Friday, August 31, 2007

webcam dilemma

i love my powerbook g4. i do. it's trusty. it's given me less trouble in 2 years than my dell gave me per week. i somehow am a hot mess who ripped off my "delete" key a few days ago trying to fix it, but other than that, this is my baby. however, i'm getting a little frustrated at having a mac in korea.

first of all, 2 ppl in korea own macs and they're probably other ppl from my program. there is no support or accessories or anything for macs in korea. the korean "word" program used in my school does not have an OS X version, so i either make my lessons at school/on host-family's computer, or i just make the format in word. (i've already just converted it to MS word and my school can get used to me (we'll call it a compromise since i had to make it).

so now i want a webcam. i thought about buying an isight in the states but then it was expensive so i was like oh i'll get a cheaper good one in korea, home of electronics and stuff. i get here to realize that apple stopped making isights bc of the new macbooks and so they cost uber much on ebay/amazon and also that macs are annoying at compatibility with other webcams that apparently PALE in comparison in terms of quality and convenience and etc.

so now i'm facing, should i fork out the $250+ for a new or used isight? or keep looking for another webcam? or ... haha buy a new macbook pro??? =) im gonna need a new comp for law school anyway i think. so that's always an option. maybe next summer i'll get a brand new macbook pro (i'm drooling just THINKING about it!!!!)

hehe, promised entry coming later today after i do my week 2 2nd grade lesson plan. i gotta have some goals. haha


i am getting to be more and more competent at life in korea. today i visited 2 gyms to see which one i wanted to join (once my foot gets better, if ever). i also learned where the shoe fixing place is (very important as i am a foot dragger who goes through her heels like ... i can't think of a good simile, but very often). i saw several post offices near my apt. complex AND took my frist cheongju bus ride. i got a cute bus pass that goes on my cell phone (will post pic soon) and got to use it today! i was successful in mounting and dismounting at the right times/places. i am so proud of myself! it's these little things that make me feel more and more at home in korea (buying my tmoney card, having a mybi card on my phone, etc.).

i have no classes on fridays and i hope to use this time to travel more/further in korea and learn about culture and take long weekends to visit other etas. today i just wanted to chill and this weekend stay close and rest up before the big day that is monday that is first official classes! (9 to 5!) so instead of going very far i just went to ochang to visit bryan ajussi. i rather liked it. it was pretty randomly in the middle of nowhere but it was nice and rminded me a lot of jersey city and hoboken. there are lots of new developments and its def geared to young starter families (jc and the boken are more for singles, but it's pretty similar looking). pretty much we saw the WHOLE town adn i mean the WHOLE town 2x within the 7ish hours we were there. it's really open airy though and MUCH less ppl and noise than cheong ju so i really liked that. plus the air jsut FELT better to breathe. i'm really gonna need cheongju as a stepping stone bw life in durham and life on the upper west side next year.

i've made notes on an entry i meant to write last night, so that'll prob come tomorrow. plus i made some interesting discoveries today, so perhaps that'll come up, too. (i SWEAR i will kill the cuckoo clock in this house-it's midnight and cuckooing 12 times!!!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

cheongju etas!!!

prettilicious dakkalbi bokkumbap

maia, eric, jamal

me, bryan, franklin

streets of chicago

at school i ahd a hilarious thing i wanted to blog about and now i'm totally drawing a blank.

but anyway, reasons why i should ALWAYS carry my camera, there was this REAAAALLY funny sign up in front of the middle school next to my school on the first day of school and so i took my camera yesterday but it was already gone. =( basically the sign said something like "사과 apple is incorrect. AN APPLE is correct" i have NO idea what it meant or was trying to do, my guess was that they want koreans to use articles or something.

anyway, yesterday all the chicago ppl (except minsuk) came to hang out and it was really good to do that and speak english with ppl and not have to slow it down or anything. =) also it was so fun to hear aobut everyone else's experiences and schools and families and stuff. also to hear more about other chicago exploration that i have not yet done. i think maia and i are the north and south bookends and mostly everyone else is in between us in the middle. we had dinner together and then were planning on drinking but somehow everyone was yawning and nodding off by like 9pm. including me. i was super duper tired. actually. i think im gonna take a nap now. it was on my list of stuff to do when i leave school. =)

ok just kidding, i remember now. it wasn't HILARIOUS, just kinda funny (so maybe i dont remember i just remmbered another thing i forgot)

lunchtime convo:
head english teacher: i learned a new english last night
me: oh?
het: yes, throw down some beers
het: is that correct? i can say: let's go to a bar and throw down a couple of beers.
me: haaahahaha yes of couse, but i think i would say "throw back" some beers
het: oh, why?
me: i feel like throw down is more about going outside and fighting (how my freinds at school use it)
het: oh, ic. maybe it has changed already since the book was made.
me: oh probably.
het: well anyway, after i learned that, i threw back a couple of beers with my husband.
me: i think that drinking after studying is pretty helpful
het: yes i agree (we laugh)

she likes beer, and cant wait to get me drunk, and also her favorite thing about the kimchi refrigerator is that its the perfect temperature for coolilng beers ... hahaha i love my teachers!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

first week of school

ok, so i haven'ts updated in a while. about a week. but i've been busy.

my mommy came last week and yayy!!! it was so good to see her and be spoiled and able to complain and unwinde and not be "on" all the time. also we got to see a bunch of random family friends who live in the area so now i have ppl i can call up and be like, hello please buy me meat even though it is expensive. haha

then we went shopping and stuff on friday and realized that i am too preppy for korea lol. we couldn't find stuff that i liked even though she wanted to get me 2 good teacher outfits and shoes and stuff so she promised to send me stuff i'll like from america, YAY.

i can quickly see how AMERICA is becoming my mecca of all things that are good and wonderful that korea lacks. i hope that attitude doesn't come across to my studetns or teachers tho bc the last thing i want is for them to accuse me of being an american snob or that teacher who only thinks america is awesome and korea is not. cuz i don't think that, i DO like korea a lot it's just different from amercica and my own culture.

anyway, so this week was the first official week of schoool but idont start my normal classes until next week because i need a week of "orientation" lol my teachers are great. they keep pushing baclk what time i have to be at school this week bc im only doing the super advanced 3 swtudent class who is going to an english competition in 2 weeks and then my teacher workshops.

since im coteaching with all the homeroom teachesr (13) i have to workshop with them a week in advance to go over the lesson and coordinate our roles and all that. apparently my school is the gold standard in chicago for teaching english in elementary schools. my host mom was explaining to me why they're bending over backwards for me and doing anything i want and also why they seem so intent on keeping me happy. i honestly think they think if they dont adhere strictly to the contract i can just up and leave. so that's good. i really respect that bc i was totally expecting the typical korean we can bend rules any way we want bc that's how we do things so i'm really happy that things are in black and white. i like it better like that bc clarity is key to me. haha that was so lame.

anyway, on monday i got introduced to the whole school via the morning broadcast. so they ahve a little recordingstudio which they broadcast into all the classrooms to start the day with the prinicpal's greeting, flag salute, anthem singing ,etc. it was kinda creepy that frist day bc it felt so ... socialist? like i could totally see NK doing this and i figurei t's just remnants from right after the separation.

anyway, the principal is this like 50+ year old man who is short and kinda reminds me of a bullfrog. hehe. he kindof like your bumbling old uncle who everyone kinda pokes fun at behind his back. but he is really nice to me and keeps telling me to come to him if i need anything fixed bc he can get it done quickly (which is def true). anway, he totally introduced me as having gone to college at UNC and i was like NOOOOO!!!!!!!

ok anyway, i have fridays off. completely. so that's awesome. if anyone else does, let me know so we can hang out.

so yesterday i had my frist session with the "advanced" special class. it's relaly 3 6th graders who are rthe best at english and are going to an english comopetition in a few weeks. at first i just gave them a more indepth version of my intro lesson for next week and then had them introduce themselves. i asked questions about their interests and then i brilliantly asked them to tell me what they like to do in chicago sincei 'm new here and have no idea. at first they said there was NOTHING fun to do and then i almost cried haha bc that was so sad, and then i told them if there was nothing fun they would scare me off and i would leave and the whole school would be mad at them so they scraped together 3 things:

3 suggestions:
1. go to the library. but the fun thing is not THERE but in GOING there. on the way to the library there is this dip in the road and if you drive into it really fast you feel like you're on a roller coaster for 1 second. ......... hahahahahahha
2. go to the mountains, breathe the air, it is very fresh and clean. ...........
3. go driving on the highway, there are pretty trees lining it

that's about as excited as cheongju is according to my sutdents ... hahahahha so excited i havea yeare to do those things.

one "thats what my student said" as told to me by a teacher
after my broadcast introduction, one class kept discussing why i didnt look american/ aka WHITE. after debating many things, one finally concluded: "well that's what happens when you live in korea for a long time. you start to look korean." (2nd grade)

also, there are no young single pplat my school. yesterday at lunch i asked my coteacher if tehre were any single ppl bc all the teachers i had met were married with kids. and she was like thinking and asked another teacher and tehre appear to be 4 single ppl (in addition to me) one is a man teacher who is 42 and the other three are all 33ish (they said 10 years older than me) and prob not interested in being my friends. then they asked me why i wanted to know. and i said: oh the other GIKs in the area are all boys and i want girl friends. which they interpreted as : the other GIKs are boys and i want to find them girlfriends. and they were all excited and trying to think of young single women they knew. and i was like NO NO NO IIIII WANT GIRL FRIENDS LIKE TO GO GET MY NAILS DONE WITH AND EXPLORE CHICAGO WITH!!! except not yelling. and they were considerably less excited at that idea ...

somehow romantic relationships for perfect strangers > friendship for new english teacher.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

8/23/07 Thursday

Yayy!!! My mommy is coming today!! She’s coming later than expected but then it’s ok because I still get to see her!!! I hope I don’t fight with her while she’s here. I always do things like that and ruin stuff.

I just realized that everyone is getting to Duke this week. Probably almost everyone is there except Ashley who is going on Friday (late as usual) haha j/k. I was filling out my iCal for next week and I can’t believe everyone else is starting class as usual on Monday and I can’t believe I really miss it as much as I do. I’m just tearing up and crying a bit (normal) but wow, I really loved Duke and miss it so much. This is the new phase of my life that I chose so I’m ok with that.

I think that really makes such a big difference – choice. Say, for example, I was at Harvard starting school this fall like my dad had wanted and I ended up having some problems. I would be less motivated to deal with it and overcome it. But here, as much as I worry or have some type of anxiety/nervousness, I’m pretty much accepting that it was my choice and I have to take responsibility for it and just suck it up and deal. Not that I really anticipate huge problems or anything but it just changes your mindset (which makes ALL the difference I think) in how you live and handle changes/problems/setbacks/difficulties/etc.

So, yea. I guess even though there will be times this year when I’m completely ready to pack my bags and book the next flight out of here, at least I’ll know that I have no one else to hold responsible but myself for being here. And it’s really turning out much better than I could have expected in many ways. =)

8/22/07 Wednesday

Ok, I take it back. I do NOT love love love my rock star status. Today, the kids started yelling “hangukuh” (KOREAN LANGUAGE) at me lynch-mob style and I had to run behind the head English teacher (dragging most of the mob behind me) to say, “SAVE ME” and then she yelled at them to stop.

Plus the questions are getting more ridiculous and personal and I swear this one kid is out to sexually harass me!!! He kept pulling on my hand during break time (which has turned into pester the new English teacher until she cries time) then kept trying to tap my chest with my hand … THEN he comes up behind me later when I’m walking by, and I SWEAR he CUPPED my butt!!! He like cup-patted it twice … and I don’t know what English he would understand so I just gave him a disapproving glare (but it was probably not as scary as I hoped it was!).

Haha, but they are really funny still and adorable. Also, they’ve decided that I need a boyfriend who is the same age as me and wants to get married soon. Then we can go on a honeymoon to America together and I will bring them lots of presents and pictures. One of them kept telling me I should be HIS girlfriend, which was sweet but I think he was just trying to get a free ride to America. Haha.

8/21/07 Tuesday night

Many good things happened today. Today = good day =)

First, camp went well. Although my teacher and I underplanned and had a lot of leftover time in our lessons we recovered pretty well by improvising and adding new games. I also did a lot more actual work than I did yesterday but was much less exhausted. Also, the children ARE treating me like a rock star and I LOVE it. Their favorite new pastime is to crowd around me during break time and pepper me with questions in Korean. Since they have figured out that I understand Korean, they throw question after question and at first it was crazy but I really enjoy that they are interested in me. Some of their peers responses to their questions are much more interesting than mine.

(All the student parts were in Korean)
Student: how old are you? 11?
Me: twenty-three. (Hold up 2, then 3 fingers)
Students: GASP WOWWW but she looks so young!!

S1: are you married?
S2: she’s too young to be married!!!
S1: oh, so do you have a boyfriend?
S2: once she has a boyfriend, then she will think about getting married every day and then it’s just a short while till she gets married

S1: look at her toes!!! She has 2 rings on her toes and one ring on her hand.
Students together: that must mean she has many boyfriends!

S1: are you from miguk (America) or wehguk (foreign countries, in general)??

S1: where do you live?
S2: didn’t you listen, she lives in America and comes on a plane everyday
Me: my family lives in NEW JERSEY
S1: are you sure you’re not from Canada?

S1: you are 23, and you lived in America for 23 years. That is almost your whole life. But you are very good at understanding our language (Korean). That means you must have studied it very much. This is very good. Good job for you. (He said this in a most grandfatherly tone with his hands clasped behind his back)

S1: I know you speak Korean. Today in our lesson you spoke in Korean to our teacher 4 times and then altogether today you spoke Korean 11 times to the other teachers.

S1: speak Korean to us!
Me: if you speak perfect English, I will speak Korean to you
Students: silence …

Student (after studying my jewelry and toes for a bit): so, you like *shiny* things, huh?

Also, I got my first (hopefully not only!) present today from a student! She was girl in my group yesterday who speaks NO English but was the one I secretly spoke to in Korean because she kept asking me questions. She brought me a clicky pencil and it was wrapped so prettily I felt bad opening it!!! She always tries to sit next to me and hold my hand and I love her!!! She is so sweet and I always whisper things to her in Korean because I want her to understand what is going on. I did it today after saying thank you to tell her I will use it well and I was overheard by the other students who thought it was great.

I also had my first seeing a student outside of “class.” I was at the corner convenience/stationery store buying some gift bags when a boy from my group came in with, I guess, his older sister.

Me: Hello!
S: hi
Me: (in Korean) do you live near here?
S: yes, you are speaking Korean
Me: well, we’re not in school, so outside of school I can talk to you in Korean
S: this is good; will you be at school again tomorrow?
Me: yes, of course
S: good

Then he went to buy ice cream and I told the store guy that it was on me and to add it to mine when I paid, and I told the students (again in Korean), “teacher will buy the ice cream for you, eat it deliciously!” and the ajussi was like, wow this is your lucky day! And then he discounted my tab almost their whole ice cream because he thought I was such a nice English teacher. =)

Next good thing = no teacher meeting after camp. Just free lunch on the school!!!

Next! Bryan (fellow GIK buddy) came to Chicago to visit me today!!! Yay!!! It was pretty hot but better than the past few days. You can definitely tell it’s slowly getting cooler. We walked around this place downtown that reminded me of myeongdong in chuncheon a little. There were lots of stores and young people.

Also, a chuncheon friend texted me and Rosie called so I feeled (omg I just really did type “feeled”) FELT very special and loved. Also, Angel-in-Us Coffee shop has the BEST ice green tea latte that I’ve had so far in Korea. Although it was also close to the most expensive. So far I’ve had iced green tea lattes at dunkin donuts, deliatti, Paris baguette, tous le jours, and vending machines. The angel-in-us was the best, then tous le jours and deliatti tie, then the other two. But I’ll have to keep trying them to be sure. =) Also the angel-in-us had the least amount of ice and it was the most well blended other than dunkin. =)

Bryan caused a ruckus with a group of middle school or younger high school girls, who kept circling us and yelling “hello” and whispering and I thought it was cute and he should wink, but he did not appreciate it. Lol. I’m sad I won’t have a fan club that thinks I’m so 멋있어 at my school like he will at his co-ed middle school haha. I bought a white skirt (it’s too hot to wear pants to school!) that was originally 69,000 won and was on sale for 29,000 won AND was 1 of 2 skirts left and the only one in my size! It was fate. Haha. I also bought lots of pretty stationery to write to people with. So I’ll go do that now. Ok im exhausted and my (non double) eyelids are falling down. Good night.

8/20/07 Monday afternoon

I just had my first day of teaching… I woke up from my 2 hour passing out. You decide how it was. =) Just kidding, it wasn’t that bad. And part of it has to be from my built up sleep deprivation. However, it was a lot harder than I had expected. I am also no longer thrilled with the idea of 13 coteachers.

Ok, first the good: I LOVE LOVE LOOOOOVE my students. The camp is for 1st and 2nd graders so I can gauge their level and also for them to have SOME English experience before I start teaching them in September. They are 8-9 in Korean years, so 7-8 in America and for the most part SOOOO adorable. They are incredibly sweet and seem to be interested in me. Of the first comments I heard:
- Wow, she really LOOKS American (this was NOT sarcastic)
- How did she get here from America? Plane? Maybe she walked.
- Student A: She’s really pretty, Student B: Yea, all Americans are pretty
- Speak Korean!

I led group C for the camp, there were about 13 students total but 3 were absent today so I had 10. Of the comments in this group:
- Gosh, please speak some Korean, I came here to LEARN English and I can’t learn if I don’t understand you (this kid was SO cute, he was just like a little ajussi. I was really frustrated by this, I wish they would let me speak a little Korean to the students, ESPECIALLY because the vast majority of them don’t know ANY English)
- What is she saying? (There was a LOT of this)
- Tee-Chuh!!

This one little girl was especially taken with my appearance. Things she asked me (and I secretly answered in Korean):
- Why do you have a little tooth that’s not in line with all the others? Smile so I can see it better. Is it because you don’t have enough space?
- Why is your face so tanned?
- Look at her feet! She has rings on her toes!

I’m really excited to have them for the year. I’m especially happy about the 1st graders since I’ll have them again as 2nd graders next semester so hopefully I’ll get to know them especially well. (I can feel my English skills rotting).

Also, why do people keep asking if I’m of Korean descent? I’m hoping they’re just being PC and worried that they’ll offend me by not asking. But seriously, before coming to Korea, I NEVER had anyone (any Asian person) not be sure of my blood lineage/ethnicity. I’m one of those that people have always said look “SO Korean.” Not until I’ve come to Korea, have people continually questioned my ethnicity. Maybe it’s because I’m so dark…

Things I’m not so pleased about:
- Not being allowed to speak Korean to the children
o We’ll see if I can work something out where I can use it for clarification or maybe they won’t let me because I’ll have coteachers for clarification, but I really think it’s holding back on my becoming familiar and comfortable with the children (well, them becoming that way with me – I’m ok)
- Being used as a puppet
o For example, one 2nd grade teacher came in today to do storytime, and she held the book up and I would parrot the lines she pointed to as many times as she pointed to, “faster/slower,” etc. and the children were told to repeat after me
- This same teacher wants me to edit a report she has to submit on some English teaching methods conference she attended in Canada during her break
o FIRST of all, I’m pretty sure she’s handing it in to our VP or Principal, neither of whom has any command of English, so I really don’t think it matters
o 2nd of all, I’m not happy about the precedent this will set for the year and once she tells the other teachers, that I’ll just be editing all year … I really don’t like correcting my “superiors’.”
o Also, I’m not sure what I’m going to do if it’s HORRIBLE. JUST in case it is, what if I feel the need to mark it up all over because it’s just THAT bad? I hope not, I don’t want to start off offending my teacher or not correcting it a lot but then it ends up she handed it in to someone who DOES know English and they’re all like, OMG this sucks.
- Co-teaching with 13 different people …
o While I was initially ok with this news, because I thought it entailed less preparation and work on my part, now I think it’s ridiculous.
o Judging by the homeroom teachers I have met thus far, their English level will be a hindrance rather than a boon for me and I don’t expect to really have discipline problems. ALSO, the teachers don’t really seem to deal with discipline issues that directly – there were a few today that really caught my eye and were mostly just ignored
o I would like more autonomy/freedom in the classroom, if there is a co-teacher I will be much more wary about slipping in some helpful Korean to facilitate understanding and they will be much less understanding in that “why would you need to use Korean if I am here?”
On the upside, it looks like my 13 classes are all Mon-Thurs. I teach the 7 2nd grade classes on Mon and Tues between 9am and 1pm and the 6 1st grade classes on Wed and Thurs from the same time. However, I also have 1 hour of prep/teacher workshop with each grade teacher (2 hours). 1 hour of general teacher workshop per week and 1 hour of free discussion group with the school’s elite English speakers who go to competitions and stuff. (I’m not sure what happened to the remaining 3 hours but I’m not going to push too hard to have them reinstated).

Hopefully, I will get my wireless Internet in the next few days and can publish all these thoughts soon.

8/19/07 Sunday afternoon

So, apparently I have befallen to becoming more and more Korean. I learned in the summer after 11th grade about “fan death”. I was away at Girls’ State for a week in the worst freaking I thought I had ever encountered (until Durham and ChunCheon of course) when my dad told me NOT to fall asleep with the fan pointed at my face (which in my opinion is the coolest way to fall asleep sans AC). He told me I could suffocate if I did that. I had no idea how this was possible and laughed at him but he made me promise, so I pointed it at my feet.

Since being in Korea, this was one of the “funny” cultural things we discussed at Orientation. “Fan Death.” Well, my homestay family has been sleeping in the living room where the AC unit is and has told me I’m welcome to leave my door open or join them since my room is small and smotherific. I apologetically told them how I need absolute dark and silence to fall asleep and slept the first night with my door a crack open. It was so hot I can’t believe I survived. Last night my host father (이모부) set up a little fan in my room next to my bed. I closed my door tightly and worried for about an hour what to do with the fan. I thought there might be some kind of logic to not having a fan in a tiny airtight room that could possibly cause some kind of air depression, which would subsequently smother me. (This is apparently the scientific explanation for fan death). So after battling the fan death debate in my mind and wondering if this is one of many signs I’m adjusting to Korean culture and then wondering about the headlines for “DEAD: American Shiny program loses GIK to FAN DEATH!!!” I finally turned on the fan, pointed it deliberately at my feet and then set the timer to 30 minutes. I figured that was short enough NOT to create a depression, my feet wouldn’t suffocate in 30 minutes, and it would turn off before I realized I couldn’t breathe.

This morning, at breakfast, my host father told me I should always set the timer before going to sleep because if the fan is left on all night and I have my door so tightly closed, well, it’s dangerous. And he is a doctor. So I’m all about the timer on my fan now. It’s already getting a little cooler though from one day to another. As soon as September happens, we should be fine. =)

8/18/07 Saturday afternoon

Sorry for the lack of updates. The past two weeks have been crazily busy. I’ve been sleeping between 3 and 5 hours per night. That would explain why I passed out yesterday afternoon on the car ride from Seoul to Chicago with my co-teachers.

I just arrived at my homestay Friday night. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to publish this post because I don’t have Internet in my room or for my computer. I’ll be using the family computer for a little bit.

So far I am absolutely thrilled with my school and homestay family. First the school, we are supposed to teach 20 hours according to our contract. But I have 13 actual classes (6 1st grade, 7 2nd grade) and then 7 hours of miscellaneous activities. I have 1 hour of teacher prep time for each grade and 1 hour of random teacher workshops and whatever questions they have. Then I think I have 2 hours for English club activity (10-15 students) and 2 hours with the super-advanced English students. I really wanted to teach the youngest grades so I’m really happy with my schedule. Also, I have my own classroom with air conditioning, which is really rare in Korea. A lot of my other GIKs are just traveling from class to class. I also have to follow a textbook, so I don’t have to make up lessons from scratch. Also, my school is part of a pilot project to study having both a native speaker and the Korean homeroom teacher in the classroom. So, supposedly I will have fewer problems with discipline since the homeroom teachers will be with me.

I’m “teaching” an English language summer camp from this coming Monday to Thursday, 9-12 each day. Then, school officially starts next week but I just have “orientation” to the school, which means I get my schedule and prepare but don’t actually have to teach. I start teaching the first week in September. =) So I’ll have time off to plan and relax a bit. My official liaison with the school is a 29 year old teacher who’s 8 months pregnant. She’s really sweet and I can’t wait to get to play with her baby. There are 2 other English language teachers that I had dinner with last night and I can already tell I will love them. They are so great and fun and mostly young. The English head is not as young but a LOT of fun. She reminds me of my mom =)

My family has 2 kids, 9th grade daughter and a 6th grade son at my school. They both seem a little shy but sweet. The family lived in Vancouver for 2 years (I think 04-05) while the dad was a visiting professor at University of British Columbia, so their English is pretty good. Both parents are professors of medicine. The father is anesthesiology and the mom teaches a paramedic training course. I get to call the mom and dad 이모 and 이모부. The family is Catholic (like me!) and so I’m glad I don’t have to deal with super-religious zealots who pressure their GIK to convert (which I’ve heard happens!). Also, the dad’s family is native to kwangju, which is close to my dad’s 고향 so for Chusok, they will drive me to kwangju and my family can just pick me up from there! Yay!!

We live a 5-minute walk away from my school. We live in a nicer area (new apt. complex) and there are apparently lots of English hagwons around, so I’ve seen a bunch of other Americans around in the streets (YAY!!!). Also, there are lots of stores and restaurants within walking distance all around so that’s good, too! I think my goal for this weekend is to finish settling in and sleep a LOT LOT LOT. Also, there is a piano in my room, and I have to figure out if I’m allowed to ask them to remove it… haha.

My mommy is in Korea doing church youth group stuff but she’s going to come see me on Thursday, so YAY!!!

I’m still a little worried about things like laundry and food and showering sans shower curtain for a year, but I think I’m slowly getting used to the idea that I’ll be here for a year.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Koreans and "Han"

Bridge of No Return, aka Freedom Bridge

i admit, i had my qualms about coming to korea. i had a very negative view of current modern korea for a very long time.

i love traditional old korea and confucianist ideals and all that but due to rapid industrialization i had the impression that modern korea (and especially seoul) was just a very superficial and shallow culture that i didn't want any part of. the obessession with status and status markers and appearances and all that cosmetic surgery was not something i approved (and still don't) of. but something happened last week (in addition to my 8 weeks here) that's made me seriously reconsider my view of koreans.

i always thought koreans were rude in a way pushing and shoving on the sidewalks and in the subway and not taking another glance at who they're pushing out of the way. but anyway, that's just one manifestation of the cultural homogeneity and ethnic bond that koreans mentally share.

for example, the murder, rape, and kidnapping rates are much lower here than in the US, and one of my theories is that why would you hurt your own? koreans have a much stronger communal connection to the rest of their "countrymen/women/children" than i've ever experienced in america, even in the wake of tragedies like sept 11 and katrina. there really is an underlying sense that "we" are all related through our korean bloodline. i guess this is why shoving and pushing is acceptable, it's really just your extended family and we're that familiar with each other, no need for pretenses (or maybe koreans really are just pushy and rude whatever)

anyway, last week we went out with our korean language teachers after our final exam on wednesday and the following occurred: our head orientation counselor person is an adopted korean who grew up in the US. for whatever reason, it came up in convo and she said "i am sad because i am adopted" to a group of the langauge teachers who were sitting all at the same table. one of the language teachers was so saddened and touched by this comment that she started crying. one of my unnis and i started tearing and crying also. then my unni said, to me "koreans have this much love for each other, how can ppl say that we are just rude and shallow when we feel this much for each other?"

and that really made me think, she is completely right. (most) koreans seem to have some kind of "jung" with each other even when they don't really "know" each other. after the cho seung hui incident, i cried every time i saw anything on the news with it or thought about it for at least a week thinking of his poor parents and family and everything they were going through. i know lots of innocent students died, and i'm sad to admit but honestly i felt more worried etc. for his parents.

also, when i went to imjingak and the bridge of no return with my family about a month ago, i began tearing up and i don't know why. it was just the thought that there were koreans sharing our blood across the way and that we couldn't be one country and we couldn't be the "one people" we always claim to be/are.

there is a reason why many important nouns in korean are always used with the plural possessive "our".

Our family.
Our country.
Our parents.
Our husband/wife.
Our school.
Our language.

i noticed this when i spent a week with my family and cousins. even my youngest cousins explained korean to me using "in OUR language" rather than saying "in korean." i'm starting to discover i'm more korean than i thought.

Monday, August 6, 2007

"Culture Shock"

this last one is courtesy of UNC. a great educational institution (snicker snicker BOOOOOOO)

this may be hard to believe but these are all actually taken from various colleges' and universities' study abroad websites. i feel like i'm in the 1860s or 1950s racism and stereotype-wise.

so a while back, towards the beginning of orientation we had a presentation/workshop on "culture shock" and my roommate and i recently have been talking and realizing (rather comically) that we've started the cycle.

Here are the various phases of "Culture shock":
Increasing participation

This a quote:
Other symptoms may include "excessive washing of the hands, exaggerated concern over drinking water, food, dishes and bedding, the absent-minded, far-away stare, a feeling of helplessness and a desire for dependence on long-term residents of one’s own nationality; fits of anger over delays and other minor frustrations; delay and outright refusal to learn the language of the host country, excessive fear of being robbed or injured, great concern over minor pains and eruptions of the skin, and finally that terrible longing to be back home, to have a good cup of coffee, to walk into that corner drugstore, to visit one’s relatives and friends and, in general to talk to people who really make sense" (Oberg).

Overall, it is kindof comical (we are bad ETAs who laugh at the ridiculosity of others' advice rather than take it seriously).
Rosie and I have decided we have now entered the "CRISIS" phase (a little prematurely)

Crisis Phase
Weeks 9–12

General Attitude Hostility, irritation, aggression

Events Uneven work performance, confrontation with differences

Emotional Response Discouragement, lethargy, depression, suspicion, boredom, homesickness, anger, extreme sensitivity and irritability, loneliness

Behavioral Response Withdrawal, avoiding contact with host nationals, excessive sleep, fits of weeping, loss of concentration, tension and conflict with others

Physical Response Minor illnesses, headaches, preoccupation with personal cleanliness

Verbal Response "This place s—s! I hate it here. This place and these people are stupid." Use of stereotypes, chauvinism, nationalism. "We" excludes host nationals.

Rosie has a new obsession with showering all the time and I have decided that I would rather sleep all day every day than do anything else. We are so glad that we've noticed the symptoms of CRISIS culture shock in each other and are forming a support group for others.

We are very glad for helpful 18 hour long GIK workshops. They come in handy in times like these.

(Haha, this comment is mostly for Ashley, Wint, and my sister: in case you didn't pick up on the sarcastic tone of the blog- we are very much actually dealing with these "symptoms" but find them funny because we are not in CRISIS phase)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Korea is funny

FIRST, OMG today we went to a sauna/jjimjilbang/mogyoktang and it was the best decision i made all day. it felt soooo amazing to just relax and sweat and go from hot to cold to warm and back and forth all over. this is probably my 3rd trip just since orientation started and i can honestly say they're some of my favorite times of orientation. =) i got my 2nd ddeh massage this week (sunday and today!) and it was amazing. This one was cheaper than in seoul and so much better. i felt like air when i was done. this week was rough. for no particular reason. it went by really quickly and we didn't have workshops or anything but it was just really tiring. i think it's because we've hit that midway hump when i'm running out of energy and the end is just barely in sight. hopefully, my second wind will kick in this coming week!

anyway, camp fulbright ended today and it was a little sad to see some of the students leave. here are a few cute stories:

1. i worked with teh lowest level students (who were still pretty good btw) but the students used "oh my god" to mean "look"/"i don't understand"/"he/she is doing something bad"/"please help"/"this is too hard"/etc. anything that required my attention. so i got a lot of "teacher oh my god teacher oh my god" and i had to figure out what was needed just by observing the situation with my eyes. it was a bit difficult and sometimes comical.

2. one of the students came up to me and was showing me his wrist and said "teacher i hurt here" and i asked what had happened, the following is his response: "yesterday night. we are playing and run. then wet. i WOOOONG~~~ (he made a wave hand motion) then KWANG KWANG KWANG (as he bounces lower and lower to demonstrate he fell down some stairs). you know?" hehe they are so cute i had no choice but to say "OH NOOO are you ok?" and try not to laugh at his story

also brilliant are some of our fellow GIKs, one of the girls here was so brave (in my opinion) and went to get her watch fixed without another korean speaker. her story goes something like this: she went into one jewelry store and as soon as she walked in the store owner said NO ENGLISH and pushed her out the door in a panic (not in a mean way but she was like scared of laura) so laura found another jewelry store and went there, she walked in and took off her watch and showed it to the lady and said "tick tick tick 없어요." which basically means "there is no tick tick tick" so after a few iterations the woman took out some batteries, but laura's watch is a windup, so she took out some double AAs from her bag and said 없어요 (=there isn't) again. the woman spoke in korean and laura shook her head that she didnt undertsand and so the woman spoke LOUDER (apparently that didn't work) and pointed to a calendar to a week from that day. laura retruned a week later and the woman pointed again to the NEXT week. this last time laura took a korean speaker with her only to find out the woman had gone on vacation and wouldn't be back for a while. we are guessing she might have run away with the watch. we'll see what happens.

so after my 2nd lesson this week, my observing instructor made comments about my lesson and this was one of the things she said: "so i don't know if this is just your voice in general, but there were some times i thought you sounded testy and/or whiny towards the kids. i mean it was weird bc it didn't seem like you were in that kind of mood at all, you had a lot of good energy but you just sounded testy" i told this to some of the other GIKs and ppl couldnt' stop laughing bc i am kindof known for my whiny voice and they thought it was sooooo funny. =P oh well

WE ALL MISS OUR MOMMIES!!! my roommate and i were talking and there are quite a few of us GIKs who keep having urges to ask our korean language teachers/cafeteria ladies/calligraphy teacher/random women on teh steet to give us hugs. we think it is because we miss our mommies. a lot. even though i've been away at school for so long this feels different because it's so hard just to get my mom on the phone and hear her voice when i want. the time difference is so weird and it's psychologically farther knowing i won't see her for a LONGER period of t ime than ever before and she's not just a 1 hour plane ride away.

also i miss my daddy. (and of course my sister and friends, etc). today was one girl's bday and she got a big bouquet of flowers and we waited for her to see who they were from and she said, "OH! it's from my dad!" and i started tearing up and cried alittle because i miss my daddy so much and want to see him!!! =( it just made me think of how much my daddy loves me and how much i want to accomplish to make him proud of me. =T