Saturday, July 25, 2009

One for the Road

When I was little, I moved a lot, each time leaving behind a classroom full of friends, for whom I shed a few tears. (Well, maybe not when I left Mississippi, but in general...)

Yesterday was one long good-bye, starting with Kindergarten. We had an awesome time practicing our vocabulary and coloring, then eating pizza (some of us better at it than others--the image of Ben gutting his will remain with Heather and me for some time), and going through Market Day where the kids spend their ECC dollars to but very useful crap. (I stole an eraser set! Haha!)

After came the afternoon classes, where I said good-bye to the four little nuisances who followed me all year. I really hope they do well; despite all of the yelling, I had fun with them. (Despite? Okay, maybe because of...)

It was pretty strange to walk into the teacher's room and announce, "I'm finished!" It was right around that time that I got stripped of my title "Teacher." Apparently, now I'm just Kate. As I headed out of the building, Mrs. Baek--the owner--stopped to shake my hand (unprecedented) and to thank me. I was really very touched; that was maybe the 5th time she'd spoken to me in the last year.

I hurried to taekwondo after that, and spent the last day trying to chat with my instructors. I really wish I had practiced Korean more. It'd be nice to have a conversation a little more in-depth than, "Did you eat? What? Are you hungry?" We talked about my up-coming interview, and she had the kids write on my belt. They jokingly told me I was a gray belt (it's a little dirty), and that my yellow belt didn't arrive because of the rain. But... I am technically one.

Then I had an interview for a school, and I'm quite undecided about it. It's a small hagwon that has been in place for ten years. I'm not sure how they felt about me, either--I think I might be a bit loud for their tastes. I keep hoping for a lightning bolt, some sign as to what I should do, but nothing has shaken loose, yet.

The night concluded with one more round of galbi (Yuria came to say good-bye, and Captain even sat on the floor!), drinks at Garten Bier, and a long, giggle-filled walk back to our apartments as Heather, Kayleigh and I bid adieu. With teary hugs, and Heather finally proclaiming her love, I left.

Which brings us to now. My bags are packed, and as soon as I tuck my laptop in my backpack, I'm ready to go. I'm so grateful for the last year.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


At the end of a year-long contract in South Korea, Americans (and Canadians and maybe others? not Brits nor New Zealanders) receive back the 4.5% of their paycheck (plus the matching portion the employer has been paying) they have been paying into the pension plan.

I thought that this was going to be an arduous task, but it turned out to be quite simple. I just had to go to a gas station at an ungodly hour (9 a.m.? WHY?) to meet a strange man while carrying my alien registration card, passport, U.S. bank account information, and copy of my e-ticket for leaving the country. Fortunately for me, the strange man had on a shiny suit! (Gotta love Korean fashion~)

He drove me to the pension office, where a guy highlighted the sections of paperwork I needed to fill out. 20 minutes later, I was done and on my way back to Chilgok, nodding off the entire way. (Someone spent the better part of the night all riled up to see her daddy at the airport on Sunday.) Then I was deposited back at the gas station, despite it being about half a mile from school. Oh well. I was early, so Heather and I walked to school, and then I got McDonald's. Because I needed McDonald's in Korea one more time, right? Ha.

Today's classes went as smoothly as ever ("JEFFREY! SIT DOWN! TEACHER IS TALKING!"), with a slight twist of the knife in my heart as my babies told me they were sad. When I asked why they were sad, they said, "Kate Teacher America go." A few of them said they were happy, though. When I asked why, they said, "Kate Teacher here. I love Kate Teacher!" Awwww.

Without the energy (or the clothes) for taekwondo, I went and watched and took some action shots. They'll find their way here eventually--maybe. And here we are. Post-chicken galbi for the last time with my favorite Canadian, our livers still burning from the soju and our mouths still burning from the red pepper paste. It's a shame to go, now, since they know everything from the spicy level to the soju-cider-cola combo, but as I just received an e-mail from my favorite recruiter, who knows? Maybe I'll be back!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


"Well, I'm going home, back to the place where I belong
And where your love has always been enough for me
I'm not running from, no, I think you got me all wrong
I don't regret this life I chose for me
But these places and these faces are getting old
So I'm going home, well I'm going home

It's really winding down this week. The weekend flew by with laundry, Harry Potter 5 & 6, and one last hangover for the road. My wardrobe is now pared down, with most things going to hopefully be reused by other clothes-shopping-challenged white folks. The underwear I've hated for the last year is now safely in a garbage bag waiting to be finished being filled, and my to-do list has ceased growing, and is being drastically cut down as I cross things off.

I've booked a hotel for Saturday night, so I have less things to worry about Sunday--I'll be an 8-minute shuttle ride from the airport, and I'll have a clean, cool room to spend my last Korean evening. On Saturday, Yuria and I went for one last galbi trip, and it was a little sad, despite being very delicious. For once I had spicy galbi that didn't make me sick, and I wish I'd discovered it sooner--yum! Hopefully I'll be able to find something comparable to share with y'all back home.

Tomorrow morning, I go to meet a guy I've never met in front of a gas station, so he can take me to the pension office. I've been paying part of my paycheck into the national pension scheme (I love that they use the word scheme here), and I get that back, plus the money Mrs. Baek has to pay to match my contribution. So that plus my last month's pay, plus the bonus month's pay most contracts pay makes for a neat little sum to bring home (over 6 million won).

I'm leaving at a good time. Swine flu is shutting down entire public schools, and all of the hagwons in surrounding areas. As a result, any teachers traveling next week are going to be in quarantine for a week, and all other teachers have to pick up the slack. We have also been informed that anyone planning on leaving the country for the Thanksgiving holiday will have their contract terminated. I understand why it's being done, but I think it's irrational. We didn't come to South Korea to sit in our apartments and watch TV, despite how amusing that may be sometimes. We came to see the world.

I still don't know what I'm going to do, despite everyone and their mom asking me. I just want to get to American soil, because if there's one thing I've learned in this month overseas is how much I love my homeland. I may disagree with the government (as a matter of fact, I do), and there are certainly things I value highly in Korea, but at the end of the day I'm a patriot, and I can't wait for a good ol' Colorado sunset.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's funny...

...'cause it's true.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2 Realizations

The strangest thing happened to me while I was walking to work today. I passed another hibiscus flower, and I had the distinct thought, "It'd be better if it wasn't pink." WOAH WOAH WOAH! Back the bus up! This is the first ever recorded instance of me thinking it would be nice to see a splash of a different color, and it deserves to be noted.

Another moment of bizarre happened as I was waiting for someone else to cook my dinner. I was staring into space and thought, "I'm tired of talking." I am the child who spent a good part of her childhood car rides bribed into silence. My parents, when I was born, promised to each other not to use the phrase "shut up," and found themselves using it daily (hourly) by the time I was a teenager. And today, it finally happened. While I wouldn't mind some company, it would only be for companionable silence--I am tired of talking.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


While I haven't exactly been doing anything, I've been pretty introspective. As I lay in bed last night, I developed a mental image of what I must have looked like a year ago, arriving at Incheon Airport, all alone, hauling my three bags through the airport. Sweating, tired, and well, all alone.

I can't believe I was never scared. It never even occurred to me to be concerned or anxious about what was coming up--and with good reason, really. The last year has been amazing.

So I'm not sure why I feel so anxious about returning home. I think about the same person--except not the same person--hauling the same luggage (albeit lighter) through the same pathways, and going home without knowing the future scares me. Am I coming back? Who am I going to meet? Whose lives am I going to change? Who is going to change mine?

I think the ambivalence is interesting.

Silent but Deadly

My blog's been a little quiet lately. This is related to several things, mostly reading and a lack of things to report. On Friday, however, we did go on a field trip to EXCO, the local exhibit hall (those readers familiar with Billings would know it as the Metra). They had a show about dinosaurs which involved walking through a black light tunnel, looking at (fake) fossils, climbing through several bouncy-castles decorated like dinosaurs, and a sand digging pit. To top it all off, there was a dinosaur show that included a 3D portion (with one of the top 10 hottest men on the planet as the host), and a skit with a seriously real-looking T-Rex (aside from the whole part about him only being 8-feet tall and having a pair of black human legs sticking out from under him.)

The part I found the funniest was when I was attacked by a dinosaur. I really was. There was an inflatable dinosaur arch that deflated just as I was walking by. It's quite fortunate that I was the one it landed on--I acted as a good propping device for the kids to escape through, while the employees fixed the situation.

After, we did the lunch thing and snuck off to watch a movie for the last period. So, in short, you could say that the day rocked!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Korean Pizza

For dinner I'm eating "Italian Cheese Pizza." "Italian" my butt. It has corn on it, and the crust has green tea in it. And it came with a side of sweet pickles, for flavor contrast of course.

Today I had an interview for a hagwon, and in the back of my mind I tried to keep thinking, "get the job then turn it down, get the job then turn it down," but after working 19 classes in 2 days, I don't have my heart in working for a private academy anymore. As much as I may appreciate the offer (it's always nice to be wanted), I have my heart set on public school or nothing. (Guaranteed 22 classes or less a week? heck yeah.)

Also, I've been kind of proud of this class I've been teaching for 5 months, now. They're very low level, and I named them all when we started. I had named the kids Amy, Billy, Colin, David, Emily, Frank, Greg, Harry, and Jay was already named Jay, so I was stuck with skipping "I." (ABCDEFGHJ, get it?) Today I got a new girl, and I was so excited! I had "I" names written on the board before class even started, and I practically pounced on her when she walked in. To my dismay, however, she already had a name. :( It's a lovely name (a family name at that, Julia), but my class is incomplete. Sigh.

I'm proud for other reasons (i.e. they have all improved significantly), but you know it's the goofy things that are going to stay with me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A woman's prerogative

2:56 p.m. "Will this day ever end?"

7:17 p.m. "Oh my God, Tuesday's over!"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Leap Frog

Today was an average, go-to-school-be-annoyed-by-the-boss kind of day. Let it roll off my back and got on with my day, having a lot of fun with my classes. I finally got the beginners to stop speaking so much Korean (their English is SO improved that they can), and well.. the others.. at least got part of their workbooks done this time. Their conversation skills were really high today, so I let them ramble about I don't even know what anymore. They were even using past tense--knocked my socks off. (Well, would have if I'd been wearing any.)

After was taekwondo class. I verified that I did pass my test, so I'm at yellow belt level, but because I'm leaving I'm not getting my belt from this gym. If I go back, they'll give it to me, but I can't seem to find a job in the area. I'm really glad I passed.

Maybe even verging on giddy. I passed!

Part of today's exercise involved weaving in and out of a circle, the obstacles being us taking turns. I was one of the obstacles bent over in a kneeling prayer position. Because I'm so much bigger, they used me more like a leap-frog playmate, and it was pretty funny. Until I got knocked in the head. But then I got to sit out and watch, which got even more ridiculous the faster they tried to go. I wish I'd had my camera as the tiniest and the biggest ones crashed into each other; it was awesome how the little guy bounced off of the big guy's chest!


I saw a hibiscus today. I was walking to work, and I looked to my left, and there it was--the flower that decorates seemingly everything back home for summer, yet I'm not sure I'd seen one in real life before (other than maybe somewhere indoor for plant havens). It was pretty and pink and my camera is dead, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

Facebook continues to astound, recommending yesterday that I add an ex as a friend. I haven't anything in common with this person, really, other than living in the same state (still 1 1/2 hour drive) and being Christian. I figured why not (curiosity killed the cat and whatnot), and I'm glad to see he's doing well. He's graduated, gotten engaged, and I guess is looking for a house to buy. That's all pretty exciting. I think it's ironic that we're both teachers, now, him with a fancy degree (master's) and me with not much more to recommend me than being an American.

This weekend, we celebrated Mel's birthday. We went to a place that combines billiards and bowling (?), and I got to do something I've always wanted to. I opened up the cocktail list, and I asked the waitress for one of everything. This was such a stupid idea. Not because it was expensive, and not because it was too much alcohol. It was too much sugar! I got sick after the fifth one and left with a massive headache. But, it's one of those silly things I can check off my list. I need to get through the "stupid stuff to do in my 20's" list before I'm no longer in my 20s.

Yesterday, then, I stayed in bed all day with a sore foot and the first season of True Blood. I'm not really going to recommend it because there's a lot of sex to fast forward through (or rewind for if you're a pervert), but it's an HBO series about vampires. It's helped loosen my intrigue leftover from Twilight; these vampires are different (yet similar in ways that make me smirk), more vulnerable, and really, who wants to be easily slaughtered by an old fashioned pencil?

One last note... I got my hair cut for the last time in Korea (this time, at least), and it's pretty cute. I'll have to find my camera charger and get this whole "no picture" situation rectified.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lessons by Neo

Step 1) Find China lock.
Step 2) Find rock.
Step 3) Break China lock!
Step 4) Take pink bike.

And that is how to steal a bike, thank you Neo.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Well wuddya know...

The worst thing that happened all day was... my mascara broke. And I had a spare. Tough life, right?

Yesterday I crunched my ankle in taekwondo, and I didn't really care. I, the quasi-hypochondriac that I am (really I'm more klutz than hypochondriac), still went to class and ran and blah blah.

It's like I don't even know who I am anymore! I'm happy, and I'm exercising. Maybe there's more to those happy hormones exercise induces than previously suspected.

In other news, I've been reflecting over the past year, and really all I've got to say is I'm embarrassed by my three-month dedication to someone who in the end was at best not interested and at worst just wanting free English lessons. I can't promise it won't happen again, but maybe I'll either 1) keep it privater (yeah, spell check left that like that, so I am, too), or 2) keep it to under a month. Here's to Friday!

Also, I have submitted almost all of the paper work to start applying for a public school position. While I previously thought all positions were filled (what with having been told that by the main office in Seoul), it turns out that recruiters have ins with individual schools, so there may be a Part II to this adventure; whatever happens, it won't ever be like the first time, but there will be mischief. Oh believe me, there will be mischief!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Grinch

I never considered myself stingy before. I always gave pretty freely of possessions or whatever trinkets I thought a person would enjoy, and it's just now dawning on me that adage: money can't buy happiness. I still withheld something very important from people who deserved it: I kept my love hostage.

I thought that if I loved fewer people, that I would be less hurt. I didn't anticipate that it would mean that I would be less whole. As I sit sad about leaving my 41 consistent students (and dozens of others whose lives I've touched in the past), I realize that I've made room for each and every one of them in my heart. I've poured blood, sweat, and many many tears into their lives, trying to make them the best little English speakers in the city.

Was I successful? Not by a long shot, but they've all improved. And my heart really hurts at the thought of leaving them behind--especially Aidan--but I know more of what I'm capable of, now, and that no matter how far away I may move, there's room for all of the people I want to love in my heart, and that it won't crumple from pain when I'm separated from them.