Saturday, June 21, 2014

Newness all around

Haven't posted any Korean music for a while, so let's go back in with a new release by an old favorite. Big Bang's Taeyang came out with a new album and this song from it is my current kpop jam: Stay With Me by Taeyang.

I'm not apologizing anymore for length, but I will warn: this is a mini-book. I hope you still read it!

Kate and I went to Busan two weeks ago, and it was a fantastic trip! Being a holiday weekend, we headed out from Seoul at 9:11 and it took seven hours instead of the usual four and a half to reach Busan. It was a loooong trip. On the bus, I watched most of a movie about the Korean war in Korean, which seemed really good. Granted, I couldn't understand more than a few sentences of the dialogue but it was pretty interesting. I had better success watching a program that was talking about a man who had been separated from his family during the war, and eventually found his daughter, who was living in Japan and had been raised there. Or at least...I think that was maybe what it was about. Watching T.V. in a foreign language must be partly what it's like to be a baby who is just learning to understand things.

When we got Busan we had to take the subway to central Busan to reach our lodging, The Blue Backpacker's Hostel. If anyone has the chance to visit Busan I highly recommend it. The staff speak very good English and were more than willing to help us figure out how to get places and even suggested fun places to go. The hostel itself was also one of the cutest places to stay that I've seen here. Many times minbaks or pensions are really kind of tacky looking, like the owners just got the cheapest stuff no matter if it matched or not and just jumbled it all together (remember the lovely decore at the pension Sarah and Kate and I stayed in on Ganghwado? hahaha). Blue Backpackers had coordinating decoration, matching walls, and fun quotes on the wall. Our room had a beautiful, albeit sad poem about autumn by Yeats right by the door when we walked in. The English Major part of my heart was very warmed.

After eating some delicious sushi and donkkaseu, we bought some fresh fruit smoothies from a food cart and listened to some street musicians give a concert. They did a great cover of Simon and Garfunkel's Sound Of Silence, so it was nice to sing along to something! Then we went back to the hostel, and after unsuccessfully trying to find it free on the internet, rented Annie Hall from Amazon, one of Woody Allen's films from the 70's, which was really good!

The next day we ate our breakfast on the roof, eggs and toast in the bright sunshine. It was sunny, but suprisingly (since we were more south than Deokso) it was several degrees cooler than at home. We visited Gamcheon cultural village first. During the Korean war, many refugees fled to Busan which was one of the only parts of the country where it was relatively safe. From what I remember from the museum, a large part of the group that settled in the area that eventually became the colorful and art- filled cultural village were followers of a religion started by a man named Cho Chol Je. According to 
 "Cho founded Taegukdo, a religion that believes that the Taeguk, or yin and yang symbol, represents the true meaning of life and the universe. Practicing again after persecution and suppression during the Japanese occupation, Cho and his followers converted nearly 90 percent of the refugees living in Gamcheon with their gifts of rice and candy. With this help, residents were then able to funnel their earnings into rebuilding, and in 1955 the area became known as the Taeguk Village when Cho moved the religion’s headquarters there."
Because refugees settled there, it has historically been a pretty poor area, but in 2009, a project began to revitalize the area with art, and the results are awesome. So many amazing murals and little shops are there now. The alleys are narrow, the buildings colorful and the shadows soft. It has a bit of Miyazaki film feel, except it has a definite Korean flavor. 

From there we headed to the Jalkachi fish market. Like most markets in Korea, it was crowded, with warm light filtered through big red awnings and umbrellas set up to shield the seafood from the sun. There were so many people that if you weren't careful, your leg might brush up against a fish tail or an octopus tentacle set up for sale on either side. Kate and I had some fresh roasted fish for lunch, grabbed right out of a tank in front of the restaurant. It was too good. Wow. That's the way to have seafood. On the way out, we bought about a pound of raspberries for around $6 and took it with us on our way to the beach.

We started beachcombing right away, and found dozens of pieces of sea glass in pale blues and turquoises and greens. I think we walked that way for at least an hour, picking up sea glass and eating raspberries, hair blowing in the sea breeze. How perfect! For a change, we sat and ate hard boiled eggs and read and journaled. There's something about that sea that makes you very contemplative and quiet. I loved it.

After a pizza dinner, we found a cute little coffee shop and settled there to wait for it to get dark enough for the Diamond Bridge light show to start. We saw a great show choreographed to CrayonPop's Bar Bar Bar song, last summer's jam here. The next morning we headed back to Seoul at 11:30, but this time we drove in the express lane and got there before dinner time! It was such a refreshing time, and so wonderful to have one last big adventure with Kate before she leaves. 

The weekend after we came back was a busy one. Kaia came back form her month visit with her family on the Friday and then Saturday was Yongjin and Soyoung's wedding! It was so neat to be able to celebrate them, sing them a song during the ceremony and just be together on such an important day. I'm so excited for them and what God has for them together as a couple! They are fantastic. The ceremony was really meaningful and personalized too, which isn't always usual in most Korean weddings (from what others have told me) because they often follow the same layout and have very similar content. This wedding was really special, and it was an honor to be a part of.

That's isn't the end of the season of excitement however. Two days later, on Tuesday night, Michaela arrived! When she came to the office the next day the kids were so excited. I am so happy to have her here and can't wait to see how God's going to use her as a teacher here. Having new people here also kind of makes me see my daily life in a new light, trying to remember what it was like to be a part of all this for the first time. I feel like I have an extra dose of energy!

Today me and Kate and Kaia and Michaela took a trip to Changdeok palace and Insadong. It was so fun to go to a new place! I have been to Insadong quite a few times, but had never visited this palace or it's "Secret Garden" so it was great to be able to show Michaela one of our favorite areas while having a bit of a new adventure as well. The garden behind the palace was marvelous...I haven't seen that many trees at once in my entire time here in Korea. The air tasted healthy, it was that fresh and clean under the shade. Totally worth the 8,000 won entrance fee. Later after shopping a bit in Insadong, we of course went to Slow Garden. One original and one strawberry bingsoo were devoured in record time. Tomorrow we're planning on having some more, this time at the Goddess cafe: mango bingsoo made with mango milk ice. Too delicious.

One the Connexus side of things, other than having a new face in the office, I feel like these days class has been pretty fun. I'm still trying to get one class to do their homework, but otherwise I feel like things are going quite well, and I've been writing down tons of funny things the kids have been saying. Here's one quote that needed some back story:

I have one student, Joy, who really mixes up P and F sounds. She usually says F instead of P, which is really strange because Korean has a P sound, but does not have F. Anyway, she is getting better at correcting herself with some prompting, but this tendency sometimes leads to some pretty funny mistakes. Case in point, this happened yesterday in class:

Abby: "Ok, let's remember what happened last time. I will read, and you clap when you hear a wrong word: 'The ducks hug the ugly duckling.'"
Joy: (claps) "not hug!"
Abby: "Not hug, so what word?"
Joy: "p...ff.f..fff F*CK!"
Abby: "Ohhhhh you mean Peck?"
Joy: "Oh yes yes Feck!"

Please enjoy the rest of the jewels that come from the mouths of Connexus students. Thanks for reading!

Quotes from the Classroom

Eileen: "If you were in Abby's mouth, what would you do?"
Susan: "I would sleep and Abby's tongue is my blanket."
(another gem from the Unintentionally Creepy Duo)

Me: "Susan, no homework?"
Susan: "I draw your face in my notebook for homework!"
Me: "Good try."

"Would you rather eat a live chameleon or a....what is very yuck and very ew?" Susan tries to stump me with a Would You Rather question.

Daniel: *coloring a character's blanket silver* This girl is very rich!
Dohyeon: "Rich do you like better?"

"This stamp store is like North Korea!"- Jihwan expresses his dislike for having to work together with Hyunseo to buy things.

"Heather, on group games day this week I will be nice. Early birthday present!" - Tommy

Raphael (proudly showing his mood bracelet): "Teacher, this is magic!"
Daniel (indignant): "No! it is a science!"

"Tomorrow I will go to meeting with my girlfriend <3......but it is lie."--Tim's journal.

Quotes from the Community

"What is that..the fire distinguisher?" - Heather

"Is that another satan doughnut?" -Anna

"Where did I put my moldy pear?"-Heather

"Ooh, friend request from sixpackdoctor!"-Anna

"Doughnuts where?" -Lomie the little snack scrounger.

"Woah this coffee is thick...I really dumped the beans in there...or grounds..whatever."- Heather

Monday, June 2, 2014

Summer is cutting it's first tooth!

Sara Groves never gets old for me, and this song really feels relevant to me these days: The One Thing I know.

It has been a really long time. Sorry about that! It seems when you're nearing the end of something time suddenly is like "punch it, Chewie!" and you're rocketed forward before you know what's happening. According to my countdown on, I have 49 days left in Korea.
What the heck. When did that happen? It's been sneaking up on me.

I think the most interesting thing that has happened on the Connexus side of things in the last month was my Open Day. On this day, parents of your students can come and sit in on their child's class for 30 of the 50 minutes. It's special because then parents can kind of visualize what we do on a daily basis and kind of nerve-racking because there are parents right there watching your every move. On the plus side, this means the kids are usually really well behaved, which means you have to have a lot of extra activities up your sleeves because all of a sudden you've actually finished the lesson plan instead of wasting ten collective minutes waiting for kids to:

* Finish their deokbokki and get into class already
* drink water after finishing said deokbokki
* possible bathroom trip depending on the age and maturity of the child
* take their books out of their back pack and not also pull out a toy, a hat, candy, the wrong book or all of the above.
* Stop playing the "game of air" with their pencils, erasers, flashcards or anything at all.
* Quickly ask and answer questions and don't interrupt each other or stall.
* Actually listen to you and so that you don't have to repeat yourself three or four times. "Open your storybooks!" instead of "Open your storybooks....It's reading time, please open your storybooks...Now is not drawing time, please open your storybook."

But on the downside, they also are a lot more timid and it's a shame that their parent's can't see the full potential their students have and get to witness the great creativity that many of them have in class.

Mine went well and I got a lot of positive feedback. Only one class didn't go as well as I would have liked, but it was less about what I did, and more that the kids didn't really try to impress their parents, so I kind of felt a little embarrassed for them...they were finishing their homework in the last two minutes of class and eating their deokbokki too, right in front of their parents. I heard from Juyoung that the parents of that class were a little shocked to see their children acting like that. Since then, that class has been a little more serious and better at having work done and starting class on time, so that's been great.

Outside of Connexus there's been some big stuff too. I have been learning some important stuff lately about communication in relationships. Some of it's pretty obvious, but since I am a total newbie, a lot of it was kind a first time realization:

1. Actually communicate. This is really important for dating relationships I think, but obviously for others at well. Intentionality is vital. If something is bothering you or there is something else you feel  needs to be talked about, don't assume it's just going to "come up naturally." That rarely happens with important topics. Make a plan to talk about it, or specifically bring it up when you're talking about other things. True communication I think rarely happens without intentionality and making an effort.

2. Don't settle for 'kind of understanding.' I really need to make an effort to truly understand people and to make sure they can understand me. Miscommunication causes frustration, offense, and feeling that you've be unheard, so even if it feels tiresome at points, it's worth it to make sure thoughts are fully expressed and understood. If you feel like someone hasn't quite caught your meaning, it's worth it to make the effort to make sure they do.

3. The Silent Treatment never works. Either it prolongs the offense, or damages the person you are using it with. Even if you need time by yourself to process or calm down after an argument, still be in communication. Tell the person when you think you'll be ready to talk. This will help them not be as worried about what's going on, and it will help you be intentional about getting yourself ready to come back together and talk. Open-ended "rest" from each other is not really beneficial in my own opinion. Everything related to conflict resolution should be productive and not destructive or stagnant.

4. Be aware of your communication style, and the style of the person you're trying to communicate with. I read this in a book Kate lent me which has the kind of cheesy title "True Love Dates," but that has some really neat ideas in it. It's important in relationships to realize where you've come from, and this includes the way you grew up communicating: about emotions, thoughts, conflicts etc. My family has a very transparent and deep communication style when it come to talking about emotions and thoughts, so when I try to communicate with someone who didn't grow up like that, I can feel like I am either over-sharing, or the other person seems so closed off and is only "opening up the wading pool" so to speak instead of "diving into" communication.

Even though I wrote that out in confidence, I'm not trying to be pretentious. Truly I know very little about being in relationships, but this is one big way I learn, taking in information and processing it through writing. I guess the main thing I am really taking from all this is being intentional. You can't just be in a relationship and think that all the kinks work themselves out. If you're in a relationship and it seems like that is the case, you better get your rear in gear because that means the other person has been working their booty off to make it work in spite of your lack of help.
So there it is! my humble advice that mostly I need to take myself.

What's a blog post without an update on the weather? It's getting HOT. Yoonseo is wilting like a daisy. The man doesn't deal with heat well. I'll have to feed him popsicles to keep him peppy. Speaking of which, some of you may not know but Korea is a paradise of popsicles and icecream bars. I have never seen such variety or deliciousness. My current favorite is this guy:
Tetris bar...a delightful mix of pineapple and apple, with that kind of juicy starburst kind of fruit flavor, and a soft tooth-scrapable texture. Too icy and it's no good, and Tetris does it perfectly.

On the non-fruity side, my favorite is the Yogoyam Coconut yogurt bar. It doesn't skimp at all on the coconut flavor and is ultra creamy with that kind of flexible fudge-bar quality. Dang it...I want one now!
                   It was actually a dream last summer to write popsicle reviews. Is it my new calling?

Fun things recently and coming soon:
* Trip to Juyoung's mother's house this past Sunday! She was so hospitable and happy to have us there. I haven't eaten such delicious meat in such a long time and get ready for it... SWEET CORN. Manna from heaven. She was also hilarious and told us how she had visited her son four times when he was studying abroad for a year... "Helicopter mom!" she said. Also how her son was getting pulled over during one visit for speeing, which might have meant deportation, so she faked stomach pains and pretended they were driving to the her words "the power of mom's love." Oh man, too great!

* Mini vacation to Busan with Kate! Can't wait to check out the beach and the fish market and all that jazz. Also a 6 hour bus ride full of reading, yippee!

* Kaia's return, Yongjin's wedding and Michaela's arrival!!! Seriously, June is a hurricane of events.

Finally, enjoy some of the gems that come out of the mouths our community members.

Thanks for reading!

Quotes from the Community:

"I've been taking good care of my moustache lately."--Me

Yoonseo: " I want to be a what is it...Bench potato?
Abby: "Couch potato?"

"I love that kind of joke...mental hospital joke. Something that touches our mentality." -Yoonseo

"Jesus is coming! Clean my room!" -Lomie

"These are not my panties, these are not my panties!" Yoonseo wants to clarify what his boxers are to his roommates.

"Now that I know about that coin change machine, my life is going to run a lot differently!" -Anna

"I am not a man....I am....Amanda." -Yoonseo

"I feel like I've been born again!" Michael after getting his ears cleaned.

엄마! today your body is so cute!" --Lomie. What a charmer.