Friday, September 17, 2010


So you can see how well I stuck to the goal in my last post but que sera sera as other, significantly more important and more fluent in Spanish, people have said...for those of you who are curious, here is that oh so wonderful wikipedia's page about where this particular saying derived from.,_Sera_(Whatever_Will_Be,_Will_Be)...but I digress

Sooooo Korea, well I'm really happy here I know I haven't documented and significant portion of my time here (4ish month or so) and I would say for about three months I wasn't particularly happy. I wasn't particularly sad or angry. I was more meh than anything (I would still do things that I knew were fun but didn't feel that fun anymore) but I think it was just one of those phases of culture shock, which I do remember going through when I was in Germany (though it was much worse because it was November, December, January time which is as you know is a kind of an important time for family in much of the world). But I'm over that feeling and I'm really happy here. Even being sick which I have been for much of this past week (and for those of you who've lived apart from family will know, that's when you miss home the most) I'm still in a happy frame of mind.

There are still things that irritate me or that I dislike (I mean I'll never get over how ridiculous smoking is here, or how theres really no concept of personal space on the street and if someone bumps you they won't even look around much less apologize. Though its easier to recognize that its not them necessarily being rude but more conforming to society norms because apologizing or even caring that you bumped into someone is just not what they do here, apologizing probably doesn't even cross the mind for most, and eventually you start acting the same way. I bump into people all the time and I don't apologize and they don't care/notice. It's still annoying but that's just how they do here...yo yo yo YO haha) but with a lot of things you just become use to it, like it's sad to say but spitting in the street doesn't gross me out anymore. I mean I'll still cringe a little when I hear someone preparing to hock a luge and I'll avoid the spot they spit in but it really is an everyday occurrence. To be honest its a bit of a relief to me at this particular time and place because while I don't have the urge to spit on a normal basis (like most Korean's seem to have) I have been fairly sick and coughing up a bunch of stuff that I don't want to swallow or hold in my mouth until I can find a bathroom, so the fact that I can spit it out without worrying about whose there to see me or what they'll think (though I never really worried about it before) is nice (haha sorry for the graphic and disgusting nature of the topic but I like learning/discussing about the small as well as the big differences in other societies compared to my own).

And this has gotten off topic...kind of. What I was planning on writing were some of the ways I have changed since I came to Korea. This is kind of a shout out to the fact that come next next Sunday (the 26th) I will officially have been in Korea 6 months, ASSAH!!! So here it is

  • I have leveled up and became a ninja assassin at chopsticks wielding, or I've grown from little baby Mario to adult Mario on star-power and not even Koopa Troopa's can defeat my awesomeness with the chopstick-ness. I could go on but I think you get the picture. (This comes from using chopsticks everyday, everywhere as that's the silverware of choice here. I didn't even own a fork until about 4 months into my stay in Korea and I only got it because I wanted to make spaghetti, which has happened once, which coincidentally is the amount of times that fork has been used. I'm so use to rocking the chopsticks and spoon combo that when I was actually given a fork, knife and spoon at a foreigner restaurant we went to I didn't even think and just used the spoon to eat everything until about halfway through the meal when I realized what I was doing.)
  • I love mushrooms. I'm not sure if I like the American style of mushrooms (though I don't think I would) but I like the mushrooms they sale here. They, like most fruits and vegetables taste slightly different than back in the states.
  • I'm skinnier. Still nothing close to being called skinny but Korea was/is a life style change in many ways (food, excercise ect.) which resulted in losing about 15ish pounds without actually trying to lose weight when I got here.
  • I drink more alcohol. I'm still not a big fan of it. It's not like I didn't drink before I came to Korea, I just didn't like the taste of alcohol. Which I still don't and I still only drink when I'm out with friends, which just happens to be a lot more frequently here. I'm still not nor will I probably ever be one of those people who crack open a beer or drink a glass of wine to relax.
  • I'm a better teacher. LoL I wasn't any kind of teacher before so it's kind of a given that I would be better, but I like to think I'm actually a fairly good teacher. Almost all of my kids love/like me (including the bad students who all the teachers hate and are known as the trouble makers. Which is nice because they don't make too much trouble in my class, and actually try to participate) and I know that what I'm teaching is actually sticking with a lot of them, already the 4th and 5th graders are reaching a much higher level than the 6th graders. Haha and I'm not saying that that is just because I'm their teacher because frankly my co-teachers are really great teacher's whom I've learned a lot about teaching from.
  • I'm more forceful/independent here.
  • I keep my apartment much cleaner on a whole then I did my room, my dorm, or my apartment in Germany. As in I rarely have dishes in my sink longer than a day.
  • I hang dry all my clothes, and it doesn't bother me and I don't ever think about the days when I had a dryer.
  • I cook less (eating out is so cheap and I don't have a lot of free time during the week).
  • Drink more coffee (Korea has a crazy amount of coffee shops).
Haha this has gotten pretty mundane. I know I have more interesting things I wanted to list but I can remember them so if I do, then I'll just edit this section.
Also a quick list of things I really should have blogged about but didn't

  • The world cup - let's just say it was ridiculous and crazy and mad fun. Korean's are pretty nationalistic so the support and loyalty they had for the Korean team was a sight to be hold
  • Boryeong Mud Festival - 2 days playing in the mud with hundreds of other foreigners/koreans
  • First time at a jimjilbang - Korean public bath house. This is actually really interesting so I may go back a blog about this but if not just think about lots of naked old ladies, lots of different sized pools and sauna rooms, a very interesting aroma therapy hip bath that involved a chair with a hole in it and much much more.
  • All the crazy people here. The constantly changing pool of foreigners combined with the relatively small pool of them in a country where anyone not Korean sticks out like a sore thumb creates a really interesting dynamic...i.e. drama haha
Things that are coming up.
  • My open class (this I will get into more later because it is one of the things about public schools that really bother me and is directly related to school life/dynamics especially combined with a newer/worse-r principal than before)
  • My trip to Hong Kong - which I leave for on Sunday. I'll be traveling with Thildi and we'll be couch surfing so I'll definitely have things to say.
  • Contemplations of either switching to a Hagwon, a middle or high school, or moving to China/Taiwan/Hong Kong or another country.
Haha that wraps up this segment of Where in the world is Holly Love D**ton

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


So I when I started this blog, I had planned to update it more often but life is so busy here and I always want to write down everything which takes such a long time that I never have the energy. Also I usually write really quick updates on facebook so maybe I'll post them here as well. In either case I want to start writing on this blog more often. Hopefully I can look back in the future and remember all the little things that I might have forgotten.

Haha I don't really have anything to write about right now. Mostly I'm just really happy in Korea. Sometimes I get really sad or homesick but thats normal. Culture shock is werid in that in one hour I can be really sad but then something happens that makes me happy again ^^. I'm at school right now and normally I would be teaching my 5th graders but they're having a fire drill so I get a free period. ASSAH!! haha thats korean for WOOT!

Yesterday during my planning period I went to a scouts (kind of like the scouts in the states but run through the school) and made a type of Korean rice crispy treats with the kids. It was some serious fun...seriously haha. I love my kids and in generally I have a really great relationship with most of them. They listen to me and respect me but I also can joke and play around with them. Example: I have one student who everytime we see each other we get into funny face making contest and the first one to make the other laugh wins. Yesterday I played tag with some of them and they helped me write korean text messages to my friend. After that some of the kids took my phone typed in their numbers and saved their names in my phone...haha that also means they got my number but so far no one has abused it ^^.

I usually meet my friends for coffee or dinner during the week. I probably eat out 4 or 5 times and for the rest cook at home. Coffee shops in Korea are EVERYWHERE. Seriously there has to be at least 20 different cafes within a 5 minute walk so. They don't really serve real coffee since Korean make really weak coffee, as in the water is see through with a tinge of brown or its so sweet and filled with so much cream you don't really taste the coffee...but whatever I was never really a coffee drinker so I normally get smoothies of some sort.

Tonight I'm having a movie night with one of my friends and tomorrow I'm going to a baseball game with a bunch of people as well so hopefully it will be fun. Baseball games in Korea are CRAZY... or so I'm told lol. I went to a soccer game last week during Childrens day and it was really fun but not as good as a baseball game...I think. (Childrens day is a really big holiday in Korea dedicated to appreciating all children. The kids and most of the adults don't have school/work and parents take their kids to the park or shopping or to amusement parks and the kids all get presents of some kind, money for the older kids and toys for the younger. All it meant to me was that I got the day off and that I never saw as many kids about in Korea as I did then :))

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Whereby I had the BEST weekend ever.

Forewarned another LONG post: Also blogger takes way to long to upload photos so if you want to see photos of what i wrote about check out this link.

So these past couple of weeks have been a strange one. By now I've been in Korea about a month plus a few days and overall its been a roller coaster. About three weeks in I got really homesick. I hadn't talked to my parents in a while (my computer can't read any microphone so I have no way to talk to them) and my cousins were posting about how much fun they were having in LA. Now my cousins and I aren't just related, I'm like best friends with them. I get along really well with all of them (and I have a lot of cousins) and when I'm with them no matter what I'm doing I have so much fun, whether it's playing poker, going for unplanned midnight runs (that I thought was going to just be a nice walk/hike) then hitting up the 24 hour taco stand, or just chilling on the front porch. That being said it was really hard to go from being totally surrounded by so much love and family to having no one. Now that doesn't mean I don't have friends or people I care about here (because I do and they're amazing...hence why i had such a good weekend) but family is family. I also had a bad couple of days at school some of which is so ridiculous I have to write about it... but thats another post. On to this weekend.

So it is my friend Thildi's (who is one of my best friends here. I literally do everything with this girl) birthday on Monday and because she's so cool we decided to make a weekend of it. On Friday I meet up with Thildi, Trent, Lisa, and Jane to go get Shabu Shabu. We went to this really amazing restuarant called...haha i don't know, but the food was good and was really pretty and I don't know just really good (we had duck). Afterwards it was also Thildi's friend Hodge's birthday so we headed over to a bar called Rythm and Booze to watch him play. He's a really good musician! Some of us decided to play pool. None of us were very good but I did sink the 8 ball in...right before I scratched lol sorry Jane!

When we got back to our table Samir and Jake (more of my really awesome friends) had joined us with their friend Taegun. Haha now i have a slight crush on Taegun, he's very cute, speaks English really well and we have similar interest but alas he has a girlfriend...Oh well i hope I can meet up with him just to hang out because we really are very similar. Around 12:30 or 1 we all left R&B to go to the Muscle bar, which is called that because they serve muscles...not because there are muscle-y people there, which may be what I had thought ^^ .

We ordered some food and Soju cocktails and I got a lesson on Korean drinking culture. Now its sad to say but I hang out with mostly foreigners in my personal time. I get along really well with my co-teachers and I think of them as friends but I don't hang out with them outside of work at least not a lot. But last week I did a three day orientation where I meet the coolest person, named Jane. She is so nice and I'm really glad we're friends. She was born in America, grew up in Korea until she was 14 and then moved to New Zealand until she got married to a Korean she had meet there and moved back to Korea (fairly recently too). So shes very westernized but yet understands Korean culture.

So that night we had two Korean-Koreans with us, Jane and Taegun. Haha I only mention this because they were both able to explain some aspects of Korean culture I had never heard about or never applied to my daily life. Taegun is my age (3 months older) so in Korea he is the only Korean person I know that I can call Chinguk (which means friend) because we were born in the same year. That means we can use informal language with each other because we're technically equal. After talking with him for about an hour he asked my if he could call me Holly-ya which i guess is a term of friendship or endearment or signifies closeness...haha I'm not sure but i'll take it as a compliment since i think its a good thing. Also in Korea no one pours their own drinks, you have to wait for others to pour it for you. Which means you have to be very vigilant about whether your friends cups are empty or not. It was actually quite fun. If my cup was empty but no one noticed I would offer to pour them drinks and then they (they being taegun) would immediately take the pitcher from me and pour me some...haha! Also it was really interesting to see the interaction being Jane and Taegun. Shes a couple of years older then him so he automatically treats her with respect. Now I'm not sure if thats how it actually was because I don't speak Korean but his body language and what i heard when they were speaking English seems to suggest thats what was going on. Luckily Jane grew up in New Zealand so I don't at all feel awkward around her and can just treat her as a friend and not someone who is above me. If I know someone is older than me in Korea (korean-koreans) I sometimes feel uncomfortable because I know you're suppose to treat older people differently but I don't really understand how I should act with them and I'm afraid of some how insulting them. Luckily my co-teachers are all really understanding/accepting of the differences in our cultures and its never really been a problem. After that we basically all went home (around 230 am).

Saturday I got up around 8 am because I've been sick this past week and drinking late into the night and trying to talk in a loud bar (which really just lead to screaming) did not help my throat and ear problem. So i, feeling like crap and only having slept a couple of hours, ventured off to find an Nose, ears and Throat doctor. Because that was what Ally (my co-teacher) told me I needed to find. It wasn't very hard, clinics are EVERYwhere here. I went in showed them the paper Ally had written for me (it had my symptoms) they took me in looked at my throat, nose and ears (funny how that works ^^) told me I had an infection and sent me to the pharmacy with a prescription (there was a lot of bad English, misunderstandings and phone calls to my co-teacher to help translate but it all worked out). I went to the pharmacy next door picked up the load of medicine (in total both the doctor visit and medicine worked out to be around 6 or 7 dollars. ridic), went home took it, felt better immediate and took a two hour nap on my couch (I was planning on dancing that night and needed to prepare). When I woke up I showered and walked to Daiso (the discount store, that sells really high quality goods) which I love, its my favorite store in Korea (at least for household goods)...on a side note i love LOVE shopping in Korea its soo cheap (clothing, household items, cosmetics ect) and really high quality.

Afters I got ready to meet Raquel, Jen, Heather, Samir, and Jake at the bus stop to take to Hongdae. For those of you not in the know. Hongdae is basically party central in Seoul. Its home to Hongik University and its were everyone goes to drink/dance/socialize. Using the train it takes an hr and half to get there, using the Bus (this was my first time) it only took 30 mins (shorter than it takes to get to my school). Haha good to know. When we got to Hongdae we meet up with Thildi, Lisa, Jane, Trent and Thildi's other friends Andy and Brian and then we all headed to the Italian restuarant. I split a pizza and a pasta dish with Samir and they were both really good but doesn't top the tiny Italian resturant I ate at last weekend when I was once again in Hongdae...haha. Afterwards a couple of people peaced out and then the rest of us headed over to this hole in the wall called Vinyl. It serves mixed drinks/cocktails in a bag (like a large ziplockish type bag) for really cheap like 4,000 won cheap (about $3.50). It's too small to sit inside but we chilled out side with our drinks and watched Thildi try to complete her list.

So for Thildi's birthday I got her a present but because I'm so awesome and I know she would go for it, I (with the help of samir) wrote a list of 25 things she had to do before she could get her present from me.

Here is what is said in full:

It's ur 25th Birthday and I hope it goes well,
I got you a present but I'm not going to tell.
Here is a list of 25 things you have to do,
If you want your happy birthday to you!
(haha not the most poetic thing I ever wrote but whatever)

1. Get 25 people to sing happy Birthday to you.
2. Find 2 girls to do the charlie's angel pose w/ you.
3. Get 2 guys to kiss you on the cheek
4. Have someone buy you a shot.
5. Mistake someone for a celeb and get their autograph.
6. Find someone to propose marriage to you.
7. Trade shoes with a random guy for 1 minute.
8. Tell someone you love them (Stranger)
9. Walk up to someone and pretend you know them.
10. Get 5 people to do the Kara butt dance.
11. Propose marriage to someone else.
12. Get a stranger to guess you age on the first try.
13. Get 5 people to make a fishy face for you.
14. Hug 10 random strangers.
15. Walk into a convenience store and ask where the condoms are.
16. Borrow someones hoodie and pretend you can fly
17. Walk into the boys bathroom in a busy bar
18. Kiss 5 boys on the cheek
19. Give your number to a bartender/waiter
20. Sing I'm a little teapot in the middle of the street
21. Borrow someone's cell phone
22. Get someone to pick you up and carry you one block.
23. Find someone else whose birthday is the same day.
24. Find 25 people to give you a 1,000 won and buy yourself a drink/present
25. Give holly a hug because she's so amazing...haha and Samir.

I admit some of the stuff we wrote is slightly ridiculous but it's really hard to think of 25 random things to make your friends do and Thildi went at the list like a champ. Needless to say hilariousness ensued. So Koreans are fairly conservative and any type of pda with someone is Taboo. It was really interesting to see the dynamic between her asking a westerner to kiss her on the cheek (super easy) and her asking a Korean guy (most refused until we really pushed them). My favorite of the night was probably her mistaking someone as a celebrity. She choose a guy who had his hair dyed like G-dragon (bleach blond). And he really thought she really thought he was G-dragon HAHAHA. We finally had Jane (our one Korean speaker) explain to him what was going on. You should have seen the look on his face when he realized she spoke korean. Priceless. Really, really priceless. :)

During the craziness of the list (which happened all night long) we headed over to a place that sold margaritas and then to a bar called the cave...which really looked like a cave. It was really cool, they played techno/trance and had a strobe lights and colored lights and things. Haha Andy bought a bottle of Tequlia and we all did shots (disgusting stuff by the way. Not a fan) and danced for an hour or two...or three. After that we headed out to another club. On the way Lisa got a call from her best friend (korean guy who's dating her sister) so I went with her to go get him and his 3 friends and bring them to where we were going. One guy was really, really, really plastered. And the other 3 were fine. All of them spoke almost perfect English (They went to like an international boarding high school or something). We got to the club (Ska 2) which played great music (though it was like only one cd on replay haha) and basically danced the night away. Thildi and Raquel left at 330ish because they wore heels and couldn't take the pain (bad judgement on their part since last time we went to Hongdae we all had the same problem) but the rest of us stayed at the club until morning (5:30 which is when the buses/subways start to run again). So korean clubs are interesting in that a)most korean can't dance. Like seriously seeing people with rythm is a rare thing and b) koreans girls are really shy about dancing with guys so even though there are other girls there, because they don't dance, the ratio between guys and girls is skewed in favor of the girls. Meaning if your a girl you can basically have your pick of any guy in the place. Like seriously you can find any type of guy there. So around 6 am Samir, Jake, Heather and Jennifer went home/elsewhere and Lisa and I got KFC with her guy friends. They paid for the food which was nice. I had a shrimp burger which i LOVE haha but not important. After that I caught the bus home (I fell asleep and woke up right before my stop) and finally fell asleep in my apartment around 7:30 am.

I set my alarm for 1 pm but because I was so tired I forgot to turn it on and got up and 2:08 pm instead. About twenty minutes later I got a text from Raquel to go shopping but in my own eloquent words, I told her "Girl, I may be awake but that doesn't mean i'm alive" Haha. after that I got a text from a girl named Katie who I meet at the Gepik orientation, asking if I wanted to do something and I told her I would be up for dinner in a couple of hours. I texted with Raquel for a bit (who ended up not going shopping) and we decided to get manicures before meeting katie for dinner. I sent out the word on facebook for anyone who wanted to join and went off to Flora's (the nail salon). I really liked the lady who did my nails and they only charge us 7,000 won, instead of 15,000 for being first time customers. We stopped at a cosmetic store so I could by some facewash since I left my two brand new bottles in the states and walked home by way of the park. Raquel had never been there before but I think I mentioned it in one of my earlier post. Most people call it central park and its this really big park near my house. During spring and summer they close off all the roads surrounding it making it pedestrian only and family's come there to enjoy the nice weather. You can rent, bikes, scooters, little kid cars and basically anything else. Its really peaceful and a nice stroll. At 6:30 we meet up with the rest of the people (Thildi, Lisa, Katie, and Taegun) and went and got Pho. I did the whole I'm thirsty, let me pour you a drink so you will pour me a drink dance again and enjoyed it just as much haha.

After dinner me, Lisa and Taegun wanted to get coffee so we headed over to my favorite coffee place "Coffee Belle." You can sit on the heated floor or on couches and each area is sectioned off so its fairly private. Plus you get free seriously, free cake. haha love! Anyways we hung out and chatted. Taegun is such a trip. He's my first Korean-Korean friend not associated with my school. I've only known him less than a week but we're already really good friends. He actually reminds me a lot of my friend Giorgio who is literally one of my most favorite people in the world. We were best friends while I lived in Germany, our personalities just clicked immediately. I couldn't not have fun when I was with him. (If you're reading this Giorgio, Congratulations!!! I'm sorry I couldn't come but I hope it was amazing and I will see you again!). So I've mentioned this earlier but Confucian ideology is an inherent part of Korean society which means Korea is VERY hierarchical. Elders are treated with such a degree of respect and all your interactions with others are based on where you stand in comparison to them. So while I was never raised with these cultural standards, because I live in Korea and because it's so entrenched in Korean society, I'm am very conscious of how I (should) interact with others (based mostly on age). Therefore its really nice to hang out with a Korean who's the same age because really those are the only people who you can be completely comfortable with. I don't have to worry about making stupid mistakes when I speak Korean with him because I can use the really REALLY informal language. It's really fun because he teaches me all the stuff you say only say to people you are close with...which is basically him and Lisa lol, she's the only other person of my friends who can speak Korean (now don't get crazy thoughts and think I speak korean because I can't, but I can read and write and I can understand very simple things associated with everyday life plus I know random phrases and words that I can just throw in to my conversations with Koreans just for fun.)

Anyways Lisa also has a language partner named Frodo, yes you read that right, the man is named Frodo hahaha, who came to meet us around midnight or so (we just sat around talking and playing games before he came). Haha hilariousness ensued. Frodo would teach Lisa something then i would yell it at Taegun in what would normally be a really disrespectful way (but it's ok since I'm only joking and because we're the same age) and he would say something back in the same tone of voice. Example Me: Yah, Mi-rae! Him: What?! Me:come here! him:Waeyo (why)?!. Haha oh yeah so apparently Taeguns real name is Mi-rae but he legally changed it when he was 18 (with his parents approval) because Mi-rae is a girls name. And Holly (Hah-Li) is apparently a boys name (there's a famous man in Korea with my name) so I took his old name as my new Korean name (which means future...haha I just like the way it sounds). I've been asked before if I have a Korean name and now i do ^^. Other things that happened that night was a arm wrestling contest (in which i beat Lisa, and frodo and taegun tied each other), a thumb wrestling contest (in which lisa beat me), hilarious drawing contest (in which I came out looking like a really ugly man with giant lips, and lisa became an old lady) and learning really inappropriate words. It started out with me and lisa making frodo and taegun say words that koreans always mispronounce rice(lice), sheet(shit), beach(well you get the picture) and then it went off from there when lisa pulled out the name George which korean boys always like to pick as their English name because it sounds like a really inappriopriate word in korean, which i then made them teach me and proceeded to repeat semi-loudly because it freaked the guys out (like seriously they tried to rip the paper from my hand so I couldn't repeat it, told me never to say that to any guy, and sshhed me every time i even started to say the first syllable.) We all peaced out around 1:20ish time (cause seriously what in the world were we doing up that late? we all had to get up around 6:30-7 the next day).

Future plans that came of sunday: Bungee jumping in Bundang. Taichi in central park (Taegun is like a Taichi master...or really good at taichi I'm not sure but he's going to a tournament for Kungfu and Taichi this weekend), Baseball games, drinking night with Lisa, Frodo and Taegun. Seriously he's my new best friend! Love it :)

haha edit: So that same night I wrote down a list of shows/movies he has to watch for us to continue being friends (we have the same taste in music/tv/movies like seriously the same favorite singers and tv shows). The list basically consisted of Glee (this isn't at all popular in korea. I don't think it's broadcasted here yet) and Enchanted (among other cartoons). I just got a text from him saying that he download episode 1-14 of Glee but doesn't have time and will watch it next week, but that hes planning on watching Enchanted tonight. Haha omg I told him he has to watch at least the first 30 minutes...I hope he doesn't hate me. I'm not sure a guy can truly appreciate the amazingness that is Enchanted but I guess we will see ^^.
Edit edit: he just told me he really likes the movie, then told me I need to watch Kung Fu Panda...Haha seen it buddy...

The next day (monday) seemed like it would be really nice out (since Sunday was beautiful). So I went to work in a light sweater and dress but it rained the whole day. So ran everywhere trying to avoid getting soaked but it didn't work and i got drenched (repeatedly). That night I again ventured out because me and a couple of girls (Thildi, Lisa, Raquel, Jennifer, heather and Kelly) have an ongoing (haha yesterday was the first day) dance night every monday, wherein we try to master Korean pop songs in order to win money at Prison bar the next time we go. I walked the entire way to Jennifers house in the rain because I didn't know how far it was and wasn't sure how to take a bus to her apartment (it's a 15 minute walk) and once again got soaked. For some reason this and the earlier walk in the rain didn't bother me and all and I quite enjoyed it...strange. Anyways we learned the first 15 seconds of the song, which took an hour...haha fail and then we left to go get food since it was Thildi's actual birthday. We ate Dak Galbi again and Jinah was nice enough to pay for everyone. And then we went and got coffee (again), where Jane paid for everyone (I didn't get anything because I was so full from dinner) and just sat until midnight or so.

This was such a long post and it was written over 4 days because I kept having to leave and do stuff and then add what I did to the post so things happened that may have changed my opinion or viewpoint later on in the post but I decided to keep it the way I originally wrote it, at the time I wrote it since it was my first impressions of what had happened/or of the people I met.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What I like and dislike

My internet keeps going out so I haven't been able to update in a really long time but I'm alive and well. I've been here about a week and half and for the most part I really like living in Korea. Haha this won't be a long blog but here are some thoughts.

What I like:
Korean supermarkets: For some reason I love shopping in supermarkets, not in the states but in any country I've lived abroad in (namely Germany and here). I really and truly enjoy the experience. I like looking at all the products, I like trying to find things I know, I like trying to figure out things I don't and I even like comparing the prices and I especially like the crazy free samples, its like Cost-co but you're not guilt tripped into buying anything, there are samples at the end of every aisle and you simply stop where you want to try what you want and then move on to the next thing. Grocery stories are so basic about life in another country but it tells you a lot about the place you are in and I probably use my Korean the most here because if nothing else you are basically forced to have interactions with people. Now I'm not really shy about speaking to strangers. I know for some people it may be hard for them to go up and ask for something especially when you don't really speak a language well (or at all) but this isn't a problem for me. It's really hard sometimes to even get up the courage to try to say something in a another language to someone who speaks that Language fluently. You're always embarrassed that you might say the words wrong, or that the person doesn't understand you or that you may say something completely different and violate some unspoken taboo or whatever, but frankly you can't learn if you don't try and if you don't know you're never going to find out unless you ask. I understand it but and the same time it seems so silly to me. I'm an English teacher so it would be frankly hypocritical of me to expect my students to try to speak English despite this if I didn't do the same in my daily life and frankly thank goodness because it makes my life here in Korea so much easier. Today was my schools birthday so I had the day off but I needed to go to Incheon to register for my ARC (foreigner identification card/number) now at multiple times during the trip I was lost and confused (I was by myself trying to find the immigration office in a city an hour to 2 hours away never having used the train system here and in fact not even knowing how to get to the train station from my home). Needless to say I had difficulties and at multiple times I wanted to scream in frustration because I didn't know where to go or what to do. Fortunately like I said before I'm not scared of asking for help/directions and even with my very minimal Korean, I was able to figure it out (this combined with my korean phrasebook and hand gestures made it all possible) but I would have gotten on multiple wrong bus' and trains if I hadn't asked. Haha back to the regularly scheduled program, what I like about Korea.

The People: If nothing else the Korean people I have meet are a whole incredibly generous and kind. I think about how I must look sometimes this crazy foreigner who barely speaks Korean but needs constant help. Today while I was standing there lost and confused and Korean lady who works in the store I was standing in front of came and asked me where I needed to go, well at least I think thats what she asked because she was speaking Korean and I only speak English. I tried to explain in my broken english-korean. Miguk (point to me) mime ID card...she says "ahhh then incomprehensible korean" to me. At this moment an older korean lady comes up to us cause she saw us talking and wanted to help. She looks at my papers that I brought and snaps her fingers and then says something to the other lady. One lady tells me to take bus 12 and the other lady holds up her hands for bus 24. Now one of my friends had already told me I could take either bus so I knew I was on the right track but couldn't seem to find the bus stop (thats one thing I hate about Korea theres no Hauptbahnhof or central train/bus station). Bus stops are scattered willy nilly (which is why yesterday I was wandering around Bucheon station around midnight trying to figure out how to get home because I couldn't find my bus stop...but I digress) but they both showed me that I had to go around the corner to a bus stop on the other side. Now in this case I hadn't even asked for help (though I would have pretty soon) but was instead approached and they both tried their hardest to figure out where I was going and how to get me there. This happens a lot in the Supermarkets as well (probably why I like it so much). Its not that I get approached a lot but that when I need help someone/multiple someones will go out of their way to figure out what I need and how to get me it. This involves simply showing me where to go, to disappearing for 15 minutes and then finding me where I had wandered in the store with someone who could speak English, to stopping me as I was walking and repacking my basket cause I had too much stuff and it was overflowing. People here are so nice to me that I feel really grateful because I would be really lost without them. If I ask a bus driver if they are going to a certain place and they say yes, when we get to that place they will stop the bus even if I didn't push the button and make sure I know to get off. Seriously NICE!

My students: Haha I love my crazy kids. I'm such a novelty to them, first because I don't speak Korean and second because I definitely don't look Korean. They get suck a kick when I know a popular Korean song or when I can throw in a Korean word to help explain something. They yell my name down the halls, will go out of their way just to say hi to me and can't understand why I don't have a boyfriend cause they think I'm pretty (haha I need to write about my first week but I'm too tired). They draw me pictures and try to hold my hand. Haha its just too adorable!

The food: Seriously the food here is good, even my school food. There is just so much variety and it's so cheap to eat out (though not really to cook in). Frankly I didn't really like kimchi in the beginning but everyday (and I do eat it almost everyday since its alway served with lunch) I like it more and more.

What I don't like:

The stares: So because Korea is so ethnically homogeneous Foreigners stick out like no other. Now I don't stick out as say a person with blond hair and blue eyes but I definitely look different. Anyways because of this Koreans will stare at you simply because you are unusual to them. Most don't really mean it in a bad way but after a while it can be a bit unnerving and/or annoying. This also goes hand in hand with random people saying hi to you. Now I tolerate this a bit more and most of the time I think its really cute. A middle school girl was walking by me on the way to work and she raised her hand and said in this small voice "hi" and I can really appreciate the effort and courage it took to do this and it really does take courage, but sometimes I wish I didn't stick out as much (but by no means do I have the worst of it, due to my dark hair and eyes and sort of blend in, try being black in Korea or having blond hair). The saying hi I can handle because most of the time whoever's saying hi is just trying to communicate. The staring I can do without because frankly I'm not an animal at the zoo.

Smoking: People smoke like a chimney here, seriously its awful and you can't really escape it. Smoking here is worse then when I lived in Germany and I thought it was bad then. Don't quote me on it but someone told me recently that as much as 70% of people in Korea smoke and really, I believe it. I'm seriously scared I'm going to get cancer from second hand smoke because I inhale it constantly and it's not like I'm not trying to escape it. Ugh its awful like really really awful!

Spitting: This is really disgusting in my opinion but people spit everywhere here. And I mean everywhere this includes indoors. Ugh. I can be walking down the hallway, in my building and someone hocks a lugee right there. hmmm no bueno.

What I find interesting

Kids cleaning: So in Korea the students clean the school. Well lets be honest they are basically the slaves of the teachers. If one of the co-teachers need water or something they'll literally pull a student from the hallway hand them a giant water bottle and make them go fetch this heavy water and it doesn't matter what they were doing beforehand. Everyday after classes are finished the students have to sweep each classroom, they have to mop the floors (I'm taking little 2nd graders who are at most 6 or 7 as well as the older students but no one over 11 or 12) and if the teachers feel like it they can make whoever they want stay and clean (not only the classrooms but the students come and clean the offices and the teachers lounge). They also have to fetch their own food from the cafeteria and bring it to their rooms. I'm not talking just one tray I'm talking enough food to feed their entire classrooms. Imagine little 8 year olds pushing a cart full of food taller than they are.

Bowing: Bowing is a sign of respect in Korea so basically everyone bows to everyone else the deeper the bow the higher the sign of respect. The teachers command a lot of respect from the students so the really good students will bow completely at the waist and greet you as soon as the see a teacher. One of the cutest things I've seen so far is when I was walking down the hall I came upon five 3rd graders who bowed in sinc and said "Annoyhaseo" which means good morning/hi/good afternoon when they saw me. I nearly died with cuteness overload it was that adorable.

Age: Korean's count from conception so every baby is born starting at a 1 year old, in addition to that everybody in Korea gains a year at New Years (not on their birthday). Example a baby born on December 31 2009 is considered one year old and the next day (Jan 1, 2010) they are considered two years old.That means a baby born on January 1 of 2009 is the same age as a baby born on December 31 2009 even though they are 12 months apart. Haha its strange so I tell my students I'm 25 even though I'm 23 in the states. And when they tell me they are 13 it means they could either be 12 or 11. I actually had a debate with my co-teacher about this. She said the American system is too confusing. Her point was that with our system all the kids would be different ages (some 11 some 12 some maybe even 10) but with the Korean system the students are all on the same age. At first I thought of course they're different ages, because well they are. But in the context of Korean society their way does make sense. Korean culture places a heavy value on age. i.e. If someone is older than you, then you must treat them with respect (bow, use formal language, defer to them etc.), while the older students can talk down to the younger students and make them do things for them, which would make for a awkward class setting... If your confused this might help you understand a little better. In Korea the word for friend is Chinguk, the only people koreans refer to as friend are those who are the same age (born in the same year), everyone else besides these get a title. If they are younger they are called doesang and if they are older they are called oppa/unni/noona/hyung depending on gender of both the speaker and receiver. Every interaction with people (both old and young, familar or unknown) is dominated by age.

All that being said, this blog is made up only of my opinions and personal experiences living in Korea (which amounts to less than two weeks). I am by no means an expert and certainly don't claim to be. If you have a disagree with what I said feel free to leave a comment but know that though there might be culturally reason why such and such practices exist I reserve the right to dislike said practices (such as spitting in buildings and eating dog).

Haha I said it wouldn't be a long post but I apparently I lied :D

Sunday, March 28, 2010

First day of school :D

So I woke up around 4:30 today and couldn't get back to sleep. I hate jet lag! It sucks because I went to bed around midnight so I'm not sure why I'm not sleeping longer. Anyways I took a shower and messed around online till it was time to go. For the first week I'm going to keep my clothing business casual and after that based on what other teachers are wearing I will change. From what I've seen so far I'll probably be ok in jeans and a nice shirt.

At around 7:15 I left my house, I stopped by what is now my favorite bakery to buy some breakfast (one sweet bread like pastry that taste like its from a German bakery. Seriously everytime I take a bite I'm reminded of Germany and it only cost about a dollar). I caught the bus about 7:25 or so and was at my school by 8:00. I was really early because the teachers aren't suppose to be there until 8:40 and I couldn't remember the code for the teachers room so I chilled in the hallway until about 8:20 when one of the teachers arrived. My co-teacher Elli came about 8:20 and we went down to the Vice-principal and head teachers office to say hi. Everyone no matter what their level of English (mostly only a word or two) tried to speak to me communicate with me and say whatever they could. I really appreciate the effort they put into making me feel welcome. I tried to use whatever Korean I know as well I could see how happy this made them. As soon as possible I want to take some more Korean classes. After hanging out in the vice-principals office and being introduced to whatever teachers stopped by, I went with Elli and the head teacher to the broadcasting room. Now I thought this would be an intercom system but it was a legit recording studio with a painted background, 2 different camera angles, 2 different podiums and Korean flags on either side. Haha I introduced myself to the entire school this way. Afterwards we headed back to the vice-principals office where I met my two other co-teachers, Kim Chae-Ran and Lee Ji-Su. Both fairly young (30 and 26 respectively) and both really nice. I don't have first period mondays so I just hung out in the office for another 40 mins. Than at 9:40 Chae-Ran came and got me and we started the day.

Here's my very own desk

The way my schedule works is that I teach grades 4-6th grade and meet each class once a week. So for example I had four 6th grader classes today and tomorrow I will have one last 6th grade class and then four 4th grader classes. Each grade as either 7 or 8 classes per week. I have a prescribed book and each week I will make a lesson based on what the class is going over that week. My school is in a poor section of Bucheon called Ojeong so the students levels aren't as high compared to other schools. The students come from poorer families so they can't afford to send their children to as many Hagwons (private academies) as other areas. That being said I had some students whose English ability are almost nonexistant and others whos speaking and comprehension are very good. In all cases most of the students were really nice and I had a fairly high participation.

My first and third classes were the easiest to teach and the 2nd and 4th the hardest even though the content was the same. My co-teacher said she really likes my style of teaching and that I know how to motivate the students, so that made me feel really good. I really liked working with her and we have a good repport. I feel like were doing an equal share in the classroom and that shes there to help out when I don't know what to do or if the kids don't understand but she let me run the class how I wanted and I didn't feel like I was simply a tape recorder. I asked her if it was ok if I changed the lesson plans in the book and she was all for it. She said that as long as I got the correct content/message, then how I run the lesson is up to me. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel like a real teacher not just a show monkey for the school. If I think I can present the material in a better/more interesting way then I can.

6th grade English class

Chae-ran Sungsangnim

I'm not sure if this will be the same for all my co-teachers but I'm hoping it will work out that way. I'm co-teaching the 4th and 6th grades with Chae-Ran and than just the 4th grade with Elli (though she wants to use whatever lesson plan I use with Chae-Ran) and then I will teach the 5th grade solely with Ji-Su.

Ji-Su Sungsangnim

Head teacher. He wanted me to take a picture of him and then he turned away.
Yummy orange juice. Looks completely different from American. I think its less processed. Whatever it is, its delicisous.

After work I Elli drove me home because she takes English classes near my house and we got dinner right before her class at a place called the Chicky pub. I didn't know this before hand but the food served there is usually the food Koreans eat when they are drunk, mainly chicken wings and fries so I kind of felt bad taking her there. Anyways when we parked we drove into this parking what looked like a storage facility. You know the place where you can rent a space for storage for 6 months or more. I couldn't even open my door so I wasn't sure how I was suppose to get out but Elli simply pushed a button and the whole thing started moving down. Yes thats right we were in an elevator for cars. When we got the our floor the doors opened and we just drove out and found a parking space. Trippy!

Heres some of the nice things I was told today:
Your so pretty, your so beautiful (5 different teachers), you have a small face (co-teacher - this is apparently a good thing in korea), I evy Americans because they have big eyes (one of my students. Apparently this is also a good thing. Some of my students when they saw me put their hand up to their face and shaped their fingers around their eyes then said waaaahhhh like they were impressed. Silly kids). Haha dang Korea is good for my ego.

The drawing one of my students drew of me. Notice the giant eyes and even the nose ring. LOL

First days

So I moved to Korea two days ago and I'm still adjusting. Heres a photo of my cousins at my going away party, me and parents at the airport and my dogs waiting in the car before I left. They jumped in and didn't want to come out even when I walked back to the get something (normally they follow wherever I go but this time they just waited in the car).

The plane ride over here was nice. I had a really good seat that was a window and the guy next to me had the aisle so I didn't have to bother two many people when I wanted to get up plus it was near the back so I could stand up and chill without feeling like my butt was in anyones face.

The food was really good. For the first course I had Bibimbap which is rice mixed with sesame oil, red pepper paste and vegetable. REALLY really good. Later on they served little sandwiches and then for the final course I got chicken with rice, which wasn't as good but it came with anchovies which surprisingly were

Heres a picture as we flew over/near Siberia

I arrived in Korea around 5:30 pm Korean time and was picked up by some sent from my recruiter. He didn't speak English at all but he was really nice.
Notice him watching TV will driving. He is not alone in his craziness. I've seen plenty of drivers here who do the same. Though I have yet to be in a Taxi here, I'm told most do this as well. Also check out the ceiling, it's quilted leather. Anyways after driving for an hour through traffic we arrived at my apartment in Bucheon. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the size of it (I had feared I would be living in a hole) but it is/was none to clean. I've tried cleaning it but there are just stains everywhere. Heres a couple of photos I took the day after I arrived. I also made a video but I'm not sure how to upload it seeing as how youtube doesn't allow anyone in Korea to upload videos to their site and how bloggers video load link isn't working. I'll try again later.

Notice how disgusting the walls are.

After we arrived, we waited about 20 mins for my co-teacher to come and then the guy left. My co-teacher's name is Elli and I really could not ask for a nicer teacher. That same night she took me to E-mart to buy some needed supplies. I got my settlement allowance right away (which I've heard from other teachers here can be a nightmare to get) and then we had coffee and talked about the job. She left around 11 pm with plans to meet the next day so she could take me to get my health check. Before she left she wrote me a note on a sticky note with her number and instructions in Korean to call the number if presented with the note, that way if I ever get lost or am in trouble I have a way to contact her. Isn't that ridiculously nice? Shes really worried something will go wrong and I'll have no way of handling it because I don't speak Korean but so far day to day life has been pretty easy, those Korean classes I took at the cultural center before I left really helped. Haha living in Korea is good practice.

After she left I tried to go to sleep but due to jet lag and being woken by how cold it was, I got up at 1 am, 3 am and 5 am respectively. After that I knew I couldn't sleep so I decided to take a walk around my area. I live in probably one of the best locations in Bucheon, its right next to the Hyundai departments store and there are tons of stores, bars and anything else you can think of nearby. That being said there were also a ton of drunk people stumbling around at 5 O'clock in the morning. Heres a picture of some interesting Engrish I saw.

Haha I might go in here just because I like the name. Anyways couldn't do anything till stores opened which was around 10 O'clock so I just bummed around my apartment until then. I didn't have hangers to put away my stuff or a adapter for my computer so I was really bored. But when I eventually went to the store I was able to bust out some Korean. I didn't know how to ask for any adapter and the guy helping me didn't speak English so I pointed to a wall socket, asked Miguk? which means American and he came back with my adapters (which were cheap only 50 cents or so). At around 11 am my co-teacher shows up and we walk to the hospital. I probably should have looked up what a health care check in Korea is but I didn't so I was in for a surprise. Once we got there (after walking through a nice park which I will have to explore someday) I had my blood drawn to test for aids, gave a urine sample, saw the dentist (who said I need my bottom right and top right wisdom teeth pulled), had my weight and height and eyesight checked and finally had a couple of xrays taken of my back. Haha I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't that. Afterwards I was starving because due to the health check (your suppose to fast before hand I hadn't eaten since the plane ride the night before). So we met up with my co-teacher's cousin and went and got some Shabu Shabu. It was once again Amazing. First you eat the vegetables and meat with a spicy broth. Once thats finished they fill up the broth and bring out some noodles that you cook then eat. After that they cook some rice, egg and onion in the bottom of a pot and eat that as well. Lastly we had a small cup of coffee to finish it off and it all cost 9 dollars/person. Yay Korea!

Afterwards my co-teacher and I caught the bus and took it to my school. It takes about 30 mins with lite traffic so in the mornings it will probably take 50ish minutes to get there but we'll see tomorrow. My school is in a sort of run down part of town but I won't know how the actual classes are until I start teaching. From what I can tell from what my co-teacher has said and from the way I've been treated so far, I think it will be alright. We walked around the school, I found out where the principal, vice-principal and 3rd grade teachers room (my room too) is going to be. As we were walking back to the bus stop we actually ran into one of my future students and her mother. Both were super cute though the little girl was really shy. When her little brother noticed he got this look of astonishment on his face, pointed at me and said really loudly "waegookin" which means foreigners. Haha I didn't take this badly at all but found it really funny. Korea is ethnically homogeneous so little kids might not have any interactions with someone who
doesn't look Korean. That being said I have come across some slightly racist behavior such as the fact that my school didn't tell my landlord I'm a foreigner because he might not rent to them if they did. However I realize the things I've come across is due to ignorance and preconceptions more than anything else. Anyways I'm crazy tired and have to get up early tomorrow to start my FIRST DAY of school. Woot! I have more to write about (that was only friday night and Saturday. I did tons of stuff today (Sunday) as well). Here a couple pictures of my school. Night :D