Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Typhoon, typhoon!


A typhoon has come to Korea!

This was my status post on Facebook:
Poor Okinawa! I've experienced some of their typhoons. The island is well-prepared, but they say this typhoon's the strongest they've experienced in 50 years. Now, it's heading to Korea, and even changing the path of the Taiwanese typhoon! It's so strong! ...Actually, hurricanes/typhoons excite me. ^^ BRING IT ON, TYPHOON BOLAVEN! *GAME FACE*

It arrived early this morning (earlier in the southern reaches of the country), and while I can tell the sun is shining brightly behind the thick clouds, a fine and very windy mist of raindrops has been falling the entire time. The wind is warm, very warm. All the people in town were walking as best as they could with their umbrellas, fighting the wind for control. I simply gave up and carried my umbrella at my side. I think it's starting to get damaged from earlier rainy days, and I would rather have a somewhat functional umbrella if the rain gets heavier later on today.

I really has been a long time since I experienced a "typhoon." If we assume that there was one in Okinawa every year I lived there, then the last time I lived through one would be 12 years ago. When I lived in D.C. there were hurricanes that brushed by or swept through. I think they're the same thing, just different names.

...Wow, the wind has picked up. If it's this windy here, I wonder how it feels on the southern coast (and Jeju) where the eye of the storm is nearer....

Anyway, it is Tuesday and I am at school. However, there are no students here. Why? Because of the typhoon warnings. So, why am I here? To be honest, I'm not sure. Another TaLK scholar in my area posted something on Facebook along the lines of, "the teachers have to be here to 'protect the school'." ...Yes, well, that's all well and good. I wasn't expected to work today anyway. Yesterday was some sort of school (only my school) holiday, so I enjoyed a lovely four-day weekend. This week, I don't have to teach (there won't be any after-school programs this week), but I am required to come to school and... prepare for next week? That's fine, too. I really want to get a lot done this week. Personal things, I mean. Like, making videos and posting them on Youtube. It's been ages since I did that. I'm really not turning into the vlogger I intended to be. I think part of it is motivation. I've settled for writing here on Blogger, but I've been filming since I arrived in Korea. What's the point in keeping the videos to myself? I should just post them, editing or no editing! Right?

I also want to study more Korean. Some opportunities have arisen where I have a better chance of speaking Korean on a daily basis. For this reason, I should study more often. I just finished level 2 of TTMIK's lessons, but I know I could be at 4 or 5 by now if I had worked harder. Oh well, that's what this week is for! I'll start today after writing here.

Another thing. I'm not sure if Blogger is erasing all my indentations and new paragraph spacings after I publish, but it seems that way on this school computer. Since I'm in Korea, when I log into Blogger, everything is in Korean. I'm not quite sure if my own view of this blog is a glitch or if it's that way on every computer. I guess I can check when I get home.

Let the work begin!

'Til next time, -Shirby

Thursday, August 23, 2012

English Camp

Today is Day 4 of English Camp. It didn't turn out quite how I expected it to. For one, I expected to be teaching. Instead, I sit at my desk and occasionally talk to the kids, while my mentor teacher leads the classroom. She didn't tell me what we'd...she'd be teaching. I'd expected to have to develop a lesson plan, or help create one with her. I DID expect to be teaching with her. I knew that much, but it didn't really turn out that way. I suppose I am helping here and there, repeating words with my American accent and helping kids find objects in their Hidden Pictures worksheets. They do word searches too, so I have a chance to speak to the kids about the words they have to find. Then, there are the games after break time. Since class is two hours long, the kids learn words and do worksheets in the first half, and play team games during the second half. Yesterday's groups had names like "London Cupcake," and "Fish & Chips." I wonder what names they'll choose today.

It's been raining all week, which is good I suppose. It means that the classrooms are cool despite the number of people moving around. The school doesn't really have air conditioning. Windows (really, the windows here are amazing. Two layers (panes) and two levels (rows) of sliding windows go across the entire wall) are opened to let in all the air. On a hot day, there can seem like no relief even if the wind is blowing. Always pray for a cool breeze, clouds, or rain if you expect a hot day. So, yes, it feels quite nice in the room today, even though the rain today is cold, windy rain. I wonder what weather the coming days will bring.

I can tell you a little more about the classroom design. One wall facing the outside has windows with one support pillar interrupting the two rows. On this piece of windowless wall, the classroom clock and calender hang. Opposite the windows is another windowed and doored wall. There are two doors into the classroom, one on each end of the wall, and in the middle are some more sliding windows. These windows only lead out to the hallway, but across the hallway are more windows. Opening all these windows on a windy day creates a nice cross breeze that keeps things from being stifling hot.

*Turns around and looks at the classroom TV* ...Are we watching Wallace and Gromit? ...I'm not sure, but the claymation looks familiar. Anywho!

There's one more day of English camp, and then a four day weekend (woo hoo!). On Tuesday, the fall semester will begin. This summer, I learned a lot about going with the flow when teaching. I hope that I can carry it over into the fall semester. It is my goal to grow and grow well as a teacher. I still want to do this job well, even if I don't continue with this career after the school year's end. Since I haven't been too involved with English Camp, I will just take it easy and let the kids talk to me about anything. As long as they can practice their English, I'm doing my job. I want them to be brave and speak whatever words they can while they have the chance.

'Til next time, -Shirby

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fun, Fun, Fun

I must say it's getting easier to figure out how to hang out comfortably with everyone. Last weekend I managed to go clubbing with some friends without drinking. It feels so nice being able to do that, to make friends and spend time with them without feeling like a burden (of some sort). Honestly, I worry about that sometimes. My decision not to drink (unless I have to) during social situations is sure to cause a bit of concern, and maybe a little fuss. I was determined to show people that I could still have fun with them, even if I didn't do all the things they did. So, as long as I'm willing, I don't mind hanging out with these new people while they get drunk, especially if there's other things to do like dance and mingle with random people.

I went to my first club (ever) about two weekends ago, and last week joined the same friends again for a night of dancing. Actually, we were supposed to go bowling, which is why I showed up in the first place. I was already on that side of Korea (more or less), and I rarely get a chance to hang out with people I meet in Seoul a second time. Also, I was so happy that my friend set up a bowling outing. I love it when friends can gather to do more than just sit and drink. It's so rare (at least, among people my age) for there to be anything else. I absolutely had to go.

On Friday after school, I went to Jochiwon to visit an old friend and her son. These two people are probably the first Korean friends I made once I arrived in Korea. The lady is the nurse who works at the TaLK orientation. I became friends with her and her son during my orientation and have kept up the relationship ever since. While there, I also caught up with some other 8th generation TaLK scholars who were visiting the 9th gen orientation for various reasons. We all spent time playing with the nurse's son. I spent the night there, and the next day, while waiting for my train, I spent the morning chatting and eating with the nurse and her son.

I took an afternoon train to Seoul and, after some texting and a phone call, took the subway to the northern side of the city. There I explored a subway station while waiting for my friend to arrive. To my surprise there was a bookstore underground in the subway. Language has no boundaries when it comes to me and bookstores. I'd realized just how deprived I'd been when my friend Jessica and I went to the Kyobo bookstore in Gangnam a weekend ago. When I saw this bookstore, I ran in. I searched for "common ground"= the manga (manhwa in Korean) section and began browsing. I ended up perusing the rest of the store, making my way through computer programming books and language dictionaries. I stumbled upon a fashion design book that held my attention until my friend arrived. Honestly, despite the books being in Korean, I really want to visit that bookstore again. I don't even know if there are large bookstores like that in my town. I only ever see the small magazine shops, and those aren't appealing. :(

Back to the main story! My friend and I finally met up and we headed to Insa-dong. We picked up another friend and headed into the shops. The plan was to take pictures while wearing hanbok. These pictures were the kind that you take in those fancy picture booths. The asian ones are sooooo much cooler than ones in America. After you take 5 or 6 pictures, you go to a screen outside the booth and proceed to draw on and decorate the pictures before they're printed out. The couple running the booth had control over the timer so my friends and I spent a lot of time (probably more than he wanted to give us) adding funny things to the pictures.

After taking pictures, we made our way south to Gangnam to go bowling. Crazy things happend from that point on. We arrived only an hour after this bowling alley/bar/restaurant (yes, 3-in-one) opened, yet it was super busy. The man at the counter told us the wait for one lane would be 2 hours. It was still early in the evening, and my friend thought that more people would join us later, so we decided to wait. I got hungry at this time, and we considered leaving to eat somewhere cheaper to kill time and save money. As we headed to the exit, another man stopped us and told us that if we left, our names would be taken off the waiting list. Feeling dismay, we headed for the nearest table and cracked open the menu. Of course, everything was expensive. We shared a pizza and decided to play some of the games around the room. We played a really short (and expensive) game of air hockey (for 1000 won, we got about 3 minutes of play time). Next, we tried to play pool, but another man came out of nowhere and shooed us away, saying that there was a waiting list for the pool tables. How long, we asked. 2 hours. We laughed to ourselves and moved back to our table. After chatting a bit more... really, we were shouting above the loud dance music (there was a DJ at this bowling alley), we decided to make a move toward the dart boards. One group of people sat down and let us take over their board. There was a coin slot for keeping score and maintaining records, but were able to play the game without paying anything. I've never really played darts before, but in the first round I scored a bull's eye. After that, my shots landed all over the board. We even took turns having our darts bounce off the board and fly back to us. It was the most entertaining part of the time spent there.

Soon our guy friend said that some of his friends wanted to join us. We waited for them in the noisy room, getting sleepy from the onsetting boredom. Our guy friend spent most of this time walking in and out of the building to make or answer phone calls, or borrow my friend's phone when his started to die. Eventually the others showed up. I'd met one of them at last week's party, and he instantly remembered me. I met the other two, a girl from Canada and a girl from Japan (who might be Chinese, Taiwanese, or Hong Kong...inese lol). Let me say that during this entire time, we'd been checking in with the guy at the counter, asking how many more teams were in front of us. The wait seemed endless, so we reluctantly decided to leave the bowling alley and do something else.

My friend and our guy friend discovered that they'd be going to the same Eminem concert the next day, so when the other friends showed up, one of them said that Eminem would be doing a quick show at a club nearby in a few minutes. We decided to head for that club and try to get in. Actually, we tried this kind of plan several times that night. The idea was to get into a club before a certain time so that we wouldn't have to pay. Luck was not on our side that night. For Eminem's performance, we missed it completely because of waiting at the bowling alley for too long and making our way to the venue too late. We did, however, pick up another friend to join the group. At the next location, we had coupons to get in, but ... well, I'm still not quite sure what happened. My guess is that, I and our guy friend weren't dressed for the "occasion". One person in our group jokingly said I should wear his shorts and he should wear my jeans so we could get in. Honestly though, the line was so long that it wrapped around the block of this huge hotel, plus the buildings behind it. Waiting in that line again was definitely not worth it. After talking about it for awhile, we decided on a new destination. A smallish club that we were sure to get into. What was intersting about this club was that the pool table was turned into a regular table, and the workers put games like Jenga out for everyone to play. We had an enjoyable night hanging out, playing games, and dancing. I hadn't planned on spending the night in Seoul, but wasn't really surprised when it happened. I went to a jimjilbang (sauna, or spa) for the first time with my friend. I don't know how most look, but the one I went to was pretty nice-looking.

On Sunday morning, I ate a nice (and spicy ><) Korean meal at the jimjilbang with my friend, and then took off for the nearest subway station exit, which turned out to be a long long walk away. I'd forgotten that we'd been taking taxis all night. It hadn't dawned on me the true reason for doing so. It wasn't really to stick together or get to places in a timely manner; it was because the exits were all super far away. I finally came across a subway exit after walking for about 20 minutes, but I did manage to get a good look at part of Gangnam. I walked past some expensive car dealerships. There was also probably a fashion institute somewhere near my path (I saw a sign). I also passed by a museum or two. One of the nice things about walking around a city in the early morning is that there's not too many people around, no rushing, and the weather is still nice so walking up a hill doesn't seem so bad.

Well, 'til next time!

Friday, August 17, 2012

New Friends & New memories

Hi there! Sorry for the long wait. Long time no see....

This week's been an interesting one.

First of all, the rains came. Last week felt just like living in Texas. High 90's, and although I never checked the weather forecast, I'm pretty sure it felt like 100. The humidity was pretty strong. It didn't take long to start sweating after walking outside, and the sun was as piercing as ever. Then, the new week brought new weather. Though it's still hot on occasion, the rain has been a welcoming change. Well, almost welcoming. *scratches mosquito bites*

Jecheon has an annual music and film festival, titled, "Jecheon International Music & Film Festival." It started on Thursday of last week, crossed into the weekend, and ended on Wednesday of this week. To be honest, I'd been waiting for it since I moved here. After finding out where I was staying, I looked up info about this city and found out about the festival. However, by the time it rolled around, I wasn't sure if or when or even how much of it I'd get to see. To my luck, I managed to catch two movies and one band. There were tons of films and music going on all at once, so it was impossible to catch everything, but to me, just experiencing a part of it was satisfying enough.

It reminded me of my childhood. One of the things that made my family feel like a family was going to festivals together, and boy, we went to tons of festivals when I was young. It's something that will probably always make me happy: the festival atmosphere. All I have to do is sit in the center of it and I'm good.

So, I caught one movie in particular called, "The Peach Tree." It was directed by Ku Hye Sun (who played Geum Jan Di in Boys over Flowers). Here's a link to the film description:
Let me just say it was a very powerful movie. It makes you think; it's intriguing and sad, but also somewhat wonderful in a way. My review sounds mysterious? Yes, somehow I can't quite desribe it in just a few sentences, but that's the kind of time I have right now, so sorry!

On Monday, I decided to go out to eat instead of go straight home. This random change in my daily schedule led me to meet the mother of one of my students. This lady, her daughter, and two other classmates (one of whom was also my student) were having lunch at the restaurant I'd chosen. The girls saw me and the next thing I know we're all eating lunch together. The mother bought me lunch, actually, even though I tried to pay. I feel a bit weird meeting parents. I'm not sure if it's ok to "hang out" with them outside of school. Even so, I became friends with her. We (she, her daughter, and I) ended up going to a movie, eating lunch/dinner (linner?), and snacking at a coffee shop on Wednesday. She's a really nice lady, and I sorta feel like I'm slowly being adopted lol.

Tuesday night was movie night, but before going, I stopped by my friend's phone shop to ask for help with Korean. (I plan to make a video response on Youtube in Korean soon. I'll post it here when it's done). He told me it was going to rain, but honestly, it'd just been super-cloudy all day and I didn't really believe him. He playfully argued about it with me, and I ended up leaving with one of the many spare umbrellas in the shop. It's a nice big one with rainbow stripes near the edges. I told him I'd bring it back the next day, but he just said keep it for a month or two. Haha, like it'd rain nonstop for 2 months. Anyways, I have my own umbrella.

Oh, and before that! I met two Korean girls around my age (FINALLY!) who live in Jecheon. I met one of them in a Family Mart over the weekend, and we agreed to go to a coffee shop Tuesday with another one of her friends. We enjoyed each other's company, making fun of Twilight movie stars (among other things), and speaking Korean and English. (Well,,, I tried at least).

Today, when I get home, I have to get ready to go traveling again. This time I'm going to Jochiwon, the place where this Korean journey began. You see, the 9th generation TaLK scholars are there right now having training, and I want to spy on them. Ok, not really, but I am going to visit the camp nurse and her son. Hopefully I'll make some new friends there. There also might be a trip to Seoul this weekend if things end up that way.

'Til next time!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Last Week's Vacation Pt. 3

Thursday was... wait, there's more that happened on Wednesday.

After dinner, my friends and I went to get some ice cream at Lotteria. We were taking pictures together when I spotted two of my kids from school. They had ice cream in hand as well. They saw me and asked me to come with them. I told them I was saying goodbye to my friends and asked them where they wanted to go. One of my friends speaks Korean, so he asked them for me. The oldest, a 6th grade boy I've written about already, told him about the hospital around the corner. I filled my friends in about something, so I'll tell you, too. This student and his family was involved in a car accident maybe a month ago. For awhile, the two kids hadn't been at school, but after they came back, I didn't get to see them in my English class very often. Still, the eldest had told me about the accident earlier, so I knew what he was talking about when he said to go to the hospital. I hadn't realized that someone in the family was still visiting the hospital though.

My friends and I left Lotteria and followed the kids to the hospital. Before going in, I had to part ways with my "foreigner" friends and say truly final goodbyes. After they others left, the boy looked at me curiously. Where were they going? Maybe he had misunderstood my explanation earlier. I explained again that they were leaving Korea and going home. He looked shocked and told me to go after them. I reassured him that I already said goodbye and that I could follow him now.

He and his sister (1st grade) took me up the stairs to the third floor, and I stopped in the hallway while they ran ahead to a room near the end of the hall. I heard them say mother in Korean. Oma. Was she the patient? Yes. They called me into the room and I met their mom. During this time, I was really confused about being there. I'm not sure if it's ok to spend time with kids and their family outside of school, but this situation seemed super-excusable. They (the mom and her children) shared so many things with me. A plum, a health drink, an origami camera. We talked a little bit. I spoke some Korean in front of them all. There was another lady in the room, the second patient in the room. I wasn't sure who she was, but she smiled to me and accepted my greeting. I only spent about 15 minutes with them (I had another appointment to go to that night. Not nearly as important, but still scheduled), but I'm really glad I did. I hope that when I am no longer the kids' teacher, I can keep in touch with them on a more friendly basis. As a friend, not as a distant but friendly teacher. I've been wondering if I should visit that room again, or if I should try to run into the kids again. Neither of them are in my summer program, so unless I meet them on the streets again, I probably wont get to see them until the fall school term begins.

...Ah, then Thursday came. You already know a bit about Thursday.

More later,

Last Week's Vacation Pt. 2

Monday came. A Japanese friend I met back in the States was visiting Korea with her sister for a few days. I was determined to see her for at least one of the days she was here. We met up in Seoul and spent most of the day shopping. After travelling by subway to Dongdaemun, we met up with another friend of hers and headed to this huge shopping mall with a million floors. I can afford to exaggerate. It was really big, and I think we went on almost every floor. We went to another, cheaper place with hawk-like shopkeepers who spoke the basics of at least three different languages (to attract all customers). They all call out to you and it's quite intimidating. Luckily, my friend's friend was a native Korean who knew how (and had to guts) to stand up to them all and guide us safely through their suggestive words. Did I buy anything? Yes! Surprisingly, I bought a pair of shoes and a blue wig (aside from the various food I usually spend tons of money on). The shoes.. well it's worth telling this story. It was the first stall I stopped at, and the guy was really determined to sell to me. I actually liked the shoes I looked at, but seeing as it was the first stall, I told my friend's friend... (we'll call her Kim from now on)... to let him know that I would come back after looking around. This guy would absolutely not let me leave. He kept taking a few dollars off the price and asking if I liked the price. I just wanted to look at the other shoes in the building! He kept asking, do you really, actually like the shoes??? Yes, and I would probably come back to get them if I didn't see anything nicer. Still, he got frustrated (I guess?) and jabbed some new numbers into the calculator. He showed it to me. It was almost $10 cheaper... 1/3 the price. I went ahead and bought the shoes to appease this man who might've keeled over in agony if I walked away without buying his shoes. Afterwards, Kim wasn't sure what to make of the scene, but she congratulated me, assuming that I'd successfully haggled down the price on purpose. No, I'm just indecisive and weak when it comes to shopping. Case in point: The wig. Well, I got a bit flustered. I mean, I'd really wanted a blue wig for a long time, but I really know nothing about buying a wig. I don't know what to look for. So this guy saw that I was interested and I just thought to myself, "what the heck," and let him talk me into buying it. After all the shopping, (rather, during the shopping) there was a lot of talking about tomorrow. Tomorrow, they were all going to the mud festival. I really wanted to go, but I was pretty sure I had an appointment the next evening. That meant missing out on an impromptu trip to the beach. So, after sending a few text messages, it turned out that I really would be busy the next evening and broke the news that I wouldn't be able to go the mud festival after all. That evening, before going our separate ways, we took pictures together, and I told my friends to talk tons of pics so that I'd be jealous of their beach trip. I saw the pics. I am still jealous. :) Tuesday was a dinner with some of the teachers at my school (and one who no longer works at the school.. the one who left suddenly). 6 of us formed a group, called "the different group" because we couldn't find anything in common to name our group with. Here is another small chance to build bonds with the teachers, and just hang out outside of school. I met with 4 of them, and we had pizza and watermelon and chatted in one of their apartments for a few hours. I ended up taking home some eyeliner. One of the teachers, long ago, kept asking me why I didn't wear makeup. So, while I was with them, I asked to borrow one of her extra eyeliner pencils and put some on to show her. After receiving her praise, I made a show of trying to wipe it off. I didn't look clearly at the label. It was waterproof. Darn. Wednesday was a farewell dinner with the other TaLK scholars in my town. Two of the 3 , actually, but I don't expect to run into the 3rd one. He's hardly in town when he's not teaching(long story). It was kind of hard telling them goodbye, and preparing myself to not see them so easily. One's heading back to California, the other to New Zealand. We actually shared a few adventure trips with each other, so I can say that I will really miss their company, their presence. 'Til next time, -Shirby

Last Week's Vacation

It started with the weekend before.

On Saturday, I went on a teacher's "field trip" with the other staff at my school. We met at 7 or 8 in the morning and took a rented bus to various locations throughout in the neighboring cities. Of course, I think we wouldn't have been able to take this trip without it being a little educational, so the first stop was an elementary school. At this elementary school, there was a lot of greetings and our teachers "inspecting"... (oggling) the hallways and classrooms of this other school. Let me say now that nothing during this part of the trip was explained to me, so my point of view may lack a lot of real information.

I assume we met the principal and vice principal of this other school. He took our group into a room not far from the main entrance and we all sat down facing a projector screen. We were served drinks, and then a short lecture began. Now, I have overheard a phrase, "economic education" .. or some such thing. I'm guessing that's what the lecture was about. A chance for both schools to share ideas. Some books were passed around. I spent the entire lecture looking at a tourist map of the city. After the lecture, words were exchanged, and my group was dismissed from the room. We took a picture in front of the school before getting back on the bus.

After that, there was a short hiking trip (I'd forgotten how much I miss hiking :D) which left so many of us sweating. At least the view was worth it. On the bus ride from place to place, the teachers played games (like a game show on a bus, it was hilarious), and ate snacks. ... Oh, they'd brought beer and fried chicken too (because those things are a must in Korea). The penalty for the games was that one person from the losing team had to sing a song. Let me inform you that all travelling (charter?) buses in Korea come equipped with karaoke systems. The speakers are incredibly powerful, and there's even a song book like the ones in noraebangs. It's a noraebang on a bus! Anyways, all the games were done in Korean so I didn't get to participate, but it was fun to watch.

Wait. I did sorta kinda participate in one game. Although I didn't know what was happening. I can only say I'm so glad it was one number system and not the other. You see, as the "game show host" fifth grade teacher was making everyone on the bus count from 1-30 (again, I don't know why. I didn't understand the rules of the game), he decided to hold the mic in front of me and let me say a few numbers. "...18, 19..." I said in Korean after thinking way too long. He nodded, and went to the next teacher. I passed! ...Or I thought I did. One teacher wiggled her finger at me in mock shame as the 5th grade teacher moved on. I looked confusingly at her. My mentor teacher, sitting next to me, explained. "You said 'ship-pal' (18).... In Korean that has two meanings. It sounds like 18 and it sounds like 'f*** you'." My jaw dropped. She and the other teachers had a nice quick laugh together. I thought to myself, I don't want to play anymore.

***Note: "I'm so glad it was one number system and not the other." Korea uses two names for numbers. One is Chinese-based. The other is Korean-based. I still can't remember which is which, and I keep mixing 5-8 of one system. The other system, I know perfectly well, so I was really happy to discover them counting with it.***

After hiking, we rode down the hill a bit, had an excitingly small adventure in a corn field where the bus tried to drive out of a deep dip in the road, and finally made it to the river that we'd seen up at the hiking point. We got on a "traditional boat"... uh, more like a really huge raft... and were taken a short ways down the river and back. After that, there was lunch at a restaurant a bit further away. After lunch (and this is still a bit shocking), we went to an African art museum. I just have to say that it's really hard representing the U.S. when people think I might be from Africa. It's bad enough being stared at because I'm a foreigner. Yeah, the experience there was mixed. I love art, have nothing against Africa, but have so much against stereotypes and dangerous assumptions. Most of all, I wonder why the teachers wanted to go there. I wonder and I haven't asked. Don't know if I will. On a lighter note: What the heck's an African art museum doing in the countrysides of Korea!? LOL, I expected to only find this sort of thing in/near Seoul or other large cities in Korea.

Luckily, my mentor teacher sensed something of my mood and walked me quickly through the exhibit so that I didn't have to listen to the tour guide explain things in Korean while the other teachers and staff snuck glances at me. I should also mention that the tour guide seemed a bit saddened to hear that I was from the U.S. when he asked me (in English) where I was from. Oh well.

After the museum, we went to an aquarium (one that I'd recently visited with my foreigner friends during the paragliding trip), and visited another famous riverside. At this riverside was a famous view, which one of the kindergarten teachers tried her best to explain to me. I don't think I could do a retelling of the story any justice right now, so I wont. We walked around a bit and saw a swing set that was designed like the ones from ages ago. There's just one seat, the bars are wooden and about 3 times the height of regular swing sets, and you have to stand on the seat and swing rather than sit. I tried it. It was fun, but super difficult.

Ah, then, we headed back to Jecheon for dinner. There was more crazy singing on the bus, but many people were so wiped out from the sun and travelling that they just slept or talked quietly amongst themselves. At dinner, I had the rare occasion of sitting at the same table as the vice principal, so I did my best to talk to him in Korea. I had to drink more soju... (this may be the one thing I hold against Korea, regardless of my final impression of this country after the year's over). Then there were farewells, and everyone split off to go home. All in all, and despite any uncomfortable feelings, I really enjoyed the day. I was glad to spend time with the other teachers. Doing so is such a rare thing. I'd rather have gone with them than missed out. These bonding moments are hard to come by, so I have to cherish them.

This has gotten long, so I'll have to write parts 2, 3, and however many more come along.

'Til next time,