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,