Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Humor gets me through the day

One of the 4th grade girls wore a sweatshirt that said "fetch" and every time I looked at her all I could think of was Mean Girls: "Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen"

A different girl thought that he-friend was the English word for boyfriend

I said "how are you" to one of the 4th grade boys and he answered "I'm annoying!" And he is. And nobody got it except for me

The 2nd graders wanted to listen to Jingle Bell Rock. Even though it's April 25th, I let them

I had to run for the bus twice, in the rain, wearing the wrong shoes

I saw a construction worker peeing. In America we have porto-potties, in Korea they have 3 short walls and a bucket. No joke. I thought about taking a picture, then I realized that would be disgusting

I noticed men setting up tents in front of school on the soccer field, like carnival tents. I asked one of the teachers why and he told me tomorrow we're having a tsunami and earthquake simulation. I am 100% sure standing outside under a tent is not going to help me in either of those situations. I'll let you know how that goes...

Monday, April 23, 2012


I've always known that kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade are not my favorite ages. They're basically puppies, only you can't put them in a kennel. They can't do things on their own, they want affirmation all the time, and they crave so much attention. One child like that is cute, a classroom full of them makes me want to scream. Multiply that by 529, and that is how I feel about them in a foreign language. In English you can try to reason with them and you might make a little progress, in Korea there is zero chance of that happening. And I have at least 1 class of these puppies every day, sometimes 3. I'm not sure if I tolerated it more in the beginning, if the kids have gotten worse, or what's going on, but lately I just can't stand those classes. I feel like I can't even make them sit still without yelling...they're probably not learning a whole lot of English except maybe "sit down" "stop doing that" and "are you kidding me?!" Principal would probably not approve.

But at church yesterday I was talking with the guest pastor, and I asked her if she'd ever lived abroad because she's Korean but her English was so good. She said she's never left Korea, and then she said something along the lines of "be encouraged, it's possible for students to learn English well in Korea." And it actually was really encouraging. I don't always see a lot of progress, but maybe by the time my kiddos are her age they'll be as fluent as she is. I think sometimes I forget that learning English is really hard, because it's not hard for me, haha. I know that sounds so stupid but its true. 

She also said that even as a child, not able to communicate a whole lot with her English teachers, she was able to tell who cared and who was there for the paycheck. And that is huge. I absolutely get frustrated and impatient, and I probably don't hide it well enough. I think sometimes the classroom just breeds negative emotions. But I want them to learn. I want to push them and challenge them and actually teach them something. If I didn't care, we'd be playing hangman every day and I wouldn't yell at them when they don't bring their pencils ('re in school!) and it wouldn't matter if they were talking to their friends instead of listening to me. I have all the answers kids. Pay attention.

So it was cool to talk to someone from the student perspective who is fluent enough to communicate her opinion. I thought about it a few times at work today and it made me feel better. I'm not sure how long these nice feelings are going to last, but maybe they'll stick.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I feel like I don't have much to write about these days. Last year at this time Korea was new and bright and shiny. I was figuring everything out and every day was exciting and there were always new adventures. There are still things that surprise me, but life has become much more regular and routine. If somebody told me I wasn't living in a foreign country anymore, I would almost believe them. I get up and go to work, teach/chill all day, make dinner, go grocery shopping, and hang out with my friends. It's not a very exotic lifestyle.

I'm so glad I'm still here. I'm definitely excited to go home next year, and its something I think about more and more often, but I'm so happy I stayed. My job right now feels very different than it did at this time last year. I think no matter what job you have, it's so beneficial to do it more than once. The first time around you're figuring things out and making lots of mistakes. The second time you still make mistakes, but you get to learn from a bunch of them too. I know I'm already a much better teacher. I feel way more comfortable with my job and just being in the school. I get to reuse a lot of my lesson plans and make them better. And it's awesome to have the same kids another year. They know me and what I expect, and I know what they are able to do and what they need help with. I don't like the idea of somebody new taking my place next year. What if they're not really committed to their job? What if they screw up and undo all the work I spent 2 years doing?

Lately I have been reading a lot (if you haven't read the Hunger Games you need to right. now.) getting serious about running, dreaming of Hawaii, dreaming of Spain, watching Cupcake Wars, and writing lots of emails/skyping lots of friends.  I'll try and do something more exciting soon :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Happy Easter kiddos!

This year I decided to do an Easter lesson at school. I cut out hundreds of paper eggs and hid them all around the classroom, then once they found them the kids glued them on baskets. It was so much fun for them, and especially fun for me to watch! I may have let them continue hunting for a while even though I knew all the eggs had been found :)

The hunt:

The cute little baskets:

 Counting his eggs


 I think somebody is a fan of Angry Birds

And, it's finally spring in Korea! There are beautiful cherry blossom trees all around my school

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Last night I had to take a friend to the hospital. We thought she had appendicitis, which thankfully she did not. But I learned a lot about emergencies in Korea.

We didn't have a working phone number for a taxi company, so we just went outside and luckily found one quickly. Poor girl was walking around with the worst stomachache waiting for a car. We went to the closest hospital, and the doors were locked. So I pounded on them for a while and when no one came we found a side entrance. We used our limited Korean and lots of gestures to tell them what was wrong. They kind of examined her, and then told us they couldn't do anything about it because they're only an orthopedic hospital. I've always known they used the word "hospital" very loosely...every time I'm sick one of my coteachers asks if I've been to the hospital. But now I'm pretty sure that word just means clininc.

So we got in another taxi and went to a real hospital. First of all, let me say that the people behind all those patient privacy acts in America would have a FIELD DAY in this place! It was a giant room with tons of beds, and they all had curtains around them but they were never closed. I watched somebody get an EKG, I watched an old dude get a chest examination, I saw strangers x-rays and my friend's x-rays too. Everybody was all up in everybody else's business.

I was looking at all the paperwork, because it was there for anybody to see, and most of it was in English. I don't understand the logic behind that. I'm sure all the doctors and nurses are required to know English, but I bet a lot of the patients don't. And at the same time, they had a hard time communicating things with us. So strange.

This experience was the kick in the pants I needed to put more effort into learning Korean. Luckily the doctors and nurses all spoke a little English, but what if they hadn't? Sometimes charades just aren't good enough. We used the Korean we could, and that was mildly helpful, but I don't want to have to hope that someone will speak enough English to help me if something like this ever happens again.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How to campaign in Korea

Next Wednesday there are elections for the National Assembly, which is like Congress. It's a big deal. And this is how the country is preparing:

Step 1: Rent a truck and put a ginormous TV with equally ginormous speakers in the back of it. Play footage of your favorite candidate doing awesome things and giving inspirational speeches. If you look closely, you will notice that there is a person in the back of the truck wearing an oversize cardboard cutout of the guy's head.

P.S. As the person who lives across the street from the speakers, I request that in the future you wait until after my alarm clock goes off. Thank you.
 Step 2: Assemble supporters. Give them matching outfits. Teach them to dance. Place them at every intersection on every major road
 Step 3: Hang banners. Who needs commercials?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The world

Yesterday Alexis and I were out shopping and we met a couple who had recently moved to Ulsan. They were asking us about fun places to go, things to see, good restaurants, stuff like that. A few minutes into the conversation they asked us where we were from. We said America, and they said Iran. And for a moment we were all very...aware...of the situation between our two countries.

And I think one of the wonderful things about living in Korea is that it didn't really matter. We invited them to dinner with us and they were happy to come. Everybody here has something in common because we are all foreigners together. We rely on each other for so much, and that becomes more important than any other difference that may exist. There are definitely times when that kind of stuff comes up, but it's not the focus of the relationship. I think people are more willing to agree to disagree or just avoid touchy subjects because we want to make friends more than we want to alienate someone who speaks the same language.

I've said it before, but I never imagined that I would come to Korea and end up with friends from 7 different countries. It's so eye opening and interesting to spend time with them and learn not just about Korea, but South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, Iran. Even though America has people from all around the world it's different, because they are Americans. Talking to somebody who is Korean-American is totally different than talking to someone who is Korean, for example, and even though it seems so obvious it's something I didn't totally understand until I got here. I think it's great that we can all get along and experience more of the world through each other.

And also I bought this beauty while shopping :)