Monday, April 25, 2011

Walk to school with me

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I work at Sun-am Elementary. When it's nice out, I walk. This is what I see...
My street is a war zone. They've been "working" on a construction project since before I moved here. In 2 months literally nothing has changed. The bricks are all ripped out, the dirt is uneven, and there is a lovely - blanket?- covering the dirt.
Kissy face statues
 Car repair shop. At first I thought these were actually gold tires, and I was PUMPED for them to come  to America. Now I realize they're just regular tires wrapped in shiny paper. Bummer.
Fruit stand
In case you can't find it anywhere else...
Refrigerator repair shop? I have no idea...
Again, I have no idea
Excellent parking spots. These cars are there every day. I either
1. Walk on the street with the moving cars
2. Try to squeeze between blue truck and building
3. Try to squeeze between the 2 cars. Today they left me enough room. Usually they like to park even closer together
Another great parking spot
Petrochemical refinery plant. Across the street from school. Healthy
This sign tells how much of each chemical is being released into the air.
 Pile of dead crabs. How in the world did they end up on the sidewalk, far away from the ocean? 
Almost there :)
Ta-da! Sun-am Elementary

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter weekend!

I missed the ham and cheesy potatoes, but I had a pretty good Easter in Korea.

Saturday night Alissa and I went to an Easter potluck at church. There was some Korean stuff, egg rolls, pizza - dominos :), salads, chicken wings, macaroni, chips and salsa, tons of dessert, and lots more. It was DELICIOUS! I ate 3 plates. But don't worry, the plates were small. I, being an amazing chef, made a salad. It was kind of strange to have a potluck without casseroles and hot dishes. At the end of the night pastor gave us "easter baskets" aka plastic bags full of leftover candy. Happy Easter to me.

After the potluck Alissa and I went out with a couple from church. We played a few games of pool. We were all terrible, I was the worst. There was a guy playing by himself at the table next to us, and one time he cleared all the balls off his table before we got 3 in the pockets. How embarrassing. Then we went to a coffee shop and played some cards. On the way home a drunk guy threw up in the street in front of me. Good times.

This morning I woke up, hoping to watch an Easter sermon online. It wasn't there. So instead I watched Ice Age on tv. Almost the same right? Then me, Katie, and Alissa got coffee and treats at Paris Baguette, as always, then took a taxi to church. After that a bunch of us went out for lunch at Outback. My table shared cheesy fries and an appetizer sampler. Great weekend.

I didn't take pictures of any of this, so you'll just have to use your imagination :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


This week did not start out great. I was crabby, and I was kind of lonely and missing people from home. The hardest part about being here is that my friends and family are somewhere else. It's hard to know that life is going on without you at home. Some people in Korea are not homesick or missing friends at all, and I honestly think that they just don't have as good of friends as I do. I have an awesome group of friends at home, and its tough to not have that here. So sometimes I get sad. But, I had a little facebook chat with my friend Ryan - he's away from home too - with the army in Kyrgystan, and he made me feel better. I prayed about it, and God is good - he answers prayers. I had to go to Korean class that night and I sat squished on the bus bench with a bunch of Koreans. Strangely enough, it made me feel like I belong. Its funny how the little things make a difference. Plus I got to hang out with my friends at class. So I'm all better now, but know that I miss you :)

On a happier note...this has been a strange week of classes. A few of my classes got cancelled and I don't know why. Pretty typical around here. Some of my classes were basically empty, so those kids learned a little and played a little. This morning I was making lesson plans for the rest of the week when Sam walked in and said "I think the students are very stressed and tired. Let's watch a movie on Friday." Translation: Sam wants to watch a movie on Friday. Actually, the kids could use it too. They have midterms today. On all their classes. In elementary school. This is the reason they're so smart.

It rained all last week so I bought rain boots. It has been warm and sunny every day since. Of course. There was a little gray cloud on my computer this morning, but its bright and warm and sunny.

Today when I got to school the principal was walking around on the soccer/dirt field. All by himself. We smiled and said hi, and I bowed, then I went inside and he stayed out there. It's nice to see your boss working hard.

I pay attention to the Twins online, and they keep losing. I might need to support the Korean Twins from now on.

That's about all I've got right now. I heard there are more of those lunchtime I'll search for them :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I don't have a clever title

Tuesday principal came into my classroom around 4:00 and said "Breann. In-ko one room. I." That was her way of saying she was going to drive me home. About 30 seconds after getting in the car, she said "Breann. My churchee. Sunday?" Ugh. No principal, I do not want to go to your Korean church. Then she said something about the park near my house. I couldn't figure out what she was trying to tell me, but I think she wanted to walk around the lake together. She speaks basically no English, and I speak basically no Korean, and the lake is 2 miles, so imagine what that walk would be like. Plus, I had to go to Korean class, so I didn't even have time for a walk. Luckily the park was closed, so I avoided that for at least one week. I'm sure she'll try again. She wants to be best friends.

Yesterday afternoon I was teaching. Alone. No Sam. All the kids kept looking out the window, so I looked out too. And guess what I saw? All the Korean teachers playing volleyball. Including Sam. What a jerk. I was educating the children, and they were getting tan. Not fair.

Yesterday I also decided to buy curtains. I have these blinds, but they suck. It's like the sun rises directly outside my window. It wakes me up every day around 6, and I usually don't have to get up until 7:00 or 7:30. Very frustrating. So, Katie and I took a shopping trip to Lotte mart. We found curtain rods, but no curtains. So then I thought I'd just look for a sheet, only Koreans don't use sheets on their beds. So next I'll look at a fabric store. That should be an interesting trip. Buuut I did buy an exercise ball. I did some push ups and sit ups before writing this. I tried to pay for my exercise ball with my debit card, and it wasn't working. Luckily I had the bank of Katie, and she paid for me. Today I found out that some genius tried to hack into the bank's computer system, and the bank had no choice but to pull the plug, so nobody's credit, debit, or ATM cards work. So my money is trapped in my account and I can't get it out until they fix things. Would this ever happen in America? I don't think so.

This morning I started they day off right by skyping with my friend Jillian :) I rode the bus to school with one of my students. I give kids stickers when they're being good - I usually stick them on their noses or cheeks, but this 1st grade boy wanted me to put them on his lips today, so I did. It was really cute. A 2nd grade girl said "I love you" and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Some 3rd grade girls braided my hair and taught me Korean words. One of my 6th grade boys came into class with a pink blanket wrapped around his legs because his friend poured water on his pants. In 6th grade we watched Mr. Bean videos and then talked about what happened using the past tense. Fun and educational! Sam also brought me a donut as a peace offering for ditching me for volleyball yesterday. I love my job.

Monday, April 11, 2011


I always get asked questions that are really hard to answer. This is me trying.

People want to know what the biggest difference is between Korea and America. I've only been here 2 months, so I'm no expert, but I would say the way people treat each other, especially strangers. Koreans are much nicer, friendlier, more helpful to people they don't know. At least in my experience. In America if you're in trouble or need something you pretty much have to fend for yourself, in Korea the chances of someone stopping to help you are pretty great.

People also ask how I'm adjusting and how I'm doing with culture shock. I'm doing just fine. But, I knew for a really long time that I wanted to come here and I kind of prepared myself (as much as possible), plus I'm a pretty easygoing person. I go with the flow. By now I have gotten used to not being able to understand the people around me - it feels normal to hear Korean all the time. If I pass another foreigner on the street and hear them speaking English that feels weird. It's also amazing  how much you can communicate with people even when you don't speak the same langauge. Using lots of crazy hand gestures will eventually get you just about anything you want. Also, I can't see how much I stand out. I kind of forget how obvious my presence is in a crowd until I see a picture of me in the midst of a million Koreans.

How's the food? Well, I've never been a seafood fan. And I currently live in a port city with an abundance of seafood. So I don't love that. I'm getting used to fish, but I avoid eating it if I can. And when I say fish, I mean a fish. I'm definitely not ready for octopus legs or whale meat or clams or any of the other stuff they pull out of the ocean. Give me time. At every meal there will be rice, soup, and at least one kind of kimchi. Believe it or not, kimchi is growing on me. It's still disgusting, but not as disgusting as when I first arrived. My chopstick skills are pretty awesome! I've gotten so good - even my co-teachers say so. Sam used to bring me food with chopsticks so he could watch me eat and laugh, but that doesn't happen anymore :) I usually eat out on the weekends, and I cook dinner during the week. I'm no Martha Stewart, so I pretty much make chicken, rice, pasta, eggs, potatoes...send me recipes of things I can cook without an oven!

I get lots of questions about teaching. I love my job! There are times the kids make me crazy, but any teacher in any country will tell you the same thing. I teach 22 classes each week. Of those 22, there are 6 I teach without a co-teacher. Those classes make me dislike my job. It can be so hard and frustrating to give directions or discipline the kids when I don't speak Korean and they don't know what I'm saying in English. Plus, they all speak the same language, so it doesn't take long before they all start talking to each other. It's gotten a lot better since the beginning, but we've got a looooooooong way to go. Before I came to Korea I wasn't sure about the idea of working with a co-teacher, but now I love it. Sam and Yuri make my job so much easier, because they are there to translate directions or to tell kids to sit down and be quiet in Korean. Plus, its fun to have another adult in the room to laugh at the kids when they do funny things. I teach Kindergarten through 6th grade. I love that I do it all. The Kinders, 1st, and 2nd graders are super fun because they're so cute and excited about everything. I love the 5th and 6th graders because they know what I'm saying. I can have coversations about real things with some of them. The 3rd and 4th graders are the toughest because their langauge ability is in the middle. They don't know enough to really make conversation, but they know too much to just teach them vocabulary (which is what I do with the little ones).

So there you go. I hope you're satisfied :)

P.S. I wrote this blog while sitting at my desk at work. I have so much down time it's ridiculous.
Also, look what I can do!
Pretty awesome huh?! The keyboards can type in both languages.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fun busy weekend!

My weekends are always very full and not so relaxing, but very fun! Friday night Katie, Alissa, and I went out to eat. We made our own spring rolls and soup, and followed it up with dessert at Krispy Kreme. Delish :)

Saturday one of Katie's co-teachers wanted to take us around Ulsan. Her name is Kitty, her husband's name is Lee, and they have a 2 year old daughter named Su-ah. First we went to a lighthouse. We saw some really HUGE ships nearby. Lee works for Hyundai - he's an engineer working to make cars more fuel efficient. Koreans are brilliant. Anyways, he said those ships hold thousands of cars and bring them over to America. It was a really windy day, so we didn't hang around too long.
Next we went to Ulsan Grand Park, and saw the butterfly museum and insect museum. Then they took us back to their apartment and cooked us dinner. We had chicken, beef, soup, kimchi, rice, bread, and salad. Then they brought out Budweiser - suuuuuuuper expensive in Korea, and coffee, and cheesecake. It was such a great meal. They asked us lots of questions about America, and we learned some things about Korea. They showed us their wedding pictures, and we played with their little girl. I hope they have us over again :)

Sunday was cherry blossom day! I've been so excited for this for so long. 4 of us went to Gyeongju. It took about 40 minutes by train. We rented bikes and rode around all day. I haven't been on a bike since junior high, and I think I had the reject bike. If I didn't go fast enough I started to lose control. Not good on busy streets. We were fine though, nobody crashed or died :) This city is really old and famous for its history, so we saw some tombs of important dead guys and a museum. We'll have to make another trip to see everything else.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

This and That

It hasn't been the most exciting few days - I've been sick. But here are the highlights

Sunday I saw a movie in the theater in English! It was the newest Meet the Parents - the one with the kids. It was cute. In America I probably would not have spent the money to see it in the theater, but my standards are different in Korea.

Monday I tried to teach the kiddos English, I came home, cooked dinner, and took a nap because I wasn't feeling so great. I woke up, skyped with Grandma, did a little cleaning, and went back to bed. I like to live on the edge...

Tuesday was my first Korean class! I made it to city hall all by myself, but city hall consists of 3 buildings. Of course, Korean class was in the 3rd building I looked in. Its was ok though, I was early. At the beginning of class 2 photographers and 2 news cameras came and filmed/took pictures of us. They got all up on our faces - it was strange. The next day my kids said they saw me on TV. It must have been a slow news day. My Korean teacher is really funny - her favorite thing to say is "You know too should die." (she did not say this to me...I definitely don't know too much) Then she laughs and says "I kid...Korean style." We learned the whole alphabet on Tuesday. I use the term "learned" loosely - I have a long ways to go. But I'm being a good student and doing my homework :)

Wed I went out to dinner with some friends: Carlo, Alida, and Katie. We had chicken wings and they were DELICIOUS! I love all meat that is not fish.

Today is Thursday, and it rained. Koreans think that there is pollution AND radiation in the rain. Parents kept their kids home from school, people stayed home...I think they're overreacting. I believe I have a greater chance of dying in a car accident in Korea than dying of radiation rain. One of my friends tried to explain to his co-teacher that there's more radiation in an x-ray than in the rain, and I guess she didn't even know there was radiation in x-rays. So I think I'm safe...
Also, the lunch ladies say there is radiation in the fish. This is probably not true either, but maybe now people will stop making me eat so much seafood.
Today Sam left after one class to go to a business meeting. This has been happening a lot lately, and I don't love it. I forget how helpful translation is until I need something translated and there is no one there to do it. Today they gave me a replacement. This is exactly what happened
Sam: I have to leave now. But Dong-uk will come to class. He's the black glasses guy.
Me: Ok bye. Have fun at your meeting.
Sam walks out of the classroom, then turns around, smiles, and says: He is your age I think.
Thank you very much. But believe it or not, age is not the only criteria I have for dating someone.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Today I went to Busan with 2 friends, Katie and Paul. We took the train from Ulsan and we were there in less than an hour. Busan is a really big city - they have the mountains and the ocean, the world's largest department store (which I will visit next time), an aquarium, Costco, Caribou, and TONS of other stuff. The first thing we did was go to the ocean. It was kind of cloudy and cold, but I still took off my shoes and walked around in the sand. I LOVED it! I'm going to have so much fun there in the summer.
Next we went to the aquarium. It's right on the beach. It looks small from the outside, but there were 3 floors underground. Asia has different animals than North America, obviously, so I saw some new creatures today. There was this lady with a microphone talking in front of a shark tank, and then a diver got in the tank, so we assumed they were going to feed the fish. Makes sense right? Wrong. They were doing some weird underwater magic show that was not as cool as watching sharks eat.

After the aquarium we wandered around for a little while, just to see what there was. There was a lot. We found a pub we wanted to eat at because they served burgers. So went all the way up to the 14th floor, and it was closed. Instead we found T.G.I.Fridays and got burgers there. They were HUUUUGE!
Guess what I found outside Fridays? Caribou! My boss told me there was one in Korea, and I didn't believe him. I was wrong. I got a latte, and it was almost the same as America. I didn't love paying full price though...
Next it was time to find Costco. We got in a cab and said "Costco" and the driver seemed to understand. I was sitting in the front seat, and all the sudden he called someone on his cell phone (not unusual) and handed the phone to me (very unusual). The guy had called his son, who spoke English, because he had no idea where we wanted to go and he needed a translator. Let me just tell you that the word "costco" is the same in both languages. We found lots of familiar food in Costco, and we were doing just fine until we had to pay. There was confusion with the Costco card, and with our debit cards - we were those annoying foreigners who are doing things wrong but don't know exactly what the problem is...we eventually figured it out and left with our groceries. Then we wandered around a little more and got back on the train to come home to Ulsan. It was a really full, busy, fun day!