Friday, July 27, 2012

An Adventure Within an Adventure

XI'm stuck in Seoul on a Thursday night. Hahaha. This could've been avoided, really. Still there are worse situations than sitting in the park across Hongik University at 1AM listening to bongo drums, bells, slightly drunken chatter, and the distant sound of pop music playing from the bars and late-night restaurants that are still open. This is Hongdae for you.

So aside from the unavoidable smell of cigarette smoke, I'm feeling pretty comfortable. I came to Seoul today to meet a friend for dinner. I'd only met this guy once before at an event cslled Seoultube (a social gathering for youutubers living in ir travelling in Korea). Since I live so far away from Seoul, it's not eady to mert up with friends that I've made here. Well, actually, other people manage just fine, but sin ce I'm not into drinking, my reasins for hanging out for a few hours every weekend would become super limited. So we agreed to have dinner together. It was agreed that we meetup at a coffee shop and head to a restaurant together. As it turned out, the coffee shop was the location of Languagecast, a social gathering of bi-/multilingual kanguage enthusiasts. I had wanted to attend their meetings,despite them being held in Seoul, but even the times are inconvenient for me. Alas, this being my vacation week, I found myself attending a meeting for the first timr. I ended up meeting more people thsn just my French friend, and five of us all went out to dinner at a really nice itakian restaurant. After dinner, I looked at the time and noticed that I'd be missing the last train of the night back home. Earlier plans to get a room at a hostel had been scrapped due to my own failures with technology (which can be discussed later). So I half-heartedly tried to find a bus to take back to Jecheon, walked around for a bit and realized I didn't know what I was doing, then rode the subway all the way across Seoul in the final minutes before the subway shut down for the night.

I'm writing all this from my e-book so please excuse any typos. I'll have to type up a mre complete story when I get in front of a computer. Only four and a half more hours until the trains are up and running again. The I can catch the first train back home a snooze the morning away. Haha, sounds like a good plan. Anyway, I owe you a better, detailed account of thhis outing. I just thought I'd get some of it down now while it's fresh. Now, it is time to find outif the singing I'm hearing is live or feom some really lound speakers. Beware wasted people.

Til next time,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

6th Grade Shenanigans

I made a candy box (decorated it with pictures and words) and filled it with candy my mom sent from home. There's only one opening; it's only big enough to slide your hand in. I put pockets on the sides filled with "easy" and "hard" questions (and some action commands). A student must correctly answer a question on their own to get a surprise candy....

Today, one kid pulled out the slip of paper that said "Sing for 30 seconds."  Dismayed, he begged for 3 seconds. Another kid volunteered to do it and, at my command, started singing the Three Bears song (a Korean song).Despite volunteering, it must've been a little embarrassing for him.  He sang it so fast that there were still about 20 seconds left. The other kids started shouting suggestions for what he should sing, so in 30 seconds he sped through about 3 songs.

Two sixth graders chose the "Dance for 30 seconds" slip of paper. They told me, "We'll do a traditional Korean dance," and swayed their arms back and forth while singing in Korean. A third kid brought them some maracas, which they began using halfway through. Sadly, I did not get this on camera. Maybe next time. XD

'Til next time,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Lunch Lady at School

Man, this lady's been an interesting character since I got here.

First, she didn't talk to me. Only stared and whispered to other teachers about me. She watched me eat (or not eat) the foods on my tray. One day, we ended up taking the same bus to school. ...Actually, I'm pretty sure this happened on more than one occasion, but it wasn't until the last occasion that she talked to me once we got off the bus. During that time, she ... well, as usual, I can only guess about half of the conversation. We talked about Korean vs. English language. About how when people meet, they'll ask "Have you eaten?" rather than "How are you?'   ... Oh, to tell you the truth, I'm not sure I've got this story right. I could be mixing the lunch lady with the store shop owner from my bus stop. But I did talk to the lunch lady as we walked to school one day. She even threw in some English words.

Since that day, she's been doing more than just watching at me while I eat. Now, sometimes she'll walk over to my end of the table and wipe it clean, then lean in close and tell me, "Mani meogeo" in a really serious voice. Which means eat a lot, or enjoy the meal, depending on the way the person says it. I used to nod and smile, but after hearing it said with such a serious whisper and piercing eyes, I'm not sure I want to eat a lot. She started saying this to me after an encounter one day with myself, her, and my mentor teacher. At lunch on that day, she asked my mentor teacher if I liked Korean food and what I thought of the spicy parts, etc. So after that, she started telling me to eat my food. At first, I understood this, because some days I really didn't like half of what was on my tray, and would skip eating it. Other days, I would eat everything and completely clean my food tray. I took her message to mean, "Please try everything. Please eat as much as you can, and go for seconds if you really like it." At this point though, I feel like I should be allowed to not eat something if I don't want to.

In the last week or two, she's added more to our interesting encounters. She now explains the names of everything on my tray. Honestly, I really appreciate this guesture. I truly thank her (a much older lady) for taking the time to teach me Korean in this way, to let me know what I'm eating. However, this also bothers me a bit. I selfishly think, where was she at the beginning of the school year when I really wanted to know what everything was. I mean, now I already know what half the stuff is.

Of course, I could try and tell her which foods I like and don't like after she tells me their names. ...But, I feel like if I deepened the conversation, I'd end up being dragged back to the lunch line and having my tray refilled. I don't mind talking to her, but I think if she could, she'd have me doing a whole lot more eating and explaining each day if I let her talk to me. Hah, actually writing all this is making me laugh. It's funny but I could actually develop a love-hate relationship with this lady. For now though, maybe I'll just mention to one of the other teachers how unnerving the lunch lady can be at times.

'Til next time!


Random Happenings of the Week

Yesterday, I guess one of the staff members brought sandwiches to school. When I went to say hello to the principal, she shared some of her sandwich with me. Even though, I suspect she didn't like the sandwich, it still made my day. We hardly get to talk to each other, let alone share things. On an average day, I pop my head in and say hello (안녕하세요) to her first, then the vice principal, before making my way to my mentor teacher's classroom. At most, if she's in her office, she will smile and reply with a yes ()... or sometimes , 안녕하세요  and quickly turn back to her work. This is as far as our daily interactions get, unless there's a special occasion and she's not completely surrounded by the higher-ranked staff. So yes, this moment felt special. She beckoned me in and offered me some of her sandwich (and even some juice... which I stupidly turned down. I don't even know why. ... Maybe I felt like I shouldn't take too much from her at one time, even if she was offering). She sat down with me at the couches beside her desk, and I told her they were delicious (in Korean). She seemed happy about that, and said some things in Korean which I can only guess were details about where she'd gotten the sandwiches from. I nodded as if I understood every word, telling myself I'd ask one of the other teachers about it later. She's a really pretty, nice, respectable lady, my principal. I truly wish I could get to know her more. It seems like one thing that will be a bit impossible while I'm here.

One of my 6th graders asked me about racism the other day. Really, I was supposed to be teaching, but students were coming and going  in such an annoying fashion that all I could do was casually converse with the two students who were sitting down in front of me. One of them came up and asked me if I knew about... I couldn't understand his pronunciation. I asked him if he knew how to spell it. He nodded and wrote it down- rasism.  I tried my best to explain it to him. I don't know how much he understood, or why he even asked me in the first place. What happened in life that such a word was in his head? I'm not sure if he was asking me about racism in general or specific situations. It's sometimes hard to ask students, "Why?" because they might not have enough vocabulary to answer. I told him to ask his teacher about it too if he was confused.

I think I told you about the coffee shop that was built near my home. I'm curious about how their business is going. Actually, I've only visited there once since it's opened. I still favor the coffee shop a bit further away (because it's cheaper, and they have hot chocolate). Still, this week I'd been walking past the store quite often. (Usually, I have to walk the other way down the street). I figured I should visit them once again. After grocery shopping, I dropped my things off at home, grabbed a book and walked over to the shop. It was empty at this time-- 

...I'm sorry, I've momentarily lost train of thought. A first grader just procured an imaginary laser sword, and sliced me up. Give me a moment to put myself back together....

-- Yes, there wasn't anyone in the shop at that time. I walked up to the counter and the lady quickly ran to get her son(?) who could speak English. Now, I tried to speak in Korean with her and her son before, but I guess they insist on him using his English skills. I didn't even get a chance to order before she rushed off to get him. I ordered some chamomile tea and a cookie, and told them I'd drink in the store. As the lady made my tea, the son asked if I liked chocolate. I said yes, then paused. Oh no, what if they put chocolate in my tea? I stopped him and asked him what he meant. He asked again, and I said yes hesitantly. Then he went to the freezer and pulled out a handful of bite-size chocolates, put them into a dish, and placed the dish on my tray. Free chocolates. I paid, thanked them, and went to sit down with my tray. About five mintues later, the lady came over with a plate of sliced toast (strips, like french toast strips, but this was just regular toast) and a small side of whipped cream decorated with chocolate syrup. Wow. Before me lay a dish of chocolates, a plate of toast with a sweet dip, a cookie, and a cup of tea. I thanked her and dug in.

'Til next time,

Special P.S. Thanks, Katie, for keeping up with these. I hope they don't all sound bad, or all good. I'll do my best to write about all my adventures, good or bad or in between! :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New Name & Weekend Fun

Did I tell you I got a Korean name? Some of the teachers at my school decided for me. I told them what my English name means, and they created a name based on the same meaning. My Korean name is 어 소 현, Eo So Hyeon.

I just realized this, but if I moved to many places and learned many languages, I could collect all kinds of new names. The thought is kinda inspiring.

Ah, so this last weekend was as tiring as it was fun. Let's start with Friday evening. I visited a Korean friend at his shop and showed him the video of me paragliding. He was really jealous, so we agreed that if he could plan a paragliding trip, I'd go with him and whoever else wanted to join. I told him I was going to Seoul the next day and needed to go to bed as early as I could.

Why? I signed up for a trip to theYeosu World Expo which was hosted by Talk To Me In Korean and ROKING Korea (not sure about the spelling, sorry). It was my choice to meet the group in Yeosu (almost the southern-most point in Korea), or join the team in Seoul and travel with them. I decided on the latter, and that meant catching a 3:50 AM train to Seoul from my town. Two hours later, I arrived in Seoul and took the subway to the meeting spot (about 30-40 mins away). At some point, I was confused about a subway transfer and decided to take a taxi in order to avoid being late. The taxi driver was a funny old man who spoke a bit of English and had been to Atlanta... or at least I think he'd been there. When I told him I was American, he kept saying "Atlanta!"  This guy was very kind and patient with my attempts at speaking to him in Korean. When we arrived at Ewha Woman's University, I wasn't quite sure where to get dropped off, but asked him to stop anyways. "Here?" he asked in Korean. Just then, we both saw a foreigner walk by the taxi. "Oh, yes, here. There's a foreigner," he said and chuckled.

I eventually called out to the foreigner and together we searched for the meeting spot. With the help of a couple phone calls and recalling directions from the email, we found it. It was really great seeing everyone meet like that. Seeing the TTMIK staff and cameramen... oh yeah. KBS came with us on the trip to film the adventure.

It takes 4 hours by bus to reach Yeosu from Seoul. We stopped twice on the way there: once for bathroom breaks, and a second time for lunch (which was some pretty tasty bibimbap!).  The entire trip was a sunny one, but once we reached the expo clouds covered the sky and it occasionally sprinkled with rain.

This wasn't just a site-seeing trip. We (100 of us) were put into teams of 5 and given various missions to complete. One was a creative picture-taking mission, and the other involved collecting 10 stamps from any random location at the Expo. Each team member had at least one person using KakaoTalk to send and receive info about each team's progress. Once we arrived at the Expo, we took some group photos, received final instructions, and were set loose to explore the various pavillions.

Oh... yes, so the cameramen. They followed various teams around, filming their progress and asking questions. They even interviewed some of us during the bus ride. ...Including me. I'm not sure when the program will air, but I hope I can see it.... lol.

After running around the Expo for 5 or 6 hours, everyone met up again by the buses for award announcements and final pictures. We even did a few chants, cheers, and poses for KBS. No, my team didn't win anything, but, really, just participating in the missions gave us a chance to really see a little bit of everything at the Expo. It was a really great opportunity, and a wonderful experience. Plus, free t-shirts are awesome! : D

We were allowed to stay at the Expo (and find our own transportation back home), but I decided to travel back with the buses. We didn't arrive in Seoul until 10 or 11 PM. By then, I just focused on finding a place to stay before the subways shut down for the night, and resting up for the next early train back home.

On Sunday, I made a rare trip to E-Mart, feasted on a cheese bulgogi hot-dog and 2 scoops of ice cream, did some grocery shopping, and got stared at by the other shoppers. Maybe I should visit there more often. They probably thought I was a brand new foreigner to Jecheon. Well, I was in the pots and pans section for awhile....

I'm going to try making a shepard's pie... or a pot pie. I'll tell you about it if it goes well. ...Or doesn't go well.

'Til next time,


The Ninja Buses of Korea

It should be mentioned, even if just once, briefly.

You can't hear them coming. All you see is them passing by. You can smell the exhaust and feel the wind as the bus drives by, but that's it. Every other motor vehicle that passes by sounds like how the bus should sound. It's quite disturbing at times. So, maybe the buses are ventriloquists as well. I'm forced to stare into the sunny horizon, too afraid to take my eyes away from the road in case I miss the bus. It is my utmost duty to catch the bus driver's eye and make sure he picks me up. ...Especially at the bus stop by my school. Huge dump trucks take pleasure in parking in the bus lane, blocking me from view from the road. I have to spot the bus in the distance, and walk up to the road in order to be seen.

Honestly, they have a sound, but with the dump trucks and small Tacoma-sized vehicles sounding like buses themselves, it's really hard to know without looking. They really are hard to hear coming.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Personal Space, Please

Sometimes I wish there was a cubicle wall. That way, the kids wouldn't bump into me on their way to the teacher's printer. That way, the students wouldn't hide behind my chair and poke me from behind. That way, the students wouldn't use my desk as their writing space, their play space. That way, I could lay my head down on my desk and rest without worrying the kids. They think I'm crying, lol.

My desk and my mentor teacher's desk are very close together. Her printer sits on a small, rolley cabinet in between the two desks. Quite often, she has the students wait in a line by the printer and pick up whatever paper comes out of it. Worksheets, definitely. Yesterday as they waited in line, the kids began fiddling with the things on my desk, rifling through papers and picking stuff up. They like to ask me questions, ask for my attention, ask me to play with them while they wait in line. Then, when the line ceases to become a line, and instead becomes a cluttered mass of first graders, they get pushy. The people in the front of the line push their way through the mass of people to get back to their seats. There is little sense of personal space. Actually, this is true for Koreans in general, not just my younger students. If you need to get somewhere, you push your way through. If it's a serious enough accident that you bumped into someone, only THEN do you apologize.

Well, I like the interaction. I enjoy talking to them, and having them try to explain things to me using mumbles and guestures (and finally, Korean, when they get impatient). However, sometimes, I just want to work in peace, to hide away for a little while. I never thought a cubicle wall would sound so appealing.

'Til next time,

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Weekend

It's super early. Why am I here at school so early...? Ugh....

Actually, I had to come early to turn in my lesson plans for July. There wasn't any way to email them to my MT over the weekend, so I had to come in to turn them in. It's about 2.5 hours earlier than when I would usually get to school.On a normal day, I come to school an hour earlier... so today, I'll be waiting longer than usual for my classes to start. I should've brought my book.

I might get drowsy by the time my class rolls around. I couldn't focus on my work last night so I stayed up past 2 AM finishing the lesson plans. The night before, I had to get up early after walking around town for about an hour (it must've been an hour). This past weekend was amazing, by the way.

One of the other TaLK scholars hosted a paragliding trip in the next town over. Unfortunately, this weekend was the beginning of the rainy season. To signify such an occasion, it rained all day Saturday, the day of our scheduled excursion. However, all was not lost. On Saturday- oh, by the way. A bunch of other scholars came from other provinces for this trip. It was nice to see some people I hadn't seen since orientation.-  so, on Saturday, we went to a clay-shooting range and an aquarium that had recently been built. We (especially those who had travelled really far) prayed for a break from the rain tomorrow. We decided that if the rain stopped the next day, we could all wake up early and go paragliding before everyone had to return home. It worked out.

Before heading to Danyang (the neighboring town with paragliding), everyone met up in Jecheon. We all ate lunch together, travelling by foot through the pouring rain. Two scholars left that day, deciding that they wouldn't have time to get back home if they stayed 'til Sunday. The rest of us boarded a bus after lunch and headed to Danyang. After the aquarium, some of the scholars stayed in a hotel in Danyang, while the remaining (including myself) decided to stay (for "free") in Jecheon. Before I caught the bus back to Jecheon, I ate dinner with the scholars who were staying in Danyang. We had galbi and sam gyeop sal, in case you were curious! :P

This is the part where I was walking around town all night. I caught the bus back to Jecheon, decided to grab some more money from the bank before heading home, and ended up walking to two different banks (back-tracking, even) before I arrived home. The bank closest to my home wouldn't allow me to take out a smaller amount of money, so I had to walk in the opposite direction to a different bank. I should probably write a post about how banks work in Korea. There are different fees, and rules for taking out money, depending on the time of day and day of the week.

Anyways! ...Got home, did some lesson planning, went to bed and woke up early the next morning to catch the first bus back to Danyang. Success! It was cloudy, but there was no rain. Two vans came and picked up the group and we went paragliding! We split up into teams because some people needed to leave soon after they paraglided. The paragliding story itself should be saved for a new post, as this one is getting quite long. Here's a video of my paragliding jump! Enjoy!

'Til next time!