Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's in a Name

I had a really interesting experience yesterday, followed up by some usedul information. First, the info...
As it turns out, culturally in Korea, your name means a LOT. Not just 'good name, bad name' type of stuff, but it actually tells something about you. Supposedly you have certain elements about you that are strong. Your name is supposed to be the thing that balances out those elements, making you a well rounded person. So, people will actually go to someone and pay a lot of money to get assigned a name in order to fit their personality and their element traits. Now, this is all very foreign to me, but it will help you understand the story I'm about to tell you a little bit better!
Yesterday, I was sitting for coffee with Ashley (one of the English teachers) and Sukhee, one of the math teachers. We began talking about English names, and Sukhee proceeded to tell me that she has been searching for a good English name for ten years. She said that since her personality is one that is always changing, she found it hard to choose a name (which makes sense now, but didn't at the time). Ashley brought up the name Sue, and I shot that one down pretty quickly. So, Ashley said, "Why don't you give her an English name?" Geeze, no pressure or anything. "Here Tori, pick a name for the girl who hasn't been able to decide on one for ten years." So, I thought very hard about it. Then we had 5 minutes before class started, so I really needed to come back to my office. I had decided to give her the name Kristi. This is a good traditional English name, but it also suited her well. So, I said "I think your English name should be Kristi." All of the sudden, she starts beaming, ear to ear. She stood up in front of the other teachers in her office and said "Hello, my name is Kristi." It was so precious, and she was SO happy about this name! I was glad that I had chosen well for her. Later on, I heard the information about how important a name is to someone, and I felt so honored that I got to choose her name for her! Anyway, I don't personally believe that your name changes who you are or balances out your elements or anything, but it was cool to be part of that process for someone else who was so thankful to me. I think it was the best gift I've given thus far in Korea, and I didn't even know it!
So, there's my story for the I have a friend named Kristi here...but I'll probably still call her 숙희...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Identity what?

Sometimes when I need to be productive, I am creative ways. For example, right now, I need to be figuring out what on earth I'm going to do with my classes tomorrow. However, since I'm not in the mood to do that, I'm going to blog instead. So in a way, I'm being productive...just not in the way that I should be. Oh well...I'm sure anyone reading this might be appreciative! So, I want to take a moment to talk about identity theft in Korea...or the lack thereof.

I was talking to a Korean girl today about how trusting everyone is in Korea. The whole economy/business aspect of life is based on a trust system, which is so foreign to me as an American. Here is an example for you. For my Korean cell phone, I picked out a phone, picked out a plan, then filled out paperwork including my alien registration number and my bank account number. Yes, you read that right...I give the company my bank account number and they just deduct the appropriate amount from my bank account every month. My mind doesn't quite know how to wrap around this concept. A society where you give out important information freely without a second thought? As I was talking with this girl, I said "Identity theft really isn't an issue here." She responded with "Identity what?" as if she had heard me wrong....foreign concept. Also, I was on the bus the other day, crowded in with several others, with my purse slung to my back side, zipper wide open. I didn't even blink an eye at the thought of this, because there's maybe one person in the entire city of Cheonan that would even attempt to steal my wallet out of my purse. And even if that one person happened upon the bus behind me, there would be enough do-gooders standing around that that person would never get away with it. This whole idea kind of causes problems for some Koreans when they travel abroad. I have heard from many about their time in China or the Phillippines, where they had their purse or wallet stolen, or had at least been pursued in the attempt to steal it. Lesson from this is that I will enjoy it while I can, but I will definitely have to be guarded when I head back to the states!

Ok, especially to any former students of mine that might be reading my blog...random story of the day!!! :)
I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about some of the names that some Korean students pick out to be their English names. Just as some of us are familiar with picking out names for our high school Spanish or German or French classes, the students here often get great pleasure out of picking a name that suites the language. This is very helpful to me, as it's easier to remember the name Amanda, for example, than Hyung Soon...that kind of thing. Sometimes, however, this plan backfires on us as English teachers. Some of these names are ones that I've experienced, but some are ones that others have told me about. So now, enjoy this list of "awesome American" names....
*Cindy, Alice, Stella, Lucy...these kind of names...try calling a cute Korean girl Stella...then you'll see!
*Mex (like Tex Mex? I guess??)
*Jaina (like Jane...but with an 'uh' at the end)
* Exxon (like the gas)
*Starbucks...nuff said.
* Other (I don't know what they were 'other' than, but that was their name!)
* Interesting (that's one way of describing yourself...just name yourself that!)

So yeah...this concludes my story of the day on....interesting English names chosen by Korean students. Good times. :) Anyway, now that I'm heading back to school tomorrow, I'm sure you...whoever you all are, will be hearing from me more that I have access to a computer at my school! But for now, peace out!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I wanted to take this moment... talk about public transportation here in Korea. Yes, that's right folks, public transportation. My favorite. Now, don't get me wrong, that is the primary way that I get from point A to point B here, especially when point B is across town from point A! But, I just have to kind of chuckle at the awesome driving skills of our dear bus drivers...particularly the one tonight. He was just....awesome. So, we're getting on the bus from the downtownish city-life part of our town. A large group of people are waiting around, all for the bus I'm getting on of course. So we all pile in and barely have room to even hang onto a pole or handle while standing. Then all of the sudden this guy comes barreling through the isle, knocking Julie almost off her feet and straight into me, knocking me straight into the lady in front of me. Now, normally I might find the guy who started this domino effect to be at fault, but this time, I blame the bus driver. Now really, let's think about it. If you had a car full of standing people, you might find it slightly humorous to drive really jerk-ily also just to watch them flail around and try to keep themselves on their feet. But, experiencing a bus ride like I did tonight (which was much worse than other bus rides I've been on), I know that if I were a bus driver, I'd try to drive a little nicer than that. That's all I'm saying. To conclude this thought, I just have to say that I think public transportation is great-I just don't want to take out a little old lady while trying to successfully make it home. :)

So I've been in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) classes this week as a student. I just have to say, I do miss learning things, but I do NOT miss sitting behind a desk all day. My little ADD mind is just traveling a hundred miles a minute, trying to pay attention in class. Those around me like to marvel at my little drawings and my little clay creations, but I'd really rather just be able to pay attention like a "normal person." All that to say I'm really ready to be back at school next week, teaching as usual. Also, I'm a little sad today, because my former students back in Garnett started school today. It makes me sad that they're lives are moving on without me there to watch. So, I had to remind myself a few times today that I am here for a purpose and that it was more than just me that brought me here. I am here because of God's purpose, not just my own. That makes it easier, but I do still have a place in my heart for my old students...for sure.
Ok, my roommate is going to sleep, so that means I need to get off my computer. Hopefully this is enough blog to keep you all entertained for a few days. Enjoy!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Moving On...

So I decided today that I'm gonna stop trying so gosh darn hard to "catch up" on this thing in order to make everything happen in chronological order. So, if there are any OCD friends of mine out there that might be annoyed by things not happening in the right don't really know what order they happened in anyway, so it shouldn't matter to you! So, right now, I am going to talk about my trip last week across Korea. I start by saying that Julie and I are completely insane. Someone asked us "Who planned your trip for you?" and we were just kind of like "Uh...well...we just kind of looked stuff up online and wrote stuff down that people told us to see." So, that being said, last week actually went off without a hitch!
The trip started on Tuesday when we went to Seoul. I hadn't been to Seoul yet, so I was pretty excited just to see it. Also, I planned to meet up with a friend from college (Jamie Rehmer, now Greer) and meet her husband, so I was pretty excited about that. We started our little excursion, got to Seoul Station, and patiently awaited the arrival of Jamie and JD. While we were waiting, I saw SO many homeless guys outside the station, just laying all over the curbs and stuff. I really wanted to find a kimbop nearby and just go buy a bunch for all of them to share! But alas, I was on the lookout for Jamie, who doesn't have a phone yet. Once we met up with them, we ate some overpriced "Western" food at Bennigan's. Honestly, I'd rather live a year without "western" food than pay almost 15 dollars for a lunch that was so-so. After lunch, we parted ways with Jamie and JD and headed for Changdeok Palace. This palace is from the Joseon Dynasty. It began to be built in the 1400s, but after it was invaded by the Japanese, parts of it were rebuilt in the 1600s, 1800s and 1900s. Something interesting that I learned here was that back in the day, the Chinese language was considered to be a more intelligent language than Korean. So on all of the buildings and such of this palace, the titles were written in Chinese to show that there were well educated people living there. Our tour group was pretty cool because we were in the English group...English here is virtually everyone's common second language. So there were people in our group from France, Taiwan, Switzerland, Italy, the US, Canada, and many more places! It was pretty awesome! So after visiting the palace, we went to a shopping district called Insadong. This place sold a lot of antique-like and handmade things. It was awesome and the atmosphere there was very warm and friendly. After out time around Insadong, we were exhausted and wanted to find where we were staying that night. So we went to a travel information center, conveniently located at the front of the Insadong district. We spoke with a girl there that referred us to one of the jjimjilbangs on our printed off list that was near her house. Now, first, you might want to know what a jjimjilbang is. It's a public bath house that also has sleeping facilities. A teacher I work with told me that when her family traveled and wanted to save money, they'd stay at a jjimjilbang. So, Julie and I decided to try the Korean way. This place we went to ended up being WAY out of the main area of Seoul. We just might have been the ONLY foreigners to ever walk the streets of this neighborhood! So, after we ate at a KimBop, we headed for the jjimjilbang. The ladies at the front seemed very excited that we were there. As we tried to determine how long we were allowed to stay (since it was only about 8:30 at night), the lady told us "stay...long time!" When we asked "Overnight?" She said "Ok, ok" which in this case meant yes. Moving on, we left our stuff in a locker, took our little pepto bismol pink outfits that they gave us, and headed to the lockers where we're supposed to leave our clothes. As we were stripping down to change into our awesome new outfits (insert sarcasm), we hear this lady say "Oh my! What are you doing here??" We turn around only to see a Korean woman standing there. Queue confusion. As we soon found out, Rina was actually a Korean born here, but she moved to California about 20 years ago. She was in town visiting her family and decided to come relax at the bath house. The reason she was so shocked to see Americans was because of the area we were in of I said, we might have been the only foreigners to ever walk into those doors! Fortunately, Rina took the time to show us around a let us know where everything was and what it was for. This experience was actually really cool...until the sleeping part. We went upstairs and discovered a sleeping room that was dark, quiet and peaceful. As we debated where we might sleep, these young boys came in and said "!" meaning girls aren't allowed in here. Awesome. So, we went downstairs to where the women a cave. Literally, they were these arched cutouts in a wall that were just as long as my body and a little wider than a twin bed. So, you crawl in to the mat on the floor, lay your head down on the brick of a pillow, and squint your eyes at the awkward "peaceful" red light above your head. Awesome. So, sleeping situation at this particular jjimjilbang...not so good. Other than that, pretty awesome experience. The next day, we went back to Seoul Station, got some breakfast and headed out to Namsan Tower or N-Seoul Tower. This place kind of looks like the Seattle space needle thing. I guess there's a restaurant up in the top, but we didn't go inside. We could see SO much city from up there, it was crazy. Also up here, I could see the line where the pollution/smog met the fresh, clean sky. It was really gross, but kind of refreshing just to see actual sky. So I guess Namsan is totally the place that you go on dates...they've got these love benches there that are wooden benches designed to slant in toward the middle. Also, all along the fences, people have written love messages on locks and attached them to the fence. Call me cheesy, but it was actually kinda cute. While we were in the area of the tower, they had some soldiers that were dressed up in traditional garb doing some sort of ceremony. It was pretty cool to see that, and I even got my picture taken with one of them! I put up my Victory V just like any good Korean would do in a picture! Oh, if I haven't said anything about the Vs ya go. Whenever any here poses for a picture, they put up two fingers, like a peace sign. When we asked why, they said "It's a v for victory!"'s great. So whenever we're feeling especially Korean, we sport the Vs proudly. :) That afternoon, we met up with a teacher that sits next to me at school. Her and her son came to meet us, and then she just said "ka-ja" meaning "let's go." We had NO idea where we were going, but we just followed! She ended up taking us to this 63 story building that had an aquarium, an art gallery, a wax museum, and many other things in it. It was a cool building, and in the elevator, you get to actually look at the outside as you go up or down. It travels at a floor per second, so you're covering some serious height in a short amount of time! Julie got a little queasy on the way down...uh oh! Anyway, my teacher friend (her English name is Cathy) dropped us off at Itaewon where we were going to shop some. She was so sweet to take us around and show us part of Seoul! And her English is not great, but she's got a kind heart, and she really yeah. So Itaewon is the foreigner's district where there's supposedly great shopping for foreigners, great food, etc etc. Julie and I were both really disappointed by Itaewon...I think it was just hyped up to us WAY too much so we were expecting a lot. However, we did have some good Mexican food at a place called Los Amigos...I got guacamole with my was wonderful! Our server was from Bali and the owner of the restaurant sounded like he was from Jamaica. The entertainment was some Korean guys singing American cover songs. It was definitely an experience! Oh, something interesting about Itaewon is this. Itaewon actually means "another womb" and was a district that came about after the war when a bunch of Korean women came back from being prisoners and were pregnant from the Japanese. These women were shunned out of the regular society and were sent to go live in this place for those with half Japanese kids in their womb. It's kind of ironic that today this district is where most of the foreigners in Seoul live.
Ok, so for now, I'm done. I will tell you all about our trip to Busan next time! I hope you're enjoying this and that I'm not just blabbering on and on for nothing. That's all!