Friday, May 29, 2009

Parting Parties

Today was the last day of the May session at ECC. In Kindergarten, it meant we were concluding the first textbook, and I'm just amazed at how much my kids absorbed. The final chapter was about parties and reviewing other material (pets, numbers, etc.). In my imaginary world, I envisioned a grand party for my kids, helping them remember important vocabulary such as friends, cake, presents, and cards. We made going-away cards for one of the little girls who is moving--Anna. She was a quiet one, and walked to the beat of her own drummer for sure. While everyone else colored their bear brown, Anna colored hers rainbow. She's also the little girl who thought she was a boy for the first week, and a book for the second. I hope she does well in her new school.

For the party, I wrapped thirty-two presents, taking care for each of the little matchbox cars so the rear-view mirrors didn't poke through the paper, that all of the wires for the sketchbooks weren't sharp, and that all of the bows were put on prettily. As I spent the four hours doing this, I realized that all the effort would be wasted on them, but that I wanted to do it anyway. I really think this year has been an extraordinary experiment in how a child's love can heal and bring out the best in a person.

It was successful--only slightly less wonderful than Disney World--and the boys played with their cars the rest of the day, which was a lot of fun to observe. When I used to watch wondering, what on earth are they thinking?, I find myself wishing I had a 9th toy to get in there with them.

This afternoon I had a final class with some kids I inherited from Kevin. Matt, who has been at ECC longer than all but two teachers, is moving to another part of town or something, and won't be coming to ECC anymore. So. Sad. He's so much fun. He's the one who asked for my autograph.

As I write this, I remember my grandmother and her relationship with George Winston. She was his 2nd grade teacher or something, and they've continued a friendship long since. She still goes to his concerts when he passes through Montana and catches up with him. I know how big of a room I have in my heart for my past teachers, and I know how fiercely I love my students. Some of them probably feel the same, and I'll be remembered long after I go. I'm glad I could sneak in memories of presents and cake beforehand.

Tonight is my test in taekwondo. I haven't been the last two days because I can't wear my contacts. I'm trying to decide whether to go; I'm pretty sure I'll pass according to their standards, but I'm equally as sure that I'll fail according to my own. So it comes to a point where I wonder, is it really my eyes I'm trying to protect, or is it my ego? I'm testing out my contacts, though, to see if I can make it through an hour or two before getting my glasses back on. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rough around the edges

This week has had its challenges--but, Wednesday is already over, so it can't be all that bad! This morning started off with an insane burning in my eyes. I've been fighting something in my eyes for ten days or so, but yesterday they were clear. This morning I couldn't even crack them open because the light burned them so badly. I rushed to get my glasses on and got to the doctor with plenty of time before class.

She wouldn't even seriously look at them, they were so bad. (When I first looked at them, I wondered if they were bleeding.) So she gave me a referral for an ophthalmologist (spelled right on the first try, woo hoo!), and I set off to see if Jin would send someone to help me at my 2:30 break--because I'm a good, hard-working teacher who wanted to rally and pull through for my students and coworkers. She rationalized that the office was going to be slower when all of the students were in school, so she sent me in the van with Albert to go see what was wrong.

I have two infections, one being pink eye and the other something I didn't even recognize. The whole ordeal has made me look back on my past ten months and sigh. I've had bronchitis 20 times, 16 sinus infections, a broken leg, tachycardia, tonsillitis 4 times, and now pink eye. I was never the healthiest horse, but come on! This is too much! I wonder if destiny is preparing me to write up on what I think of the Korean health care--which is that it's awesome. You get in and out with relative ease, and my insurance is $120 a month ($60 comes out of my pocket.) All in all, I saw 2 doctors today, got 3 prescriptions, and paid under $10. Something is worth noting about their system.

The rest of the week, well, I don't want to remember it for posterity (not that I really want to remember conjunctivitis, either, but it is worth remembering that for a few hours I really did look like a newborn vampire). So I choose just to remind myself of my first month learning German. Frau Dyer was never the actual source of my frustration--generally it was myself, or other stresses during the day. It's important not to take things personally (as a teacher, as a girl, as a friend, etc.) because so little is actually about me.

Lesson learned (for the evening, at least), and now I'm off to skip taekwondo and do some shopping for my kindergarten party on Friday.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back in Action

After the world's worst tequila hangover (free shots = bad, bad idea), I discovered Twilight. And then before I knew it, I was devouring the entire series, leaving little room for things like blogging, eating, and sleeping. I still went to taekwondo, though, going five times last week! On Wednesday, we had physical fitness tests and it was so full of good news. It confirmed what I thought my weight was, and in 2 years I really have dropped 55 pounds. Extraordinary! My flexibility is more than it was in high school (I got crowned the "queen"--I'm so glad that's the most-used phonics word for "q"!)

The part that makes me smile is the sit-ups test. She gave us a minute, and I did thirty and figured time was probably out so I stopped. Then I realized it wasn't anywhere near finished, so I did some more, finishing at 35--higher than in high school. So we have 2 things to garner from this: 1) I was out-of-shape in HS, too, haha, and 2) I've come a long way in 1 month. Hooray!

Yesterday I sort of had two dates. After Korean class, Luke finally asked me out to lunch with him. I think it was more for companionship than anything, but we ate Mexican and talked about lots of things--future jobs, attitudes towards Korea, Christianity, and dating. We talked about how hard it is for him to take initiative with girls, and that he thought he would have married long ago, but that he's just been waiting for it to happen. It took an extraordinary measure of will-power to smile and nod instead of reaching over and smacking him. Oh well.

After heading back to my corner of Daegu for a nap, I got a message from a Korean I've been texting with, and we met up for drinks. And his friend was there. His friend who doesn't speak English. It was a pretty awkward time, Eric only being able to talk to one of us at a time. The friend requested I find a Korean friend for him to talk to, so I tried, and I know Alex was probably just rolling around on her bed laughing at the entire situation. I ended up leaving for the preservation of harmony.

So after a good night's sleep, I'm up with dishes done, laundry cycling, and jamming to the two awesome CDs Tracy made for me with potential plans for a movie. Despite the suspicion that I would love being a vampire, I'll hold off on further forays into fiction until my plane heads off July 26th. There's still a lot to do--and blog about--before I go!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


*Ring ring*
Laughter. "Yes."
"Yes, please."

That's the entire phone conversation, lol.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mildly Obsessed

Not updating for one very stupid reason: must find out whether Bella dies. Have sick mission to work 40 hours, take TKD classes, take Korean lessons, dance all night, and still make it through the series in 1 week. ... 400 pages and 1 day to go.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TKD Update

So this is something just kind of random, a thought that struck me as odd. I'm sitting at my computer, trying to think of something interesting to post in my blog, and what I come up with is the following.

"I learned how to round-house kick today."

Excuse me, but "I" as in "Kate" and "round-house kicks" generally belong in a sentence along with "video game." But I learned the real thing today.

And that's pretty kick ass. All puns intended.

Made in Tuckey

I love my students, and I sincerely believe that each and every one of them is a genius. I don't care that Billy's name is sometimes spelled "Bily," and Greg is "Gerg" and Emily is still sometimes "Emliy." These little geniuses are undertaking the monumental task (chore?) of delving into English and trying to communicate in two languages--long before people in the US decide to look into Spanish. They have to undergo learning a new alphabet (UPPER CASE, lower case, and don't even get started on cursive), new phonics (i.e. the previously mentioned lack of "f," plus the difficulty of r/l, the new sound "th," and so on), grow accustomed to double consonant sounds, and rearrange their thoughts in a completely backwards way.

Despite all of these difficulties, my sweet babies in kindergarten still try to tell me what they did over the weekend (I Nintendo Dad = I played Nintendo with my father and we had a wonderful time). They cheerfully tell me over and over that they are sitting ON the chair, not UNDER the chair, and every morning Dove class greets me by hiding under the table, giggling until one of them gives up and pops out with a "good morning, Kate Teacher!"

At the other end of the scale, I have a class just a few weeks away from entering the Intermediate level of their English studies. Their vocabularies are quite good, and their grammar is coming along. They understand the joke when I demonstrate cutting one's finger versus cutting off one's finger (a bit higher class than the nosebleed/coffee comparison... 코피/커피). This class has been one of my points of joy these last few months, and I received the sad news that two students will be moving so the class will be merged with another at the beginning of June.

I've lost a lot of classes over the last year. Overall, the numbers drop because students test into higher level classes. Now, as I mull it over, I wonder if they tested into higher classes to escape me. I hope that isn't true. I know my standards are incredibly high--I'm afraid that I was too hard on them. That I wasn't enough for them in some way--whether lacking in games or compassion, etc.

Regardless of the reasons, this is another class coming to a close. My brightest student is leaving. There are more personable students, ones who don't radiate displeasure at being in school, but I've really enjoyed watching Sean's mind work. He comes up with some of the funniest stuff, and remembers the most random. One day, for whatever reason, we were talking about fried chicken. KFC is actually kind of common here--Koreans love their fried chicken--and he made some crack about how it's made in Tuckey. "Kentucky?" I tried to correct. "No, Made in Tuckey," he was absolutely certain. I was practically doubled over laughing. Another day, my absolute quietest student confessed *gasp* that she had a boyfriend. She wouldn't tell us his name, so I named him Kimchi. A few weeks passed and for whatever ornery reason I remembered she had a boyfriend again, and Sean was the one who remembered his fake name. The look of horror on the poor girl's face... (Gee, I don't know why my classes are shrinking...)

Another favorite is Matt. Matt's been a long-time student at ECC. He started with everyone's favorite, Gavin, at one of the very early levels, and progressed all the way up to the point where he tells me about his tests and sometimes corrects my spelling. (I get rushed!) He has a great imagination, and when we're practicing past tense and writing a class-wide story, he always comes up with the best plot twists. Today, we were talking about famous people and their autographs, and one of the workbook questions was, "Whose autograph would you like?" He wrote, "Big Bang and Kate Teacher." I am going to miss him so much.

And that, Charlie Brown, is what Teacher Appreciation Day is all about.

Friday, May 15, 2009

May have a problem.

This week, as I've been walking around my little corner of Daegu, it's been really warm and I've been reminded of my firsts--first trip to Home Plus, first time getting lost finding my apartment, first time realizing my apartment is too bright to sleep in, etc. etc. I've also been remembering what I ate that first week: nothing but popsicles.

This week I've managed to get in a very Korean lunch: bibimbap, ramen, rice, but breakfast and dinner I've chosen a fascinating triangle popsicle instead. It comes in both coffee and strawberry. This morning, though, I woke up and there's a new popsicle wrapper on my floor. I don't remember eating it, and it wasn't there when I went to bed.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


As I sit on my bed post-taekwondo with a box of waffle cookies, I ponder, while biting into the buttery, almondy goodness, something I find odd--yet delightful--about Korea. They thoroughly embrace other cultures, but on their terms. For instance, because of the abundance of American presence post-Korean War, there is English everywhere. It is often misspelled, and if you try to speak English, people usually tell you--in English--that they do not speak English.

Another example are these waffle cookies. I could walk into Home Plus (aka Tesco, the British WalMart I'm told) and buy three or four different types of waffle cookies. They also sell waffles folded in half and filled with the most fattening icing you've ever tasted (see post about cake mania in kindergarten for its pants-staining potency). These waffle carts are literally everywhere; typically I find one on a ten-minute walk in any direction.

Despite the abundance of waffles in this manner, I have never seen a waffle iron. Nor have I ever seen a breakfast restaurant, i.e. IHOP. (Thanks to being part of the Apple generation, I almost spelled that iHop, ha.) The irony makes me smile and pause--but not until after I ated my cookie.

Monday, May 11, 2009


My little girls in Dove class love announcing that I am a princess. They also like to joke, though, and say, "Kate Teacher! Prin.....cess." Then erupt into a fountain of giggles. The boys, however, have figured it out and go "" as soon as they get the eyebrow.

My clever little kiddos~

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Who wants some cake?

Yesterday was a genuinely exhausting day, to the point where--despite a full night's sleep--I had to come home and take a nap after Korean class today. Imagine, if you will, 16 4- and 5-year-olds. For all sakes and purposes, you could consider this a child's birthday party. Now, in your imagination, add seventeen sponge cakes, four bowls of pink and white frosting, and endless decorations and you have a recipe for good ol' fashioned, destruction-induced fun. With pink frosting on one leg, and white frosting on the other from the knee-high counters, I can deduce that despite 3 of us taking 30 minutes to clean up the disaster, it was a success. No one cried. Everyone liked their cake. And we all got on a massive sugar high.

The frosting brought back memories from Monday night--memories I forgot to chronicle here. At around 1:30 in the morning, after massive amounts of alcohol, Chris commented that he'd really like to see someone's face shoved into one of my birthday cakes on the coffee table. Before I even realized what was happening, Arthur smashed the cake into Chris's face. Oh. my. God! Soon it was returned, smashed into Arthur's face! I was completely sober, but so tired, I realized too late that Chris had started balling up the remaining amounts of cake and started passing it back and forth between his hands. All of the girls went screaming out of the apartment at that point. I thought I was going to be clever and run into the elevator, not realizing Arthur would follow and tackle me into it. I tried to get out on the right floor, but it had already started moving. We went down to the first floor, looking rather sheepishly at the older Korean gentleman who got on with a disdainful look--he probably wasn't impressed with the frosting smeared across the door. ... I still have frosting on my pants, even after going through the wash.

This week, I have been suffering from a plague. A plague I like to call my EPIK application. EPIK is the Korean government's program to bring foreigners into public schools for the purpose of teaching English. The application is pretty long, and ... invasive (they ask for your weight!), but it was no problem. I got through 7 of the 8 pages. Unfortunately, one of these was, "write a personal essay of 300 words or more." There was no guiding question, just "personal essay." Today, after the 3-hour nap, I woke up, realized it had to be done, and here it is, 588 words, submitted for your approval.

One of the first things I noticed about Korea is the abundance of pink and heart. There are heart stickers, hearts on T-shirts, heart-shaped pencils, and people continually make hearts with their arms and hands. As I learn more about the culture, I understand most of the songs are about love, and that there are essentially two Valentine’s Day—one for girls, and then one for boys! Over the last year, I have developed three of my own loves: languages, children, and travel.

Since my father brought me a copy of Aschenputtel, the German Cinderella, I have loved foreign languages. As I started high school, I began learning German and can remember my teacher unfolding this new world of grammar for me, teaching me as much about English as she did German. She made learning fun, and I went on to study French, Spanish, and now Korean, too, applying the same basics. Now, when I am at the head of the class in her shoes, I try to apply some of her methods. She was good at encouraging us to use our imaginations for conversation drills, making them fun instead of just another page in the book. This love of languages has served me well in Korea, because as I study object and location markers, I understand more of my students’ difficulties and why they make the mistakes they do, which has added to my effectiveness as their teacher.

In addition to languages, I love children. My first day teaching in kindergarten, the teacher I replaced showed me the building, my classes, and introduced me to my students. I fell in love with them immediately—well, almost all of them. I soon learned that each class has its own troublemaker, and that some are simply mischievous, while others act out because of a problem. One of my 7-year-old boys had such a hard time in classes; he could not stay on task, and he was habitually distracted. As I read through the previous teacher’s notes, it seemed it had been going on for some time. After observing the class’s play time, I saw that there was a certain girl who always chased (and tormented him). After stepping in and separating them, the boy’s performance soon went to the top of the class, and he was much happier. Out of my love of children, I find myself drawn towards spurring them on to be the best they can be—to the point where half of my students have been promoted to elite classes, if not to higher levels altogether.

Finally, I have renewed my love of travel and have fallen in love with South Korea. Living in the United States, I have a lot of opportunities to travel around Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. itself. In high school, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Europe to see Germany, France, and Austria. Nothing has satiated my desire to travel like moving to South Korea and being allowed to experience life here hands on. Every day I get to go to taekwondo, or to Korean lessons, or out for galbi, or to visit a shrine or palace, I feel the honor of being in such a historical place.

Over the last year I have seen and done many things, from field trips of petting snakes to helping direct 13 7-year-olds in a graduation play, and fortunately nurtured my three loves of languages, children, and travel. I look forward to what the next year has in store!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cool as a Popsicle

Now, this may come as a shock to you, but in high school I was a nerd. (And middle school. And elementary school.) I got good grades, participated in every extra-curricular that didn't involve moving (drama, two math clubs, FHA, band, orchestra, choir, etc), and spent an awful lot of time on the computer.

As I was walking home from taekwondo today, I started to wonder, "when did I get so cool?"

Not only have I done away with the good grades (haha, sorry dad), but here I am, 26-years-old, living out one of the coolest possible jobs. I roll out of bed at 8:30 to loaf around before work, go color with kids and exchange various insults using the only words they know ("Nu uh, YOU'RE a monkey princess!!"), then after all of that hard work, take a 2-4 hour rest. Then I put in another two hours ("She totally sprained her ankle, and I totally burned my hand!!"), and take an hour rest before heading off to taekwondo. At the end of the week, I go to study Korean, then hang out with the girls until some ungodly hour on Sunday morning or whisk myself off on a weekend adventure.

Actually, that sounded a lot cooler in my head, and now I realize that there are in fact nerds everywhere I go. Going with the idiom involving birds of a feather, maybe I am in fact still a nerd.

But one of the more blissful things about being a nerd, as learned by Sheldon, Raj, Howard, and Leonard, is that you can be one and enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Heart Melty

The breaks between classes are 10 minutes, now, in kindergarten, which really just means I sit around on the super comfy chair for 8 minutes instead of 3, now. It's wonderful. Today I was settled into the chair, helping someone spell "stethoscope" (why 5-year-olds need to learn that word, I don't know). My wonderful little student David came up to me with a piece of pink and red origami paper and asked, "Kate Teacher name spelling?" I smiled and said, "K," and he ran off to the classroom to write it down, then ran back. "a," more running. "t," finally realized there's a table right next to me. "e." Then he looked up at Alex and asked, "How do you spell I love you?"


So I got a note,

And bless his little heart, it's the first time all day he hadn't spelled it Davib.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Friends Know Me

and love me anyway. :) So I answer my phone on a day off...

"Are you showered?"
"What the hell, woman, it's 12:30!"

No hello. No how are you. Hehe, just, "are you showered?" And not assuming that by 12:30 I would have washed off the previous day's cake war remnants. While I was but an innocent bystander, I managed to get yellow frosting on a good number of clothing pieces.

You might say, then, the Cinco de Mayo festival was a success! Everyone appreciated my fajitas, and finally!!!! I found unmoldy avocados. They were $15 for 5, and well worth it.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What do you want?

A few weekends ago, as I was talking about finding a job, someone asked me a question that has rocked my world. "What do you want?"

I've spent the last two weeks thinking about it, and I am pleased to announce that I have discovered an Albert-free answer. Last night I lay awake, not because of caffeine or because I watched a rowdy movie, but because I was practicing taekwondo in my head. I was going through the actions of the punches I'd learned, trying to keep them straight for my test at the end of the month.

I, Kathleen Elizabeth, was too excited about exercise to sleep.

What with being a closet morning person, I thought this over in the shower and just had an epiphany: what I want is to stay near my instructor and to have more vacation time so I can go see Beijing and Hong Kong and so on. Seoul was awesome, but it was really too big for me to live there. There are a lot of other cities on the beach and maybe with better offers and new and exciting things to do, but what I want is to be in a place where I feel encouraged to be healthy. There are other taekwondo hagwons, but I've already found what works for me.

So now I'm going to get together my resume, bribe Yuria with coffee to write a letter of recommendation, and set off for Korean Saga 2: The __________ Continues. (Adventure, Boy Crazy, so many options for that blank, so little time.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Still here~

This is the longest I've ever gone without updating--even longer than when I broke my leg. It isn't for a lack of things to say: au contraire, it is because of an excessive number of minute facets of the past week I wish to document but end up punking out.

Last weekend was my big weekend in Seoul with Hannah and Mark. Hannah and I headed up on Friday taking the super fast train. When I say super fast, I mean over 300 km/h fast. I had a little pre-birthday celebratory bottle of soju while the rest of the crew got smashed and celebrated Jeff's fake birthday in Daegu.

When we got to Seoul, it was pre-rain muggy. By the time we got out of the station, it was no longer pre-rain. After a few dead-ends finding a hotel for the weekend, we stumbled across the "Forced Smile Motel," one of Korea's fantastically cheap, fantastically pervy love motels. After stealing random supplies from the completely unmonitored linen shelves (so what if I want four pillows?), we tested out the Beer Factory, finding some of the best chicken tenders I've had.

The next morning (Saturday) was supposed to be an early rise, but it turns out I twisted my bad ankle in the station the previous night and was not thrilled by the idea of shining. After some prodding (and an alarm that sounded like a bird was in the room), we made it out the door and onto the subway in time for Hannah to see part of Mark's first hockey game.

What I didn't realize (my ignorance seems to know no bounds) is that Seoul hosted the 1988 Olympic games. So Mark was playing in some tournament on the grounds, so I got to see my first Olympic stadium. It was really quite amazing, and I felt in awe of just being there. After the game, Hannah and I went for a huge, Western-style breakfast (with coffee!!) at Gecko's. Yum.

From there we hopped on the hop-on-hop-off Seoul City Tour bus. For $10, we got driven around the entire city and could get off to see any one of 30 destinations. Because someone was a little slow that morning (oops), we did get to see the whole tour, but we only got to get off at two stops: the Seoul Tower and Deoksu Palace. Because it was cold and rainy, visiting the Seoul Tower strongly reminded me of Seattle. It was cool seeing out across the city, though, and they had little markers to tell you how far you are from certain places. It turns out Seoul is 9927 kilometers from Denver. I thought it was interesting that I'm closer to Moscow than home. Deoksu Palace is one of four palaces in Seoul. The admission is well worth it ($1), and we got to traipse around soaked in the rain and splashing in puddles while running up to ancient buildings and snapping their pictures.

This was my favorite picture of the palace. I like that you can see the restored outside and the un-restored inside in the same picture. The government is working on restoring all of the palaces, which is a serious haul after what the Japanese did to them, and I find the progress interesting.

To dry off, Hannah and I saddled up to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and it was delicious. It also opened up the night to drinking, and well, you all know what happens when Tequila enters the picture.

Something ironic about the day is I spent the day in the shadow of Luke's footsteps. He's a guy I met in my Korean class who also cut class to come see the wettest city in Korea. The next morning as we were headed to leave our stuff at the subway station, we ran into Luke and his friend! In a city of 24,500,000 people, I ran into one of the few people I know--from Daegu. Then twenty minutes later, I ran into other people from my Korean class! It was so crazy. In a five minute period I gave a blurry English lesson, ran into all of these people, and got a subway pass for Itaewon. Whew!

After another megabreakfast at Gecko's, the three of us (Hannah, Mark, myself) went for some shopping at Insadong, where I finally procured postcards. Expect mail, people! (Although not too soon; I did postpone blogging for a week, hehe.) After buying some interesting things to send to my grandparents, we set off for the main palace but got waylaid by the Lotus Blossom Festival.

It was a big festival for Buddha's birthday, May 2, and it was really impressive to see all of the lanterns. As I went through the news on Monday morning, I was pleased to see that I was finally somewhere that was in international news. Pretty cool! The incense got to me, though, and by that time I was starting to feel the cold that I'm still fighting. Fortunately for me, Hannah and Mark were okay with leaving Seoul after we consumed a massive (lethal, really) amount of ice cream. We got to the station with 15 minutes to spare before the next train for Daegu, and it was a pleasant, uneventful return journey.

Monday was (dun dun dun!) my birthday. I actually held off on opening my presents! My mom and grandma sent me more shirts, yay! The day was an average Monday, except I got four cakes. And Phil, the new male teacher, gave me nun chucks with a Jesus emblem. Then he wondered why I called him the strangest person of my acquaintance.

This week was week two of taekwondo training, and it went really well. I went, skipping only Tuesday due to illness, and I actually feel stronger. I feel more capable. I feel all of those good things I had hoped I'd feel. And tonight I learned the groin punch. Today, Daegu. Tomorrow, the world!