Saturday, July 27, 2013

So many stress!

Today's music merits watching the music video as well...because it is so ridiculous. Starts out slow, but it's in order to set up a joke, so give it time: Curry by Norazo. Yes it's a song about the food. Yes it is a spoof of Bollywood.

So the last couple days have been super hectic, trying to get everything ready for my trip to Japan and get things like report cards finished beforehand. I could actually use some prayer for my trip, because as it stands right now, I have an hour and 45 minutes to land and get to the Korean consulate before it closes on Tuesday, and If I can then I get a a whole extra day with Hope. If not, I have to spend a day by myself in Fukuoka trying to figure how to buy food and do things without any Japanese skills.

Originally, my flight was getting in without any hope of making it to the consulate, but then our resident Plane Ticket and Everything Else Fix it Man, Yoonseo, was able to cancel my ticket and get a new one. I almost cried with relief. But of course, now it's all on me: if I don't get lost at all and run, I should have time to get there...but if I get lost the game is up.

And you know me and directions. We are not chingus. I am extremely nervous.

But if all goes well, then by Wednesday afternoon I will have my visa and will be hopefully on a shinkansen to Tokyo! Can you say six hours of quality time with The Three Musketeers?

I think I've started to settle into a rhythm here, which is both good and bad, I think. Good in that I don't feel as if I am trying to figure out how to teach every second and can enjoy my students a little more, but bad because rhythms tend to make everything go faster. I realized while skyping with Hope last night that I've already been here two months. Two months and it feels like the blink of an eye. Crazy!

Today we did some major cleaning and moving to get ready for Heather and Michael, the new couple that is coming on Aug. 6 to teach. It was hard work, but still fun in that 'every one is busy together' kind of way. We shifted our living room to Yoonseo's old room, which will take some getting used to since it doesn't have the great airflow that the other room did, but I think will still be a good. Check out the cleaning photos on facebook!

So as nothing out of the ordinary has happened lately, I thought I would just write some things about my most prized possessions in Korea so far:

1. My precious purple earplugs
Without these babies I would be a super grumpy person, woken up every morning at 6:30 and unable to go back to sleep because of constant noise. But this is now the case, because they block out 75% of noise, barring very loud whining, howling poodles, and ocarina/piano impromptu concerts (got that special treat this morning...헐)

2. Dear old compy
Running well since 2008, old whitey is still going strong. From skyping to music listening to blogging to k-drama and Psych watching, many a pleasant evening is spent with the laptop. Out of fondness I bestowed upon it an Avatar in addition to a Courage sticker, a Vespers sticker and an I Read Past Bedtime sticker, Appa the flying bison graces the cover.

3. Kindle
I thought I wouldn't like it. I thought nothing would replace the textile feeling of real pages. But in reality, nothing can replace having dozens of books at my fingertips. Still love the physical book best, but long subway rides with the kindle are the best.

4. Korean Grammar in Use
Not technically mine, but I am borrowing for the time being and I love it to pieces. And excellent textbook and makes me feel so accomplished when I finish going through a unity. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone learning Korean.

Ok, that's all for now!
Thanks for reading!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Happy days, homesick days

Let's just go full in on the cutesie K-pop scene and go with the typical boy band song. I think this song is super catchy and really upbeat. Also who can beat some great random and slightly awkward sounding English phrases sprinkled throughout? What's Happening by B1A4.

I've had some homesick days lately, knowing that there have been some really fun things at home, like Chambersfest and my dear Evi's 21st birthday. I've also been totally fed up with the piece of poo that is skype. I haven't had an uninterrupted clear call home yet. I've tried google hangout, but the sound tends to lag really badly with it, so I'm not happy with that either. Basically I just want my family here with me and technology isn't getting close enough to that reality for me. *Whine*

Speaking of whining, that was the source of another thorn in my host siblings have been incredible whiny lately, to the point of driving me nuts and making me feel like joining them. I was trying to trace the source of the bad feelings, and I pinned it on the fact that people aren't moving towards bed in this house until like 11:30-12 and then up at 7:30. I usually try to go to bed earlier with earplugs, but sometimes it's still too noisy. I was feeling pretty tired, and I guessed that maybe that was why the host siblings seemed so ill-behaved. They just didn't have the energy to keep it together.

So, I have an indirect method planned for getting us to close up shop earlier...I suspected that our late nights were a case of, "everyone is up, so no one goes to bed" kind of thing, so I decided to get ready for bed a lot earlier than usual and be kind of obvious in my "I'm going to sleep now" preparations. I was in bed with the lights off at 10:30. Lo and behold, 45 minutes later, everyone else was in bed too. Success! Last night I failed because I stayed up late watching a drama (whoopsy) but tonight I am planning the same tactic.

But there have been some really good times here too, not just feeling frustrated because of whining. For instance, I taught Yoonhyung and Yoonsang how to plan Labyrinth, so when I'm not feeling too whooped, we play that after dinner. Yoonhyung also has been helping me correct my practice Korean sentences for my TOPIK study, which is so much less scary than giving them to an adult. I figure she's qualified for beginner Korean...hehehe. Last night my host father made us some great peach smoothie type things, and Yoonhyung proudly showed off her ahjumma* style pants. So fashionable :-p

Some good times teaching lately have been with my last class of the day, the Blue 7 class with Joochan, Grace, Jerry and Seokhee (gotta love the English names...).
Storybook day is the best with them, because they took my encouragement to read with expression to heart and now make reading the book hilarious. Not only do they read with different voices, but they also insert little side comments when they are reading. Yesterday we read the part of Rumpelstiltskin when the queen tried to guess his name, and when it got to be Seokhee's turn, instead of reading "Is you name Eyesblue? Is your name Longnose?" as was written, I heard, "Is your name Pancake? I mean Eyesblue?" What a goober.

Hear's a taste of him at conversation time:

Me: Ok, now I will ask Grace a question! Grace, what is your favorite....

hilarity ensues. He also draws cutesy little hearts in his journal next to sentences about things he likes.

In one week, I will be headed to Japan to visit Hope! I'm excited but also nervous. I have to plan everything exactly because I speak zero Japanese and also can't read any Japanese, so there is no making it up as I go along. So far I think I have some good routes plan for taking the shinkansen, but I'm not sure whether I should reserve a seat and pay extra money or not. Trip planning by myself is like my least favorite thing ever.

Ah well. Those are the latest updates!
Thanks for reading!

*middle-aged woman

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Staff retreat

After listening to today's reading music you might want to check out the actual video, only because it was filmed outside of where I go to church. I walk past the graffiti-covered play ground almost every Sunday: Love Love Love by Roy Kim.

So, updating every day hasn't been very successful, sorry about that! I guess these are kind of long to read everyday too, but I will try to be better at it. The main thing that happened since I wrote was our staff retreat to Yangpyeong! I actually kind of extended the retreat to be like 4 days for me, because I stayed over at the Connexus housing from Thursday Girl's Night on until going back to my host family's house Sunday night. So fantastic to hang out with everyone in a non-work environment!

At Yangpyeong we stayed at a great hotel with two suite rooms that hat two rooms each, a living room and a kitchen. We first arrived to find everything dark in the first room: the cooking team who had gone ahead of the teachers apparently had blown a fuse in the room by using *gasp*  two griddles at once. At least, that's what the hotel repairman said. I kind of think that was not really the cause, but from then on we cooked with one griddle in each room.

After a great meal of pork bugolgi, we played some good old Four Men On a Couch. Now, I had not played that game since youth group, and had forgotten how much it taxes the brain strength. I was feeling good when I could do remember the real names of at least two people in the circle, but Minji and Hyunho and Karen were suzies-on-top-of-it; they could remember almost everyone. I was in awe. So for future reference, this is an easy game to play even if you don't speak the same language, because it only involves saying names.

And, as this was a gathering of mostly anabaptists, you know of course what we did. That's right, peacefully battled each other in Dutch Blitz. There was not any shouting or complaining at all....

To sleep, as Korean hotels often don't have beds, us ladies just threw all the yos on the floor and slept in proper Family Outing style. I will try to add the pic of the room later. So great.

Next morning after breakfast we headed off to do some railbiking! probably most of you saw the pictures of that on facebook, so I won't describe it in too much detail, but basically it's similar to paddleboats only you have wheels and you're on a train track. Very fun!

I feel like this is turning into a "and then... and we ate...." type post which is one of my least favorite things, so I'll try to wrap it up. Because everyone was just feeling like lazing around, on Sunday all of the teachers decided to be church skippers and rest at home. Turns out it rained almost non-stop all day, so that was a good choice. We watched Johnny English which was hilarious. Picutre Mr. Bean meets Get Smart, if you haven't seen the film. Apparently there is a sequel, which I am most definitely watching.

Studying for TOPIK has been going ok I think. I've met my goals so far, but we'll see how I do when I start taking practice tests.
I have also just started reading The Three Musketeers for the first time! The good news is that it is as good as the Wishbone version. Now I want to go watch that.

Well, that's all for now...nothing to report teaching-wise really...I'll try to write a post related to that this weekend.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

From the land of the giant humidifier

Because even though there's been a couple tough things this week, thing are looking UP by Epik High

So what have I been up to lately? well, besides reading the archives of this mom blog,* I've been trying to spend less money, study more Korean, be a better teacher, and get used to the sensation of walking around inside a giant wet cloud that is the outside air of Korea in the summer.

It is waaaaay too easy to blow 10,000 won or more a week on things like coffee and ice cream. It's so hot that pretty much everyday I want something cold, be it an iced cafe latte or a Bravo cone. But after doing a sample budget for myself I realized that even if I live in moderation, the most I'll have in savings by the end of this year is $3,000, so I really should be trying not to cut into that by extravagantly beating the heat with sweet things. I'll just start sucking on ice cubes or something.

I've heard from the other teachers that it's also hard to save much money here because of the "treating culture" here. Instead of everyone paying for their own, a lot of the time one person just pays for everyone with the expectation that someone will treat them back. So far I have mostly just been the recipient of said treatings, which sounds great, but you'd be surprised how fast you adapt to it, and even start feeling mega guilty that you haven't treated anyone.

As for studying Korean, I have been the biggest bum on the planet. I need to get a move on if I have any hope of passing any levels in the TOPIK exam. The hardest thing still is speaking. Any language learners have any tips for me?

 I think I have an unhealthy mix of introversion and pride/fear of failure in my personality that is making it almost impossible for me to speak for adults in Korean. I don't want to try to say something and then fail...even though I KNOW that failing is not the most horrible thing and worse would be not trying. I hate it that I know that fact and can't make my emotions and actions follow what I know is true. It's so dang annoying and discouraging. I've been here for almost a month and a half and I don't feel like my language skills are any better. That's kind of been a tough thing to realize this week.

Another tough thing is trying to be a better teacher. The student that has been such a problem was completely out of control one day this week, which resulted in some serious RJ and now very possibly him taking an indefinite break from Connexus. He was given a choice to stay and follow the rules with the stipulation that he would need to take a break if he did break the rules; or he could just go ahead and decide to take a break now. I feel guilty, but at that moment in the RJ meeting, I really wanted him to just say "I'll take a break." I've been so fed up with dealing with him, so when he said "I want to stay," I have to admit that I kind of felt a little like a deflated balloon. That being said, today he didn't come, and his classmates said that he told them at school that he wasn't going to come to Connexus anymore afterall...and I kind of felt a twinge of something sad.

I don't think it was sadness that he wasn't coming back. I'm not going to pretend to be a lovey-dovey teacher who is great at seeing the good in students and loving that potential despite their rather less than ideal behavior. I'm not there yet. I want to be, but I'm not that. I like the good students best. I think I was mostly sad because ultimately I had failed with him. I wasn't able to ge through, I wasn't able to make him like me or the class enough to want to follow the rules. I know I'm known to be a bit of a realist (or debbie downer in some people's opinions) for most things, but when it comes to teaching I have a secret pocket of idealism that makes me feel incompetent when things like this happen, even if the realist knows that it's bound to come. Ah well.

So what are some fun things coming up?
1. Girls Night. We're starting a weekly tradition of Thursday night being The Bachelorette, Wine and Snacks night, and I love it. It feels like college again.

2. Connexus/KOPI staff retreat this weekend. It will be a short overnight trip, but I'm really looking forward to hanging with everyone. Also, since we're leaving Friday after work, I'm just staying at the community house from Thursday night on, which is going to be mega great. I'm enjoying my host stay, but there's only so much alone time you can take if you are an enormous baby and can't muster the courage to speak in Korean.

3. Possible trip to a 9-course zipline in Mungyeong in celebration of Sarah's fifth year in Korea. I found out about the zipline when watching an old Korean reality tv show and thought of it when she was trying to figure out something fun to do. If we go, don't worry, I will post a video!

4. Trip to Japan the end of the month/beginning of August. My plane ticket was bought today, so now I just need to get my rail pass so I can ride the Shinkansen to visit Hope in Tokyo! SO mega pumped.

So that's what's been going on lately!

Thanks for reading!

*I blame my fellow teacher Anna on this one. I never knew mom blogs were so fascinating. Also discovered that the author of this blog was at the same Wailin' Jennys concert at Messiah that I went to with mom and dad. Possible celebrity spotting in retrospect??!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Weekend Adventures: Shopping, North Korea, and not eating Dog

What the heck, I've been walking around in crowded shopping areas with music blasting so here's one that I heard at least twice and it's fast growing on me. Not to mention that I just really enjoy Korean rap: BAAAAM by Dynamic Duo

Wow, what a fun weekend! I think to write a detailed report of it will be waaaay too expansive, so in the words of Inigo Montoya: Let me sum up.

On Saturday I met Annie, Anna, and Kate at Deokso Station and we headed off to Insadong to visit the palace there and eat some more of the best Patbingsoo from Slow Garden (not Slow Cafe...I'm such a dumb-dumb) felt like such a small party without Janet though :-( We visited Gyeongbokkung palace and took lots of fantastic we I mean everyone but me because I forgot my camera (double dumb dumb). You can still check them out on facebook though, because I'm tagged in them I think. Then we headed to Myeongdong for some super shopping.

Myeongdong is one of the famous shopping areas in Seoul area, and caters mostly to tourists. This means that there is a pretty good mix of super cheapy and really expensive, and plenty of stuff in the middle, which is where I was aiming. One of the best things about shopping in Korea so far has been the plethora of affordable great summer dresses. Many of them are made for women more petite than me, but I've seen many that are plenty long enough to accomodate the stork legs! I made a sweet elevens* find in one shop and bought a beautiful blue and white dress for only 10,000 won that I LOVE. I'm sure you will soon see me in it in many pictures because I am going to wear the heck out of it. After shopping till we had enough, we headed home and watched Notting Hill and drank wine. Pretty much one of the best romantic comedies I've seen. William Thacker is the kind of adorable dork who says funny things that I need to find.

I actually wore my super great dress to church today, which was perfect because it was really hot and the dress is breezy. Kate and I met the other teachers at a coffee shop nearby after church to go for frozen yogurt before heading to Dongdaemun to check out the shops there. The frozen yogurt was really interesting; it was really actual frozen yogurt, with a tart yogurt-y taste, unlike the frozen yogurt places I've been to in the U.S. where it tastes no different from soft serve ice cream.

Dongdaemun is supposedly the shopping district that is less tourist-y and that more Koreans shop at, but there were still a lot of Chinese tourists there. We just checked out one big building full of shops, but it looked very promising. Will definitely have to return.

Even more promising was an especially fantastic discovery: Ben's Cookies. When I was at Oxford in 2010, there was a covered market there that had a great cookie store called Ben's Cookies that I went to a few times but always wished I went to more often, and here like a divine opportunity it appeared before me once again. A little red shop with Ben's Cookies: Oxford England written in shining white letters. I did a serious gasp and double take and scared the other girls, but....BEN'S COOKIES! It's like my Oxford Adventure is trickling into my Korea Adventure and I freaking love it. Adventures should always trickle.

This evening we heard some from a former Connexus teacher about her work teaching English as a volunteer in North Korea, and it was so neat! I won't say a lot here because I don't know how sensitive the details are, but if you want to support somebody who is doing some great work building relationships with North Korean students, I know someone you can donate funds to :-)

Before she shared, we were invited to try some of the dog soup that the neighbors made from one of the dogs they had been keeping in a kennel out back. Apparently eating/serving dog in restaurants was banned and cracked down on during the '88 Olympics because of the possible disapproval of foreigners visiting for the games, but since then it's slowly gotten more popular again. At least, it isn't as hard to find anymore, though it's still expensive. At any rate, though some other teachers tried it, I passed. Maybe I'll regret it, but it was just a little too outside my comfort zone at this moment.

Ok that's all for now. I may have gotten carried away in just summing up. Whoops-a-daisy (yay Notting Hill reference!)

Thanks for reading!

* A Daddyism that means something like a mix between serendipitous and unlikely-to-happen-but-still wanted. What you whisper to the dice during a game of Settlers of Catan to make them perform better.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fourth of July

Again we're going with a song in English today, this time Simon and Garfunkel's America.

On the fourth I only woke up 7 minutes before my alarm instead of an hour before because of noise, so I was in a great mood. The kids were super cute in the morning too and not whiny which made the whole morning just a thousand times better. Not to mention that girl's night with the Bachelorette and wine were waiting in the evening. I also bought a super adorbs shirt for under 6,000 won, so the day as a whole was pretty great.

I've discovered that one of my phonics students really doesn't know the letters and sounds very well, she's just been saying things a half-second after the other students so that it sounds like she knows them. She also has been writing the pronunciation of the English words in her book in Hangul, which I'm not really sure is a bad thing or not. I need to get some advice with this class, because I'm also not sure how well they are supposed to know the spelling of the example words for the letter sounds, because some of them are really big, like Octopus or Elephant, and they don't actually know all of the letters that are in those words yet.
Today in activity day I had to have one of the girls make her name card because she wasn't here when the others made theirs. To keep the other girls busy, I told them that today was birthday of the Fox puppet I made for helping teach dialogue, so they could make him a birthday card. Busy work, I know, but they did a really good job! It was adorable.

The former Phonics 2 is now a Blue 1 class. I need to just come up with a class name for each time slot since they will change levels every month. This class should be named something like...Beauties and the Beasts because the girls are really good, and the boys can be so obnoxious. As soon as we moved to blue, the other boy in the class started acting up as much as Haram, so now I have two badly behaved kids to deal with. Yesterday I felt so bad because the girls were so eager to read the storybook and talk about it, and the boys held up the class so much because of not doing what I asked. I need some serious patience for that class. Even during activity day which should be the easiest of all days, they were just totally out of control. I finish every class with them feeling so incompetent. At least Yellow class comes right after and they are the cat's meow so I always get a pick me up.

I recently added a new student to my Yellow class: Shiyeon, or Cindy. She was actually already a student at Connexus, she just wanted to switch to a class with some girls. She is very quiet and speaks slowly, but she has really good grammar and vocabulary. Jack was pretty sad that our last slot in the class was filled with another girl, but he is such a sport that he wasn't going to really complain. He just kind of takes everything even if he doesn't really like it; such a great kid. Today I played on his team in Dutch Blitz so that he could win because I feel bad. I am such a pushover with that class.

I'm also a pushover with my Blue 7 class...they are so darn cute, except when they get too competitive, but even then they don't really push my buttons, I'm just incredulous that they make such a big deal about stuff. The youngest in the class especially is precious, Seokhee. (Yes, his name does kind of sound like 'Socky'). He has the roundest little forehead and listens so seriously all the time.

This evening I'm spending time at home because I'll be gone all day tomorrow doing fun things in Insadong again with the teachers. The host siblings were being super whiny earlier which almost made me regret my choice to do so, but they got better after eating dinner. We all watched the Charlie Chaplin movie The Kid together and it was really nice. The great thing about silent movies is that you don't really need to speak the same language to enjoy them together :-)

In other news, I'm pretty sure I am signing up to take the TOPIK exam this October, so I have something to make me study! I'm only aiming for getting the first level, so there isn't too much pressure, but enough to keep me from being lazy.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Saying goodbye and Going Well

Today's blog music is ...not Korean! let's have some of The Beatles because it fits so well and does anyone ever not want to listen to The Beatles? Have a listen: Hello, Goodbye

Sorry that I haven't been updating more here...My reason is kind of selfish. I'm trying to use up my journal so that I have an excuse to buy a new cute journal because there are SO MANY CUTE JOURNALS HERE and it's like torture to not buy them. So, I'll just do some copying from my journal I think, about the last few days and saying goodbye to Janet, one of the teachers that first welcomed me here.

On Janet's last day, we all ate a brunch of crepes together at 10:30 and then headed to Insadong for the famed best Patbingsoo of all time at Slow Cafe. It was such a fun time! Before the bignsoo we just walked the streets and did a little souvenir shopping. I got the last little things I needed for Evi's birthday package! Insadong is a big tourist spots, so there were lots of other foreigners around doing the same thing we were. It was so stinking hot though! Needless to say, we were totes ready for that bingsoo when we finally got there.

This patbingsoo was reportedly better than most because instead of make just with water, the shaved ice was actually made from frozen milk, i.e. extra rich and delish. I think Kate and I ate most of the strawberry one ourselves. They are kind of as big as my face, so even though 7,500 won is a little pricey for a dessert, they definitely can feed two. Or one. Follow your heart when eating bingsoo.

By the time we got back, we were pretty sticky and hot, and I was quite pooped. However, we got a little more peppy when Karen arrived back from the U.S. with Lomie! It's so good to have them here again. A little while later we headed to a duck restaurant for one last meal together with all the Connexus staff and associated acts. One of my favorite moments was when Lomie reunited with her favorite Imo, Minji. She was so excited and gave Minji's head a big hug. It was absolutely adorable. Another was giving a toast to Janet and the great year she's had in Korea and what a blessing she's been to everyone. It was a great time, and really felt like a family dinner all together.

After duck, the teachers went back and hung out at the Connexus flat (woo so British of me) and talked and looked at pics and a had a trivia game to test our Janet knowledge. Then it was time for me to go, and Anna, Janet and Kate walked me to the bus stop. We sang "Brother, Sister Let Me Serve You," a hymn I had forgotten about that Anna reminded us all of. I think it will always be special to me now. Anna and Janet walked arm in arm and I was reminded of every time I've had to say goodbye to a good friend like that. I'm kind of getting all chokey right now thinking about it. Like I wrote in Janet's card, goodbyes most of the time really aren't good at all...but we can still "go well": it makes it less of an end and more of a beginning, a walking forward into something new. I hope I can help my fellow teachers go well with me into what God has for us.

Now that I'm feeling a little blue, let's go on today, which is a little more cheery! Teaching went really well I thought. It was a really special day for Phonics 2 especially, because it was their last day in Phonics! tomorrow they start blue level. I didn't have too much trouble with Haram today either, aka he only lost one stamp and I kept it his chair still for the whole class by holding it. He got pretty huffy when I did that and tried to pry my fingers off a couple times but I kept it in a death grip so he gave up after a while. Seriously the spinning chairs will be the death of me. Anyway, I stopped class when there was 15 minutes left to eat a special celebration snack and give certificates of completion to them. Hye-su and Sungyeon were really excited, but I think the boys were not as into it as they were, or were pretending to not be. I got photos of them all with their certificates and they're super cute. I'll post them tomorrow.

Another highlight was finishing all the storybooks from this month! Blue 6 was especially fun because the kids love talking about the Peach Boy story. I tried to work in some peace-y talk into our discussion by asking them if there was any other way that Peach Boy could have retrieved the villager's treasure from the Ogres other than by fighting them with his stick. One boy actually suggested that he could be friends with them, which surprised me....but then he also suggested that Peach Boy could set fire to their castle or give them poisoned dumplings, sooo maybe that lesson was lost on them.
I have a stack of report cards to write by wednesday, so tomorrow I'm getting up early and meeting the other teachers at Ediya for a report writing coffee party. I was planning to do some tonight at home, but I forgot them at the office, so that plan is out. Ah well.

I guess I'll just have to watch some more Korean drama...what a shame! :-D

Thanks for reading!