Saturday, February 28, 2009

Come and Gone

I glanced at my note card one more time before walking in through the door, my throat completely parched--a typical bad start to most of my speeches. Looking up, I noticed there was only one judge. There it was, just me and him, and I started with another speech about something I knew nothing about. Without reason, big fat tears started to well, then fall down my cheeks. I was still able to speak, but my face completely betrayed my terror of speaking in front of people. I'll never forget the speech trip where I placed 7th out of 6 contestants. It pretty much solidified my belief that I would never be able to speak in public.

Today, I got up on a stage in front of fifty children, one hundred relatives, and was the foreign Master of Ceremonies for today's kindergarten graduation. No tears. No real gaffes whatsoever, really. Reading from the script, shuffling kids around to get positions right. Alice and I tripping over each other only once or twice.

It all went a lot better than I expected, and the kids did a good job of remembering their lines. I got several presents, and I was a favorite for pictures today. I'm glad my mom had sent me a beautiful orange shirt to be photographed in! Several hours later, all of the adrenaline that had kept me going the last two weeks had faded, and I was left with dozens of blog posts of memories of my kids, a few hundred pictures, and three little coffee mugs I'll be damned if I ever get rid of.

The fight's gone out of me, and most of my energy, too. I'm grateful that Monday and Tuesday, kindergarten isn't real class--just preparation for the new year.

In other news, what with my recent obsession with a coworker, and recent text messaging fun, Chris decided it'd be fun(ny) to sign me up for a dating service. It's been a day, and I have had more interest than a year on e-Harmony. Funny how the world turns, hm? (And now I've gone and said the e-Harmony thing, so let me throw this out there: it was probably good at one point in time, but they, too, were turned by the almighty dollar. Don't do it!)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Funny Text Messages

So yesterday as I was walking to the dry cleaner's, I got a wrong number call that wasn't much out of the ordinary. When he realized that I was speaking English, he switched to English and we discussed how he was Korean, I'm American, and how I'm not his girlfriend that he was looking for. Today I received the following:

1) Hello~ I'm live in Seoul. Yesterday I miss called you. Do you remember Me?

2) Can you speak Japanese or Korean? My name is Minami. And you? I need girl Friend

Just thought that was funny and worth posting. Happy Weekend!

Last Day of School

Today is February 27th. Seven months ago I landed to an unnatural humidity that I thought was reserved for the 7th ring of hell. I followed other teachers around, noting what to do, what not to do, how to have fun without crossing a line, and just how bright these students are. Then I took over my own classrooms. Twice a day, every day, I taught Jessica, Justin, Alice, Clara, David, Jane, Yuri, Winston, Wendy, Kevin, Lion, Nick, and Max, and despite a sincere desire to take them and shake some common sense into them from time to time, they became the loves of my life.

Today is the last day of school. On Monday, March 2nd, they will dress up in new, not-ECC uniforms, and they will head off to their first real Korean school, where no one will be angry that they're not speaking in English. No one will try to coerce them to pronounce the "s" at the end of plural words. No one will well up with pride when they choose "some" instead of forgetting the article altogether. Lion has gone from speaking constant Korean and adding "uh" at the end of each word to the boy who got a 100% on his test, and recently discovered using the present progressive perfectly. "Kate Teacher, where are we going?" Oh Lion, you're going far.

All week God's words as Jesus was being baptized have been in my ear. Matthew 3:17, This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. I get it, now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's okay to dissent, now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


North Korea and South Korea are heatin' it up here on the peninsula.

I might be more concerned if I hadn't seen this, too. :) They get a little emotional over their politics.

A reminder for the hard times

Developing my recent epiphany further, I have come to the realization that life is never going to be perfect, and very rarely will we have things on our terms. "My life would be great if this one student would just behave." "I wouldn't have any complaints if it wasn't for this darn zit on my nose." "If I could just lose 10 pounds, I'd be happy."

Why is our happiness conditional?

There are always going to be blemishes on our day. Maybe we wake up and find that the black outfit we were going to wear was recently visited by a white cat monster, and the day progresses with ten or twenty slightly "off" things that distract us from doing our best and enjoying it.

So, moping about a boy, sighing because the movie I wanted to see started at too late of a time to see it, or feeling rejected because of being left out of an invitation are no longer options. In the face of real disappointment, these are so laughable I feel ashamed. And this isn't to say that those things don't serve a purpose; if I hadn't been bored, I wouldn't have found this wonderful adventure. Change is good, as long as it's change for me.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I forgot to tell the funny story from going to church last week...

The Koreans have absurdly long torsos. As in, all of their shirts are the really long baggy style because it's considered inappropriate to show any skin, except for their legs. They wear the teeny tiny skirts to make their legs look longer than they are. As it is, I was walking behind an older woman, compared to whom I was a good foot taller. I could clearly walk up to her and put my chin on her head (although this would probably be of poor taste, so I refrained).

Abby and I sat down, and the woman wandered off to talk to her friends. She decided to sit in front of me, with which I had no problem, what with being obscenely taller than her.

I could not see around her!

I am 5'9", and have legs longer than most of my students are tall, to which most people will tell me to stop complaining about. But it is mildly embarrassing to get your view blocked by a grandmother who barely reaches the 5" mark.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Some of my students are the sweetest, most gratifying children to work with. They learn so quickly and with such eagerness, that it helps fuel the fire and passion I have for bringing them further knowledge of English.

And then there are the others. The ones who exasperate me, bring me to the edge of reason, and sometimes shove me over. Once I felt like slapping one of them, and I think that in a past life I would have. I'm not proud of the fact that I felt like slapping him, but I am impressed that I resisted. I didn't go over that edge.

In the past, I wrote about every problem child's problems in classes, thinking that the parents would be able to do something to inspire their children to behave in class. An idea has been rolling around in my head, though, building up like a snowball until it became more obvious. They may be misbehaving, but isn't it my job to guide their behavior and draw them into the learning process so they aren't disruptive? And so now, I think back to those evaluations where really it was like showing my own inadequacies. Now I have more to say, and I pay better attention to what my students need. As I write down how my students have progressed in comparison to seven months ago, I get to note how I have progressed, too, and while it's still a novel concept... I'm quite proud of myself.

On a side note, I'm watching Moonstruck and Cher just walked into the Cinderella Hair Shop--and I go to the Cinderella Hair Shop here!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Vēnī, vīdī, vīcī

So I went to work. I dressed nicely, put on make up, added earrings, even. Went to work with a cheerful attitude, and without the chip on my shoulder that tried to tag along. I met the new girl (Hannah) who is lovely, and I'm looking forward to working with her.

As far as the Orientation itself was concerned, it was pretty much a waste of time. We were there serving a purpose for about thirty seconds; I definitely could have made it back from the YMCA in time, but the powers that be didn't want it that way. After, though, I was determined to make a good experience out of it. I purposefully found my new students and met them and their parents. I helped them put their shoes on, and I helped put the indoor shoes away. The parents were pleased by me already remembering the students--to the point where one came up to me in the middle of lunch (at a different location entirely) to have a small chat.

I didn't want to go, but I did. I went. I saw. I conquered. Next? I sojued. Until next time...

Quick Catch Up

Thursday was kind of self-pity day. And by kind of I mean I spent a fair part of the day in tears. I got out the crying that I wanted to do in November (a la cast), and I feel a lot less watery, now. And now it's out of my system, I can focus on what is important right now: having an awesome graduation for my awesome kids and preparing for my new awesome kids.

I'm going to be teaching two six-year-old classes starting in March. Neither of them have ever learned English before, and to be honest when I'm wandering around after their pre-kinder classes, they look quite terrified of me. One of them, though, is a familiar face: I'll have, of course, Aidan. Total, I will have 17, and I have high hopes. I won't have the "elite" status of teaching the smartest kids in school anymore, and I won't have the status of being partnered with the head teacher, but this comes with the joy of getting to have two kinder classes until my contract is up.

Yesterday we were all just exhausted. The week had run long with snow (snow?), one of the teachers being let go, preparations for graduation, being told we have to work on Saturday, and so forth. So it came time for Soju Friday, and only Kayleigh and I headed out into the cold, and in the end only Kayleigh had soju.

So today I have orientation to meet the parents of my new students, and I think after I'll head off to catch up on some of the Korean I'll be missing. One lucky thing for sure, because I'm going to miss three classes in a row, but because I'm bright enough to catch up, the YMCA is going to give me a private lesson this Thursday, and I'll be able to enroll in the next class. Hooray!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Doubly Spoiled

My grandma sent me a package! It had lots and lots of Goldfish crackers, candy, a cute little plushie, and bath stuff. Awww. :) I'm so fortunate over here.

I can't believe how quickly February has flown. Here it is, T-minus until the new teachers arrive, graduation ceremonies commence, and well... I'm sure there's something else. Seven months have passed, and it feels like weeks. Weeks with very severe and frequent weather changes.

We got wind of the new kindergarten schedule, and it's pretty much like that game where you hit the timer and the entire board filled with little pieces are scrambled up into the air, and you have to fit them back in before the buzzer goes. I think I'll have two classes of non-English speakers, but I think that means I'll have Aidan. And to be honest, despite his different way of learning, I do like being his teacher.

My leg's really doing quite well. I can speed walk, now, and my flexibility is increasing. The swelling has dramatically reduced, and I couldn't be happier. Today it's a little swollen, but if memory serves, despite being swollen it's still thinner than when I arrived in this wonderful country.

I guess I had less to say than at first I thought. My oddly quiet thoughts are with you all, though.


I have a new student who well... concerns me. We spent forty minutes talking about the Japanese torturing the Chinese and Koreans during World War II, the serial killer who is writing his memoir and "how to," the fact that the kid wants to read it, how easy it is for a man to kill a woman, that he was diagnosed as a psychopath, and that he had been watching me the day before outside of school. ... Did I mention I accidentally upset him by asking his age? (The #1 question asked by all Koreans, but because I'm not Korean it wasn't okay...)

So until I get over feeling ill-at-ease, expect lots of "I love you's."

In other news, it's been 33 1/2 hours and Albert has not texted back. Augh augh augh.

In other other news, I've yet to receive my cell phone bill. Kind of concerned about them thinking I'm a louse and sending me to debtor's prison. (I'd like to avoid prison in Korea if at all possible...)

And to top it all off, days remaining with my kids is in the single digits, now. With Winston having punched David in the crotch today, I'm not so sure that's a bad thing...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I wrote a song.

There was a teacher, had no class,
And Kate-uhhh was her name-uh!
And Kate-uhh was her name-uh!

There was a teacher, had no class,
And Kate-uhhh was her name-uh!
And so on~

Monday, February 16, 2009


Today was a pretty ordinary day. I woke up glad to be going to work. Headed out the door looking relatively pressed, having gotten in a small chat with my mom and sister as they wrapped up their weekends. As someone who is typically early for all things (yet procrastinates everything?), it's still strange to be sixteen hours early for 1) the onset of the weekend, and 2) the onset of the work week. One student spent most of the day trying to get my total, undivided attention, another spent the entire day with his hand down his pants and wiggling his loose front tooth with his tongue. It was a relatively unglamorous morning--but as the buses pulled away with their precious cargo, I sighed looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.

In the afternoon, I was immediately annoying, asking Jin if a package had come for me. It had! My mom sent me homemade cookies. I know if I don't eat them that they'll go moldy, and that they were sent to be enjoyed, but... I also kind of just want to keep one. Shaniquah would probably just run away again and steal it, though, so really there's no point. When I wrote my list of "wish I'd broughts," I really did write it with future Korea-ers in mind; the thought never occurred to me that I would get some of those things--so thank you, mama.

That said, I have a book to go enjoy. Good night~

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Language Exchanges 2.0: Now with even more ogling!

As it turns out, there are churches in Daegu with English services. Today Abby picked me up and took me to one of them, and I just so thoroughly appreciate her company. She has good stories and a good head on her shoulders; I'm really glad to know her. We got there on time (despite constant fears of wrong turns), and the worship was good, and the sermon radically changed my life. It was about loving people, regardless of what they've done, regardless of how innocent you are and how wronged you are, because that is how people learn best about God: when we show His amazing love in our daily lives. I finally felt ready. After so, so, so many years, I gave it up and forgave the people from my childhood and chose to love them. When I did, a weight lifted, and the anxiety I've felt for weeks (decades) left. It's like I finally released my demon, and now I'm free to be the Kate God always intended.

I also met a new person who looks exactly like my cousin Pam. Except for being black. So I met Pam's twin. Who is black. While living in South Korea. BiZaRo.

So... this is me. Today I met with Albert, who went against the Korean tendency and was earlier for our meeting than I was. He was playing basketball and watching the others in the batting cages, so I let him be while I watched a crane--we were at least 15 minutes early. (Eager? Yes. It also took me substantially less time to walk it than last time--woo hoo!) He smelled so good and looked so devastatingly handsome in his pea coat and black turtleneck.

We practiced English for three hours, at which point in time it was six and we ran out of steam. "Are you hungry? Let's get dinner." Oh, gee, twist my arm why don't you. After some wandering around (that included crossing a busy street twice), we settled on the soup that Abby and I had rejected earlier in the day, the spicy soup made with pig spine. He mocked my chopstick skills, and then pulled the meat off of the bones for me and cut my cabbage. I felt mildly stupid, but whatever, I'm a foreigner. Might as well accept the stereotypes that work for me. He saw me smirking because a man was drinking soju. He asked if I wanted some, and I said no, then I asked if he wanted some, and he said yes. Bwuahaha. So we split a bottle, and there was mocking involved on both sides of the floor-sitting table. I had a really fun time.

He walked me home and quizzed my vocabulary. We parted with a handshake, but before I even got a chance to start blogging, I received a text saying what a good time he had.

"Kate Teacher, how are you?"
"I am happy." :)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day to Me

I'm pretty sure everyone has a story about Valentine's Day. As it turns out, I have several.

-My freshman year of high school, the guy I had been talking to told me he didn't want to see me anymore. (Awww.)
-My junior year of high school, my dad was in the hospital. (Awww.)
-My senior year of high school, my cat had to be put down because he'd been run over by a car. (Awww.)
-My senior year of college, my grandmother's best friend died, and I started dating my first real boyfriend. (My first kiss was on a Valentine's Day, let the cheese flow!)

So this year, what with a kind of dull weekend planned (Korean lessons--that were skipped due to tiredness, going away party, church), I didn't expect to have much to report. I think that combining Friday the 13th with Valentine's Day looming is just a recipe for disaster...

We had a field trip to a bug museum yesterday, and it was pretty strange. First off, I swear it's 65 degrees out already, and yesterday it was raining. We were so hot and so wet! But because it was raining, the kids still had all of their winter coats, and really we got quite cranky with each other. One of my students actually threw a hamster. I hope he gets his act together some day. A few other students dropped the hamsters (at a bug museum?), and I got to the point where I couldn't watch them anymore. They weren't listening to me telling them to hold them over the box (aka where the nice, soft wood shavings are). It reminded me of myself when I was younger and in a pet store, and I think I dropped one or I saw someone drop one. I'm not sure, but I felt really badly for the little guys. We got to see some silk worms, and see how they actually harvest the silk. That was pretty interesting.

Afterward, I was goofing off with the owner's daughter, and she ended up running head-first into a metal pole (this is after having already slipped and fallen in front of the school). I felt kind of like I'd just dropped one of the hamsters and sat quietly in the back of the bus willing the day to pass quickly.

Thankfully I got a lot of time for lunch, so Heather and I went and tried to recover over steaming bowls of rice--she got bibambap which is rice, veggies, and a fried egg, and I got kimchi fried rice. I don't know what I'll do without kimchi in America. Somewhat restored (aided by ice cream, it's so hot!) we watched with disdain as beetle larvae were prepared to send home with the kids. BLECH! For the entire hour, Heather obsessed over whether she looked cute enough to go to Seoul to meet her boyfriend's friends. Despite reassurances, the hair went up in a ponytail, and that was that. The bell rang, and I man-handled all of the kids to the fourth floor where we were going to watch another class's play, then perform ours. They behaved about as rottenly as you can imagine (rainy, Friday, field trip), and the three kids who had memorized their scripts were gone. Yuria threatened they'd have to perform in their uniform and not the costume if they didn't memorize their scripts, which was a lot less jail-inducing than what I had in mind.

I was SO relieved when the bell finally chimed and we got to send them (and their larvae) home. After getting in trouble for sitting up front with Megan, I was sulking in the back office, being forced against my will to listen to Olivia complain about the same homeless man she's been complaining about for the last three months. And she wasn't complaining about it to me or a foreigner, she was dragging my beloved Alice into it. And when Olivia speaks to the Koreans, she dumbs down and starts talking like bullies talk to mentally challenged kids--kind of a taunting "I'm above you" slower way. Thank you, thank you, thank you mom for the iPod.

The time came to go to the other school, so I headed out. As I looked up, I saw Albert sprinting away. Fine. Didn't want to talk to him, either. I hunkered down and kept walking (stepping in a puddle, of course!), until I heard the distinct sound of "ate." What with Korean words not ending in "ate," I wondered if someone was calling me. I looked up and saw Albert running towards me, saying, "Kate! Wait!" So I did, and he handed me a coffee and told me he couldn't make it to soju Friday because Jin was having him move desks around and that he was sorry, but next week.

Best Friday the 13th ever.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Slippery Slope

The past few days have been interesting. School's been going decently, aside from the fights the boys keep getting into, and today teaching all 13 at once went surprisingly better than I expected. I told them up front, if they were good they would get a reward, and if they were bad they would write 100 sentences. As a result, we got along pretty well this afternoon--but I will be glad when Yuria comes back for the field trip tomorrow.

That said, it astonishes me how we can expect so much of our teachers back home. With classes of 35, they're more like policemen than educators.

Blah blah blah, boring school stuff, boring work stuff, and then I texted Albert. Chris and Megan very much supported this endeavor (I think maybe out of boredom and amusement on Chris's part), so I sent it on Tuesday. Tuesday night, nothing. NOTHING! All night, then, I tortured myself with the memory of Tim Gannon receiving my school picture from some other girls with "I love you" or something on the back. He took it and stomped on it in the garbage can. It might as well have been my heart.

Wednesday, then, I was moping. Kind of juvenile, but I think when emotions are involved, we tend to revert back to junior high. That afternoon, I was sitting out on the front steps sunning (oh I had missed the sun, being buried in a coat and stuck inside all day), and Albert came and plopped his 6'4" (holy crap!) self next to me. We talked for a few minutes, and I thought to myself, Self, maybe there's just a language barrier. After physical therapy, I wrote again (using small words) that I was sorry he was sick on Saturday (thus concluding that I was the only one not hungover). Just as I got settled in with my fried chicken delivery an hour later (yum), my phone chirped with a note from him.

"I am okay ^^~ I can not English. I am a fool. I can not answer. I want study English!! Write 1 hour :( I am very very fool. Good night Kate (*^0^*)~~"

Normally I wouldn't go around broadcasting that, but it was really kind of cute. So uhm, mum's the word, okay? Megan helped me write a response in Korean (read: she wrote it down perfectly and then I typed it into my phone, haha), and I guess we're going to study this weekend. Hooray! I'm concerned, though... I hope he doesn't think I know Korean because we're in big trouble if conversation involves anything but items in the classroom.

In other news, I'm kind of a big deal in Korea. People stop to stare at me, walk up to peer into my face, and blatantly point at me. Boys chase after me to say hello (10-year-olds, not the datable ones), and at Home Plus I can draw a crowd as I buy kimchi. All of it I don't mind, except for the pointing. That's just rude! Today I was walking home from buying some unsalted, unbuttered, unmarshmallowed roasted sweet potatoes, and a group of four passed me. One literally gasped and pointed at me, telling his friends that I was a foreigner. Just to see what would happen, I gasped and pointed at him, without realizing there was a group of 15 high school-aged boys behind him. They all started laughing and the kid turned bright red with embarrassment. I feel a little guilty, but not enough not to publish it on the internet.

Hope everyone's keeping it real (and taking their pictures!)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Possible Addiction?

Today's counts:
3 Facebook visits (all from school)
2 e-mail checks (better)
1 blog check w/o anything real to update: oops!

Really, today was just another day, but I spent about twenty minutes getting together an e-mail for one of James's friends who is coming for her tour of teacher duty, but hers will be in Seoul. I was just answering questions that I myself had when I first left, and it was kind of cool having the answers.

For example:
Apartment buildings don't offer squatter toilets anymore; those are only in older, public buildings.
Bring tampons, deodorant, and toothpaste for a year. (They have lots of toothpaste but it doesn't have fluoride, and as for the other two... trust me.)
If your shoe size is above a 9, bring suitable pretty shoes. (Men's sneakers can always be purchased. Unless you're male, and Jeff, who wears a size 17 or something obscene.)
Bring electronics that are dual-voltage so all you need is an adapter instead of a converter, too. Really, do you need to bring your $17 hair dryer, or can you just purchase one here that is the correct voltage and plug-in? Same for curling iron, lamp, etc. I lucked out and had a hair dryer bequeathed to me.
Bring seasonings that you may miss from home--i.e. guacamole seasoning, gravy packets, garlic powder. Korea has a lot of Korean things but Indian, Mexican, and so forth can be hard to come by.
If coming from a colder climate (e.g. Denver, Montana, Minneapolis), you really only need sweaters and coats for 2 months. (Kind if disappointing, really.)
It'd be wise to e-mail with a current teacher from your new school; they can give you a better idea about the dress code (i.e. no jeans, but all else goes), and what sorts of things they wish they had brought with them.
You can be a vegetarian, and you can dislike spicy food, but not at the same time.
It's hard to be a vegetarian in Korea because most soups are made from fish or beef stock.
It's hard to dislike spicy food because everything (seemingly) has red pepper paste in it.
Your coworkers will smirk as you over-prepare for your first classes, as they chit chat for the first thirty minutes of the hour prep, then form a long line in front of the only photocopier to prepare tests, quizzes, and puzzles. ( will take you a long way!) Within 6 weeks you'll be pro.

I think the most important thing to bring with you is a positive attitude. Regardless of whether you're coming from the US, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or somewhere else I'm forgetting, South Korea is going to be different. Odds are it's going to be insanely hot for you for the summer, and there is a pretty substantial language barrier. But if you're coming because you can't deny the desire for adventure any longer, then I hope that you'll grow to accept the constant lateness, slightly-haphazard way of life and grow to love it as much as I do.

Two PS's:
1) If female, be careful. There is a stereotype that we're all porn actresses and ready to hit the hay at a moment's notice. Be on your guard at first. Not fearful, just diligent.
2) While I advocate any study of the language possible, don't worry if all you can say is hello. You'll learn what you need.

One PPS:
1) Albert stopped me to talk to me. ^^

Sunday, February 8, 2009


A few days ago I added Site Meter to both of my blogs out of curiosity, to see who all drops by to browse through ramblings, view some of my pictures. I did not wager that half of those visits were from... me.

It turns out that, in addition to sitting around in half of my pants, I also enjoy obsessively checking the four buttons in my Firefox browser window: Facebook, Gmail, Korean Saga, and icanhascheezburger.

First, it strikes me as interesting what my priorities are. There is no "news" button or "bank" button. It's 1) chatting, 2) chatting, 3) chatting to an audience, and 4) laughing at silly cat pictures. I think that when it comes time to apply for a real job (in 2 to 12 years, haha), I will have to hide this blog so they can't find it online and discover 1) opinions of previous jobs, 2) location of research for current job (oops), nor 3) incredibly shallow pastimes. Unless I get a job where chatting is what I do, in which case I'm set.

Second, I am a little annoyed by how often I check these four websites. Facebook, I checked eight times today. And just so you know, it has been a very boring Facebook day. Only four status updates, no one added pictures, and there hasn't even been any good dirt on the Soju Friday board. Gmail--did I really expect someone to send me e-mail when it's 4 a.m. back home? Korean Saga--I go here frequently to check out if anyone else has updated, I'm not so narcissistic that I read my blog continuously (although I am compulsive enough to review past articles to clean up spelling and grammar). (Although I hate having periods inside parentheses at the end of a sentence that did not start in parentheses, so that is one punctuation mistake that I accept.) Out of 22 visits yesterday, 8 of them were from Asia, and I'm willing to bet that I'm the only one here checking out my blog. So. That's a little embarrassing. And there's only been one new picture on icanhascheezburger!

So really, I guess the lesson of this is, I need to have more books in my apartment. And tomorrow I need to go out and do something, because I'm not letting myself check Korean Saga without updating anymore! (Anymore tonight!)

I'd Like to Thank the Little People

First, I would just like to say that those bastard elves need to stop coming to my apartment and messing it up. I realize that I have very many nice shirts thanks to my mother's dedication to me not running around Asia topless, but this is no excuse for splaying them all over my floor haphazardly and without caring about aesthetics. I would also appreciate it if they would put my shoes away, too, so that I do not trip and break anything else. Finally, if they would be so kind as to mail the two giant packages I have ready for the States, I would be very grateful.

Second, today is a blessedly lazy day. I'm taking it easy, keeping off my ankle, but still getting some things done. (For instance, those inconsiderate elves' laundry.) I've rounded up all of the errant garbage (kleenex, mostly), and thought about mopping. I have also spent a fair amount of time marveling at Zitzilla living just below my lip, and at the remarkable lack of hair I now possess (viewable at my other blog).

Third, despite having felt remarkably immature the last few days and completely undeserving of adulthood, Miss Chris (my mom's friend whom I torture over updating her blog) nominated me for an award.

The Marie Antoinette,
Real Person, A Real Award

Here are the rules for the award:

1. Put the picture of Marie Antoinette on your blog.
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.
3. Nominate other blogs that you feel deserve the award.
4. Link to those blogs from your blog.
5. Leave a comment on their blogs to let them know you've shared the award with them

Let Tracy, Molly, and Sue eat cake!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Very Long Day

Today, as you can imagine with it being Saturday, really started last night. As is tradition, we went out for Soju Friday, a mass gathering of ECC employees uniting under the flag of drunkenness to celebrate the close of another week without any major incident. I got the new guy, Albert, to join us, and he sat right between me and Kayleigh, making sure our glasses were full all night--and into the morning. The ride home in the taxi was fun, because I figured out the trick to speaking Korean: be drunk! My driver was tres amused...

This morning came a little too early. I was the only member able to represent cheerfully this morning, albeit a little less polished than normal. Chris and I met early so we could grab McDonald's before Korean lessons. It was delicious! Lessons went well, and really it's as I suspected: my kids need to practice their English outside of class, and I need to practice my Korean if either of us are going to get any good. Fortunately, I have many friendly, lovely coworkers who help. As you may imagine, I was a star pupil. (This is where my amazing humility demonstrates itself.) I did make two mistakes on my homework, just to remind me that I'm not quite perfect. Yet. ;) Today we learned words for items in the classroom and worked with the Korean versions of "this" and "that."

Afterward, we met up with a hungover Heather and visited the Mexican restaurant--finally!! It was pretty darn good. I had a chicken burrito, trying to eat healthier than the chimichanga I wanted. Unfortunately, the burrito really could have used more spice, and the chimichanga came with this delicious spicy meat sauce... So I know my decision for next time.

After enjoying a cup of tea, Chris and I headed off to Cinderella for our haircuts. I totally got my hair whacked off, and I'll have pictures taken tonight to prove it. I also got a wave perm, which as far as I can tell didn't do anything, but I'll wash it on Monday and find out. The hair designer was very sweet, and she did her best to speak in English with me. I understand how Koreans feel, now, about approaching a foreigner to speak in English; my shyness really came out when I tried to mumble something, and I ended up blushing and waving it off as nothing.

I've just gotten home from that ordeal, and now I'm going to rest up before heading out for Mel's going away Saturday night. Should be dancing, drinking, and fun!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Secret Single Behavior

I make this note not because it is important enough to be noted for eternity, nor because it reveals anything in particular about Korean culture. I update because I am completely amused by myself.

I have developed a habit since moving back to my apartment that, when I get home I have the motivation to take off my right shoe and right pant leg to prepare for my nightly retreat into pajamas. By the time I get to the left leg, though, usually 30 minutes have passed while I've spent time texting, looking up a Korean phrase, or talking in an instant message.

In other news, yesterday after physical therapy they hooked me up to a calf-massager for probably 20 minutes, and while it hurt more than I ever imagined a massage feeling, it really did the trick. There has been one muscle in particular that's been super sore in the front left of my ankle, to the point where I still couldn't walk down stairs very well. Now, however, I've got practically no limp and the pain is only when I whack it against something (usually my other knee when I remember to finally take off my left sneaker).

I just got in from dinner and coffee with A&A and Abby. ... So, AA&A, haha! I'm excited to know people who want to go to Seoul with me, now, and do some proper exploring. Being around them also inspires me to eat better; tonight I had soup made from tuna fish and kimchi with a bowl of rice, and for lunch I ate a fourth of a pizza instead of half. (I still ate a Snickers for breakfast, but I heard it's about the same nutritional value as an energy bar~)

Reason number 1596, ma: definitely on the verge.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Language Exchanges: Back in Business

A big part of socializing pre-cast was language exchanges. I had three partners (Cindy, Yuria, and May) with whom I ate dinner and sometimes learned a phrase in Korean from. Tonight I returned from hiatus and enjoyed dinner with Cindy, May, Alice, Alex, and Mina teacher, all to say goodbye to Cindy as she prepares to return to Canada. I hung around work long enough for them to invite me to seafood, despite my previous vociferous refusal to try real Korean seafood, and off we went!

It was some of the most comfortable floor sitting I've experienced, with each little eating area having walls that were good for leaning against. Once settled in with some cider (Sprite-like beverage) and soju, we munched on the radishes marinated in soy sauce, kimchi, acorn pudding, sesame leaves, iceberg salad (bizarre), and other miscellaneous side dishes. (I would tell you what they were, but ... I didn't know.) Dinner then came out and we put May's phone away (where we had been watching a Korean soap opera), watching as the woman sliced up the freshly cooked squid into the steaming serving dish, then digging in.

Korean seafood is not like American seafood. When I heard "seafood," initially I thought this was shrimp, lobster, and crab. In Korea, "seafood" means "anything from the sea that resembles food." This includes--but is not limited to--squid, octopus, shrimp, prawns, unknown fish, unknown exploding things, mussels, crab, sea snails, and sea cucumbers. All of these (but for the sea cucumbers) came out, mixed with heaps of bean sprouts, and the entire dish cooked with an amazing amount of red pepper paste. It was spicy, as you can imagine, what with it being Korean and all. It even made Alex's nose run. When the meal began to wind down (a.k.a. there were only sprouts and baby octopuses left), the woman came and scooped some into what looked like a trash can lid, then reappeared ten minutes later with the leftovers mixed with rice and sesame seeds having been freshly fried. Nibbling around the babies, the third course (haha) was completely different (and delicious) despite containing basically the same ingredients. At the end of the night, we all feasted like queens for $11 a head. I dare anyone to attempt that back home. (Seafood dinner + drinks)

Afterward, all Alex and Alice had to do was mention coffee and I was settled into the front seat of the taxi, just waiting for them to give directions. Over our cafe mochas at my favorite place (that I'd yet to get to since being able to walk), the most bizarre conversation took place.

Alex: Blah blah blah, shoes, blah blah blah.
Alice: Do you want to go to Thailand for summer vacation?
Kate and Alex: Okay.
Alice: It will be around $1,000.
At this point in time I left to use the restroom, and when I came back they had the monthly saving plan and knew what we were going to do. So uhm, I guess at the end of July I'm going to Thailand?

It could turn out to be one of those, "hey wouldn't it be great if we blahblahblah" but it never happens sort of things, but if it doesn't... Then not only will I have gone and taught English as a second language in South Korea for a year, but I will have, on practically a whim, gone to exotic Thailand for under a grand.

I can't believe that I wanted to pursue some stuffy career like law or medicine; I might have gotten some sort of adventure, but this is so unadulterated, so invigorating, and I feel so alive. Carpe diem!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Soju is the national alcohol of Korea, for those of you tuning in late. This guy wrote better about soju than I will, so... go check it out.

Monday, February 2, 2009

End of an Era

New Necklace
Originally uploaded by oneglassslipper
As discussed by my colleagues (a.k.a. the doofuses that show up around the same time I do at work), once you hit the six month mark in this gig, that's about the kind of teacher you're going to be for the rest of your time (partly because no one stays seriously long term, in excess of five years). Today concluded the January session of classes, marking the halfway point in my contract with ECC, and I found myself looking over my shoulder at where I've been, then staring into the future wondering what's yet to come.

First off, I am no longer living with my parents, eating their food, and spending every free minute online. I walk for fun, now, pay for the necessities in life (food, utilities, soju), and do my dishes after every meal. I feel confident speaking in front of a classroom, a drastic change from when speaking in front of one person caused tears to stream down my cheeks. I do my hair, wear some makeup, and in general care about my appearance.

I discovered what it's like to receive support from thousands of miles away; right now my closest friend Tracy is going through a lot, and I desperately wish I could be there for her--but the thought occurs to me that she and my mother probably felt similarly when I broke my leg, and even though that was hard to bear, just having someone to talk to meant the world. I think somehow I discovered how to be a better friend and listener.

I have learned more than I ever hoped to know about New Zealand and Australia, and I've developed a practiced serene smile for listening to others' differing opinions. While it can use more practice, I believe that life will be long and ironic enough for me to do so.

Remarkable for me is how my relationship with myself has changed. I no longer have the option of blending into the background, and thus have been faced with what a beautiful, smart, and caring young woman I've become. I can handle a crisis, 14 screaming 6-year-olds at once, making my own dinners that include vegetables, now, and taking responsibility for my own happiness. (Who knew I'd have to leave the one country guaranteeing the pursuit of happiness to actually go out and do it?)

So today was tinged with sadness: parting with students in whom I've invested a lot of time, money, energy, and passion; reading Tracy's tribute to her father; acknowledging that as people leave certain friendships will never be the same; a mildly sprained ankle.

Tomorrow is the start of the next six months, and I can't wait to see what it brings. I'm pretty sure, though, that a meal at the new Mexican place will be a great way to start the next six months; it worked for the last! There are a lot more schools in Korea, with good reputations, let alone the whole of Asia to explore. (And, to be honest, I've only learned one verb in Korean, and I'd like to expand that a bit. "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up," might come in handy, for example.)