Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Boxes and boxes

I got my first packages this week! On Tuesday I got a box full of toys and goodies from Danielle and Ashley. I came back to my classroom from lunch and it was sitting on my desk. I was so excited!
Also on Tuesday my principal drove me home. I think she wants to be best friends. In her very broken English she asked me if I had a boyfriend, if I called my parents over the weekend, if I am a Christian - then she invited me to her church. I'm trying really hard to not go to her church. Not that I don't like church, I just don't like 3 hour services in a foreign language.

Wednesday I got my first package from my family. It was FULL. Thanks mom :)
Wednesday is the day I go to both schools. I got my package at school #1 right before I had to leave for school #2, which means I had to carry it with me. Not a big deal. Except...I was walking towards the bus stop when I saw my bus sitting at a red light. It had come early and I missed it at the stop. So I had to run, in a dress, with my box and my purse, to get to the bus before the red light turned green. I had to dodge a few cars, but I made it safely and was in a seat before the bus started moving. I'm sure EVERYONE who saw me got a good laugh.

My last class on Wed was my 5/6th graders. Normally there are 25 of them, but only 6 showed up. I tried to ask the kids where the rest of them were, but all they could tell me was something about a science test. (Sam was at a meeting, so I didn't have my helper/translator) So I asked them what they wanted to do, and they said "dance party!" So I let them. This is a video of Neo, a 6th grader, and possibly my new favorite kid. This is the real dance to the song. Sorry its sideways, but its definitely worth turning your head to watch :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

K pop

These are the Justin Biebers and Britney Spears' of Korea. I LOVE K pop :)


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Soccer

 Today I went to a soccer game with a bunch of friends. It was Korea vs China. The game was at Munsu Stadium. It was used when Korea hosted the world cup - it was super nice and also super close to my apartment.

These are some of my friends. Katie, who I came to Korea with, and Alexis, who is my super helpful neighbor friend. She has been in Korea for about 6 months, so I love going places with her because she knows what to do :)

 Soccer players. Korea is red, China is white. Korea won! 1-0

This little boy sat in front of us with about 10 of his friends, and no parents. They were more interested in their snacks than the game. One of them actually pulled out his soccer video game about halfway through - I guess the real thing was too boring. But this kid got some awesome face paint! It's kind of hard to tell, but its a whale and a dolphin in the shape of a Korean flag.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Friday, pay day, and one month

This morning I was standing at the bus stop when a car pulled up. It was 3 of my students and their mom, and they wanted to drive me to school. It was so nice! The boys were all eating suckers (at 8:30 in the morning) so mom gave me one too. I impressed her with a few words of Korean, and talked to the boys a little bit in English. It was waaaaaaaaaaaay better than riding the bus!

Today is also my first pay day in Korea :) We were told at orientation to bring a gift for the staff today, so last night I bought a box of oranges. In America I would have brought treats, but unfortunately Koreans would rather be healthy. They acted like it was the best thing in the world! The box was finished in about an hour. I think I'll do this every few months just to keep them liking me :) I was also extra grateful for the ride this morning because I wasn't really sure what I would do with a box of fruit if I had to stand on the bus...

I have lived in my apartment exactly one month today. On moving day, all the English teachers rode a bus from orientation to Ulsan. We were dropped off in the middle of a parking lot, and our Korean co-teachers came to find us and take us away. At that point nobody had cell phones or internet, so we weren't sure when or how we would find each other again. Yu-ri took me out to a really fancy Korean restaurant. I remember there were probably 20 bowls of food. Then she took me to school, where I met the principal and saw my awesome classroom. Then we dropped my suitcases off at my apartment and went grocery shopping. By now it was afternoon, and I was so overwhelmed, and also really sick. We were wandering around the grocery store trying to find food I knew how to cook, and I was trying not to cry because I was feeling too overwhelmed. It seems really silly now, but that was such a crazy day. Then she brought me and all my food back to the apartment and she left. The guy who lived there before me didn't do the greatest job cleaning. I think it took me 3 days to get the place looking nice. That first night I pretty much did the bare minimum - bed and bathroom, and unpacked, then went to bed. About an hour after I fell asleep I woke up to my doorbell ringing. My landlady wanted to make sure my heat was turned on. It was nice of her to be concerned, but my heat was already on, so I was mostly just crabby about being woken up.

I have come a long way since then, and it's only been a month1 Crazy!

Jang Saeng Po

This is Jang Saeng Po. Most schools in Korea look pretty much like this. My classroom is on the 3rd floor, 3rd and 4th set of windows from the right.

Some boats across the street from school. JSP is right near a big port, so there's the Ulsan coast guard, customs, and police boats, plus all these huge fishing (I think?) boats. One day I saw a boat coming in with a HUGE net full of fish. It was pretty awesome.
These are some of my 1st graders! And Sam in the corner, probably trying to arrange kids. As you can tell, they had a really hard time standing in lines for this picture and looking at the camera, but they're still so cute! I gave them all English names, then they made name tags. I printed off the most popular baby names of 2010 and then chose the shortest ones. I kind of felt weird about I was giving them a whole new identity or something. They loved it though!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Making friends with the principal?

I have a morning routine at Sun-am. I go to the principal's office and say hello and bow, then I go to the vice principal's office and say hello and bow. Then I go to Yu-ri's room and talk to her for a few minutes - I do not bow to her, then I go to my classroom.

Today on my way to my classroom my principal called me back into her office. She gave me some coffee, a Korean workbook (i'm not sure if she actually wants me to do it or not, but i will just in case) and she showed me pictures of her family. Then I went to my classroom and did some work. A few hours later she came into my classroom with a plate of rice cakes and some milk. She also stuck around for part of my lesson. Then, she sat with me at lunch. In the entire month that I have been here, I haven't interacted with her as much as I did today. I think we're friends now? Her English is not awesome, so I just smile and say "ok" a lot. She also says "nice to meet you" every time she sees me. I always say "nice to see you too" but she's not taking the hint...

Today was Wed, which means I go to both schools. At Jang Saeng Po, Sam was only there for one of my afternoon classes, then he had to go to some meeting. They gave me another Korean to help me, but I actually really missed Sam. I guess we're bonding or something. We have a good working relationship :) haha. So I'll be happy to see him again tomorrow. He remembers to tell me what he translates in Korean, and we laugh at the kids together, and he pretty much lets me be in charge of the class, which I appreciate.

Tonight Katie and I tried to make cookies in the microwave. It did not work. At first the dough wasn't even dough, so we added some oil and another egg. Then it didn't have much flavor, so we added some vanilla and chocolate. This is not the way you're supposed to make cookies. Then we needed more eggs, so we took a quick trip to 7/11. So, the moral of the story is, please send me cookies from home :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Weekend update

It's been a few days. Here are the highlights.
Saturday I went to the market near my apartment with my neighbor friend Alexis. I learned that the market is the best place to buy fruits and vegetables - they're cheaper than in the grocery store, and if you speak Korean you can barter :) I didn't buy anything, but Alexis did. One of the Korean ladies wanted to hold my hand while Alexis bought strawberries from her. That was kind of strange.

Later on Saturday Katie and I walked around looking for Ulsan Grand Park. Its obviously a pretty big park, so we figured we shouldn't have a problem finding it. Wrong. We never found it. So instead we went to a park near my apartment. There was a nice walking trail around a little lake. Or so we thought. We rounded a corner and the lake literally tripled in size. I was so tired by the end of it! And somehow there were tons of old ladies in track suits speed walking around the whole thing and lapping us. It was a little bit sad. It's really pretty though, it feels like being at the cabin. I didn't have my camera, but next time I go back I'll take lots of pictures.

A lot of times Korean students see foreigners on the street and would like a free English lesson, so when Katie and I are together LOTS of Koreans want to talk to us. On Saturday a group of boys said "welcome to Korea" and another one said "I am from Korea. Where are you from?" We were so proud because that was one of the English lessons from last week. Its nice to know somebody's paying attention :)

Sunday it rained allllllllllll day long. After church we decided we'd watch movies at my apartment and make popcorn, so we asked the cab driver to take us to Home Plus to buy the popcorn. He brought us to a random street corner and said "stop" and made us get out. It was SO FUNNY! I recognized where we were - we were close enough to Home Plus that he definitely should have gotten us there, but far enough away that it was annoying to walk in the rain.

Monday morning there was a staff meeting. These are obviously in Korean, so I daydream and try to look interested. Halfway through the meeting the principal was giving a speech, then she asked me in English how my weekend was and wanted me to answer her in front of everyone. So I was part of the meeting :)

After the meeting Yuri and I ended up going to the bank - during work. Long story short, I needed cash this weekend and I couldn't get it. So we spent the morning not lesson planning, but on the phone and at the bank. I was so happy though because my wallet once again has some cash in it. Nice.

Today at school the big kids played lots of games, and the little kids drew pictures of animals. More teachers talked to me - none of their English is awesome so they get nervous about saying anything besides "hello," which sometimes makes a boring day for me. But not today :)

Friday, March 18, 2011


I wore my new pink and white polka dot scarf
I got to skype with my friend Ashley Nelson before work this morning
The bus was very full so I had to stand and hold onto a pole. It was not a smooth ride
I said hello to the principal. I'm trying to make him like me so I get good vacation time :)
I wrote 2 days worth of lesson plans, some emails, and spent a lot of time on facebook. On thursdays and fridays I don't teach until 11:45, so I have plenty of down time in the morning
My co-teacher Jenny came running into the room to get me. The 6th graders made kim bap - its like sushi - and she wanted me to try it. It was DELICIOUS! I could eat that stuff every day. Its rice, tuna, and lots of vegetables wrapped in something. There were 4 of us teachers "grading" the final product. They passed :)
During my 2nd grade lesson 2 girls answered their cell phones, said something in Korean to Sam, and left the room. I asked him what was going on, and he said their moms had called them
During my 3/4th grade lesson I looked out the window and saw 2 cops playing soccer on the school playground in their socks
I made a new friend! Lily is a Korean who teaches English friday mornings and Jangsaengpo. We had lunch together and rode the bus home together.
Katie and I had dinner at a Korean pork restaurant. It was also delicious! There are little grills at every table and you cook your own food

After dinner we went back to Katie's apartment and met up with Martin, another English teacher. I introduced them to the wonderful movie that is Baby Mama.
What an eventful day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I saw a lady with blonde hair on the street yesterday, and it was SHOCKING! Now I know how people feel when they see me. People do double takes all the time. They will actually turn around so they can watch me longer, or stop walking if I'm passing them. Tonight Katie and I were walking on the street and a guy in a car rolled down his window and then stuck his head out the window - while driving - to stare at us. A teenager took a picture of me on his phone later on tonight when I was walking home. He thought I didn't notice, but I did.

I have also started walking around at night with a scarf on my head. Why? Because Koreans think blondes are Russian prostitutes. For real. I have had at least 5 people ask me if I'm Russian...and I've been here 3 weeks. Its not my favorite experience, so this is my attempt to avoid it. We'll see if it works.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I'm sitting here drinking my Dunkin Donuts coffee. Its a caramel latte :) Its not the best, but its better than instant coffee, which is a favorite among the Koreans.

I have 3 co-teachers at my schools. My co-teachers obviously help me teach, but they help me with life too. They are the people I ask all my questions. They tell me good places to go, how to get around on the bus, and they help me learn Korean. Without my co-teachers I really don't know what I would do.

Yu-ri is my co-teacher at Sun-am. She is the one who is in charge of all my paperwork, plus we teach half my classes together. Her English is not the greatest - sometimes its really hard for us to communicate, but she's very nice and very helpful. Once she understands what I want/need she does whatever she can to make it happen.

Jenny and Sam are my co-teachers at Jangsaengpo. Jenny and I don't teach any classes together, but if I need something at that school she's the one I go to. She's really funny and we get along great. Her English is better than Yu-ri's, so I can have real conversations with her. One of the first questions she asked me was "Are you married?" then it was "Do you have a boyfriend?" Then she not-so-sneakily mentioned that a lot of teachers in Korea marry other teachers, and whenever she introduces me to a guy at school she'll say "He's very nice, but he's married" or "He's very nice, and he's single" So, if its up to her, I'll have a Korean teacher husband by the end of the year. We'll see about that...

Sam teaches all my classes at Jangsaengpo with me. The very first thing he ever said to me was "I'm the PE teacher. I don't know why I have to teach English." Awesome. So I do all the planning, and he shows up sometime during class. He's mostly a translator. But, I definitely need him, especially for the little kids. Most of the time they don't know what directions I'm giving them, like raise your hand, sit down, come he tells them what I say. We also get along really well and have fun chats in the teacher lounge...he's just not as enthusiastic about English as I am. The little girls think that Sam and I love each other. False. He's married with a child. And he's 31. Not my type.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A day in the life...

Let me give you a glimpse into my new, crazy, grown-up life.

In the morning I get myself ready, eat a very large breakfast, and then run to the bus stop and hope I haven't missed it. It does not always come when it's supposed to.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning I go to Sun-am elementary. Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday I go to Jangsaengpo elementary. I teach a total of 22 classes per week, but some days I only teach 3 classes and some days I teach 7. I teach all the kiddos - kindergarten through 6th grade. The younger ones understand about 10% of what I say, the older ones probably understand 80%. I spend my days speaking very slowly and clearly, simplifying words, using my hands excessively...

I usually eat a semi-disgusting school lunch and starve the rest of the day. There is always rice, some kind of soup (that usually has fish floating in it) kimchi, another kind of kimchi, and another side dish that is usually fish. There are no forks, so sometimes I don't eat things because I don't want to and other times I don't eat them because I can't get them into my mouth. 

After school I take the bus home and pray the driver won't get into an accident. Traffic laws in Korea are basically suggestions, and no one really follows them. If you can fit your car into a space you can drive it there, stopping at red lights only slows you down, and if there is a pedestrian in your way they better move before they get hit. Taxi drivers and bus drivers all think they're in some kind of nascar race. One day my bus driver was still going 7 mph as people were getting on and off the bus.

I come home and cook a ginormous dinner because I've been starving since I pretended to eat lunch. Koreans don't bake, so hardly anyone has an oven. I spend a lot of time with my friend Katie, and we run errands together or explore, or watch tv. We get 75 channels, and about 6 of them sometimes have English programs. There's one channel that's always action movies, some episodes of CSI and NCIS, and really random other stuff. On the weekends we like to go downtown and see our other teacher friends. There are about 18 of us in the city and we all have a good time together. It's really great to hang out with people who are experiencing the exact same thing I am - they get what I'm going through and we all help each other out.

So this is my life! It's not what I expected, and somehow it doesn't feel as different as I thought it would. I'm super excited for all the adventures this year will bring :)