Monday, March 30, 2009

Lunch Duty Blues

Economy took a nosedive,
Now ain't got nothin' to do.
Can't add more classes
Got the Lunch Duty Blues.

Vice Director Pearl
Came up to me and said,
"Gotta watch them kids eat,"
Oh how it hurts my head.

I got the blues.
Eat one-grain-of-rice-at-time blues
Ain't nothin' I can do
But whine it out to you.

Understand that it's fair
Everyone's gotta pull their weight
Just wish for the next month
My name wasn't Kate.

Oh I got the blues
Eat one-grain-of-rice-at-time blues
Ain't nothin' I can do
But whine it out to you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Obladi Oblada

This weekend was maybe not one of my finer weekends. It started off with hitting the soju hard Friday night, then the soju hitting back Saturday morning. :( So much for my theory that I don't get hangovers. Halfway through my Korean class (where we learned more incredibly long words like "phone number" and "happy birthday"), Sara texted that she was already at Costco! Hooray! I scooted out to meet her, Pete, and their two friends for some quality shopping time.

I got Q-Tips. They are wonderful.

They literally came just to stock up on stuff that isn't easily (or cheaply) accessible, then packed up (3 suitcases) and headed off. It was so nice to see a familiar face, and yet awkward being around people taller than I am.

Another night of drinking and dancing, and today I was pretty much dead. Thankfully not hungover, but entirely in need of a rest. After about two hours, though, I grew bored of World of Warcraft (didn't think it possible, didja?), and puttered around until dinner with Heather. We went for haejangguk (hangover soup, ironically enough) and it was absolutely wonderful. As I walked, I felt tired, sore, sick (thanks, Emily "I love picking my nose" student), but had the presence of mind to tell myself to knock it off! Stop focusing on the negative! So I concentrated on the delightful feeling of taking a step with my left foot, being able to go heel-toe-heel-toe, and not having the grinding feeling of two unhealed bones rubbing against each other. I focused on how, despite feeling ill, I was still able to take a full, deep breath, filling my lungs and then letting it all flow out. Despite being on my way to dinner, I was glad not to feel like I was starving of hunger.

So life doesn't happen the way we want. For whatever reason, we "fall in love" with people who don't love us back. We break our legs doing mundane things like walking from the doctor's office. Without excuse, we get the hiccups that shake our whole bodies. Sometimes we have to go three months of work without a day off--even having to add a few Saturdays. But it's so much better than the alternatives. Not being able to love, not having legs to break, not being able to breathe on our own, not having a job.

On that note, the Office was hilarious, and I so knew Pam was going to do what she did.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rough Day

In college, an adviser from Campus Crusade for Christ had some advice that there are no bad days--all days have some silver lining or another--but there are hard days. Yesterday was one of those.

In Kindergarten, I only had 14 students total, but no fewer than six of them cried. When I caught two boys drawing censored private parts, I told them to do hands up. One of them started bawling instantaneously. I still made him go through the punishment. The other one saw it unnerved me, so he started to cry, too. Sigh. Then the itchy back girl started to cry for whatever reason (now she just thinks it's her responsibility to be sensitive, and I hope I can show her it isn't), and one boy poked another boy in the eye, so the pokee cried, then the poker cried after Alex sat him down and lectured him. In the afternoon, I discovered that the second crier from the morning was having his birthday (oops), and after his father brought everyone a flower, someone's decoration fell off.

I was almost grateful for my 2 o'clock break. Well, I was, and it just ended. I went to Yuria's office and there was Albert. When I asked about the weekend, he had to cancel because his brother-in-law strong-armed him into going to the brother-in-law's family reunion.

The rest of the day was just kind of gloomy and filled with disappointment. I went to bed at 10, woke up at 6:30. I think it's interesting because I haven't seen a sober sunrise in a very long time, and back home I thought they were boring. In Korea, I think it might actually be more colorful than the sunset. Interesting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

For the second day in a row, I've gone to work before 10 and gotten home after 9:30. I definitely don't work all those hours, but it does make for a long day. The field trip was even crazier than I expected--no less than four of our students were so scared that they started crying. Honestly, I think my expectations can be too high for people who were recently potty trained (i.e. sitting still, quietly) when I myself have a hard time not fidgeting.

In other news, I'm really enjoying learning Korean. I've figured out the whole typing situation--not that it really helps any of you, dear readers, unless my mother has decided to go ahead and memorize Hangul? I'm quite good at texting the words I know, and despite failing, I still try to speak it. The thought has crossed my mind to try and find a Korean program--there's a very "famous" one in Seoul by Sogang, the people who put out the book I'm studying. I tend to get really excited about things, obsess, then grow weary, so to break this cycle I've just inquired as to the workbook to accompany my textbook.

If anyone has the addresses for my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade teachers, I'm sure they'd be amused to know I'm asking for additional work. :)

I do have some support for this new idea, though. With 6 years of studying German, 2 years of French, and a year of Spanish behind me, I have demonstrated a fondness for languages. ... But I'm not ready to give up my day job just yet.


The first Korean word I learned was (my spelling) piante, pronounced a lot like picante salsa. Piante means... pervert.

Last night I got into a taxi after visiting David, my mooning student who is hospitalized for several bad stomach viruses. I got the usual questions, where are you from, what do you do, how old are you, and then they took a turn. They turned to, are you married, when are you getting married, and then he started talking about his son. I thought, aw, that's cute, he's either trying to find his son someone or just misses him since he's gone off to serve in the military.

Then the conversation turned again, this time to soju, how beautiful I am, and despite my questions pertaining to his wife, he insisted on asking where I live several times, making sure I took his phone number, and telling me I definitely need to call him when I was out drinking. He was so concerned about this that he neglected to listen to my directions and the situation nearly got out of hand. I guess it worked in his favor, though, because I threw a $10 at him and hopped out of the cab, hurrying to the safety of arms galbi.

It was the end of a really long day. I regret not having a quiet day this weekend, because I am still spent. I had an awesome time Saturday night (obviously, hehe), and really enjoyed shopping with Hannah all day Sunday--just need to make time for myself. ... Today, though, there is a field trip. Sigh.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Got your flu mask? (It's a link. Clicky clicky!)

Also, photo blog is updated.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Saga Continues

I don't know when I became so boy crazy...

The result of tonight's pseudo-date (aka Yuria boogied off leaving me alone with PA) was that 1) he was disappointed that I had plans for tomorrow, and 2) he really wants to take me to some mountain to see the cherry blossoms.

This is post is short for two reasons. 1) I really don't want my entire blog to be about failed Korean relationships, and 2) the connection on Cloud 9 is a little iffy.

Amusing Realization

As I sat waiting for Yuria and Albert, I ate a piece of dried seaweed with salt on it. I pondered the Korean name for seaweed (gim) and realized it's the same as the gim in gimbap... also known as kimbap. Gim. Kim. Everyone is named either Bak, I, or Kim. 1/3 of the country's last name is seaweed! He he!

Another one bites the dust

I had a date last night. It was under slightly shady circumstances, so I was feeling kind of embarrassed about the situation. I met a guy from off of the internet at the train station. His English was fluent, and he had a lot of things in common with my dad (motorcycles, cool cars, boyish looks despite age, blah blah blah).

Then we went to a bar, and he started drinking. And then he started being a little inappropriate. So I walked him back to his hotel (he'd only been to Daegu once, he said--I know it may have been a little naive of me, but there were people around). "Why don't we just be together?" A smile, turn on my heel, and call to Hannah later, and I was at Garten Bier with my beloved Soju Friday gang. While I am glad to have tried something new, I'm disappointed to find that men are men around the world.

Yet still find myself hoping that the Mr. Rights are Mr. Right around the world, too. I think it's possible my 4-year-olds' optimism is infectious--just like their colds.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Summer just arrived in Korea. ... And it's really hot.

On Monday, I was pretty sure that I was never going to warm up. On Tuesday, I was pretty good, just wore a sweatshirt. Yesterday I was boasting about how warm it is with my short-sleeved shirt and skirt. Today I am a puddle on my floor. This is the moment that I spent thinking about all winter, consoling myself with the info that I may be cold, but nowhere near as cold as I was hot during the summer.

Oh well. Thanks to an Easter package from my very thoughtful mommy, I have new shorts, new shirts, and a book to read by the air conditioner. And now I have Cheetos; I'm just in need of a bean bag chair.

This week has been long and draining. I absolutely love my kids, but the management is really starting to be picky about lesson planning and preparation. To be honest, I've improved so significantly over where I was that I feel a little hurt. But, as I'm learning, I can choose what to dwell on: their insatiability or my own achievements. This time I choose the latter.

Funny stories...

Today I was concluding a lesson as the bell rang and looked up just in time to see one of my students from the other class running to the bathroom with his pants already down around his knees. I done been mooned!

Another little boy is in his father's care while his mother is on a high school field trip (as a teacher, not a student). As a result, the poor little guy had no parent signature on his daily report, nor did he have any underpants. Awww.

One class will sense Kate Teacher's impending wrath and one student will start saying, "beeeeee," and the others will chime in (screaming, of course) "QUIET!!!!!!!!!!"

The other class will sense the impending wrath and will start telling me I'm a pretty princess. :)

I am told every day, literally a hundred times, that I am loved, and at least twenty times that I am beautiful. Is it any wonder why, despite disagreements with management, I am very tempted to stay? I will always have someone (coworker or other) with whom I don't get along, but I'm not guaranteed to have this bond with the kids.

Also, there's a new foreigner in my building! She's Lauren, from Massachusetts, and has cats. This is her fourth year in Korea, and she seems friendly. Looking forward to getting to know her more.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

I shall leave you guessing as to how I will explain to my Korean-speaking 4-year-olds (Western age) why they deserve to be pinched for not wearing green.

Also, it has been brought to my attention that the Reuben sandwich is not in fact Irish, and it was in fact created in Omaha, Nebraska. ... But could someone eat one for me, anyway?

Happy St. Patty's!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Weekend Update

Per usual, this morning I set off for the YCMA around 10 for a weekly dose of confusion at my Korean lessons. Today we learned more grammar markers, and I think it's going to be like prepositions in German: the biggest challenge of the language, impossible to perfect, and in general brings a sense of dread and impossibility. I can successfully say that the teacher is in the classroom, however, which is a step in the right direction.

Afterwards, Kayleigh and I met up with Abby for some lunch, shopping, and general mischief. I have two main reasons for writing...

Tonight as we got into the taxi to go out, the first thing the driver did was to offer me some gum, then roll down his window. This was entertaining for a good half hour. It turns out he was just being nice, and the car was too hot for him, but still... Maybe I could have showered.

Then, as we left the club, Kayleigh got hit by a car. A little white Hyundai zipped by, and bumped her elbow with its side mirror. No fatalities, but it still counts.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting Ready for School

As I put my shorts on this morning (hehehe enjoying winter, North Americans?), I remembered trying to talk my mom into letting me wear shorts when I was in 1st or 2nd grade, and she always said it had to be such-and-such degrees in the morning, and I would check but it didn't happen until the second to last day of school. And I was always cold, but darn it, I was wearing my new shorts!

Today, I am sick of pants. Until recently, I was too lazy to take my Christmas pants to the dry cleaner to be repaired, so I had been wearing the same pairs for 3 or so weeks. Just depressing. So today it is shorts, and the shorts confirmed my sneaking suspicion that I had lost weight, what with falling off my hips.

Woo hoo!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Series of Unfortunate Events

The last few days have been a bit rough in Kindergarten. In addition to new students, former students were moved into different classrooms, changing floors of the building and new playing equipment. On the second floor we have a huge wooden boat filled with balls that the kids love to play on/in/around. Unfortunately, on Monday a student fell and hit her head pretty hard. Our vice director made the decision not to call the mom, so that evening the mom called the school asking why her daughter was so sleepy. Poor little Sunny had a concussion going untreated and developed swelling of the brain. After a 3 1/2 hour surgery today, though, she was joking with her parents and her normal self.

The teachers involved have been under a blanket of guilt, fear, and feelings of inadequacy since it came to light, when really--accidents happen. I know back home the parents would be suing, the child would never step foot in our academy, and there would probably be a piece in the news about what an unfit school we are. I wish the mother had been informed of what had happened, but the past can't be changed. It is refreshing that the parents accept that accidents happen. I feel fortunate that we are going to have a happy ending and that Sunny will return to the school shortly.

Last night, though, was rough for the teachers involved. Heather was visibly shaken up by the events, and she rarely shows her nerves. So, on a Tuesday night, over a big plate of meat, Heather, Kayleigh and I toasted to everything under the sun (toasting to toast several times) and had an impromptu soju evening. The laughter was so heart-felt and so genuine, it was like pouring endorphins into our bloodstreams. Today, despite 66% of our party having hangovers (wheee soju immunity!), our spirits were still higher, improved infinitely by news of Sunny.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Big Day Out

It was one of those days that you kind of hope for for your wildest weekend dreams. Yesterday was awesome.

The day started off kind of rough. My New Zealand buddy Chris kept texting me well into the morning to give me random drunk updates about beer, World of Warcraft, and etc. I had the sound on on my phone as a backup alarm after this week's little mishap, so it made for a rough go in the morning. I made it up for Korean lessons, though, and Kayleigh and I were at the bus just in time to wait 16 minutes for ours to come along. (Every 10 minutes my foot!) Really, this wouldn't have been a big deal if we weren't 1) starving and waiting for McDonald's, and 2) surprised by Albert jumping off of a bus. He does these lingering hellos where he'll say hi, then walk off, but he keeps watching over his shoulder. Is that for my benefit or his? The bus ride had a tinge of anxiety, then, as we watched the clock and monitored our progress because really, if there was no McDonald's, we were going to be disappointed. Just as I was accepting the inevitable, we turned the corner to Valhalla and there it was! Yay! And we had 15 minutes! Grabbing the food, we hurried to the YMCA with our treasures and sat enjoying our feast while waiting for Heather.

It was cool when the orientation was over; there are 40-50 people in the classroom, and then the "Beginner" class is excused while the "Entry level" class has to remain behind. I felt special to get up and leave this time! Class was so hard! Korean grammar is obscenely difficult, and impossible for even Koreans to score perfectly on tests (according to my overly fluent student, anyway). Instead of changing "he" to "him," they use markers in the sentence. Really, the entire language just requires an intense amount of preparation before speaking. You have to know where to put the subject, indirect object, direct object markers and what verb you're going to use to place at the end, and what level of formality to use before you even open your mouth. Talk about thinking before you speak. We also learned the world's longest word: immigration office. I would spell it, but Google would say I've exceeded my space limit.

After, Heather, Kayleigh and I went off for Chinese food. Unspicy and satisfying for all of us. After two hours of people watching (and Kayleigh and Heather deciding that they completely hate my taste in Korean men), we headed off for some shopping. By which I mean we watched Heather buy teeny tiny skirts while making fun of the fashion. Have I mentioned that Korea Hearts the 80s? A bubble skirt, some polka dot shoes, and two packs of cigarettes (not me), and we were ready for some coffee, cocoa, and cheesecake. We sat out on the deck enjoying the sunshine and talking about the highly mature and in-depth topics groups of girls are wont to discuss. More than once we commented on how nice it was, and how much fun we were having. That's when the crazy started.

Coming out of Coffee Bean, we started walking down a little alley and Heather stopped us. "That's the MTV guy!!" Huh? Being out of the loop in all things popular, I had no idea, but there was a guy walking around with a mohawk. There really aren't a lot of mohawks in Korea, so after a few minutes of debating whether to chase after him and ask, I overcame Heather's shyness and pursued him. It was totally like Molly and I always dreamed of, pursuing someone through a crowd just like a real spy. Of course the guy with a horse head on his head wondered what I was up to, but really, he was wearing a horse on his head. After wading through the crowds with Kayleigh on my heels, I started to lose my nerve, but honestly--does it matter? It's one of those chances where I literally had nothing to lose. It would be an awesome story either way, right? I caught up and got his attention and smiled so stupidly.

"Are you the MTV guy?"
Awkward pause.
"This is Kayleigh!"
"Nice to meet you."
Awkward pause.
"Our friend Heather watches you every day! Can we get a picture?"
Insert smile of a very patient Korean.
Nervous giggles, picture taken, other Koreans pointing at us, and us walking away actually shaking.

As it turns out, his name is 한별, and he is a VJ on Korean MTV for a show that Heather really does watch every day. I know it's a celebrity from another country, but that's still pretty dang cool. It took us a good deal of time to recover from that, just in time to meet up with Hannah and Mark to get some movie tickets. Tickets procured, we moved on to Italy Italy for dinner.

Italy Italy is a place with build your own pasta, and it was really quite good. I enjoyed a super spicy chili and cheese sauce on my bow tie pasta, others had bolognese, rose (blush) sauce, and Alfredo. Everyone was very happy (especially after the two bottles of wine.) I parted ways with my daytime friends to move on to see Watchmen with Hannah, Mark, Phillip, and two of their friends. The theater was full, the heater was on, and Hannah and I fidgeted the whole movie. I've never met someone who wiggled as much as I do! The movie itself was awful, but I was glad to hang out with my new coworkers. After that I peaced out kind of abruptly; it was pushing midnight, and I had been out since 10 in the morning!

When I got home, the guy from last weekend logged into MSN to share pictures with me. (He had downloaded and signed up for MSN just to talk to me--I'm feeling pretty special after that.) After the picture of him riding a fake bull with a sign that blatantly says "do not touch," and a picture of his friend and his friend's dog passed out (one drunk, one sleepy), I had to smile at his good humor. I think he's moving from distraction to just being distracting. All the while Tracy was on and we got to have one of our random, drawn-out chats that brought just a perfect conclusion to my very long day.

I am so grateful for this opportunity in South Korea. I love being here, and I love the person that I am becoming. I still have a ways to go growing-wise, but the progress so far has been remarkable. And for those who stuck this out to the end, thank you for coming by to read!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's Raining, It's Pouring

What a day. I woke up at 8 and said to myself, "AUGH! I am sick of waking up at 8!" and gave myself firm instructions to go back to sleep. Unfortunately the night before I had not given myself firm instructions to set my alarm, so at 10:02 this morning I gasped, realizing my hair looked something like Frankenstein's bride's, and I had 18 minutes to shower, dress, and walk to work.

I made it in 16.

Unfortunately when I got to school, the rush I had felt to get ready did not fade away and there was this panic feeling to most of what I did. In my first class I didn't even get to the book. We walked around asking for water (please!), tissues (please!), and to use the bathroom (please!). Out of a crowd I could probably pick out six of the sixteen (improvement!), and sometimes I get their names right. "Sa-Sea-DANIEL!!!!"

I almost ate lunch in silence, despite going with someone, out of a sincere need to recuperate. It's well past my last class, but my ears are still ringing from all of the shouting we all did. I think, though, that shouting is fun, and if they start shouting in English, well, that's not too bad. Their accents are really very good. They can all say "f" and "th" quite well, so the building blocks are solid. Now if Annie would stop saying she's a boy.

In the afternoon, I started with a class that has gone from three to seven to nine. The two girls who shared Aidan's class got bumped way up because a class of two is just too small for how much they pay; I tried to incorporate them into a class of kids who have at least six months' experience on top of them, and I think it overwhelmed poor little Julie. She sat there crying with her pencil case spilled across the floor, big alligator tears falling down her cute little cheeks, and her pigtails shaking with each heart-achey sob. Oh, dear one, please don't cry; I know how the story turns out, and you'll be okay~

The one-on-one student I was teaching, the one who made me nervous, has left ECC. Possibly because my coworker brought an article on prostitution to discuss during their class period. Last week had been such an improvement that I'm actually a little disappointed. Not disappointed that I got to leave work at 4:30, though. And just when I thought I was back from "infatuated crush land," Prince Albert appeared with an umbrella to save the day.

It's been a long time since I looked this forward to a Soju Friday, let me tell you.

The First Day of School

To be retitled later, "Oh my God all hell has broken loose."

Today was the first day of Kindergarten. I spent the last 2 days preparing for it, I should have been ready. Right? After a day of my schedule being rearranged twice, and teaching five classes of "we know our names and that's it," I think that parents who are waiting until they're ready to have kids are trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

There is no ready when it comes to kids.

The classes went as well as I could have hoped, really. There will always be the girl who wants to learn, the nerdy boy who wants to learn but his drive is more than his potential, and the boy who eats his boogers instead of paying attention. They grow up to be, respectively, the underpaid office manager, Michael Scott, and CEO. And so life goes on.

I couldn't pick any of them out of the crowd normally, but today when one started to cry, I knew instantly where to be and who it was. And I knew instantly who did it, too. Evan. There must be something with the "v" in the name. I had best avoid Victoria. I successfully named one girl Ruby. I think 12 of the 16 understand the words school, teacher, boy, girl, book, and the concept that I am Kate Teacher, and we are learning English. I really like that they're young enough to speak in whatever garbled version of English they think works; they haven't been corrupted into believing there is a right and wrong way of speaking English. At the end of the day, it is better to ask incorrectly for a beer and get coffee than to ask for nothing and get exactly that.

That said, a guy I met dancing Saturday night has been texting, and it makes me smile. He's younger than my sister, so in my head I call him "아기," the Korean term for baby--not out of condescension, just endearment. He sets himself up with his English dictionary and tries to have a conversation with me. It's really flattering. He also corrects my Korean which makes me sigh heavily. After having seen the movie He's Just Not That Into You yesterday, I smile knowing there's someone at least a little into me.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Today was spent cleaning up classrooms, literally scrubbing crayon off of walls. I scraped BOOGERS off of walls. It was a high point in my life, haha. But I guarantee my mom is smiling, knowing that what goes around does in fact come around. I only had to teach three classes, so it was a very light-hearted day.

I was starting to feel unwanted as a result of a certain unrequited crush, but after a weekend out on the town, my phone's been chirping pleasantly. It's not so much a quest for love as enjoying being... well, wanted. At least it's nice to have more people to talk to, and really they're getting English practice out of it. Win/win?

Tomorrow night Alice and I are going out to see a movie, and she's promised to help me with my Korean. I'm looking forward to it; I can definitely use the help! This is a bit low on the entertainment value, but really: all cases of errant boogers should be noted!