Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I love whales

I just got back from Home Plus - I needed groceries and shaving cream and blush. All the employees at Home Plus HOVER. They are overly eager to help you find things and see what you buy. I was having a hard time, so I asked one lady where the shaving cream was, and she brought me to 4 bottles of men's shaving cream. Not what I was looking for. So then I went to the makeup section and asked the lady for blush, and she brought me to brushes. So...not so successful. I will have to try again.

Saturday there was an English festival at Ulsan Grand Park. There were about 20 booths, tons of English teachers, tons of English-speaking Korean teachers, and MILLIONS of kids. Jenny picked me up early and I helped with the last-minute set up stuff. She was one of the people in charge, so she had a ton of things to do. My booth was card games, and I had to read tarot cards. I do not know how to read tarot cards. So I made stuff up. There was a line of kids out of every single booth all day long. When 5:00 finally rolled around we were all exhausted. I went out to eat with some friends and then we all went home and went to bed.

Sunday I went to a whale festival! Korea loves festivals and will throw one for just about anything. Now, for a little history lesson :) Whaling used to be legal in Korea, and in Jang Saeng Po (where I work) there were whale boats and a whale meat processing factory and whale meat restaurants. Most people were employed by whales. Not that long ago it became illegal to fish whale, so most of that stuff shut down. People still do it though - some of my students' parents are whale fishermen, some own whale meat restaurants...So, because whales used to be a really big deal and kind of still are, they have a festival every year. The first thing we saw was this performance. We don't really know what it was about, but we liked it
Monster/alien creatures
Instruments made to look like sea creatures played by people on bicycles. Amazing!
This one had a keyboard and a drum inside
We met the monster
My friends ate whale meat. I've already had it, so I passed
But I did take some pictures this time, because the Koreans I was with would not have liked it if I took pictures the first time around
Then I ate some pastries shaped like whales :)

We also went in the whale museum, where we saw lots of skeletons and whale fishing equipment and some really graphic photographs of the whaling process. Then we went to the "Whale Experience Hall" With a name like that you expect to see some whale things right? Wrong. There were a few aquariums of tropical fish, and some animals that were advertised as whales but were actually dolphins. I hope they know the difference between those 2 animals. But it was fun, the dolphins played with a hose and some balls. Because this festival was near my school, I literally saw half my students on Sunday. Some of them were really excited and wanted to talk, and some of them just waved and walked away pretty fast because they didn't want to speak English in real life. 

Yesterday my 5/6th grade class got to have music day because they earned 10 stars. We did a listening activity - they listed to a Justin Bieber song - and they said it hurt their heads. When we were done with that I let them listen to whatever they wanted. One boy requested "The World's Greatest" by R. Kelly. That song is from my childhood - I have no idea how he knows it. It was a fun day!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beach, dog, hamster, santa

Right now its raining, I just got back from a delicious dinner with Katie and Alissa, and Jamie Oliver is on TV teaching me how to cook Asian food. Side note: on the bottom of our bill at the restaurant tonight it said "Foreign Customer: 3". Whyyyyyyy are they counting us?????

So last Friday I saw the new Pirates movie. I thought it was pretty great. And remember the treat Koala Yummies from our childhood? My friend Jackie told me they still make them in Korea, and I found some and brought them as my snack. They aren't shaped like koalas anymore, but they taste the same.

Saturday I went to a foreigner festival. I thought it was for foreigners to hang out with each other, but really it was for Koreans to learn about foreigners. Disappointing. So Katie and I left early, walked around the park, and found some of these
There is exercise equipment all over this country, in places where you are already exercising, like the park, the playground, on walking trails, and on mountains (I haven't actually climbed a mountain yet, but some friends told me). People are ALWAYS using this stuff, and its ALWAYS old men and women. These were unoccupied, so we decided to play.

Sunday I did my favorite thing - went to the beach in Busan :) with Katie, Garrett and Kyla, and one of their friends. We literally sat in the sand and ate and talked. All afternoon. It was perfect. Then Katie and I went to a soccer game - well, the last half of a soccer game. We were way late.
Sometime during the day I saw this dog. This dog represents all dogs in Korea. They are all small, always wearing clothes, usually have hideous haircuts, and sometimes have dyed ears and tails. Seriously. There's this dog that lives by me that's white, it has pink ears, a blue tail, and some sort of multicolored sweater. Poor poor animal.

Tuesday Yu-ri and I had open class. Every teacher has an open class every semester. Parents, teachers, principals, and other important Koreans come and watch you teach and then evaluate you. In our classroom there were 5 parents, the vice principal, 6 Korean teachers - one literally followed me around the room with a camera - and a video camera. Some teachers rehearse with their students before they teach, but Yu-ri and didn't care that much. After the lesson she went to a meeting to talk about it and I taught the next class. She said everyone said good things. I think this was more for her than for me anyways.

Wednesday I got a package from my family, and it had chili seasoning in it. So I made chili in the rice cooker. It was DELICIOUS! Best dinner I've had in weeks.

Today is Thursday, and SO MANY things happened at work. One 6th grade girl spent the whole day hiding behind doors and around corners and popping out and yelling whenever anyone walked past to try and scare them. The only person she actually scared was Sam. Jenny and I got a good laugh out of that. I got love notes shaped like hearts from 2 girls, and they're currently on my frig. Jenny gave me a pack of tarot cards and told me to learn how to use them by Saturday. The city is putting on a big English festival, and I have to work at it and apparantly sit at the tarot card booth. I think I'm just going to make things up. I had to spend part of my day working in a different classroom, and I found a pair of pants and a shirt hanging on a chair. I was scared someone was going to walk in naked or something. And...this is the best. A tragedy in 3rd grade. The class hamster somehow got into the toilet and drowned. A few girls found it, and came to tell their teacher, who happened to be talking to Jenny and I. The 3 of us fought over who was going to fish it out, and eventually we convinced a 4th grade boy to do it. Then at the end of the day Jenny called me into her office and asked if she could take my picture. After I said yes she pulled out a Santa outfit and made me wear it and do different poses. Life is never boring in this country.

Friday, May 20, 2011

This week


Monday - I went to that training I loved so much.

Tuesday - work, and Korean class. Most of my friends weren't at Korean class this week, so it was a little lonely. Our teacher taught us 25 verbs - I remember about 3 of them. She also taught us that the president's nickname is 2 mega byte. Only Koreans would think of a technological nickname. Level 2 of Korean class starts in a few weeks. I think I'll sign up - I still have lots to learn. But, I'm pretty much literate now :) Most of the time I have no idea what I'm reading, but I can sound out the words.

Wednesday - My favorite day! I get to be at both schools. Principal and vice principal ate lunch with Yuri and me...always an experience. This week the 3 of them talked in Korean about my eating habits and my family coming to visit. Principal wants to kidnap them that week and she wants them to see the entire country while they're here. She also told me that lettuce and tomato are vegetables, and if you mix them together it makes salad. Thank you for that. After work  I went over to Katie's. We had Mcdonalds for dinner then just hung out.

Thursday - My 3/4th grade class was writing sentences. One of groups of boys said "teachaaaa, mi-gook?" (mi-gook means American) I said yes, then I came back to check on them and they had written sentences about Obama and Joge Washington for me (George washington, obviously). It was pretty cute. After work Katie, Alexis, and I went for a walk around the lake. I learned how to download TV shows, so Katie and I watched a few episodes of Modern Family. If you've never watched it, you need to. So funny!

Friday - I went into Jenny's office to ask her a question, and we ended up eating cookies and talking for almost an hour. We're becoming friends, not just co-workers. I feel comfortable around her and she's pretty easy to talk to. It's so great to have a friend. Again, God is taking care of me :) Jang Saeng Po bought 4 rabbits to keep as pets. 3 of them are gray, 1 is brown. I call the brown one the Breann bunny. One of the rabbits got out of the cage, so Jenny and I watched Sam and another teacher try to catch it. That was the funniest thing I've ever seen. Half the kids were gone from one of my classes, so the ones that showed up got to play Jenga and Connect 4 with me and Sam. Then at night I saw the new Pirates movie in 3D with some friends. It was really good!

So there you go...a little taste of life in Korea :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

I'm so smart

I had to go to teacher training today. I found out about it last week, and I wasn't thrilled. I just did this for a whole week in February, and I didn't learn much then. I had a feeling this was going to be a repeat. The bright side was that most of my friends would be there too. They didn't give us lunch, so this morning I was making myself a PB&J and I sliced my thumb open with a knife. How embarrassing. My regular knife was dirty so I had to use the super sharp one. This is what I get for neglecting my dishes.

Next I went to the bus stop. I knew what bus I needed to take, but not what time it would come. I ended up standing there for almost 30 mins. It's fine, it was nice and I had my music. The bus pulled up, I got on, and realized it was the luxury bus or something. It was reeeeeeeeeeeeally fancy! It even had tinted windows. Normally that would be cool, but it was hard to see out the window, and I needed to see the building to know when to get off the bus. I always get a little nervous - even at home - when I'm going somewhere I've never been before and I have to be there at a specific time. I should get over that because it always turns out fine. Like today. The bus dropped me off in a weird place, but I made it. This building was made entirely out of windows. It looked like a space ship. I wish it really was - that would have made this day so much better.

We sat through 3 lectures. We "learned" how to teach speaking and listening (easy) how to teach reading and writing (not applicable because its too hard for my kids) and how to manage a classroom (not really helpful, but entertaining at least). Even if we have to sit through dumb stuff, its nice to be in a room full of English teachers because we all understand each other. We know exactly what everybody else is going through. We had some time to talk about what's going on in our classrooms, and most people complained about their co-teachers. Some of them are just whiners and need to suck it up, but some of them have legitimate problems. I guess I'm really lucky because my co-teachers are pretty awesome. For the most part they give me freedom to do what I want, they help me as much as they can, they care about me...I've got it really good compared to some people. Yuri and I have a hard time understanding each other, but at least she makes an effort. So the moral of the story is that I'm pretty lucky. God is taking good care of me in Korea.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I love weekends!

For the first time in my life I don't have to do anything on the weekends. I've always been doing homework, or writing lesson plans, or studying, or working at Caribou. But now I have a regular 9-5 job, and when I'm done with work on Friday I have no responsibilities. I love it!

On Friday everybody finally came back from the field trip around 3:30. Sam complained to me about how boring the field trip was (they went to science museum and followed a tour guide around) and I complained to him about how boring it is to sit alone at school all day. He said "Do you have any work to do?" and I said "Are you kidding me - I've been done for hours" and he said "Just go home." So I did. It was awesome. Later Yuri (my co-teacher at my other school) called and said that parents had brought bread for Teachers' Day and she wanted to share some with me. She came to my apartment with a Paris Baguette bag, and I got really excited because they have the best pastries. I opened the bag and found 3 rice cakes. It was very generous of the parents, and I like rice cakes, but I was a tiny bit disappointed it wasn't real cake or something. Oh well. I'll eat them anyways. Then I went out to dinner with Alissa, Kyla, and Garrett. We ate Italian - I had fettuccini alfredo with bacon. Yum. Then we went to Cafe Pascucci for some coffee and card playing.

Saturday Alissa, Katie, and I went to Ulsan Grand Park. And let me tell you, it is grand. I wore the wrong shoes and my feet still hurt a little. We walked all over the place and even found a zoo. These were the animals we saw:

dogs (yes, pet dogs. in a cage. at the zoo)

All these animals, minus the monkeys, are farm/forest animals. Luckily we only paid $1.50 to get in. I don't know what goes on at this zoo, but these animals were way more active than any other zoo animals I've ever seen. The ducks were fighting each other, the monkeys were swinging all over the cage, and the turkeys were FREAKING OUT! It was a really entertaining trip. After that I went out to dinner with my neighbor friend Alexis and 2 of her friends. We had sushi (not my fav, I had a california roll) then we also went to Cafe Pascucci for some coffee and chatting. I know, twice in one weekend, but this place has the best coffee I've tasted in Korea. And they gave me a punch card, so I have to go back at least 9 more times :)

Sunday morning Katie, Alissa and I had breakfast and coffee at Paris Baguette, like always. Then we went to church, then we went out to lunch with some church friends. We had perfect weather all weekend, including today, so we sat outside on the patio and ate sandwiches. Lovely. Then I came home and did all the things I've been putting off all weekend, like cleaning the floor, and the sink full of dishes, and the grocery shopping. I even had time for walk around the lake. I love the weekend!

Friday, May 13, 2011


Today I am deskwarming. That is exactly what it sounds like. My purpose for being at work today is to keep this desk warm. All the students and teachers went on a field trip, and I got left behind :( Jenny tried to get me to go too, but the vice principal said no. Something about money. She and Sam both said they'd rather be stuck at school than go on the field trip, but I disagree. 
So far today I:
wrote lesson plans through next Thursday
spent A LOT of time on facebook
gave myself a private tour of the school/snooped around
finished a book
listened to a sermon online
wrote my mom 2 emails
ate a very long lunch
read the newspaper online
watched some youtube videos
...and now its 2:30. And I'm out of things to do. And I have to be here until 5:30. Most of you are probably thinking "I would love to get paid to sit around and do nothing at work. That sounds like fun." You are right. It was fun for about the first 2 hours. Too bad the work day is 8 hours long. And too bad I can't leave early - Jenny and Sam are expecting to see me when they finally come back to school. I'm considering pulling out all my hair so I can count how many strands there are. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

I wish I lived in Seoul

Disclaimer: This is going to be long. But you should read it anyways. 

We had work off Monday and Tuesday for Buddha's birthday, so Katie, Alissa, and I decided to make the most of it and go to Seoul for the long weekend. We got on a plane Friday night and were there in less than an hour. Awesome. Then we took a bus to Dave and Jamie Wood's house. They are friends I know from home and they've been teaching in Korea for 2 years. They let us stay with them for the weekend. They live in a Korean palace! 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, kitchen, oven, blender, coffee maker...all luxuries for foreigners in this country. They also spent the weekend with us, showing us around and making sure we didn't get lost. Very very helpful.

Saturday we got up bright and early to conquer the city. Our first stop was a jewelry/accessory/fabric store in Namedemun market. It is 5 fun floors of everything you could ever need, want, or imagine to be crafty.
What do you do with this?
Can you find the person in this picture?

I left with a headband and 2 pairs of earrings. We had burgers for lunch. One of the great things about Seoul is that you can find a lot of Western restaurants and stores, so you can get things from home that you can't find in other parts of the country...like Ulsan.
Then we went to Seoul tower. We took a cable car to get to the tower, then an elevator to get to the top of the building. It was kind of foggy so none of my pictures turned out that great, but you can see the whole city from the top.
Here it is!
The windows tell you how far away most major cities are. Chicago is 9, 596.52 kilometers
This is their work uniform. Jealous?
Next we went to a very famous palace in Korea called Gyeongbokgung. It's funny for the English teachers to visit because its in our curriculum - one of the lessons is about asking location, so we spent a few days saying "Where is Gyeongbokgung?" over and over and over again. Well, I found it! The original palace was burnt down by the Japanese, but they rebuilt it exactly the way it used to be. 
Palace entrance
I LOVE these ceilings! I will never get tired of them
After the palace we went and saw this river. Its famous - I forgot its name though. Back in the day it was used for fishing and transportation, then when Seoul became a giant city they thought they didn't need it and covered it up. A while ago they decided some nature in the city might be good, so they uncovered it and made it nice again.
It was decorated for Buddha's birthday
Next we ate dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. Koreans make "pizza" but they like to add sweet potato, corn, and mayo to their pizza. We ate the real stuff this weekend. Then we went to the lantern parade. You guessed it...this was also for Buddha's birthday! All the floats lit up. 
People dressed in Hanbok - traditional clothes, and carried lanterns
Happy Buddhas
This was the end of Saturday. Busy busy day. Sunday we started with a traditional Korean folk village. They re-create the way people lived a long time ago. 
Working hard
We saw a drum dance, then took a picture with one of the performers. He is obviously really excited to be in our picture
Next was lunch at a Mexican restaurant. Then Alissa had to leave - she had to work on Monday :( So me, Katie, Dave, and Jamie went to a baseball game. Baseball in Korea is AWESOME! It is as much about the entertainment as it is about the actual game. 
Things that are different:
1. You are expected to bring your own food in. We brought a whole pizza
2. The most expensive ticket is $15
3. There are cheerleaders
4. There is a whistle guy. He stands on a platform, dressed like a baseball player, and blows his whistle and gets the crowd excited
5. The traveling team brings their own cheerleaders and whistle guy
6. There is a 5th inning stretch. All the baseball players actually go out on the field and stretch again
Baseball was awesome. I'm definitely going to more Korean games. So that was the end of Sunday.
Monday Katie and I went to Dave and Jamie's school for the grand tour. They had to work. Their school is amazing, and they want me to work there someday. I wouldn't hate it. After that we went SHOPPING!!!!! Neither of us wanted to carry our suitcases around while shopping, so we put them in lockers in the subway. When it was time to go, we went back to the lockers and couldn't figure out how to open them. The machine was not in English. Katie eventually realized she'd gotten a text with a code she needed to type in. Great for her, but I never got a text. I was starting to freak out a little, because I needed my bag and we needed to not miss our flight. I went upstairs to a hotel and found the receptionist and said "My suitcase is stuck in the subway locker and I don't know what to do." I'm sure he was thinking "Why am I working today and what's wrong with this girl?" But, he came down into the subway with me and called some Korean help line and got my suitcase out! Yay! He is my favorite Korean. Then...we got on the bus. It took forever. The driver actually turned off the bus and got out to walk around for a while. Not like any of us have places to be.... We got to the airport at 5:06 for a 5:00 flight. Perfect. We ran up to the ticket desk and found out our flight was delayed! Yay again! Thank you God. And let me just tell you that was the most turbulent flight I've ever been on. No exaggeration...if I didn't have my seat belt on I probably would have fallen out a few times. So after a few crazy stressful hours I was home safe and sound.

I wish I lived in Seoul, because its so much fun! There are tons of things to do, and you can get American stuff too. I'll definitely be back :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Round 2

Today was Jang Saeng Po's sports day. It was just as much fun the second time around! And I took just as many pictures...
Again, group stretching to start the day. I think its hilarious
Kindergarteners after their race. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place got to sit by flags. 
Co-teacher Jenny! Her goal today was to make me do as many things as possible. She tricked me into running a race with the moms (but I got a prize - toothpaste and soap), she made me run a race with the students, and she made me play tug of war. It was super fun though! When I wasn't running we sat together and talked and laughed
This guy was the DJ/MC/host - I'm not sure what to call him. He announced, into the microphone, in Korean, that I look like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
1. I look nothing like Julia Roberts
2. I'm not sure if he was trying to complement me or call me a hooker
Jump over the bar
This is Logan and his sparkly blue hat. He is in 1st grade
Step 1: Wear a cup hat
Step 2: Fill the cup with water, run to the bucket, dump the water in, and try not to get too wet.
Everyone had a balloon tied to their ankle, and they had to pop other people's balloons but protect their own
Run with a big ball
My favorite balloon game again! :)
1. Blow them up
2. Fill your bag
3. Make the dads ride the bag like a horse
4. and POP!
Run with a pole and please don't get hurt
Kick your shoe as far as you can
Group tug of war. I don't know if you can tell...but that's Sam in the middle of the picture wearing man capris. It was so hard to not laugh at this outfit
This kid, all alone in the back, was not helping his team very much. He's actually not even a student at this school...
Superman came to visit, and he brought balloons
Scoreboard. The teams were called Big Whale and Big Dolphin
Whole school relay race. The 1st graders started
Aaaand...lets end the day with a coreographed dance! 

After sports day most of the teachers went out for lunch at a nearby restaurant, and some parents came too. A few of the moms paid for everybody's meal. I ate whale meat. It was chewy and salty. It's very expensive, and illegal. But they eat every single part of that whale. There was tongue, intestine, back, and shoulder on the platter. Half the table watched me eat it, so I had to swallow and pretend to like it. It actually wasn't too bad - I've had worse things to eat in this country. I would never order it, but if somebody gave it to me again I would eat it. After that Jenny drove me home, and I spent the afternoon relaxing and getting ready for my WEEKEND IN SEOUL!!!! :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sun-am Sports Day

Sports day is AWESOME! It's nothing like track and field day, which is what I was expecting. At Korean sports day there are coreographed dances, organized games, relay races, songs, stretches. And an audience of parents and grandparents who have taken the day off work. And its all been practiced several times the week before. I took TONS of pictures so you can feel like you were there too.
Some group stretching before sports day officially begins
The 5th and 6th grade girls did a dance
With some drums
The PA system was somebody holding a microphone in front of a boom box. I expect better technology out of this country
1st grade races
A variation of "clean up your backyard" except they don't just draw a line on the ground - they make 2 people stand in the middle and hold a sheet. They definitely got hit with a lot of balls
Kindergarten dance! They dressed up like sparkly elves. It was adorable
1st and 2nd graders had to push these big, not-so-round balls around
This was my favorite game! It had 3 parts
Step 1: Blow up balloons
I helped
Step 2: Put them in a bag...
...and run around with it
Step 3: Pop the balloons!
2nd grade umbrella dance
Grandparents played the fishing game
This is vice principal and principal. Principal is on the right
This is Dong-uk. He spent most of the day squishing ants
 This guy had a HUGE pile of candy wrappers on the bench next to him. He spent a lot of time eating, and not a lot of time running
Koreans are TERRIFIED of the sun! They think pale skin is beautiful. It was 70 today, and every single Korean was wearing pants, long sleeves, gloves, and a hat/visor that covers the entire face. I was the only one in short sleeves, and people kept trying to cover me up. I told them I want to be tan, and they laughed
Whole school standing at attention. They're like little soldiers
Group stretching after all the activities
People who did zero activity all morning participated in the stretching. I didn't think that was necessary, so I took pictures of them instead.

I had so much fun today! I mostly hung out and took pictures. There were a few games where kids had to run into the audience - one time a bunch of kids gave me a hug and said I was beautiful. That was fun. Another time I had to run around the track with a boy. Most of the kids went home with their parents after sports day was done, so I decided to make English class a movie day. The best part about all this is that I get to do it at my other school on Thursday :)