Monday, November 30, 2009

Ring Dinggy Ding Dinggy Ding Ding Ding

Hi! Last week was a good week :)

Wednesday I tried out a new dance studio, called Soo Dance. I took a class with Soo, who is the owner of the studio. She's danced all over the world and speaks English really well. She ran the class in a mix of Korean and English which was so helpful to me. I absolutely loved her class, but the downside was that its an hour and half each way on the subway. The class is intended to be a three-day-a-week class. So that's a bit much. She recommended another studio that was closer to me. I checked that studio out tonight. Little did I know, she had already called the studio for me and told them I was coming and they recommended a great class for me. Amazing. She will be getting a big thank you from me! This studio doesn't have instructors who speak English, but like I said before, its really not necessary. They all attempted and it was pretty funny, but definitely appreciated.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. We had our little get together up in Dongducheon. Out of all the people there, only 4 of us were American. There was one Korean, 5 South Africans, and 2 Canadians (party was hosted by a Canadian). That's the great thing about being overseas and having friends from all over the world...more holidays!! Everyone brought something to share (someone ordered a pizza) - but mostly we tried not to let no oven big enough to cook a turkey and no turkey anywhere get us down. I made deviled eggs - aren't you proud mom?!

Cooking dinner!

Making a mess in the kitchen

Being Korea and all..forks were hard to come by so we ate our dinner with chopsticks. Even the apple pie and the "dirt cake".

Eating dirt cake with chopsticks

Here's a pic of the whole crew that we attempted to take with a timer. Sort of cut some people off but you get the idea...

Overall it was a great celebration. Someone even brought sparklers (must've been one of the non-Americans confused about Thanksgiving traditions).

Saturday I met up with Sara and Rebecca to go to Hongdae. We met up in the early afternoon to check out the Free Market (free because you don't need a permit to sell stuff...not actually free stuff). The free market is every Saturday morning from March-November. Hongik University is a big art school and so on Saturday mornings all of the art students are out selling their artwork, jewelry, clothing, etc. Its really great because you know that everything you are getting is one of a kind and most likely hand made. This particular Saturday was the last Saturday before it shuts down for the winter, so we were able to bargain and get deals on things. Awesome!

Free Market in Hongdae

Kids in Hongdae

Shit is Art...who knew

As we were walking to find somewhere to get a few drinks, we were stopped by some people filming some sort of Korean commercial. Apparently they needed some foreigners and we were the first ones they happened to see. We had to put on the same t-shirts and yell something into the camera about Reebok celebrating its 20th anniversary in Korea. Hm? Hopefully we're on TV or something because really how cool would that be?


After our commercial we found a place called...Charlie Brown cafe! We couldn't resist taking a picture with Charlie Brown given the whole Thanksgiving thing. Then we walked around looking for a place to grab some food. On our way we discovered an alley that had some interesting graffiti on it and stopped to take some pics - Korean style.

We couldn't resist being all artsy and emo...but really we just look like a Delia's catalog.

We went to a restaurant where we ordered some food and prepared to get our night started.

Kimchi pancake and tteokbokki

After visiting one bar and getting kicked out of another we met up with some friends at our usual hookah bar and then went off to another place to dance. We got kicked out of one bar because they were randomly carding people and Sara didn't have any ID on her. She recently lost her wallet and didn't have anything to identify herself with. We didn't think we looked under 19 (the legal drinking age here) but apparently we did. They explained that with high school students finishing up exams, many of them try to sneak into bars so they have to be more strict about IDs. Hm...last time I checked we don't look like Korean high school students? But whatev. We still had a great night.

Things are still good at school - only this week and next week of class and then the students start final exams. I'm so confused because even after the students finish exams, they still have to go to school. They do a "winter camp" but it doesn't make sense to me because its not graded and they don't get credit for it. Sooo...I don't see the point. What is their incentive to learn? I'm supposed to teach it but I have no idea what I'm going to do. I don't know how I can possibly get the kids to listen to me when they have nothing to lose by not listening. Its not like they get graded or tested on this information so I really just don't understand. Apparently the Office of Education mandates that the kids need to be in school for X amount of days...but then why have exams when they do, with days of school still left to attend? Why not teach actual class for 2 more weeks and then have exams? Its just so backwards to me and nobody can explain it very well other than "its normal" and "that's just the way it is". I get that...but really do these people not question the senselessness of having school that way? It doesn't make any sense at all. Am I right? Tell me if I'm being all snobby American about this - but I've found that other foreign teachers agree with me, and not just Americans. I. Don't. Understand.

Sara's mom is coming to visit this weekend...she'll be here for 10 days or so. Friday night she's being kind enough to get 2 hotel for her to sleep off her jet lag in, and one for Sara and some of us to spend the night in so we don't have to be out until 5:30am. Its true, we could all go in on a love motel on the weekends, it wouldn't be too expensive. But eventually it would add up and it saves us money to just stick it out for that extra hour or two. This will be an actual hotel though, not some sleezy love motel, so I'm looking forward to that.

Here's your K-Pop update for the week. This is by a group called SHINee. The song is Ring Ding Dong. Yeah...I don't know. The guys range in age from 15-19 sooo Courtney and Meghan take your pick because they're definitely too young for me. Some interesting facts about K-Pop boy bands/girl groups. Apparently most of them have work done on their face. Koreans tend to have rounder flatter faces. So to make them "more attractive" by Korean standards, they get nose jobs to make their noses higher (interesting...people do the opposite in the US), cheek implants, surgery to make their eyes bigger, and some even shave their jaw line to make it more defined. Nearly every Korean celebrity has had work of some sort done to their face. They're literally plastic. Kind of sad actually. One of my students actually asked me the other day if I had had surgery on my face. Uhhhh no? Its sad that its so common here that they would think I had cosmetic surgery. Yeeeesh. Most of the boys have it in their contracts that if they gain weight they will be kicked out of the group. Skinny is really in for men in Korea I guess. Not my type but that's what's in here.

Countdown to Thailand is on...46 days!

"Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken." -- Frank Herbert

Monday, November 23, 2009


Hi everyone!
This past week was business as usual around here. I had the occasional cancelled class (which seems to be a weekly occurrence) but overall nothing too exciting. Last Tuesday I attended a meeting in Seoul about North Korean human rights. It was really informative and I plan to go again. Its a great place for me to learn more about the situation, but also to get involved. There are so many opportunities in Seoul that I wasn't aware of. Everything from protests and marches, to handing out information in central Seoul, to volunteering with those who have managed to escape. For those of you who don't know, people who attempt to defect from North Korea do not attempt to do so by crossing the DMZ. Its completely impassable, and so they generally go through China to Vietnam where they can claim political asylum at the embassy in Hanoi. If they are caught in China, they will be detained while they await repatriation to North Korea. Once they are returned to NK, they will definitely face punishment. Punishment is usually served out in one of the prison camps, which likely involves torture, and execution is even a possibility. I could go on forever about this and all of the injustices, but this isn't a human rights paper so I'll cut myself off. But please watch this video and read this article that was on CNN about North Koreans who are lucky enough to make their way to South Korea, and how their reintegration into society is difficult after being isolated and fed propaganda their entire lives.

Wednesday I went with Christine, a fellow Badger, to a dance studio in Seoul. We took the hip hop class and it was actually really good. It felt sooo good to get back into a studio! The staff was really nice, and did their best to speak English to us (naturally we were the only non-Koreans in the place). Our instructor was really nice as well and tried his best to explain things to us in English. Precious. But hey! They count in English! And not just for us. I was happy. I would definitely go back there again, but I think later this week we're going to check out another studio in Seoul that I was recommended to try, but this time for jazz. Both studios are pretty far though - about an hour and a half on the subway each way. Gah. But to me, its worth it.

Thursday I went to dinner with my friend John and several other native English teachers in the area. It was basically a welcome dinner for the teachers who have just arrived here. They were from all over the world - U.S., South Africa, the UK, Canada, etc. Most of the people had only been here for a week or two, and some only for a few days. Its amazing how much I've learned in only 3 months! From basic Korean vocabulary to cultural differences, I was able to answer so many questions.

It never ceases to amaze me how cheap things can be here though. There were about 13 of us at dinner, and our total bill was only 150,000 won! That's about $125. That included all of our Korean BBQ, side dishes, and beer and soju. Unbelievable.

This weekend I went back to Dongducheon where I hung out with my friends John and Q. We cooked ourselves a nice little Italian dinner and then proceeded to down 4 bottles of wine between the 3 of us. Of course we ended up at a noraebang (this one had free ice cream!) and noraebanged the night away.

John and Q

I look like I'm about to be kicked off American Idol...

So this week is Thanksgiving. I'm sad I'm missing it. Nobody here celebrates it, obviously. So while all of you are eating your turkey and enjoying your days off school and work, I will be sitting at school with people who don't have any clue that a very important holiday is being celebrated. Some of us have a get together planned for Thursday and probably another one for Saturday so more of us can get together since we're spread all over the city. Turkeys are hard to come by and even if we could find one...nobody here has ovens. How are we supposed to make turkey without an oven? What good is an oven on Thanksgiving without a turkey? That fact shocked me when I first got here. But Korea is so....Korean. And they don't make any food other than Korean food. And their food doesn't need to be baked..ever. Therefore ovens are not necessary to them. I asked what they do when they want to make cookies. I was given a blank stare followed by the reply "we buy cookies", with a silent but implied duh at the end. Well then. We may have to have a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with popcorn, toast, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans.

My flight to Thailand has been booked! Its official!! Sara, Rebecca, Anna, and myself are leaving early in the morning on January 16th. We have a layover in Beijing, and arrive in Bangkok around 6pm. We leave Thailand on the 31st, and are taking an overnight flight back to Seoul, again with a layover in Beijing. I'm so excited - I absolutely cannot wait. January is supposed to be the coldest month in Korea, but I won't be around for half of it to find out - I'll be loving life on a beach in Thailand. We don't have many specific plans yet. And it will probably stay that way. We will do the usual touristy stuff of course, but we plan to spend a lot of our vacation just relaxing and beach hopping. Eventually we'll need to book another flight from Bangkok to Phuket, but it will be extremely cheap so we're waiting until we get closer to the actual time. Can't wait. This is going to be one epic vacation. I'm also especially excited for January because not only do I get to spend half the month in Thailand, but I also have my friend Kelsey from high school visiting me from the 3rd-9th. She's living in the Philippines right now, and is making a trip up for a week to see me. I only have to work the 2nd week in January (as far as I've been told) and the rest of the time I will have free. Oh and I'm still getting paid. My job is ridiculous.

School is going well. I asked one of my students today what he did this weekend and he said "I ate kitchen". He meant chicken, and I knew that, but it still didn't prevent me from cracking up. I suppose...if you switch the ch and the k around, chicken does sort of sound like kitchen if you're a non-native speaker just learning English. Hee funny ^_^ The kids are still sort of all over the place (remember that immaturity I talked about last time?). Sort of annoying. If I had things my way, I'd bring them all to the U.S. for a few days so I could show them what high school life is like in America, because they just have no idea. Courtney sent me a few pics of high school life from her perspective, which I'll turn into a "high school in America" lesson for my students. Learning culture is important when learning a language so I try to incorporate it into as many of my lessons as I can. I showed some of the pictures to one of the other English teachers, and she was so surprised. I had to explain about every student having their own lockers "no, they're not for changing" and that there's an auditorium for performances "it doesn't take place in the cafeteria", and just...a bunch of other things that I would've thought was common knowledge but clearly I was wrong. She thought Fort's high school library looked like a university which I had to explain that of course a university library is much much bigger and most universities have more than one. Wisconsin has a list a mile long.

Some of these things are just so difficult to explain that I wish it were possible for everyone to visit the U.S. so they could see for themselves. Inversely, I wish I could send all my friends and family over here as well so that you could all see for yourselves the cultural differences that I deal with daily. I'm getting used to many of them, but sometimes I still forget. I forget that when someone older than me is pouring my drink for me (alcohol is not poured yourself, someone else pours it for you) that I should hold the cup with two hands as a sign of respect. I forget to give a little bow when I pass another teacher in the hallway (as is customary). I usually smile and give a perky little wave before I remember where I am, and then sort of awkwardly give a little head nod, ashamed that after 3 months of living here I still can't remember to bow. I'm working on it. When I eventually go back to the U.S. I'll be bowing left and right and no one will have a clue what I'm doing. I do my best to remember every little thing about life in the U.S. but I know that after being fully immersed in a completely different culture for a year, or more, that reverse culture shock is going to hit me pretty hard. Coming home after an experience like this is always more difficult of an adjustment. Luckily...that is far far far away for me, so I'll worry about it later.

Here's some pics of me in the classroom. This is from an open class that one of the English teachers I work with, Choi Yun-Hee, had to do, and I helped her with it. Every now and then teachers have to give an open class where they are critiqued and evaluated by other teachers and the principals. Which is why you can see the vice principal and my co-teacher, Sang-Jin, in the back of the classroom. I figured I'd post this to prove that I actually do work over here, since facebook albums and blog entries probably suggest otherwise.

Helping a student read

Acting out a scene from Friends with one of my students

In my classroom I have a "virtual studio" which is like a green screen (but mine is blue) where I can place the kids in any number of scenes: the bank, post office, doctor's, etc. It is projected onto the big touch screen board I have at the front of my classroom. In this particular picture, although you can't see the scene, we're standing in an episode of Friends. We were discussing the differences and similarities between Thanksgiving and Chuseok, and watched part of an episode where Joey gets the turkey stuck on his head. Classic!

Here's your weekly dose of K-Pop. Its by a group called 소녀시대 (pronounced So Nyeo Shi Dae). They generally go by the English name Girls Generation or their acronym of SNSD. The song is called Gee, and we all go nuts when it comes on in the clubs, naturally. Its pretty catchy, especially the "Gee gee gee gee baby baby baby" since that's all we can understand really. In true K-Pop fashion there's about 30 of them all 18-20 years old. For all of you who can't read Korean - where it says 뮤직비디오 after the title...that literally just says "music video" phonetically in Korean. Easy.

Hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving! I will be celebrating by hanging out with people from all over the world who love Thanksgiving even though they aren't American, and I'll be watching Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving on youtube. But I'll be...turkeyless :(

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, November 16, 2009


So this week was pretty normal, although it did involve a day off school. Woo! Tuesday night I went out to dinner with a bunch of the teachers which naturally turned into noraebanging until 1:30am. Luckily Wednesday was only a half day of school. Wednesday last week was also 빼빼로 (pepero) day. Pepero Day is sort of a fake holiday created by Lotte probably to boost sales. Lotte manufactures this snack called pepero that is these cookie sticks covered in chocolate. There's a bunch of different flavors. Its celebrated on November 11th because 4 of these pepero sticks looks like 11/11. Totally pointless. However it is tradition for couples to give each other boxes of pepero on this day, and its sort of like Valentine's Day for them. So of course my students who love me soooo much brought me tons of pepero. I ate like 3 boxes that day. But they're so good! I'll be sure to send some home soon.

Thursday was the big college entrance exam test so none of the students were in school. I didn't have to go to school either so I ventured down to Suwon to hang out with Sara and Rebecca who also had the day off. We got some yummy Korean BBQ and then downed 2 pitchers of beer at the bar across from Rebecca's apartment. Friday night I was an old lady and did more laundry and caught up on some reading and episodes of Glee. That is embarrassing to admit so moving on...

Saturday I went out with the usual group. We started off the night at our favorite hookah bar in Seoul and then moved onto the clubs from there.

Sara, Anna, Mark, Rebecca, & me :)

And that's all you're getting out of me for pictures...sorry. Some pictures just weren't meant for the public. We wanted to find somewhere to watch the Wisco/Michigan game (which started around 1am on this side of the world) but it was on Big Ten Network which unsurprisingly does not reach Seoul :( Thanks to technology though we were able to get the score as soon as the game was over. Wisco's win was cause for celebration and resulted in yet another night of being out until the sun came up.

My vacation time for January has been approved. I get the last 2 weeks of January off, which means that a trip to Thailand will be booked sometime in the next week or two. EEEEK. I'm pretty excited, in case you can't tell. Vacation will be paid (although it will use up half of my available vacation days but I don't really care). I've had some serious talks with my friends about staying for a 2nd year here. We may change our minds come contract renewal time...but for now its a definite possibility. Its just really hard to say no to the possibility of staying here longer. We have an amazing set up here - apartment paid for, airfare paid for, etc. We get paid way more money than we deserve for the amount of work we do - I mean really how hard is it to speak in your own language all day playing learning games with kids? And even though we spend 40 hours/week in school, we only spend around 20 hours actually teaching each week. We get paid more than most of the actual teachers in our schools. We could probably all be saving tons of money if we didn't have student loans and a poor conversion rate to the US Dollar. Also, even though we've been here for 3 months (can you believe it!!) we still live like we're tourists i.e. we drink like college freshman, travel on the weekends, and eat out most nights especially when we're all together. We like to joke that living in Korea is "easier than life" because I mean is.

Obama will be here in Seoul in a few days. He's on his Asian tour right now, stopping in China today to have a town hall style meeting with a bunch of Chinese college students. Its a pretty big deal for these countries to have our President visit them. I'm excited to see the reaction to him here in Korea - he seems to have a fair amount of support from the people of this country. His speech in China, for those of you who didn't see it since it was the middle of the night for you, really hammered through the point that he doesn't believe information, especially on the internet, should be restricted. China is known to have websites like Twitter and Facebook blocked, among others - including important media sources, and he reinforced his idea (and probably most Americans' idea) that access to information can empower people and that criticism of government is a positive thing because it helps keep the government in check. To further cite the restriction of information in China - his speech was not broadcast on TV in China, as other former US president's visits have been, and his quote about having free flowing information was on a website in China for only 30 minutes before censors deleted it. The students in the audience were mostly handpicked by the government, and many of them are part of China's young Communist Youth League, many of them having questions fed to them. Freedom of speech is not something the Chinese enjoy the way we do in America - so hopefully his visit will encourage the government there to reevaluate some policies.

I'm planning a lesson on movies for my students. Thank God for Disney's Pixar for making adorable little short movies that don't have words. I'm using 3-5 of these short films to get the kids talking about movie vocabulary (animation, characters, music, plot, story, etc), and then I'll eventually discuss with them how to criticize a movie and then make their own DVD covers with lots of fabulous English words on it. Yay! I'm sure half the kids will sleep but movies always seems to keep kids awake. Classroom behavior both appalls and amazes me here. It shows a level of immaturity that I didn't think was possible in high school age children. Some kids are good, but others are just so terrible. And the teachers just accept it. I get the impression the attitude here is that if the kids aren't mature enough by high school to understand the importance of education then the teachers give up. Maybe I've forgotten what high school was like? College kids (generally) are more well behaved in class. Although when we weren't listening to the professors we were a little more subtle about it...doing the crossword or sudoku, checking facebook, texting, etc. We didn't just blatantly sleep or talk in class. I missing something? Are you high school kids as bad in the US as my kids are here?

Naturally I have my weekly dose of kpop for you all. Taeyang has a new song out. He's a bigger babe than ever in this one. Its called Wedding Dress. I think a version of the video w/ English subtitles is available on youtube, but essentially he's saying that the girl who is getting married should be marrying him. And that sometimes he gets excited when she fights with her boyfriend because it gives him hope she'll dump that other loser and marry him. But since she's not, he hopes she's happy with the other guy so he can forget about her. Basically he's whining because he was too scared to tell her how he really felt. Wahh. But the boy can dance!

Also I've stumbled upon this gem of a video called Where the Hell is Matt? If these few minutes of uninhibited silliness don't make you laugh or at least smile, then you are no fun and I can't help you. I think this was 2008's viral video of the year, it has almost 25 million hits on youtube. Make sure you check out his outtakes too :) Maybe one day there will be a Where the Hell is Amy video. Seeing places that I have been, am, or will hopefully go makes me want to make my own version. Make sure you watch for the DMZ (1:52) and Seoul (2:46) in the video!

"I haven't been everywhere, but its on my list." -- Susan Sontag

Monday, November 09, 2009

I Wish You To Better


So to be honest, I really don't have a whole lot to say (again). My friends and I haven't traveled the past few weeks. This is partly due to the fact that we spent all of our money on previous adventures, and also because we've been busy celebrating Halloween followed by a series of birthdays.

Once I finally went back to school after being sick I was bombarded by the students. One of the teachers jokingly told them that I moved back to America and some of the kids actually believed it. Sad. When they found out the real reason I was gone, they kept asking me if I was ok and "are you have a cold?". When I told them that yes I do in fact have a "cold" aka a swine flu scare, they would tell me "I wish you to better". I think they meant "I wish you would feel better" but its all the same right? It sounds cuter when they say it anyway.

Birthday weekend was quite extensive. Sara, Anna, and Rebecca had birthdays (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - respectively). Friday night we went out for dinner to celebrate Sara's birthday. Saturday night we got a room in the Grand Hilton Seoul to have a birthday party for everyone. The hotel was really nice and the staff spoke perfect English. The Grand Hilton is also a convention center, so there are several nice restaurants in the hotel as well as a spa. We didn't take advantage of that but we did take advantage of the overpriced room service. Naturally we ordered cheeseburgers and I'm telling you it worth every penny...uhm won? Especially because they were delivered by a beautiful man. Being the typical polite Korean accommodating worker that he was, he actually asked when we answered the door if he could come in to our room with the cart to bring us our food. What? Did he actually think we were going to say no or something? sexy Korean man at the door with a cart full of cheeseburgers I don't want you anywhere near my room.

We had birthday cake, of course, which I got for the girls at the ubiquitous Paris Baguette. Rebecca has a serious aversion to birthdays and getting older (even though she only turned 23), but she still marketed the weekend as a "Sweet Sixteen" party. So in order to make her happy, and not make her feel old, or rub it in her face that I am still a baby at 22, I put 16 on the cake. We're not old yet, but we'll be there soon, and after turning 21, birthdays are a little scary I suppose. Our next big milestone is 30 - which I don't even want to think about.

Anna, me, Rebecca, Sara, and Mika

Acting 16

We went out in Hongdae of course, not letting the bad weather rain (literally) on our big birthday parade. We were so excited to go out and not have to stay out all night waiting for the subway to open since our hotel was a short cab ride away from where we go out. Ironically, we still stayed out until 5am. But it sure was nice not to have to take the subway home for an hour at 6am.

Sunday a few of us went to a movie in the COEX mall. It was raining and we needed a place to nurse our hangovers. We tried to see Inglorious Bastards, but it was sold out for the afternoon show, so we went to the Michael Jackson movie - the only other movie playing in English that none of us had seen (the movies come out about a month after they do in the US here, some even later). The movies are shown in the original language just with Korean subtitles. Usually subtitles bother me because I end up reading them even if I can understand the movie perfectly without them, but Korean is still incredibly foreign to me even though I'm getting better at reading it, so they were easy to ignore. I wasn't super impressed by the movie, to be honest, but listening to Michael Jackson for 90 minutes wasn't too terrible. He was crazy for sure, but also undeniably genius at what he did.

So - what else is there to say? I always tell you all about what I'm doing, but I'm not sure if you get a feel for what its actually like here. Well, where to begin? The differences are endless. Pretty much everybody lives in apartments here. Even in my city (of 400,000) there are no houses. It makes the cities seem smaller than they actually are, because everybody is just sort of stacked on top of everybody else. The majority of apartments are high rises (mine is pretty small - only 6 stories). In Korea, instead of making one giant apartment building, companies make 10 or 15 or more that all look identical to each other and put them in little arrangements. Mine is not like this, but mine is an exception. Most of my friends live in those types of apartments. One of the teachers at my school told me that one of these little apartments can cost the equivalent of $300-400,000 in a larger city (like maybe Suwon with approximately 2 million people). In Seoul, it can be almost double that. But to rent one apparently you just deposit like $100,000 with the landlord, live there for a few years, and then when you move you get your deposit back. I tried to ask how they make their money, but all I could really get out of the conversation was that they invest the deposit to make enough money to pay the mortgage. Seems like a strange system to me because I'm used to paying actual rent, so...I'll look into this.

On the agenda for the next week: nothing. At least not until I get paid. No school Thursday (I'm working on convincing my school to allow me to skip school entirely) because its the big college entrance exam (sort of the equivalent of the SAT) on Thursday - so none of the students will be in school. Hopefully the English portion goes ok for the kids. Some of my students are still saying "nice to meet you" in the hallway to me, even though I've been here for close to 3 months. I tried explaining the difference between "nice to meet you" and "nice to see you" to them. Some of them got it, some of them seemed to get it but still say "nice to meet you", and the rest of them didn't have a clue what I was saying. I'm finally learning a few of their names, which is a big deal considering I have half of the students twice a week, and the other half only once a week, and they all have names like Yoon Kyeong, Seok Min, and Cham Yeup. Names to me sort of just sound like the rest of the language. Its not instantly obvious to me that what someone is saying is actually a name. What's a cham yeup? I'm learning, but its slow going.

Teaching overall is good. Its definitely helpful to have the co teachers in the room with me, because they can translate game rules, or even just basic things I say that the students don't understand. It really amazes me that after studying English since elementary school these kids don't have much of a response for when I ask simple questions like "what did you do/are you doing this weekend?". I took Spanish for the same amount of time these kids have been learning English and I can think of plenty of things to say. Hell, I took Italian for only one semester (well ok it was two semesters crammed into one) - but still, I can think of equally as many things to say in Italian as I can think of in Spanish or even English! I mean, how do they not get it by now? To me that shows that there is a serious flaw in the way English is taught here. The only class where I don't have a co teacher is with the taekwondo kids. In case I never explained this - I teach them because their coach feels its important for them to speak English because some of the students compete internationally and English is spoken pretty much everywhere they go. The only problem with teaching them (and with the rest of the kids really) is that there are no lesson plans or objectives or goals or anything to give me an idea of what I should be teaching them. And I don't speak Korean. So basically what this means is that I don't know what I'm doing, but even if I did know, I have no way of communicating it to my students because at any given point I am the only one in the room who has any freaking idea what I'm saying!

On another note, I have become acquainted with someone who I can only assume is the godfather of dance in Seoul. He was referred to me by several friends who I know that are in LA dancing but have connections in Seoul. He gave me the name of a studio that seems legit and apparently the staff can speak somewhat passable English. Which doesn't bother me too much because luckily you don't really need to speak the same language to understand dance. He seems pretty integrated in the hip hop scene here so I'm excited to finally get back in a dance studio. Its been since May since I actually danced (clubbing doesn't count for me!). I'm pumpppppped.

That's all for now. Here's the latest from G-Dragon, he's got a new song out. The video is...well you'll see. And I'm strongly opposed to most of his wardrobe choices, but the song is catchy! Also, I'm not sure what GaHo is doing in there at the end. GaHo is G-Dragon's dog, and its sad that I know that, but its sort of a famous dog. Like Tinkerbell to Paris Hilton. Gaho (가호) means like...blessing or grace in Korean. The song is called Breathe. Click here to listen!

"Things I can't say in words run through my body as I dance...Because we feel the power of speaking another language: the language of dance." -- Elenor Schick

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Impromptu Field Trip

Hi again!

So as I write this blog I am laying in bed feeling like I'm dying. I just got back from the hospital after getting a swine flu test. Its negative, but I definitely have some sort of sickness and I feel miserable. Just a little disclaimer - in case anything doesn't make sense please know that I'm sort of drugged up and not completely clear-minded. Also won't be super detailed since all I really want to do is sleep. Sorry.

Compared to previous weeks I don't have a ton to say. I did go on a field trip with some of my students (where I'm pretty sure I picked up whatever sickness I have). It was sort of sprung on me last minute. Jin had mentioned it to me before but didn't give me many specifics and then last Tuesday she "reminded" me that the following day I should bring my bags to school because we were going on a retreat with the students until Friday. Ok then.

So Wednesday we took 3 buses full of the first grade students (high school only has 2 grades here - first and second) to a small town called Chungju which is in Chungcheongbuk-do province, just southeast of Gyeonggi-do province where I live. From the time we got off the bus until we got back on on Friday afternoon we were not in charge of the kids and it was soooo nice. The 3 days were sort of a team-building retreat for the kids, which meant the teachers didn't really have any responsibilities. It was like more paid vacation :)

Our first stop was an old palace and another version of the Korean Folk Village in Yongin.

This place is also famous for apples.

Apple replica of the entrance gate to the village (visible in the background)

There Jin made me dress up in a hanbok and took a bunch of pictures of me. Like my new hairdo?

We left there and went to the resort where we were staying. It was really nice, nestled at the base of a ski mountain. I shared a room with Jin and the other 2 female teachers that were with us on the trip. Our room was pretty big - actually it was 3 rooms. We had a sort of living room/kitchen area and then 2 bedrooms. We spent the afternoon and evening watching TV and reading. I showed them some of the magazines that I had sent from home, and educated them on some American pop culture and celebrities. They wanted to know why Nicole Richie was "so fat" and how she possibly ended up on the best dressed list. (Answer: she's pregnant and she got best dressed maternity). They got me hooked on a Korean TV show (IRIS). I would love to continue watching it but its sort of difficult because its entirely in Korean obviously and there's no subtitles. Jin translated every few minutes for me the things that I wasn't able to pick up on just by watching.

The next day we pretty much did nothing again. I spent a little bit of time with the kids but other than that it was more TV watching and reading (I finished an entire book) and a little bit of hanging out outside since it was in the 70s. Soooo nice. My students talked me into practicing archery with them, which naturally was completely disastrous but the kids thought it was hilarious.

Thursday night after dinner we had pizza ordered for the kids (and ourselves of course). So after we delivered the pizzas to the kids' rooms, all of us teachers gathered in a room to have pizza, fried chicken, and beer. I explained to them that I pretty much lived off of these things in college. Great meal. I think I had spoken too soon though, because then they brought out a bowl of fried grasshoppers. Some of the male teachers had spent the morning catching grasshoppers in the fields near the resort and had fried them up to have as a snack. At first I was freaking out because they were all bugging me to try it. I initially refused. But then Jin found me a nice little tiny grasshopper and dipped it in some salt. I gave in to peer pressure and ate it. I washed it down with a slice of pizza, a beer, and 3 chocolate cookies. I'm not going to lie, it didn't taste like much - just sort of a burnt salty crispy thing, but it was still disgusting.

Ok so you can't see that I'm holding the grasshopper but I am. And I ate it.

Grasshopper sandwich

So we just sat around eating our pizza, fried chicken, grasshoppers, and beer. Totally normal right? After a few beers we (naturally) ended up in the noraebang in the basement of our resort and sang until 2 in the morning. Jin was the only one who knew any songs in English so of course she made me sing Sk8er Boy and Baby One More Time. Yeesh.

The next day we headed home after lunch and the principal took us all out for dinner once we got back to thank us for going with the students. I called it a night after that and spent Friday night doing laundry and catching up on my American TV shows. I'm old.

Saturday was Halloween, and although it didn't even come close to comparing to Madison, it was still fun. We started the night in Itaewon which is full of foreigners due to the US Army base nearby. Overall I wasn't a huge fan of Itaewon. Partly due to the foreigners that were everywhere (I could've been in a bar in Madison for all I knew) and partly due to the abundance of prostitutes everywhere (we were near Hooker Hill). Eventually we ended up in Hongdae and of course stayed out until 5:30am once the subway opened.

YouTube costume

Me and Gq - I did his makeup - isn't it fab?

Me Rebecca and Sara
And that brings me to today. I started feeling sick last night, and even after more than 10 hours of sleep I wasn't feeling any better. So I called in sick to school and then Jin took me to the hospital to get tested. Typically I would just go to the doctor by myself but nobody can speak English so I need a translator. Bah. Luckily everyone is putting up their Halloween albums on Facebook and there's a Sex and the City marathon on TV right now which is keeping me from being incredibly bored.

And of course there's always K-Pop videos on YouTube. My latest obsession is Taeyang from Big Bang. One of my students showed me this video, also informing me that Taeyang is from Uijeongbu (where I live!). Here's his video Where U At. He's a serious babe. Also popular in the clubs is a song by Big Bang and 2NE1 called Lollipop. Its a favorite in the noraebang as well. Enjoy!

"Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living." --Miriam Beard