say one more thing. I totally wasn't expecting to go to Hachi-oji! What's so great about that place? It's the hometown of a Japanese group I heard years ago and grew to love. The group's called Funky Monkey Babys. I don't know a lot about the various cities and towns in Japan, and the only reason I'd known about their hometown is because they mention it in a song I listen to very often. Needless to say, arriving in Hachi-oji had me feeling pretty good.

Also, on the bus ride back to the airport, I was cloud-watching. The clouds were enormous and poofy (probably due to being near the ocean). The amazing thing was that I saw faces in the clouds! Crazy, yeah? Seriously though, I saw detailed faces in the clouds, and it reminded me of a friend back in Korea who'd shown me a picture of a cloud angel floating over South Africa.

That's the angel cloud above. I filmed the clouds I saw. As usual, I will promise to share pictures with you and then promptly not have time to do it. Maybe once these adventures are over, I'll do an archive dump let you pour over the files.

'Til next time,