Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The hardest part of living here

So, today I got to go into school late! Woot woot! But, why did I get to go in late? Because I was helping my friend carry her bags to the bus terminal because she is leaving the country. Wah wahhh...
There are some days in Korea when I realllllly miss my friends and family back home. And I love my family and friends back home sooooooo much. But missing them is not the hardest part of living in Korea. You see, when we move here, we are missing those people from home, and so are the people around us (because they're in the same situation as us), so we find these friendships in the people around us. Sometimes they are people you wouldn't normally be friends with back home. Sometimes they're the kind of people that you think "how have we never known each other before?!??" because they're so wonderfully fit to be your friend. No matter who it is, we form these bonds with the people around us, and they help us get through all of the awkwardness of living in a new country, discovering the culture and the language, and creating fun memories in between. Unfortunately, there is a start and an end to everything. And for some, it's sooner than others. Unfortunately for me, most people's end is sooner than mine. So, I have to say goodbye, over and over again. This aspect of life is definitely the hardest part of living here. I am not good with goodbyes. I hate goodbyes. And even though I know I'm pretty good at staying in touch with people (so it's not goodbye forever), I know that I won't have that person around anymore. And knowing that they're not around from day to day makes it so hard to see them go. Now, I don't really want to go on talking about this, because the people in my office are starting to stare at me, sniffling and tearing up. :/ But, I thought I'd let you in on the secret...the hardest part about living in another country is having to say goodbye to all of the people who have made your experience there what it is. And on that, travel safely, my friend. Travel safely back to America, and Korea will miss you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cloudy with a chance of homesickness

Hello everyone who might happen to read this!

Today has been a rough day. I woke up this morning feeling like I'd been run over by a, this happens to me about once a semester. I start to run myself too hard, I start to get sick, and then one morning I wake up and feel like I can barely move. And after a day of recouperation and relaxation, I'm good to go again for another 6 months. I find it quite fascinating that my body does this...I'm sure it's perfectly logical, but yeah. Anyway, today I've been feeling quite homesick. Not like "Oh gosh, I want to go home right now!" but just a "Wow, I really miss everyone from home." I don't even really miss American life or America itself right now, just the people there. The problem with that is, I know if I left here, I'd have the same feelings about people here. Funny how that works. So, today has been a little tough, feeling like everything was reminding me of home, or feeling that whole 15 hour time difference thing, not being able to call the people I really wanted to talk to because it was the middle of the night there...luckily, today I went to the doctor (not for homesickness, but a sinus infection), and she prescribed some medicine for me. Once again, in favor of Korea's health care plans, I paid 7,400 won for a doctor's visit and a 4 day prescription for sinus stuff and allergy stuff...and 7,400 won these days is about $6.68. Love it.
So, this feeling of homesickness I think in part is because I'm trying to figure out what the heck I'm going to do next year. I've narrowed it down to a few options (a little less broad than last time). And actually, because of the way things have been going at my school recently, I just feel more and more everyday like I will not be staying in this kind of job in Korea...maybe some other kind of job, but not teaching English in a public middle school. I know, that narrows it down, right? :P

On a happier side of things, yesterday, I had a blast at my Korean church. I don't know if I've said this on here before or not, but I've started attending a Korean church on Sunday afternoons. I am still actively involved in my Internation English church, but I really wanted to get involved more with non-work associated Koreans, and church was a really great way to do that! So, I attend a cell group (like small group) there on Sunday afternoons and really love it. This Sunday was Korean Christian churches' Thanksgiving celebration, so there was a sort of festival going on when I got there this week. I somehow ended up winning a bunch of random prizes. They had little games around where you could win prizes like hot packs and candy. Then one person from the church came up and put these bracelet things on us which ensured us free food. Then, one of my Korean friends came up and was like "Go and dance? There?" and there had been several different things going on on the stage, so I thought he meant later, with a bunch of people. So I was like "Sure" and at that, he grabbed my arm and ran me up on stage with him and started dancing. So, I waved my arms around a few times and then just stood there and laughed. Then the MC guy asked me to introduce myself, so in Korean I said "My name is Tori, nice to meet you." Everyone started cheering and such, and somehow, from that, I won about 50 dollars in gift certificates! Haha...amazing. Here is a picture of my spoils from yesterday...

Anyway, I had a lot of fun yesterday and am constantly grateful for the amazing friends I have here!!! Oh, by the way, Shannon and I are going to look for a hedgehog for a pet soon...stay tuned for more on that!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

축 to the 제!

Ok, so the title of this post is 축 to the 제, or Chook to the Jay. The word for festival in Korean is Chook-jay, 축제, and a couple weeks ago, KNU had their school festival for which they hung up a bunch of signs. One of these signs said that on's like saying "Fest to the val" which I personally thought was hilarious and slightly gangster. So, on Wednesday, my school had their festival, and I couldn't help but think "Chook to the jay." This was the first school festival I had experienced here. Last year, swine flu was a big issue in Korea around this time, so lots of things got cancelled at that time. My school's festival was one of them. So, I was pretty excited this year to experience it. It started off with an "OX Quiz" which is basically a massive true/false test. And when I say massive, I mean all 1300 students at my school were flooding to one side or another, trying to guess the right answer to the quiz. Funny funny. Then they split up into a bunch of games including water balloon toss, limbo, darts, basketball, soccer shoot and karaoke. I of course gravitated toward the karaoke machine. So many students were gathered around there waiting for someone to get up the nerve to sing. A couple students would trickle up little by little, but there was by no means a flood. One of my students said to me "Tori, you should sing." I think he thought at first that I'd be like "No, no, never!" So when I simply said "Ok, I'll sing," he was like "What? Really??" A little while later, I sang the song "Listen" by Beyonce, and the students f-r-e-a-k-e-d out. Out of nowhere, I was like a rockstar, having students crowding around me, students asking to take their picture with me, etc. It was quite the experience! Then later that day, we had festival performances in which the students competed with each other. Performances ranged from dance groups to boys dressed up like girls, from singing to drama. The performances were great! However, there were some of them that were a little too risqué for my taste! One of the boys in one of the dancing groups was lifting up his shirt and such to show off his stomach, and one of the girls in a dance group was dressed in leggings, short shorts, a letterman jacket and a tube top. These kids are in middle school!!! And their dance moves were less than innocent for the most part as well! Anyway, other than that, the festival was incredibly enjoyable. Oh, and the Special Ed. class did a drama/play of the book "You Are Special" by Max Lucado, my absolute favorite children's book. Needless to say, I was in tears watching these kids act out this book, and watching all of their classmates cheer for them.
All around, it was a great day at the school festival. And right now, I'm going to get back to lesson planning while trying hard not to fall asleep!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Random Thoughts with Tori

Now, I know what most of you are're thinking "Shouldn't this be the title of every interaction with Tori?" But there is REALLY no rhyme or reason to the things I'll write today...just random things that I want to get out there!

**Last weekend I went with my Saturday co-teacher and her family to JeonJu. We went to a Korean folk village, ate some bibimbap, and had a good time! It's fun hanging out with just a Korean family by myself sometimes...
**I will never get used to the thought of squid as a snack. I just walked over to the table in our teacher's office, and right next to some crackers, choco pies and coffee was some squid...naturally...
**I was on the phone today with some loan ppl in America because my loan got moved from one company to another. I waited on hold for 56 minutes. I talked to the person for 3 minutes. God Bless America. :/
**I still have no idea what I'm going to do next year when my contract runs up. I have it narrowed down to 3 main ideas: stay in Korea, go back to America, or go somewhere else. Seriously though, pray for my direction for next year, because I don't know where I'm going to be!
** I am addicted to cheesy Korean dramas. I'm watching one now from a few years ago, and even though I'm 98% sure of what will happen, I still cling onto every episode with suspense.
**I am jealous of people who get Reese's peanut butter cups shipped to them...there, I said it.
**I am tired of feeling like I'm the inferior of everyone else in my school...just when I feel like they're starting to treat me as an equal, someone goes and overrules me on something or another just because it's their right as someone older than me. Even though I only knew/experienced the feeling for a year, I miss feeling like an equal with my co-workers, feeling like I actually had a say in things.
**I love every moment that I successfully communicate with a person in Korean. It's funny how things that would be so natural in "normal" life have become such successes (or failures as it may be) in this life.
**I realize that I couldn't live as a single woman in Korea forever...I'm enjoying this life, but know that it's not for me forever.
**I miss singing in a choral setting...I haven't now consistently for about 2 or 2 1/2 years...every time I hear a choir, I get misty eyed.
**I get excited when my school wants me to help with something like an English pop song contest...even though I know they only asked me because I am the Native English Speaker, I tend to convince myself that it's also because of my highly trained background in music. :P
** I enjoy seeing what adventures life leads me on with different people in my life...even though I don't always understand why things are the way they are, or why my timing wasn't clearly better than God's...I appreciate every moment that He gives me with my friends and family and co-workers, knowing that it's blessed.
**I am striving to try harder everyday to be more of a blessing to the people around me. Sometimes I use being a foreigner as my crutch to not be not be as loving and as kind as I normally not give wholeheartedly, knowing that other people's feelings are at stake. I want to be more like myself here in Korea, language barrier or no language barrier.
**I need to stop complaining so much. No need to expand on that.
**I love all of my family and friends, and even though I don't talk to all of you super often, you're in my thoughts and prayers a lot and I care so so so much about you!!
**I need to go be productive at work now, since for 2 1/2 hours I have nothing to show but a picture for the title page of my PPT for next week.
Enjoy your week...and I hope you enjoyed my ramblings.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Discounts and Oreo Balls

So, today I was late leaving my house and I took a taxi to school...on the way, I saw this guy who was holding his hand against his window, trying to get it to roll up...I laughed and then remembered what it was like to have a ghetto car that you have to do ghetto things to sometimes.

Yesterday I made Oreo Balls for Bible Study because it is my friend Hal's birthday this week. They weren't quite all the way dry yet when I needed to leave, so I waited a little longer, put them in a container, and hopped in a taxi to get there. I had to walk for a little while before I found a taxi driving along. I waved him down, got in, told him where I was going, and sat back for the ride. Hands down, this guy was my favorite taxi driver EVER. He was so awesome, he was speaking to me in Korean, which I liked, but he didn't get frustrated with me if I didn't understand...he would just say it a different way or say it in English. He started off by asking me something I didn't understand, then asking me if I spoke Korean well. I told him I couldn't speak it well, and he told me I needed to learn. Haha. I told him I was studying, etc. So this entire conversation went on, talking about my job, where I work, if I'm married, why I'm not married, his family, sports....tons of stuff. Haha, one of the funniest things to me that he said was that his son was tall and handsome, and good at sports, but not very good at studying. Haha. I laughed, because I guess stereotypes are sometimes proven even here. Also, as we were going, he told me that his home was near where I was going, so it was actually helpful to him that I was going there. So, at the end of my taxi ride, he gave me a discount! Heck yeah! And I totally wouldn't have minded paying him, because he was awesome, but I will take a discount where I can get one!! So, I popped open the container of oreo balls and told him that they were an American dessert. So he tried one and said it was delicious. Another funny thing is that he had been telling me I was pretty throughout the taxi ride, but then when he turned the light on to take my money, he was like "Wow, you're really pretty. Really!" Haha. Anyway, needless to say, taxi rides are normally something of a chore for me, with taxi drivers who are a bit disappointed that a foreigner is riding in their taxi, not knowing what to say to you...and this one...this one was a winner!! :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I think I'm an emotional blogger...

I mean, I guess that's kind of the point of express things when you want to. I just envy those people who are so faithful about blogging all the time. And I'm sure my family envies those as well...haha. Oh well. Anyway, I just found that I normally want to blog when I'm feeling something that I just need to express to someone non-Korean. No offense Korean friends...

So, some of my students are getting ready for the school festival, where they'll be singing a pop song together. They asked for my help preparing, and they chose the song "Isn't she lovely" by Stevie Wonder, but they want to do a version similar to the Idea of North's version. The Idea of North is an A Cappella group that sings pop songs and such in a vocal jazz style. I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to make this happen, because that's set up in an SATB status, whereas this is 5 girls singing As I was looking for this A Cappella version of this song, I started listening to and watching all of these videos of a Korean group of students singing vocal jazz music together. It reallllllllly made me miss A: being a know, back in the day, and B: singing. No, not singing at church. No, not singing at Noraebong....I mean singing singing. Singing classical music, vocal jazz, something like that...singing in a big choir. I don't know. Anyway, I have been feeling more of an ache for music lately, so I think I need to make more of an effort to make music an intentional part of my life. I don't know how that will take place, but I need to do it!

So, all of this rambling for absolutely no reason but to say that I miss singing. But it's true...and it's making me sad right now...yet I can't help but listen to more! It's like doing something else knowing that it'll probably hurt, but knowing that the hurt is worth the reward...

In other news, I'm losing even more of my English these days!!! The other day, someone asked me if my cell phone would work in America, and I said no. She said "not even on roam??" I said "No. Because of the kind of......umm, like the cell phone.....the service.....umm, that thing you choose to say how many minutes you can have, and that stuff. You know...a cell phone....uh.....UGH!!!!" I seriously couldn't think of the word "plan"...cell phone plan. I couldn't believe it. Hopefully I'm gaining Korean at as large of a rate as I am losing English!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


So, I've been home in America visiting for about a week and a half now. It's been quite the experience, traveling all over this country! I started my journey on July 31st, flying from Seoul to Tokyo, Tokyo to Newark, and Newark to Pittsburgh. When I was in the airport in Newark, I saw this girl that looked like someone I went to college with. I decided "I've been in Korea too long"...knowing that I was just thinking that everyone looked like someone I knew, mostly because they were white. Turns out it was actually the person I knew from college! She was coming back from Thailand, and just happened to be flying into the same airport at the same time as me. Weird. Anyway, when I came into Pittsburgh, my luggage wasn't there yet. Luckily, I have a wonderful brother and sister-in-law that were waiting to take me to Chipotle. I was SO excited for that! And by the time we got back from Chipotle, my luggage was in from the next flight. Lovely! That night I stayed at Keesa's (my sister-in-law) family's house. The next day, I went to church with the Cook's, then had a lunch get together with the Palmer side of my family. It was great to see everyone, and luckily I wasn't that jetlagged, so I actually got to enjoy their company. Monday, I hung out with the Cook's, swam in the pool, and had lunch with my brother. Then mom came up and we had dinner at the Cook's. Then I went to my mom's house and got ready for the big trip.
On Tuesday, my mom and I started the trek to Kansas City, with a few stops in between. We had breakfast with the lovely Courtney M. Page, Starbucks at a random city in Indiana, and dinner with my wonderful friends in St. Louis. Then we hit the road to Kansas City. I won't even list out all of the appointments I had in Kansas City, because there were SO many people in such a little time that I met with! However, it was so good to see everyone, and I'm so glad I got to spend some quality time with people! On Sunday, I went to church at Nall, which was nice, until I thought about the fact that I wouldn't be there again the next week. :( Aw. Anyway, I got to sing on the worship team, so that was fun! Then after church, my mom and I headed for Michigan. Monday morning we had breakfast with the LeFeber family, which was great. It was nice to see everyone! Then we left around noon to go back to PA in order for me to fly out the next morning. Now I'm in Florida, chilling at my dad's house. I was SO lazy this morning! But I went shopping today which was fun, and it's been nice just relaxing some.

This morning when I got up, I decided to eat an english muffin and some yogurt. I was super excited about having real yogurt as opposed to the soupy yogurt that they have in Korea. Well, it turns out that my body doesn't like American yogurt anymore. My body decided within the hour to get rid of the yogurt inside of it, which was not pleasant. After that, I realized that my body is more Korean now than American, at least in its food tolerances. Fortunately, we ate Korean food tonight, and my body is definitely used to that. It's great. Anyway, tomorrow Elizabeth and I are going to SeaWorld which should be fun! I am going to do my best to enjoy the rest of my break here in America, knowing that it'll be back to the grind soon enough!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Korean Slogan

The sound of a weed whacker...the smell of asphalt...the smell in the morning when I go to walk the dog...these are all things that, oddly as it may be, remind me of home. I'm sitting in my office right now, and I hear a weed whacker outside getting to business. I find it kind of funny that a weed whacker, of all things, would make me think of home, does!

So, recently I've decided what my new slogan for life in Korea is. The slogan goes something like this: Korea-where weird becomes normal, and normal becomes weird. This first came to mind when I was walking down the street with a friend and this guy (he sounded American by his accent), came and asked for directions to a certain sushi restaurant. I explained to him and showed him where it was, and we went our separate ways. At that, my friend said "That's not supposed to happen..." "What's not?" "Someone asking you for directions on the street in English...and you answering in English..." I laughed about it, but when thinking further, it was really true. Those kinds of things, the things that should be so normal in life, have become so few and far between, that they seem "weird" to us now. On the other hand, not being able to effectively communicate with people, not knowing what's in my food, not having half a clue as to what's going on in school sometimes....those things are the things we'd consider "weird" in the states...weird enough to note every time they happened. However, here, they've become so normal to me that I just don't think to talk about them anymore! So, I live in Korea-the land where weird becomes normal and normal becomes weird.

Also, Korea has done something for me in my thoughts of communication. In the states, I would tell people I HATE when there's a lack of communication between people. I thought that communication issues were one of the worst things to happen...ever. However, now living out of my normal element, living somewhere that communication is so different, and is not congenial with my instincts, I've learned so much about how to deal with communication issues. I've also learned to not jump to conclusions about what someone says or does, thinking first "Ok, is this cultural? Was there some sort of mix up in communication?" And that has helped me relax so much about my...well, basically my overly active worry-gene. It's a good thing, for sure!

Alright, I should go. A friend and I took pictures for some of our friends' wedding. I'm busy editing them (I've spent several several hours already doing it, and I'm only just over half done...and the wedding is next week! Ah!!!) so I should probably get back to that.
Oh!! Before I go, a random story! I walked into my classroom yesterday and this one boy was practically hyperventilating and another was livid. I have no idea what happened, but the entire class period, I was on top of this kid, trying to keep him from yelling and getting out of his was crazy! Definitely a first for me in Korea!! Ok, for real now...picture editing, here I come!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A homey event

What do these things have in common?

*Nachos (I mean with real cheese)
*Pulled pork sandwiches
*Rootbeer floats
*Banana Pudding
*Reese's Pieces
*An enormous American flag
*Ordering in English (comfortably); being responded to fluently in English
*Having to ask if it's ok to pay in Won instead of American dollars
*Lots and lots of small white, black, hispanic, and other kinds of children

Have you figured it out? The answer is "things that Tori experienced yesterday for the first time in over a year." That's right! Yesterday, I went to Camp Humphrey in Pyeongtaek for the "Freedom Fest 2010" taking place on base. For the weekend, they opened up the base to everyone (everyone with an ID at least) and had lots of fun, music, fireworks, blow up slides and other things you'd typically see on the 4th of July. Last year on the 4th, we went to the beach, which was fine, and we had pizza, which was fine, and some people tried to set off some fireworks on the beach before the beach patrol came which was, well, at least entertaining. However, it just didn't quite feel like the 4th of July. But this year was different! I couldn't believe the amount of Americans I saw in one place at one time! Haha. And I have to say that I was quite taken back by some of the conversation I heard! When my friend was ordering banana pudding, the lady working behind the counter was kicking boxes around and such going "Where da whip cream at??" Haha...I looked at my friend Courtney and said "Wow....I'm so sheltered." So, all of this to say a couple things. First of all, I had a fun 4th of July. Second, I am a little tiny bit more prepared to visit America in a month. Next, as much fun as it is to experience large amounts of Americans together on a holiday, I'm glad I live where I do. Also, eating way too much food can be entirely too satisfying sometimes. And lastly, although I love Korea, I'm still proud to be an American, and I love celebrating my country with great food, great friends, and of course, things exploding...I mean fireworks. :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dog Tales

So, my friend Lauren got a new dog. Well, I wouldn't exactly call him new, but he's new to her. He's a 10 year old Doberman named Kayser. He's completely wonderful and satisfies my "big dog longing syndrome" that I've developed while living here in Korea. Well, I have started walking him in the mornings. I think that might be why I feel so tired all the time, but it's ok, I'll get used to it! Anyway, it's quite the scene with us walking down the street together, a foreigner and a HUGE dog in the middle of the city. I try to take him down different paths near our house so he doesn't (and I don't) get bored. I've had some funny experiences recently with this and wanted to share some.

First there was the ladies who work at a store about a block behind my apartment. The one saw us coming, ran outside, then summoned the other one to come out. She asked me in Korean if he bites, and I told her no, so she started petting him saying "Wow, what a good looking dog" and such things. They asked how old he was and almost fell over when I told them he was 10.

On Friday morning, I was walking near Yawoori (the main road/department store near my house), so I went on the block behind it, assuming that there'd be less people there. I had two different groups of guys stop me, asking me how old he is, what kind of dog he is, how old he is, and how much he cost. Lauren got Kayser at a shelter, so he only cost 50 dollars. Their jaws almost dropped to the ground when I told them that! These guys had kind of smothered him, but he seemed to be enjoying the attention.

On Saturday, I walked past a shop where this guy was sitting. He came outside and told me to come back over. So, I walked back over, reassured him that Kayser didn't bite, and then he started petting him, talking about how big and good looking he was. Then he pointed into his house at this TINY little dog that was was definitely a puppy, standing on the table just chillin. I picked that dog up, Kayser sniffed him a little, and then the puppy settled into my arms cuddling up next to me. It was SO cute I didn't know what to do! The whole time this is happening, this guy and I are trying to communicate in Korean which is pretty entertaining itself. Then I started to put the puppy down to leave, and he said "같이 가자" meaning "let's go together" AKA "Take the puppy with you." Hahaha, I laughed so hard. I think he wanted to get rid of that thing. Anyway, it was pretty funny!

Then on Sunday, after Kayser had gotten in a hissy fit with a cat (AKA Kayser started sniffing a cat in a corner, which I didn't see, and the cat hissed at him and batted at him), we went on our walk. On the way back, we went behind Yawoori again, for the sake of less people. Well, the night before, Korea had lost their soccer match, so people were still out from drinking after the game. There were these 4 people who were being REALLY loud and I was thinking "Wow, they are so drunk!" Well, when I came closer, one of the girls looked like she wanted to pet the dog, so I stopped, and the four of them practically pounced on him. I soon found out that this was a group of deaf people, which explained the loud behavior from before. I ended up having a conversation, partly in English, partly in Korean, with one of the guys who could read lips pretty well. It was quite the adventure trying to figure out exactly what each other was saying, both always wondering if we were speaking in Korean or English! Then one the other guy in the group looked at me, and in his best English (remember, he's deaf, so he's never really heard English), "Can I have your phone number?" HAHAHAHAHA. I about died rolling on the ground in laughter. It was really funny, and luckily, it was meant as a joke from him!

Oh, and I almost forgot this one...I was walking once this week and these two grandmas came past me. The first one said "와 진짜 큰게!" like "Wow, really big!" and the second one said "와, 외국인!" meaning "Wow, foreigner!" Haha. I should have probably been offended in that moment, but I just laughed at the situation.

So, these are some of the stories I've had on my morning adventures so far, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were many more to come! I hope you enjoyed them!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Korea!

Well, about 2 hours from now will mark my one year anniversary in Korea. I cannot believe it's been that long already!! I mean, I feel like I've been gone from home for so long, but I don't feel like I've been here that long. It's crazy! So, since I was trying to be stubborn and not blog when I first came here, I thought I would memorialize this day by telling some stories about my first day in Korea. :)

So, before I got on my flight, I discovered that one of the other girls coming in my program was on the same flight. So we connected via facebook and exchanged numbers so that we could find each other in Chicago before our flight. It was nice feeling like someone else was experiencing the exact same thing as I was. When we got on the plane, we were in the same 1/3 of the plane, but not within speaking range, so we only talked once or twice on the long flight over. Also on this flight, I watched Marley and Me and bawled my eyes out...I think it was a sign of going through some emotional changes at that time. I didn't sleep at all in the plane, and when we got to Incheon Airport, it was about 4:00 in the afternoon. My luggage didn't fly overseas with us, so they told me I'd have to wait until the next day to get it (I ended up waiting almost 3 days for it). So, after a quick pass through customs, we went out to the bench where we were supposed to meet Terry, one of our program's representatives. We walked out and were greeted by a middle aged Korean man. He said "Englishee teacher, yes?" So, after some skepticism on my part and some sleep deprivation on both of our parts, we started following this guy who clearly didn't look like Terry (from the picture we were sent), but he called a number from Katie's information and then said "Follow me." So, against my gut feeling, we followed him. We were at the door to go to the parking lot and this man received a call. He hung up and turned to take us a different way. We went to a cafe downstairs in the airport, and he said "Wait here, we'll come to get you." THAT doesn't sound shifty! Anyway, we sat, sipped coffee, got to know each other, checked our email, told our relatives we were alive, etc. Then, as it was past the time we were supposed to meet with everyone, I heard them call our names over the intercom. So, we made our way back (in a very very scenic route) to the place we were originally supposed to meet. The others had been waiting for us for quite a while already. Then Terry got us KFC (served with fries...kind of weird), and we got in the bus to go to Cheonan. I sat near two people, Julie and Ryan, who I soon found out were also music majors in college. So of course we talked music almost the entire two hour trip back to KNU. Then, we got to our building and upon arrival, Terry took me, Ryan and Julie up to the 5th floor, then walked to one single room's door, looked at me and Julie and said "I'm sorry, but just for a while, you will both stay here." One desk, one wardrobe, one twin sized bed. Nothing like getting to know your friends REALLY well right when you meet them, right?? :P After that, we had a huge greeting party of the others in the program, including an incredibly excited Amanda Knodel and Becky Brents who had been informed that we were arriving. The group had been in the common room singing worship songs together, so we went in and joined for a while, then chatted for a while, then went to our room to pass out asleep. Then we went back to the group of people and asked if anyone had blankets, pillows, towels, etc. that we could use. Needless to say, the program really wasn't prepared for our group when we came in. That night I woke up so many times, including finally giving up and getting up to get ready at around 5:30.
That next morning was full of memories also, including getting locked in our room, meeting our first Korean friend, Jason, and so many other things. Gosh seriously, thinking back on it, it feels so fresh in my mind that it doesn't seem possible that it was a year ago! And when I look back on all the things that have happened in one year, I am so amazed and feel so blessed to be where I'm at.

I had a really rewarding moment a couple weeks ago. It happened just before my food poisoning, which is why it got postponed in my writing. Anyway, I went to buy hair dye at the grocery store near my house, and I had a conversation with the store clerk. The entire conversation took place in Korean, and this is about the gist of it:
Oh, Hello.
Oh, you speak Korean very well!
No, no, just a little....yeah, I want this one.
Ok. It has a little bleach in it. Is that ok?
Yeah, it's fine.
Ok. So, where are you from?
I'm from America..
Ok. Don't you want to go back to America?
No, it's ok. I like Korea.
Good. What's your job?
I'm an English teacher.
Oh. How long have you lived here?
One year.
Really? One year? You've only been here one year and you speak Korean like this! I studying English so much in school and I can't speak any!!
Do you live near here?
Yes, I live at Sambu Renaissance Apt.
Ah. Do you use makeup on your skin?
No, I don't use it. you use moisturizer?
I just use body lotion.
Ah, I see. *points at blemishes on my face* Don't these hurt?
No, they don't hurt.
I see...*puts samples of skin care products in my bag*
....*awkward silence*
Ok, well, thank you.
Yes, thank you!

By the end of this conversation, I was really nervous that she was touching my forehead because I was POURING sweat out of it! I was SO nervous the entire time we were having this conversation!! I don't know why I was so nervous to talk to someone Lotte Mart lady, but the more I understood and responded, the more nervous I got! Haha, it was great. Then afterwards, I was so proud of myself...silly, but rewarding.

All of this to say, it's always an adventure here...everyday I experience something new, and I love it. It's not always easy, it's not always fun, but it is an adventure and a challenge...and you know me, I love a good challenge. :)
So, hats off to Korea...we've been together for one year, and I'm looking forward to another great year with you! ^^

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Something odd to experience in a different country

So, two nights ago, I had an interesting experience. After a typically busy night, giving two piano lessons, then going for a walk with a friend, I felt a little sick to my stomach. Nothing too crazy, just a little indigestion. So, I took some Tums and decided to go to bed early, as I was going to be getting up to hike the mountain in the morning. I ended up going to bed by about 11 (yeah, so early, right? :P ) and not long after, I woke up feeling very uncomfortable. I had realized before going to bed that my dinner didn't agree with me, but I assumed it was just because it was quesadillas, and I don't really have cheese much here. So, I woke up, and my stomach hurt even more than before. I tried to just "sleep it off" assuming that the pain would go away if I didn't think about it. Well, by about 1am, I was on my couch (that's where I sleep these days because of bad air circulation in my room), writhing in pain...I felt like someone was treating my stomach and intestines as a wet wash cloth, trying to wring out all of the moisture. It was awful. I staggered about my apartment for about 45 minutes until I decided (of course with the suggestion from my mom as well) to go to the doctor. I had a friend that was online at that time, and after suggesting that I thought I had food poisoning, he offered to go to the hospital with me. I went down to the mart in our building to get some cash for a taxi ride, hoping all the while that the taxi would actually get me to a hospital that was open. I also bought a bottle of water, and upon receiving my change, looked at my friend Josh and said "Yup, I think I'm going to throw up." Next, I became very familiar with the trash can directly outside the mart. I think that something that's even worse than throwing up is throwing up into a trashcan that wreaks of cigarette smoke. Yuck. So, as we're walking to the taxi, Josh says "You know, I'm usually skeptical about people saying they have food poisoning...everyone thinks they have it when they really don't...well, that pretty much just sealed the deal for me." Haha, I tried to laugh, through the waves of cramps coming and going from my abdomen. We got into the taxi, and the driver seemed a little weird about it when I asked him to go to the Cheonan WerioWon (one of the hospitals near us). I was hoping, once again, that they were actually a hospital with an emergency room and that I wouldn't be taking some taxi ride in vain. So, we pull up, I see the light on at the ER and I feel a slight comfort. Then as we got out of the taxi, I looked at Josh and said "Do you have my jacket?" He had been holding it since I was throwing up back at the apartment. He chased the taxi briefly, in vain, and I dismissed it. Unfortunately, it was a pretty staple jacket in my wardrobe, but...I was in too much pain to care! So, we made our way up to the ER, and walked in. There was a woman sitting at the front, but she didn't really acknowledge us, so we walked past her to the doctor. The doctor looked at me in confusion and I said "Shik Joong Dok"...the Korean word for food poisoning, which I had looked up in my telephone dictionary during the taxi ride over. He said something else to me in Korean, and I was like "I don't know where to go." He said "Ok, but you need to sign in over there first." Wonderful. He speaks English! That was an incredible relief to me! So, I go over to the lady who I need to sign in with, and she hands me a paper to fill out. I take out my ID to write down my address, and I get another incredible cramp. She takes my ID and tells me to just go. After this, it's all kind of history. The nurse asked me what was wrong in Korean, and I was telling her everything, in our broken Konglish. Then the Dr. came over, asked me the same exact things in English, and then told me to lie down and wait for them to take an x-ray. They took an x-ray and a blood sample, and after that they hooked me up to an IV to give me saline and some sort of pain killer. They ended up coming over and giving another shot of some sort of pain killer after they noticed that the cramps weren't going away. During this time, the nurse came up and asked me something in Korean. I answered her, and she said, in Korean "Oh, you understand Korean." So, for some reason, against how I normally decline that accusation, I said "Yeah, I understand some." So the Dr. was there and said, in Korean, "Oh, you speak Korean well, huh?" I said, in Korean "No, just a little." Then, in Korean, he said "Ok. I'll speak Korean then." AHH! No! I was like "No way! Your English is way better than my Korean!!" Haha...Finally, after about 3 hours in the ER, all of the IV had drained into me, and I was free to go home. They told me I needed to go pay and that I would be able to get my medicine from the pharmacy after that. So, I reluctantly went to the front desk lady again, unsure of how much this visit to the ER would be...I knew it would probably be less than in America, but I figured with the x-rays, blood tests, etc. that surely it wasn't going to be a happy number. So, she looks at me and says "Yuk man, Ee Chon, Ship Won." Translated, that's 62,010 Won....converted, that's currently about 50 dollars and 62 cents. Unfreakingbelieveable. She asked me if I was going to pay for it all in one payment, which I kind of laughed at and said yes. After leaving her, I went to the pharmacy, grabbed my medicine, and became aware of the fact that the 50 dollars I had previously paid included the charge for the medication. I should have bounced for joy leaving that place, but I was still feeling pretty rotten. I hadn't had the cramps for a while though, which was good. I thanked the Dr. up and down, then as we were leaving, the second I left the hospital, I felt another awful stomach cramp! I'm assuming it was probably because of the amount of time I had spent standing up and moving around at that point. Anyway, after a fairly uncomfortable taxi ride home, a pretty unrestful few hours, and a call to my school to inform them of my sickness, I was finally able to eat some food and take my first bit of medicine. I didn't want to eat any food of course, but I saw the "30 minutes after breakfast" label on the medicine, and I didn't want to disobey the rules. So I ate some rice and took my medicine. After that, I slept really well, and then came a day of sleep, eat, take medicine, reassure family and friends that I'm ok, feel like I'm going to throw up, sleep some more, repeat. And today, I'm feeling much better. I've eating Jook, which is rice porridge, for the past 3 meals. They say that's the magic cure to food poisoning here in Korea. I also had a teacher from my school bring by some homemade plum juice, which is supposed to be good for digestion. I drank that today after feeling a little uneasy after lunch. And, I've been drinking barley tea like crazy, which I guess is also the magic cure for food poisoning. So, all in all, I've got plenty of magic and medicine to cure me! Lol. And thanks to everyone for your prayers..I'm sure those were much more helpful than my magic Jook. Lol. And everyone can rest assured that I have now lived through my first (and hopefully last) medical crisis in Korea...pat on the back for me. :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's Been Awhile...again...

So, right now I'm fighting with facebook. We're arguing over how and when photos should upload onto my profile. I've been trying to get one stupid facebook photo album to upload for about a day now! And not just upload, but I'd prefer for it to upload with no repeat pictures, and to actually have the pictures in order. Unfortunately for me, facebook is winning. I'm so sick of trying, that I just don't care whether or not I get the photos uploaded!! Goodness gracious.

Ok, so went to a couple classes today, and came back from my 3rd period very frustrated. I'm frustrated with the system of subtitling in Korea. That sounds silly, right? Well, I have just cause...please continue reading. Here, in the theater, if there's an American movie showing, they put Korean subtitles on it. If someone in the movie says a highly inappropriate word...well, they kind of water it down to make it not sound as bad as it is. You'd think that'd be a good thing right? It's like shielding their ears. hear these words, and they think "well, it just means ____" so they think it's ok to say it. So, when I'm giving my kids an example of when I would say "Bummer" they say "Oh, like S*** or F***...right?" Ugh, I just want to scream when they do that. And mostly because they think they know what those words mean, but they were to say those words in Korean during one of their Korean classes, they would get slapped upside the head! Ugh. It just makes me sick thinking about it. Anyway, I'm done with classes for the day, so that's good! Yay for the weekend! I had a bunch of actually useful things I was going to write on here, but I'm frankly not in the mood to write anymore. But, if I get back in the mood to write again later, I'll put something worth while up here. :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

Normally when we hear this phrase, it's used in a negative reference, like you say one thing, but do another, and the impact is made by the bad action you performed. I know sometimes it's a positive thing, but not often. Right now, I'd like to use this phrase to describe a bit of a different situation. I think this phrase is so so so so true when referring to interacting with people + language barrier. Some of my teachers, they are really good at English. They will speak to me everyday, and they make me feel welcome and comfortable. Then some of my other teachers cannot speak English at all really. You would think that they feel a little cold, right? Wrong. They are the ones that go out of their way for me with their actions in order to make me feel at home. It's funny how you could talk to me until you're blue in the face, but what seems so much more sincere is when a teacher will just come up, set some random food (or whatever) on my desk, and then just give me a big smile. It totally makes my day whenever the teachers who are least confident with their English communicate with me...not necessarily through their words, but more through their actions. I love it. ^^
Also, just a random thought, spring here is beautiful. I don't mean the weather...the weather has been crazy. The other day, there was a 38 degree difference between the morning and afternoon was insane. But, the colors are amazing. You know HDR photos? That's what life looks like right now! It rained this morning, and colors were just popping out around every corner! It was amazing, and it definitely lifted my spirits to see such beautiful colors and flowers. It's amazing how these little things in life can bring us joy, but it's just hard to deny when beauty is right there in front of you. ^^

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wow...lots to say...current issues, crazy weekend, and promised discussion

So, I started this blog a couple days ago...sorry it's taken so long to get it posted!

So, first I'm going to start with what's currently on my mind. Last week I was talking to my friend Jisoo on Skype. I was just speaking at a normal speaking level, and a teacher came up to me and asked me to stop talking on Skype because I was distracting others from their work. Now, I know that listening to English can be distracting to people who don't speak it. I also know that it's midterms time and people are stressed out. In addition to that, I know that I'm a foreigner, and things are just not going to go my way sometimes. On that note, a teacher told me today that the people in my office discussed and came to the conclusion that I should not video chat during class hours...only during break times (the 10 minutes in between classes). Coming at this from a professional standpoint, I totally understand. I mean really. If I'm trying to work and I hear someone's one sided conversation in the background of my office, yeah, I'm going to be distracted and I'm going to think that DUH work comes before pleasure. However, somehow all of things things don't seem to justify enough in my mind to make me feel satisfied about the situation. Because, for 10 months now, I've been allowed to talk on my computer to people during school hours. That's become my main time of communication with people back home as its some of the only time that both I and they are awake and kickin'. There's a big rock in my stomach now, and it seems so silly that I'd be upset about this (especially since it makes so much sense), but I really am. And I feel a little bit attacked by the teachers in my office. I mean, seriously, 10 months into this, they're just now telling me that they don't appreciate me doing this...and so I feel like there's been this resentment or something building up and they're just now telling me about it. I'm just a little hurt by the situation and a little frustrated also that I am not really sure when I'm going to talk to people from back home now. As always, it'll work its way out, but for now, I'm a little frustrated.

Ok, so for this past, I had promised my friend MinCheol that I'd go to his church in Seoul. I told him I really wanted to see a Korean service, and he's the worship leader at his church. So, Jordan and I went up with him on Friday to Seoul to visit his church. So, we took the subway, and we ended up being a little late. On our way up, MinCheol had said something about his church being near a Holly's coffee. I thought it was random that he mentioned it, but whatever. Then when we got out of the subway station, and we're standing at the crosswalk, and one of the lights there turned green and he said "Ok, see you later!" and then motioned for us to walk. So, we started walking across the crosswalk, confused as ever, and I started putting two and two together, hoping that we were doing the right thing. Jordan and I went to Holly's and waited around, assuming MinCheol was going to come get us and take us to his church. He came running back, dressed in a suit for church. Then he was like "So, we might have to run. Is it ok?" we ran, several blocks, to his church. When we got there, he was late for worship practice, so his worship team was a bit upset with him. Oops! Anyway, the church itself was pretty was quite Pentecostal. It was a prayer based service, and in Korean church, when you spend lots of time in prayer, most people are praying out loud at the same time. So that's what was going on, and I was cool with all of it, except I was a little distracted by this guy beside me who was pounding on the pew....other than that, it was a good experience. Then we went to this hole-in-the-wall 삼겹살 (sam gyup sal) restaurant. 삼겹살 is basically pork grilled with a lot of fat left on it. It's a little gross to me texturally, but this place had really good flavor. I had never eaten that before! Anyway, after this, it was after 1:00 and so they decided that Jordan and I should just go to the sauna in that neighborhood instead of going to the nearby neighborhood. So we walked to that sauna and it was closed. Then MinCheol's friend ran across the street where there was supposed to be another one, but it wasn't there. Then MinCheol called the one in Wangsimni (the nearby neighborhood) and they didn't answer. He called information and asked about spas or saunas in the area, and we had no luck. So, MinCheol said "How do you feel about....inn?" Haha. I knew what that meant. That meant love motel. Remember those places I talked about last time where people go and do their dirty work? Yup, that's where he was talking about. I was like "Well, we do have to sleep." So, we checked into a love motel, and I was so curious what we were getting ourselves into! Now, what I was worried about was cleanliness. And actually, this wasn't an issue. The room smelled a bit like smoke, but that's normal even in hotel rooms in America. Other than that, the place was really clean...clean sheets, clean floors and that was good. There were of course some interesting things about the room that definitely made it love motel status. First, the light fixture. I will attach a picture. It will speak for itself. Also, there's these inset green running lights along the ceiling...mood lighting? Umm...the bed was heated. Also, there were like hair products, perfumes and colognes. Yeah, it was pretty crazy. But it was a place to sleep at night, so that was good! Definitely an experience that I said was "blog worthy."

This is the light can't see it, but it says "Love" on it...
And underneath, the mood lighting-green-weirdness.

Last night on the bus, I was calling Ben a player (actually translated, a wind person, lol), showing off my new vocabulary. I was like "바람둥이 예요!" which means you're a player or there is a player. Lol. So we were just messing around saying this, teasing him about his friend Anna, and then this guy turns around and is like "Where did you come to Korea from? How are you here?" etc. Then he looked at me and was like "Your Korean pronunciation is really good! I am so impressed!" Haha. I'm glad that I could impress a random guy on the bus by telling my friend that he's a player. Haha. I was a little embarrassed, but I thought it was hilarious all the same.

So, I said before that I'd talk about another thought I had on a cultural...fall out, shall we say, here in Korea. I don't think anyone in Korea would claim that this is not a flaw in their culture, but I don't necessarily know if they'd do anything to change it. Anyway, this is something that I was reading about a few weeks ago, and I just haven't been able to get it off my mind. I feel like maybe I'm going to be involved in doing something about it? Probably on a small scale, obviously, but still...I hope in my heart that I can do something to change this.
So, without further ado, the topic of depression and suicide in Korea.
This topic came up with me as I read an article for my English discussion group (sounds lame but the people in it are awesome! We read news articles and discuss them) about a former Korean celebrity Choi Jin Young. He committed suicide less than two years after his sister, also a famous actress, committed suicide. This article focused less on the background of Choi Jin Young and more on the issue of depression and suicide in Korea. Now, I don't mean to be bluntly insensitive, but I do want to share some stats about the issue here.
First, Korea has the highest suicide rate among all the industrialized countries in the world. Suicide is the 4th highest cause of death in Korea, and among people in their 20s and 30s, it's the highest cause of death.
In the past 10 years, the suicide rate in Korea has almost tripled (comparing this to America, the US has stayed almost consistent with its previous rate. America and Korea used to be even, but now Korea's suicide rate is twice as high as the US).
In Korea, every year, there are over 12,000 people who commit suicide. This means that over 32 people a day commit suicide.
The fact that is even more heartbreaking is this. Those are only the successful suicides. In Korea (at an average), every 9 seconds someone is trying to commit suicide. About every 45 minutes, one of those people succeeds.
An estimated 70 percent of these suicides are linked to a depression of some sort.

Now, as I write this, tears come to my eyes. You know, living in Korea, I've grown quite fond of the people here. And to see that SO many people struggle with confirmation of the importance of their lives just makes me so sad. And it almost frightens me, because I feel like at some point, I'm going to have it happen to someone around me. It's not something I want to think about.

So, the reason for this? Well...I have a couple theories. Obviously, these are a compilation of my thoughts, things others have shared with me, and things I've read. First, pressure/stress. In Korea, the people are always trying to succeed and to be better and better than the last person. There is a high element of competition, not just among oneself and colleagues, but among every other Korean. This can create a lot of stress, obviously! Not EVERYONE can be the best, so when people discover that they're second best or even less than that, it is such an exaggerated defeat here. Next, pressure from family. It doesn't take long being in a Korean school system to see the pressure and stress the students are under to do well. Not only that, but they're in school for so many hours of the day, attending hogwans after school, that they're not getting enough sleep at night. When asking my students when they go to bed, the average time was between 11-12 at night...that's just not enough sleep for young students who are under pressure. And here, the name of your school is everything, even starting in high school. Kids in middle school are working hard to get into a good high school. Kids in high school are working hard to get into a good college. People in college aren't working as hard, but still are trying to be so successful so that they can make a name for themselves. Also, I think that the homogeneous atmosphere of this society creates a lot of problems concerning depression. Depression is still a bit of a foreign land to them here, so Koreans don't like talking about's kind of like a nasty disease that no one wants to mention. That causes great problems because then everyone looks down on it and it becomes a shameful condition. And since "we are one" is a common mindset here, if "we are one" and there's something wrong with you, then there's something wrong with me. And we can't have that. I'm fine, so you have to be fine. So just don't talk about that "depression" thing to's embarrassing.

Well, these are just a few of my thoughts on the issue. I am still processing through a lot of it, and I'm thinking of ways that I can help as a foreigner with no power or status in this society. All I know is that something has to change. Something's gotta give in this rapid climb in suicide rates. There's got to be a mindset change before it gets worse. All I've been able to do so far is pray. Whenever it comes to mind, I pray that whoever at that moment is thinking about ending their life, that God would just be with them, comfort them, and show them that there's more to live for than what's currently bringing them down. And I would encourage you (if you feel so led) to do the same. It's the least that I can do right now. Anyway, sorry for the soap box, but I did promise before that I would share my thoughts on this, they are.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Random things...

First of all, today's lunch might possibly have been my favorite lunch of all! Wednesdays, I can almost always count on a good lunch, but today was really good! We had this 국수 (noodle soup) that was just a basic broth with vegetables and noodles...they're kind of like angel hair pasta noodles. Anyway, we also had kimchi (which was only fermented to perfection today), this yummy rice stuff that was served in ball form which made me skeptical at first, the best rice cake things ever (they are the size and shape of the cookies that have hershey kisses on them, but they're rice cake with red bean in them...kind of a sweet taste), and drinkable yogurt. Now, looking back on this list, I feel like an alien, saying that these things were delicious. However, they were absolutely great, and I am SO full now...I almost got more just because it was so good, but now I'm glad I didn't...I think I might have burst!!

So, on a different note, I have some thoughts about some cultural Korean things. First, let's talk about whorehouses. Now, you may think that we stepped back into the old west when I say this, but, it's a little different. Nonetheless, there are actually places here that are protected by the government that are businesses housing prostitutes. Now let's talk about the men that frequent these places. Scumbags, sure. Poor people, not likely since it costs money. Classy business men, yes. Married men, yes. "Christian" men, yes. Married "Christian" men, yes. Young hormone-raging men, not as often as the old married men. Now, I'm hoping by this point that you're throwing up in your mouth a little bit. This is a part of the culture that I simply can't understand. Now, a couple big questions....first, do they think it's ok/not wrong: mostly. Second, do the married men's wives know that they do this: most of them. It just makes me sick to my stomach to think about the fact that people think this is ok! I mean, I know that sin is sin and I know we all struggle with sin in our lives, but most of these people have convinced themselves that there's absolutely nothing wrong with going and getting a little side lovin' from a complete stranger before they go home to their wife. I don't know if there's anything I can do about this aspect of the culture, but I'm open to suggestions. Lol. But seriously, I wish there was something I could do to change this.

Speaking of things I wish I could change about Korean culture, stay tuned for my next blog...I'll be talking about some other thoughts I have from being here... :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's Been Awhile...

So, it's been a while since I've written a blog. I'm going to start out by talking about my last class. They are a low level class that is incredibly enthusiastic. The problem is that their attention span is even shorter than mine. Yeah, I didn't know it was possible either...but it is. And they have proven that. Anyway, they're a fun class...exhausting and all. There's a kid in there who always goes "I LOVE ENGLISH!!!" So when I was teaching them the phrase "Really? Why?" I asked him if he liked English. He said "YEAH!" I said "Really? Why?" and he said "BECAUSE I LOVE YOU!!!!!" of my prouder moments as a teacher. :P Then there's another kid in this class. Honestly, he's the most adorable boy of any of my boy students. And whenever he sees me in the halls, he's always sheepishly smiling and saying "Hello Tori." Well, today, he was combing his friend's hair...yes. Combing his hair. This is a point at which Korean boys are SO much different than American boys. They will comb each other's hair, walk down the hall holding hands, sit on each other's laps...just about anything that Korean boys do (besides beat on each other) is very foreign to Americans. So, when I offered the chance to win candy, this adorable boy raised his hand. I told them that they just had to do what I tell them to in order to win candy. So, I told him "Stand up. Come to the front. Repeat after me: I will not....comb my your class....anymore......good, now give me a high five." Seriously, this kid is precious, and the whole class roared when I told him not to comb his hair in my class anymore. Funny funny.
Oh, another funny thing that was said in class today was this. I was in a lower level class, and we were talking about using phrases like "I didn't hear you." I gave an example. Then I asked them what they needed me to do (meaning say it louder, softer, faster, slower, etc). I said you need me to say it.....?? and this girl goes "In Korean!!" Ha. Ha. Ha. I laughed so hard at it. It was probably the most effective and accurate answer I've gotten in a while. :)
Now. Let's talk about lunch today. There's this stuff in Korea called 순대...have I talked about it before? If I have, I'm sorry, because I'm getting ready to talk about it again. It's called Soondae, but what it is is blood sausage. Yes, blood read it right. So, I've had it once before, and I choked a piece of it down that time. This time, I was deceived. I saw this fried stuff, and a teacher sitting down already said "Very delicious...많이 먹어"...meaning eat a lot. so, I grabbed three of them, my best guess being that it kind of looked like it could be chestnuts. So, I get to the table, sit down and say "What is this?" And they all say "Oh, Soondae, very delicious!!" Great...because I remembered my first experience eating soondae (right as I put it in my mouth a teacher said "blood sausage!!"), and I didn't want to relive the gag reflexes that took place that day. So, I prepared myself, shoved a piece in my mouth, and chewed like crazy. I'm actually having a reflex to simply thinking about in I feel like I might throw up right now. I think that actually, it's not the taste of soondae that's so terrible, but rather the texture. It's kind of the texture of rice, and I think there's rice with it, but it's meat. Bring on the raw beef please....I'd rather have that.

Well, this afternoon I get to teach my lesson on American schools. It should be interesting, but the kids in the first lesson of it seemed interested enough. Ah well...I should probably do some actual planning during this planning period. I guess that's what they're here for. Anyway, hope you enjoyed my stories!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh goodness, the ups and downs

So, I'll start by telling you a funny story from this morning. Now, yesterday from afternoon on was terrible, and I do not want to relive that. However, something stemming from last night happened this morning, but since I'd had sleep in between then and now, it was humorous to me.
So, I got on the bus this morning, on time and all that jazz. I sat down, opened my purse to get my Zune out (a lady in front of me was popping her gum), and there was chocolate ALL OVER my purse. Yes, that's right....chocolate. Last night, I had bought these chocolate covered hazelnuts for comfort food when I was feeling bad. I left them in my purse last night...I keep my purse on the apartment has heated the math. So yes, there was melted chocolate all over everything in my purse. It was quite funny actually, but a little ironic that the food I bought as comfort food was actually causing me more trouble.
On to other things. I got an email last week about an extra teaching opportunity through the district (the only other legal way for us to make money here) and so I replied right away, but 4 other people beat me to it. I was disappointed, but I continued on with whatever. The next day, Julie told me about a teaching opportunity at her school, which was more money for less work. I was loving the idea of that, so I talked with Jenny about it, and got lined up to teach there. Then today, two days later, my school asked me to teach an extra class. Lol. This kind of stuff just really cracks me up....when it rains, it pours. All that to say, I'm going to be able to make money to come home and visit this summer! Yay! I'm pretty stinkin' excited about that. And yes, I'm giving up the freedom of my Saturdays...but I'm ok with that...I think.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


In Korea, I've come to the conclusion that it's assumed that if you are a teacher, you do not have a life outside of school. This is completely ridiculous because it's impossible to plan anything outside of school without them walking all over it.
Take today for example. It's 4:20 (10 minutes before I leave for the day), and the teacher sitting across from me tells me that the teacher who sits next to me, who doesn't even teach English, wants us to help her with a speaking test. This test is supposed to be AFTER 7th period....7th period is the after school period that takes place on Thursdays. So this period would start at 4:40...(if you're a mathematician, you've already discovered that 4:40 is 10 minutes AFTER I am free to leave for the day. The fabulous thing about this is that I'm having a bunch of people over to my house for dinner tomorrow. Insert sarcasm. So, the 7ish people that I've told to come to dinner at my house, I now need to try and get ahold of to tell them that I either A: can't make them the dinner I promised, or B: make the dinner considerably later than promised. Great thing about this is...well, I'm done...there is no great thing about that.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Organization and Pre-planning: Not One of Korea's Strong Points!

So, my day today did not start out well. I woke up when my alarm went off, and I somehow convinced myself in my half-conscious state that it was Saturday. So, I went back to sleep for another hour and a half. I woke up about a half hour before I was supposed to be at school. Now, I usually leave for school about 45 min. to an hour before school in order to catch a bus there on time. The bus itself only takes about a half hour, but the waiting for a bus can be tricky at times. So, this morning, when I woke up at 8:00, I was thinking "Last night, Courtney and I were both saying 'Oh gosh, I need to go to bed' what was I thinking that for...what do I have going on today....??" Then it hit me. It's Monday. Ugh. So, I fumbled down my dangerous stairs and made my way to my bathroom. When I got ready, I knew I would have to take a taxi in order to be there a half hour late, like I had told my teacher when I called him. So, I hopped in a taxi, and told him my school. Along with every other taxi driver in Cheonan, he did not know where it was. So he, of course, took the time to enter it into his little GPS, and then the WHOLE way to my school, he was rambling on about how he is just not sure of where my school is. It was pretty funny...and I got to school about 20 minutes late, which all things considered was NOT bad.
When I got to my school, I found out that I still do not have a schedule. Now, I can do this "fly by the seat of your pants" thing for about a week....but it's exhausting having to constantly rush to a class every time someone calls and says "You're supposed to teach this class...come now."

On a different note, I had a really good experience last week at Bible Study. We've been studying the Old Testament, and it'd been a few weeks since we'd had Bible Study because of Hal being gone. So, we got there this week, and we just talked about why we come to this Bible Study, what God was doing in our lives, and what we were struggling with spiritually. Normally I hate conversations like this, because I feel like everyone is just going to analyze everything I say. However, this was a really positive experience, and we all got to really share things that were happening in our lives. It was also a bit comforting, because it seems like most of my foreigner friends here also struggle with finding a routine with God, getting life balance in order, etc. It's funny how going to a different country will throw you off kilter! Anyway, we're taking a break from the OT and studying John for a while. It'll be good to have something that's a bit easier to chew for a little while. Even though I was really enjoying being challenged by the OT, I feel like I have more to contribute to the Bible Study when I feel like I understand the scripture better!
So, all that to say, Bible Study was good, and quite encouraging. And now, I am SO hungry (lack of breakfast due to extra sleep), so I'm going to go to lunch now. Yay for not having a 4th block class and for being able to go to lunch early! :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

And the Whole Office Cheers....for Coffee!

So, today has been a day that I've wished I brought my journal with me to school. #1 because I don't teach today, #2 because I didn't have internet for a large portion of the morning, and #3 because there has been so much going on, it's hard for me to just mentally process all of it.
This morning started out with me being SO tired because last night I came to find out that the pictures I'd put together last semester as an introduction were nowhere to be found. I stayed up late looking for pictures to use for my presentation, knowing in the back of my mind that if I didn't put it together, I'd have to teach today and would not have anything prepared. So I finally got out of bed, putzed around and got ready, then headed downstairs. I didn't have any milk, so I thought I'd just go grab some kimbap at the GS 25 (like a convenience store, a gas station with no gas) that's attached to our building. I love that seems to have everything I need in it...any sort of random groceries that you'd need last minute, my morning kimbap, an ATM, a place to charge my bus card....everything. I went down this morning and it was closed....not just shutting down. I just love how they do things here with businesses. They just close down without any forewarning, and we're just left to figure something else out. So, I went on, without breakfast, thinking surely my bus would come before I could go grab something somewhere else....which it didn't....I sat there for about 15 minutes waiting for my bus. Good times.
So, I get to school today and realize just how clueless I am at this point. See, in Korea, they like to play office swap at the beginning of every year, and the teachers just all get moved to different offices...maybe it's for co-worker dynamics...I don't know. Anyway, there had been some hussle and bustle about where my office would be up until today. I didn't know where to go, whether I'd be teaching or not, and I now no longer know even half of the staff at our school! I called my head teacher only to realize that there was a meeting starting and I was unaware. So I rushed off to the library, sat through a meeting full of stuff that I didn't understand, and then found out that I would be placed in the office on the 1st floor, where i was sure to be lost and confused. My head teacher is now on the 5th floor...great. I also found out that until who-knows-when, I'm not teaching...I'm not teaching at all today. Of course I'm not teaching at all today, because I stayed up all night getting ready to teach! haha.
I also decided today that the IT guy who works for our district must HATE his job....everyone gets jumbled around and then they expect him to set up their internet and printers and all that at the drop of a hat...and as he was in our office, his phone rang at least 20 times, no joke! That poor guy....I wanted to give him a pat on the back, but he didn't have time. :P
So this whole "new teachers"'s like being the new foreign teacher all over again. I'm this novelty that all the new teachers are staring at, wondering how on earth they're going to communicate with me. The teacher sitting next to me said something to the effect of "I want to communicate with her, but can't speak English" earlier...the English teacher that sits on the other side of her was just like "she understands." Which I's just always an interesting process at the beginning!
Alright, one of the funniest parts of the day was this: the teacher sitting next to me held out a packet of coffee and offered it to me...then someone else saw and was like " have coffee??" So then she just started handing out coffee to everyone who wanted one, and the whole office just lit up with excitement. I think it was just what they needed in their day. But they were all just going on and on about coffee! Yay coffee!! was great, and definitely made me smile. It made me feel like someone knows how coffee makes me feel! :)
Oivey, I think I'm going to end this for brain is a little scattered for the time being. Maybe I will be able to study some Korean something productive with my time!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nothing to do with Korea

So, this has nothing to do with Korea, but I just had to say it. It is constantly amaazing to me how music can move people. I am always in awe of the power of music, both in the little things and the big things. These past few days, it's been lots of little things, but as songs from my "past" have come up, I have flooded over a number of emotions felt during the times of listening to those songs the most, and thought through many memories associated with those songs. The song that triggered this post is an Album Leaf song called Streamside. It's nothing special really, just simple instrumental music. However, it used to be the ringtone on my phone for a while, both for text messages and for my wake up alarm. So first of all, this song reminds me strictly of the US. I picture myself being in my room in that crazy house on 97th St, Isabel at my side, waking up for another day of driving, driving, driving, then teaching, teaching, teaching. All of the people who were strong influences in my life at that time pour into my head, showing up in both positive and negative form. Now, this song is only one of about 20 that has given me this sort of experience in the past week. It's interesting, because I put together a "chill" music mix for my housewarming party, and so much music from that playlist has been the cause of nostalgic thoughts for me. I think often of the fact that I am doing "just fine" being away from the states, but then something like a simple song will trigger so much emotion and nostalgia for me. All this to say I really do embrace the great memories I have from things in America (and even the not-so-great memories)...they are so much a part of who I am, and as much as it makes me miss them and long for them, I remember that everything in life is a journey. I can embrace the memories of those times knowing that these times will later produce the same kind of satisfying thoughts. And I just wonder to myself....what will be the soundtrack of this time...what will be the songs that trigger my memories of my little 20th floor apartment in Korea? What songs will bring up fond memories of my friends here? I wonder....