Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy birthday to me!

First of all, Koreans count age differently than the rest of the world. In Korea, on the day you are born you are 1. The following New Year you are 2. So, on June 27, 1988 I was 1. On January 1, 1989 (or whenever Korean New Year is) I was 2. So, yesterday I turned 23. But I've been 24 since I arrived in Korea in February. "How old are you" has never been such a complicated question.

I feel like my birthday has been going on for weeks. Cards and packages have slowly been trickling in. Thank you everyone who sent something! The cards are now art on my kitchen wall.
 Friday night I saw Alissa and Katie. We made pizza in the rice cooker and watched Inception, and Alissa gave me this awesome birthday outfit
So the plan was to go to Busan with a group of friends on Sunday to celebrate the big day. We were going to shop, eat, hang out at the beach...just have a fun, chill day. However, Korea got hit by a typhoon this weekend. My part of the country was fine, but we got TONS of rain. I mean pouring rain all day long and inches of standing rain in the street. The world was a little river. So our fun beach day was cut short. But I did go shopping and buy a dress, and have Quiznos for lunch. Koreans don't eat sandwiches, so that was a very exciting meal :)

Monday is always staff meeting day at school. After the meeting all the teachers sang happy birthday to me. Then Yuri gave me a cake!
Most of the teachers had children to educate, so me, Yuri, principal, and vice principal sat in the office and ate birthday cake at 9:30 in the morning with chopsticks. Truly Asian.
A bunch of 6th grade girls made me birthday cards. They were so cute - 3 or 4 of them would come in the classroom, giggle and hide behind each other, then someone would get brave and say "happy birthday teachaaaaa" Then they would give me their cards and run away, and the next group would come in. 
Jenny and Yuri took me out for birthday dinner. We had samgipsal (meat). It was delicious, and really fun to hang out with both of them outside work.
Jenny and I
The waiter was not a good photographer, but here we all are
Then we all had coffee
After that Katie and I had birthday ice cream together. It was a fun day, and now I am ee-ship-sam (23) Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


This afternoon I was teaching my 1st grade class, and some Korean lady (not a teacher at the school) came and spoke Korean with Sam, then he said to me
"Class is over now. These kids are going on a field trip. And the next class is canceled because they'll be on the field trip too."
I said "Oh, ok."
He said "I knew you wouldn't care. I know you well. I don't care either. haha"
I think things like this happen partially because it is Korea and they do things last minute, and partially because I am the foreign teacher.

School in Korea is different than school in America. The kids are with their homeroom teachers from 9-1 or 2. They don't have all the same classes every day. I know they have math, Korean, science, music, art, PE, history, English, life skills...probably some others too. I'm not 100% sure what goes on during this time.

In between each class there is a 10 minute break. These 10 minutes are a free for all. Kids can go anywhere they want and do anything they want. Literally. I've had kids wrestling on the floor of my classroom. In the beginning I tried to stop this - naturally - but all the Korean teachers are fine with it so I have to be fine with it too. 

At lunch the homeroom teachers usually eat with their class in the cafeteria. The teacher has to check each student's tray before they can dump it to make sure they've eaten all their vegetables. Thank goodness they don't do that for me too. Then the kids have recess. It is totally unsupervised, and they can do whatever they want: play outside, run around the hallway, play in their classroom, play in someone else's classroom...it doesn't matter.

Then after school classes start. I mostly teach after school classes, and I think some of the homeroom teachers teach after school classes as well. The name is pretty misleading because I don't think anybody goes home. After school classes last until 4:30.

Now some of them go home, and some of them go to hogwan. Hogwans are mostly for middle and high school students, but some upper elementary kids go to them too. They're like another school, but I think they usually help kids focus on one or two subjects. They usually last until 10 at night.

There's a ton of pressure for these kids to be really academically successful. Last week one of my 4th grade boys came to my class crying because he didn't get a good grade on a test in a different class. One of my 6th grade girls was telling me how busy she was, and she doesn't know the word "stressed" but that's definitely what she was describing. Every single one of them has homework and studies every single night. Every other Saturday kids go to school from 9-12. Crazy. Korean students perform better on tests, but they have less of a childhood...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Things I've Learned

How to use chopsticks
Public transportation
Respect for age
Bowing. It's become a reflex
The sink will always be full of dishes
To take my shoes off immediately when I enter any building
That I don't know where all the dirt in my apartment comes from
I don't like silence
Turning on the TV makes me feel like there's another person in the room with me
I have really fantastic friends and family back home
Teaching kids in a foreign language is not the same as teaching them in your own language
Russians give us all a bad name
How to communicate with pictures and gestures
Speaking is not always necessary
I could not do this without God
I really love Steven Furtick. He's the pastor at Elevation Church in Charlotte, and I look forward to his sermons every week
Kids will do anything for a sticker
All arguments can be solved with rock paper scissors
Google translate is not accurate
English is really hard
There are times when you have to laugh or cry. I choose to laugh
It's usually better not to ask what food is on your plate
A meal is not complete without soup, rice, and kimchi
I love kids
I love teaching
Being a teacher is a lot of work
How to download tv shows and movies
Light coke is not the same as Diet coke
I'm happy I am from America
I like learning about other cultures
Mail is exciting
To refer to myself as a "foreigner"
I don't think I will ever like fish
Life is better when you have friends to do things with
Do what it takes to make the boss happy
Instant coffee is terrible, but better than nothing
Gifts of food go a long way
I'm totally dependent upon Yuri, Jenny, and Sam
I like reading the news
"College" and "University" mean totally different things to the rest of the world
Busan might be my favorite place ever

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sick weekend

I have bronchitis :( I was sick on and off last week, and Friday morning I looked up my symptoms on the trusty website webmd. It said bronchitis, so after work I went to the doctor. There is a doctor's office in my Home Plus, and my doctor is Korean but he worked in the States for a couple years, so we could communicate. Thank goodness. He told me what I have and gave me these:
Little bags of pills. I don't even know what they all are, but I take one pouch 3 times every day. All my friends who have been sick have been given medicine this way - Koreans don't believe in the little orange bottles I guess. And let me just tell you that the whole thing - doctor visit plus 5 days of medication - cost me less than $10. Can you believe it?! America should do whatever Korea is doing.

Side note: my co-teacher Jenny knew I was sick last week and knew I was going to the doctor. She was so worried about me. She kept saying things like "are you sure you're ok?" "I'm so worried about you...you live alone." "how are you feeling? you should take a rest" She thinks I'm dying. It's cute. I texted her a few times this weekend to give her my health updates, and this morning she called my co-teacher Yuri at my other school to check up on me. God has blessed me with great people.

Saturday: the original plan was to climb a mountain, but I had bronchitis. So, I got my hair cut! Finally.
I've been putting it off because I was scared. My friend Kyla went to a salon, and she and the stylist didn't understand each other and Kyla ended up with extremely short hair. It was cute, but not what she wanted, and I didn't want the same thing to happen to me. Plus I was telling Sam about my fear and he told me a story about accidentally getting his head shaved when he was in America. Not encouraging. But, 2 of my friends went to a salon called Juno hair and had this stylist - Bon Seok - do their hair because she speaks a little English. She is my new favorite person. She did a perfect job, gave me a little scalp massage, spent a ton of time styling my hair (I wish she would come over every morning), gave me a discount, and walked me all the way outside. I'm going to be getting frequent hair cuts now. 

Sunday morning was church, then Katie and I downloaded Tangled and watched it. Such a cute movie! And a very relaxing weekend.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Today was my 100th day of teaching. I didn't count - somebody else did. 100 days went by really fast. In some ways I still feel very new. I don't know everybody's names, I don't know where they keep the paper at Sun-am, and some days I have no idea what I'm going to teach or how I'm going to teach it. But, I've definitely come a long way since day 1. I really do love my job. I don't have much to complain about. My co-teachers are pretty amazing. They like me, they're very helpful, and we're getting much better at communicating with each other. The kids are usually excited about English, and they make me laugh, and I think they're learning. Last week I taught the 2nd graders the word "student." A few days later a little 2nd grade girl found me in the cafeteria and said "teachaaa, I am student." So cute.

Today I got to go on a field trip! Usually I get left behind, but this was an English field trip so they invited me. It was my own little 100 day celebration :) Me, Jenny, and the 5th graders went to another school with a giant English center. I mean 2 whole floors with props and technology and rooms dedicated to English. It was amazing. Me, Jenny, and that school's English teacher did a bunch of role plays with the kids, then they watched about 45 minutes of Tangled, then we went back to school. They had more fun than I did, but I was happy to be there.

I went shopping last night and bought this dress.
I wore it to school today, and oh. my. gosh. In the morning 3 people told me I was very beautiful, and  Sam said "nice costume." If he meant nice outfit, that was sweet of him. If he was trying to tell me I was wearing a costume, that's not so sweet. Then I saw Jenny and she asked me if I was going on a date. Then I saw vice principal and she gave me a hug and said I looked so pretty. Then I saw Sam again and he asked me if I was going on a date. I'm never wearing this dress to school again. 

Then I came home to this.
The brick building is my apartment, and the lady in pink is my landlord. I think she spent the whole afternoon on that step watching the guys work. That gap is about 3 feet wide and runs in front of my entire building. They left one tiny bridge for people to walk over, thank goodness. There were notes taped all over the building, so I ripped one down and brought it to Jenny to translate for me. It said they're replacing the gas lines and "you might be uncomfortable" until it's finished. That is an understatement. They have created a moat minus the water and drawbridge.
Katie and I went shopping tonight and found this gem. It's one of those sleeping masks.
Elmo preys for you (upper right hand corner)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sand festival, mountain climbing, and rose festival

Its Wednesday night, I turned my air on for the first time (this country call is aircon), and I just got back from a VERY successful shopping trip. I bought 2 dresses, a belt, and some presents for friends :)

I had a very fun and busy weekend. Get ready for a long post 


Sand festival in Busan! I've probably said it before, but Korea LOVES festivals. So we spent the day on the beach looking at the most impressive sand creations I've ever seen
Giant castles
Mermaid in progress
It was a fairy tale theme
Us, sand, art, and ocean = successful picture
Next we went to Shakespeare in the park. Some foreigners put on the play. Shakespeare is not my favorite thing, but it was a nice day and it was in English. Plus we had wine :)
We went out for dinner at a Korean place. There were 6 of us, and nobody was super hungry, so we thought 4 servings of meat would be enough for everyone. They brought us 4 strips of meat. So we went to Burger King afterward. Then we went back to the beach for a night concert and some fireworks.

We wanted to go hiking. We heard about a mountain that was supposed to be very pretty and also have a waterfall running down it. We knew it was far away, but we were not prepared for how far. We got on a bus for about an hour, then didn't know what to do
This is Kyla asking the bus driver for help. He told us when to get off the bus. We wandered around for a little while, thinking it would be very obvious where the big tall mountain was. It wasn't very obvious. So, we asked a police officer for directions. 
He made us sit in the station while he figured out what to do with us
Then he walked us to the bus stop. We got on a different bus and finally - after about 2 hours of travel time - made it to the mountain. It was one of those situations that's just too funny to be frustrating. We were all excited to finally be there and start our hike! Buuut...almost immediately Garrett fell and sprained his ankle. Hike over.
This is the happy group shot we got while everyone was still able to stand. We sat around this little waterfall area so Garrett could ice his ankle, and it was really pretty and peaceful. We hung out and talked for a little while, so it wasn't a totally wasted trip. We'll go back some day and make it to the top!


It was Korea's Memorial Day, so no school. Yay! Our original plan was to go spend the day in Daegu, which is a nearby city. But, that didn't happen. I'm actually really glad we didn't go anywhere, because I would have been exhausted. It was really nice to spend a relaxing day at home. I got up, went for a walk around my lake, and did some cleaning and laundry. Then Katie and I had lunch with Alexis, Mo, and Christy. After lunch we wandered around the department store and a bookstore for a while. Then we went to a rose festival. Again, the love of festivals in this country...
Me and Alexis being Korean - making a heart
Yellow roses
Mo, Alexis, Katie, and me
Fun fun fun!