Sunday, February 26, 2012

Awesome yearbook photos!

I got my hands on the 6th grade graduation yearbook and took pictures of some of the funniest pictures. Try not to focus on the poor quality of these photos, but the awesomeness and awkwardness of it all.
 One of these things is not like the others

 Alfalfa finger


February is a very strange and semi-pointless month in the education world. The first 2 weeks of the month were "regular classes" but teachers had already submitted final grades (which the students were very aware of) and half the classes were game/movie/hang out/play time. Then we had the graduation and closing ceremonies, and now there are 2 more weeks of classes until the new school year begins March 2nd. Over half my classes have been canceled, and I'm not even going into work every day.

I would like to meet the person who looked at the calendar and said "Yes, that's a really good idea. The students are going to learn a lot and be very productive this month." I would also like to be in charge for a day so I could redo everything.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What if

What if our graduation ceremonies were like Korean graduation ceremonies?
 What if there were traditional drums?
 What if the graduation song was played with recorders?
 And kids wore velvet sailor suits?
 What if there was a choreographed dance?
 With several questionable dance moves performed by very young girls?

 And what if the boys also wore sparkles and danced?
 That would be awesome

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I taught Kindergarten 2 days a week this year, and they made me a cute little book to say thank you. 
 In all the pictures I pretty much look like this
 Black hair, black eyes, pigtails...
so I guess in an entire year none of them realized that I'm not Korean

Friday, February 17, 2012


One year ago today I arrived in Ulsan. At the time that was the most terrifying and overwhelming day, but we were reminiscing at dinner tonight and we were all laughing pretty hard, so I'm going to share.

We had spent about a week at orientation in a city 3 hours away. A few days in I got sick, and was still sick when we had to leave for Ulsan. Everything I owned was in 3 suitcases, and combined they probably weighed 100 pounds. I remember we had to carry them up this enormous hill and load them on the bus ourselves. Plus we were all dressed up for meeting our co-teachers, so I did it in heels. I was sweating by the time I sat down. Once we were in Ulsan we got dropped off in a parking lot. The bus driver unloaded our suitcases and drove away, and we were all just standing there waiting for someone to give us directions. Then all our co-teachers came running out of their cars with signs that had our names on them. They grabbed us and our stuff and took us away. Literally. I saw Yuri and said "Hi I'm Breann" and she said "Hi I'm Yuri" and then she had my suitcases and we were leaving. I remember following Yuri to her car, not even saying goodbye to Katie. I was terrified. I was parting ways with everyone I knew in this country, and nobody had phones or internet yet, so I honestly didn't know if or when I'd ever see them again.

Yuri took me out to a very nice lunch, but I had been using chopsticks for about 3 days at that point, plus it was mostly seafood, so I did my best but I didn't eat a lot. Then we went to school and I met the principal and vice principal. I bowed and said the 3 Korean phrases I knew, then we went upstairs to my classroom. It was brand new, and I was thrilled. Seeing it made me really excited to teach.

Next we went to my apartment. I think the guy who lived here before me threw his clothes in a suitcase that morning and walked out the door. There were dishes in the sink, posters and magazines and to-do lists lying around, dirty sheets on the bed...I was disgusted. We left my suitcases and went to Home Plus to buy groceries.

By now it was probably 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and I was overwhelmed and exhausted. I had experienced too many emotions for one day and I remember pushing my cart up and down the aisles trying not to cry. At the same time I was kind of laughing at myself for fighting back tears in a grocery store while shopping with a perfect stranger. So we grabbed the essentials (which included a 20 pound bag of rice that I just finished this week) and left.

Yuri showed me where a PC bang was so I could email my friends and family, then she left me. I didn't know how to access a computer and didn't know how to ask for help, but I learned that if you stand there and shrug your shoulders people will realize that you're new and just do things for you. Thank goodness. So I spent an hour using the internet then came home to conquer my apartment. Remember I was sick, and exhausted, and overwhelmed, but I couldn't sleep in a dirty place, so I had to clean and unpack. I was so tired I went to bed at 9 or 10.

Once I was in bed I heard my doorbell ring once or twice but I ignored it. Then I heard pounding, my kitchen window being opened, and yelling in Korean and English. It was my landlady and Alexis. She had dragged Alexis out of bed to meet me and make sure my heat was turned on. It was very nice and thoughtful of her, but I didn't appreciate it much at the time. I was THRILLED to see another foreigner though. She stopped by the next morning when we were both more awake and gave me a few pointers.

And now it's been a year. My apartment is clean (mostly), I don't cry in grocery stores, and I found some amazing friends. And I got a pretty great story out of it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

On Valentine's Day the kids and I made cards

 I love it when their project doesn't look exactly like my example. Creativity :)

 She made a chocolate character
 Don't let the serious faces fool you, these guys are pretty wild

Then my friends came over. We ate cake, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate, and cookies, and we watched Sleepless in Seattle 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Say what?

Katie and I made a list of all the "English" we hear from our students and co-teachers on a regular basis. It was surprisingly difficult because this stuff is becoming normal. So, if you ever hear me say something off this list, don't judge me :)
You go first= You can leave first
Teacha game?= Can/will we play a game today?
Teacha pinisheeeeee= I am finished. This is my least favorite thing to hear and I cannot break their habit of saying it every single time they finish something
Teacha yogi?= do I sit here?
Take a rest= Take a break
Help yourself= Enjoy your meal/start eating
Teacha waaaaaayyyy?= Teacher, why?
I'm so-so= I'm ok
How about...= Do you want to...
Can you eat it= Do you like it?
My = me/I
Cunning= cheating
Pageee= page
Let's go together= Let's go
Teacha, face brown = Teacher your face is tan (this is obviously one of Katie's)
Teacha, born hair, golden? = Another one of Katie's. Her student thought she was born with blonde hair, like in the cartoon Rapunzel, and she cut it and it turned brown
Nice to meet you = nice to see you
I'm going to a business meeting = I'm going to a meeting
Yellow hair = blonde
Why = what
Sick = hurt. For example"finger sick"
Sweat = face water. I only heard this once but it was memorable
Water dog = seal

Koreans can't say the letter p; it always comes out as f. Finished = pinished, frog = prog, from = prom
D and T make the same sound in Korean, as well as L and R. The word ruler is a real struggle. Korean rarely ends a word with a consonant, so if an English word ends in a consonant they want to add uh or eee to the end. Nice = nice-uh, finish = pinisheee, cute = cutie

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Secret pet

This morning one of my 5th graders walked into the English classroom and said "Teacha...secret." Then she unzipped her jacket and pulled out...
 A hedgehog!
I didn't really know what to do, so I took some pictures and laughed. These are the moments I love my job. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Field trip

What do you do when the school goes on a field trip and leaves you behind?
You put your feet up and read Oliver Twist, of course :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thailand #3

Day 4: Tiger day! The tiger temple was about 2 hours away, so we got in our colorful taxi and slept. We had to cover up for the monks again. The temple has a really cool story. It started as a wildlife preserve - they still have water buffalo, goats, deer, and a few other types of animals running around. About 15 years ago the police rescued 2 tiger cubs from poachers and asked the temple to take them. The police have continued to bring rescued tigers, and the tigers keep having babies. Today they have 102. They're all raised by humans, so they're very gentle with people. Plus the temple has so many that they only let the tourists see the nicest ones. When we were with the animals they were chained up (not in a sad way) but they probably would have just laid there even if they weren't. An employee would show you exactly where to sit and where you could pet the tiger, and another employee would take your picture. They're tiger trainers/photographers. 
 After a while it was time to bring the tigers to a different area, and we got to walk them on leashes!
 We took more pictures, then we had some free time. They have a big area for the tigers to play, and there were about 10 in there. My friends left to go take pictures with deer (who chooses a deer over a tiger?!) and I watched the tigers fight over a green rain boot. It was awesome. 
 At the end of the day we got to meet the babies. They were adorable 1 and 2 month olds. They don't really have claws yet and their teeth aren't very sharp, so they're basically little puppies. They have their own room and we spent about 45 minutes in there. 
 At the end we got to feed them with bottles.
 I was petting a little one and this guy said "look behind you!" There was a GIANT head looking at me from the next cage. This picture does not show how enormous it was. At first I was freaked out, but all day long I had wanted to put my head next to a tiger's head and nobody would let me (for obvious reasons I guess) so this was my chance :) 
 They let volunteers live there and take care of tigers for a few months for free. Maybe I'll end up in Thailand for a little bit after Korea :)

Day 5: Beach day. I called the receptionist to ask where the nearest beach was, and it did not go well. I said "We want to go to the beach tomorrow. Which one is closest?" and she said
"Spell it." and I said "I don't know the name of a beach, I'm asking you to tell me one." and she said "A...B....?" and I said "No. I'm not spelling anything. I want to go to the ocean. To go swimming." and there was silence on the other end. So Kyla googled it and we found one called Pattaya.
We sat and swam most of the day, and ignored the people trying to sell us stuff. Every 10 minutes somebody would come over with food or souvenirs. For the first hour we were nice, then we got less nice, and by the end we just closed our eyes and pretended to be asleep. After tanning for a while we explored. The first alley we went down was rated R, so we turned around and stayed on the main street. We found a starbucks and I got to have some iced coffee. It was a really nice, relaxing day. The ocean is my favorite place in the world, and I'm happy any time I get to go.

Day 6: This was the last day for Katie and I, and we were really low on cash. I had enough to get to the airport and eat one meal, so Kyla found some free stuff. We took the subway. 
We went to an arts and culture museum in the morning. They had a lot about the recent flood, and one of the princesses is a photographer so a bunch of her work was displayed. She spent the year traveling and it was interesting to see her pictures. In the afternoon we tried to find another museum and failed. We had dinner at our favorite street restaurant. 
 This was the kitchen. The food was so good and nobody got sick.

The next morning Katie and I left. I spent most of the day frustrated and angry. Let me summarize for you: NEVER fly Southern China Air. Both our flights were late, which meant we were running through airports and by the time we got to Korea we had missed everything. I talked to an employee and she found a bus terminal that had one more bus leaving that night. We got on the subway, and after about 20 min the subway just stopped. A nice man told us it was done running for the night, and we had to take a taxi the rest of the way. Most Korean taxi drivers are crazy and drive extremely fast. Of course, the night we were in a hurry, we had the slow guy. I even told him in Korean to hurry please and he just laughed at me. Rude. We got there with 10 minutes to spare, and I was finally in my apartment around 5 AM. It was not a very happy end to the trip, but it was an awesome vacation. I would love to go back to Thailand some day!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thailand #2

Day 1: The hotel helped Katie and I hire a taxi driver for the day. We went to a museum, the world's largest crocodile farm, and the ancient city of Siam. The museum was beautiful. It's more of a temple than a museum, and its dedicated to the 4 major religions. On top of the building is a 3-headed elephant, and you can walk all the way up there.
 Grand entrance

The crocodile farm was enormous. I believe them when they say they're the world's largest. I don't know how many crocodiles they have, but I would want to be far far away if something went wrong and all those animals got out. I heard crocodiles hiss for the first time - that was crazy. It's not a very scary sound but it sounds terrifying when it's coming out of an enormous lizard. They had a crocodile show and we also saw an elephant show.

This elephant painted a picture of flowers. After the show the elephants came into the audience to collect money with their trunks and put it in the trainer's pocket. It was amazing!

The ancient city was really cool. Most of the stuff they had was replicas of the originals. There wasn't a lot of English so Katie and I kind of had to figure things out/make them up on our own, but it wasn't too hard. There was a shuttle that would occasionally pick us up/drop us off so we didn't have to walk the entire way. They had about 100 things to see, so it's good we got to ride some of the time.

Day 2: We set up a tour through the hotel to see the Royal Grand Palace. The king and his family used to live there, but now they have another mansion somewhere else. There's also a temple inside the palace.

We had to wear long pants and cover our shoulders, which was unfortunate because it was hot. But that's how women have to dress when there might be a monk around. Bummer. We got to the palace early and had to wait. They let Thai people in earlier than foreigners, and Thai people don't have to pay either. It was nice to have a guide tell us all about this place. It was gorgeous. Garrett and Kyla arrived in the evening, and the 4 of us went to Chinatown to celebrate the new year. There were so many people! We waited for a parade to start for about 2 hours, and it turned out to be a 75 year old princess, and about 25 cars following her. Definitely not worth the wait.
Day 3: Elephant and floating market day. We had to leave the hotel at 6:15. We stopped at a few other places to pick up more people, then got transferred to a new van, then drove about 2 hours to get to our destination. First we rode elephants. We walked up onto a platform so we were at the same height as the elephant, then just climbed on. There was a box on top of the animal that we sat in, and we had to wear seat belts. I found this funny because we didn't even wear seat belts in cars. 2 people shared one elephant. The elephant's skin was really thick and rough, and it had coarse hair. But at the same time it was kind of soft. We had a driver, but he spent a lot of time on the ground taking pictures of us. It was a really bumpy ride. I loved it!
 Bringing a little Korea to Thailand :)

Then we went to a floating market, which is exactly what it sounds like. People sit in boats and sell stuff, and you can get in a boat to go buy stuff or you can stand on the shore and yell at them. They were charging to go in a boat, so we stayed on shore and yelled. They'll pass you a bucket on a stick to put your money in, then they put whatever you're buying back in the bucket and pass it to you. So simple, so brilliant. We also got to take a boat ride around what was basically a floating neighborhood, and see how some people still live.

 Spring rolls

Congratulations on making it to the end of this blog! I'll write about the rest of the trip tomorrow.