Sunday, May 30, 2010

4 weeks and counting

It's down to 4 weeks and I'm making it through the weeks with planning weekends.

This past weekend was exceptional with a trip to jeju full of sun, birthdays, and friends. Friday included a cookout at Pinney's pension, with bon fire, skewers, and smores. AND birthday cupcakes. Cornelius sang a rendition of Hotel California to Pinney in honor of her birthday. Pinney performed a rap, mash up.

Saturday was beechy time, where most of us got sunburned.. i'm sporting a newly tanned face and some sunburnt upper chest. Saturday night was night clubbing it at the most pretentiously kept korean club in jeju, known as dome. They think that all foreigners are there to cause trouble and therefore would not let us in for a long time. But we eventually got in and mostly had a blast.

Sunday was dunkin donuts and goodbyes.

Next weekend: proctoring in seoul.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So after a long break...

Lots of stuff happened. I went to school and taught a lot of classes. Mostly ended up hating my second grade high school boys.

My mom came for three weeks which were amazing! We spent some time in Seoul and around. It's been sad having her gone.

I've begun to love my first grade girls. Even some of the first grade boys. The second grade girls too. Really, it's just most of the second grade boys. I'm finally thinking maybe this wasn't such a scary teaching experience. I even got a super sweet flower card from a 2nd grade girl student, I didn't even think liked me! :D (But she was the only one...)

And now, I've hurt my back a little from trying to dumbly pick up one end of my mom's suitcase going down the stairs. It's been hurting for a couple days, so I decided, in addition to lots of advil, I'd try a massage.

Now massage in Korea has this sort of nasty, stigmatized connotation, especially for older people. I asked Mr. Mun, an older male english teacher who I regularly have korean lessons with, about it. He said... well, that he couldn't talk about it. Ewww... So I searched around for another opinion because I had read on a foreigner website that this one place close by was legit. I got a recommendation from a younger female coteacher that this place was ok. That I wouldn't be voluntarily nominating myself for some sexual harassment or otherwise unpleasant experience.

So, since Wednesday is my short day, I decided to try it out. It looks clean and welcoming. I get some awesome tea (that bean stuff with nuts(?) in it and it reminds me of hot chocolate... yumm) and see a menu of what they offer, including massages, skin care, etc. I tell the girl that I hurt my back and she suggests a massage other than the "sport massage." I figure she knows best?

So I get changed into a tshirt and shorts, like at the korean gyms. I get to sit in a massage chair for 10 min (it's intense... it does this weird leg squishy and butt pumping action in addition to the normal back rubbing gamut).

I get back to the massage room and strip down. My shoulders are pounded, the muscles and tendons flickering uncomfortably under her hot, sweaty hands. After this torture, (seriously, it was hard to keep from grinding me teeth), there was a more normal back rubbing. There were hot stones and hot towels to finish.

So an hour later, a little sore at the shoulders, and my back still in pain, I'm 50,000W poorer (although I left a 10,000 tip because she was really nice), two more friends (the owner and the masseuse seemed to really be interested in me), and expecting more pain tomorrow. I have bruises on the backs of my shoulders and along the sides of my spine... but who knows? Maybe it will do some good?

I don't know if I'll be trying it again soon, but I tried!

I'm on the 6 week countdown. I'm hoping I make it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

All this started from the first day...

So it all started with the first day of school... back from vacation.

I was ushered to the 4th floor of my school, a place only known to me as the location of the "nurse," "doctor," or "hospital" as my students called it. Upon walking up the four flights of stairs, I didn't even see the nurse's station, and was rather swept into the large auditorium, with speakers already blaring with the school official's voice.

1600 Korean high schoolers in their matching uniforms and one stage... one that I apparently need to go stand up on... bow... and wait for the applause or derisive "boos" from students...

I wait, trying not to worry about the bowing outcome, until, inevitably, it's my turn to stand with the "new" teachers on the stage. The beloved principal (ack) starts reading the names aloud. The students and teachers applaud respectfully, since they are actually new teachers and no one knows them. The principal slips up once he gets to me in the line.. and simply introduces me as the "wonamin sansangnim (foreign teacher)" and I actually get an enthusiastic applause. It must have been my faithful 6 from winter camp... and yet...

The applause lifted my spirits and gave me hope for a better semester this time around.

It also made me extremely nostalgic for these moments of big applause during high school. Winning the mock trial state competition and being deemed best lawyer. Performing muse at the Inglemoor talent show. Getting into scripps. And, even, once in college, getting my grant to bring me to Korea.

So where's my big win now? Getting applause from my students on the first day of school? I don't feel nearly as successful as I did with these other achievements.

I reflect back on that final mock trial battle. I feel that aside from the judges' comments about the level of thought and debate about the opening and closing statements, witness directs, crosses, and redirects, the comment that I still remember from the judges was that I helped an opposing team member during his closing statement set up the easel that wouldn't stand up to shaky hands and nervousness. I explicitly remember watching the easel's ledge tilting dangerously before thinking it was indecent to leave him hanging while he was obviously struggling to keep it cool. I wasn't preoccupied with the points or winning. I wasn't thinking about the judges. It was all just being that persona I was striving to be all-trial long. It was the only thing TO do. That was what seemed to have won the judges over in the end and led to my award.

As a teacher, I thought it would come more naturally. Being a lawyer, I thought, was much further from my character, so I practiced and practiced and practiced. But I've been tutoring since high school. TA'ing ever after. How could teaching be going so much worse than mock trial?

This year, I want my teaching to have a more natural grace. I want to be able to follow instincts like helping set up the easel and having it all work out. I don't expect a shiny medal, but I do want to claim the same satisfaction... that I CAN teach, and that it's THE right pursuit for me now. Maybe I just need to move my class to a courtroom...

(Can you guess I am feeling overwhelmed by the job search and wondering if teaching is the career for me?)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Upper class

I never thought I'd receive a wax and ribbon embossed letter with a bow tie where the return address commonly appears unless I miraculously ended up in the upper-crust, old money circles. My comrades here never cease to amaze me.
Three cheers to Cornelius for adding class to all our lives. And handwritten notes and addresses.

a new one

So after a long hiatus...
I'm pretty sure I had swine flu.
Then I just lived for going home, counting down the days incessantly.
Christmas shopping. And the best gifts I got were these ugly, cute little collectible dolls that are 5000won each from Japan. They are little naked boy angels (clearly from the anatomically correct structure..) with some type of hat/head cover. These come in different varieties including marine animals, normal animals, vegetables, and fruits. My mom now wants them all.
A very relaxed and wonderful vacation at home with David, parents, and cats. I slept in late, when David wouldn't wake me up. I played lots of board games . Went shopping (thank God for Nordstroms). Visited Victoria, Canada and saw my first hockey game (Go Salmon Kings!). Visited Palm Springs and got some sunshine with my grandparents and their uber cute puppy, Pheobe.
And then, with great sadness, left my loves, and came to my Korean friends, host family, and students.

The flight: 10.5 hours
The bus ride from Seoul to Jeonju: 3.5 hours
The sleep I was finally able to get on the bus ride: priceless

Korean buses for the win. Infinitely more comfortable than the cramped airplane cardboard seat, known as economy on Korean Air. They feed you well, but those seats are the damnedest things. Their media is fabulous though, so maybe if you just made a dedicated decision to sit straight and go through their entire Hollywood Hits, you'd be alright. That's what the guy in front of me did. I think he watched 5 movies.

Winter camp at my high school started today! 7 kids. One dropped out already. I feel terrible. It was too hard. :( And then I had the director of the winter camp tell my coteacher that another boy was transferring to my class. And he was switching because his teacher from his first class said that he couldn't be in it.... He's that much of a trouble-maker. Great. Positive attitude, right?

So, if any other teachers are out there with some suggestions or some free time... come to jeonju! :)

Love and happy new year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In 3 days...

I have the whole week off. Apparently it's a gift for those who get the flu. I go to school this coming Friday.

I am also listening to Christmas carols. Win.

And tomorrow I'm going Christmas shopping.

And I got some more medicine because Korean people don't like it when others cough. No, seriously. That's what I understood from my host mom. "Cough...people... don't like..." So down another 7,000W. Not a bad price to pay.

Friday, November 27, 2009

da da dun...

And instead of a happy thanksgiving at the American ambassador's residence in Seoul....

I was home sick. Probably with swine flu. (Although, the results have yet to come back on the blood work).

So, the beginning of this week, I'm just anxiously awaiting my reprieve before going home for christmas... Thanksgiving dinner with the F-Crew and chit chatting with the ambassador. The week's going by smoothly. I'm waking up tired, even after 7 or 8 hours of sleep (I now take showers at night in order to avoid the cold, wet hair in the extra cold mornings, so i can now get up at 7 am instead of 645). I tell my co-teacher, but I figure it's just because teaching is taking it's toll. Especially since I wasn't getting Friday off due to a cancellation of a talent show (because of swine flu. Oh, the irony).

So on Wednesday, I start to feel a little something in my throat. No big. I'll get some extra sleep. I wake up on Thursday and feel a little lousy. By lunch time, I get this uncomfortable cold feeling in my lungs. Uh oh. Thursday night, circa the late hours that you never want to be awake in, I'm sweating, tossing and turning, dramatic chills, I know I have a ridiculous fever, and i can't fall asleep. Problem city. After too much uncomfortable, I check the time - 5 am. And desperately wait to send a text to my coteacher to tell her there's no way in hell I was going to make it to the two classes that I agreed to teach before going to seoul.

Luckily, by the time we would normally wake up, my host mom was doing her thing in the kitchen. I told her I was desperately sick. She didn't have a working thermometer, but luckily, I seem to have a pretty good guess. As soon as I make it out of my room, I feel better. My room had turned into a sort of sauna, exacerbating my awful feelings. At any rate, I still knew I was sick. My coteacher took over my classes. My host mom was willing to take me to the hospital/clinic.

My host mom wanted to feed me after the family had left. So breakfast looked like this. White rice, a given. Kimchi, also a given. Steamed spinach with some strange sauce that she served on a previous occasion and told me it was one of her favorites. Didn't like it then. Didn't look good this morning. Then, to top it off, seaweed soup. Normally, seaweed soup is great. Comforting food that's also very nutritious. However, I've decided my host mom has a really high affinity for fish. Fried fish. Weird bivavles. Things with tentacles. Little gnarly looking fish that they grind up into paste. That they put in whole for flavoring soups, etc. This seaweed soup was full of tuna. From a can tuna. So it was just a little "from the sea" for me to eat. To my rescue, she eventually noticed me barely able to eat, and asked if it was too hard. I agreed and thankfully, away went the breakfast... yikes.

So, then off to the clinic. Luckily a short car ride away. Embarrassingly, close (just the other side of my apartment complex). We were confounded by insurance, but I had my host mom raid my wallet looking for a card that might help her make sense. She ended up calling the F-right dr's card we got in orientation. I, obviously, couldn't make any sense of what she tried to say to me afterwards, but I figured it was ok. I was called into the Dr.'s. He didn't speak English so it was time for me to act out my symptoms while he judged me for not speaking Korean. It's amazing that while I clearly don't have a handle on Korean, most people just tend to keep speaking at a normal speed, with no gestures, assuming that my korean appearance outweighs my ability to speak or understand korean. Oh well.

Then a shot/blood test (?) in the butt later, (demeaning), and 10,000W later (so much for being worried about not having insurance!), we were at the pharmacy downstairs. I got a box of tamiflu for five days (one at morning, one at night), and little packages of pills again (5 in each pack, morning, lunch, dinner) all for 44,000W.

Incredible? I think so.

So I'm on the road to recovery, or should be. I'm now just bemoaning missing my seoul food weekend with friends and worrying about having to teach next week.

Today, my body and head don't ache. No chills to speak of. And I just have this annoying cough that's beleaguering me. I also have my host mom spraying dettol, an aerosol disinfectant that smells terrible every other hour all over my room, and then closing the door...

So if i don't die from the flu, maybe i'll die from dettol poisoning. But maybe the next dr's visit would include some more colorful pantomime.