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...

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... 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,