Feel Good

Korean Cultural News v.2

Here’s another segment of KCN. The month of December has been crazy for me. I am mentally and physically drained these days. I’d like to share some of the things I have learned (or had reaffirmed) up until now. Oh, also my birthday was a couple days ago so I’m a year older and that much wiser now…

1. Korean behavior (aka manners) is crazy. I don’t know how else to explain it. I guess stemming from the fact that Korean society was built on old Confucian principles makes sense, but still there are somethings that just irk my nerves. I could probably write an essay on Korean behavior and still not understand it. The whole “I will pay. No I will pay..” back and forth is pretty ridiculous and entertaining to watch. I like to ‘pick’ who will be the ‘winner’ and actually, it turns out NOBODYS a winner. For example, if one person pays for dinner then the ‘loser’ has to pay for the ‘next round’! Ridiculous, I know! I’ll just take it as ‘cultural difference’ and accept it because When in Rome… 

2. Soju is cheaper than bottled water. While this isn’t always true, soju is still super cheap. Bottles cost around 1100 won (<$1USD) in the market. Heck, they cost 3000 won in bars/etc which in my opinion isn’t too bad. You have one of those bottles for yourself and you are guaranteed to feel at least tipsy. Unless of course you’re Korean…aka can handle soju like WATER *shudders* I also find it EXTREMELY funny that everyone I am around (except for Koreans) always say “let’s not drink soju ever again” but then proceed to get wasted on soju the very next day/weekend. I guess the cost of soju is just too low and it far outweighs the shitty feeling you will undoubtedly have the next day.

3. Korean kids are so TALL these days. Seriously, some of these kids, whether its genetics or environment no one knows but what I do know is that they are FORCE FED milk by the Korean government! Milk is provided by the government at subsidized rates (sometimes free!) and kids are given milk each and every day. I’m at a middle school and I think 1st grade is when this milk madness begins. Anyways, I guess I’m jealous I wasn’t able to drink much milk growing up. That being said, milk in Korea tastes GOOD!! I usually drink “Seoul Milk” the Grade 1A milk (haha nice slogan) and it tastes real creamy and smooth. I would compare it to drinking fancy organic whole milk back in the states except its not organic in Korea (but the pricetag is about the same, since everything is in Litres here).

That’s a few things I’ve shared with you, I hope you enjoyed this ‘episode’ of Korean Cultural News. The following picture is my current fave Kpop Idol group, Sistar! These girls aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing but as a unit, they make each other look good and have fun while doing it!

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Simple December

It’s already Decemeber – time sure flies…I’ve heard it gets quite cold here in the boonies, I wonder if I’ll be able to make it through the winter. I’ve been on my Korean ‘adventure’ for 9 months now. When I first began this gig I had no clue what being a teacher was all about. I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. However, as time passed I settled into the groove of things and began adding my own spin to things. I think that if you act with good intentions, sooner or later you will be recognized for your efforts. I never considered myself a good presenter (or public speaker) but I realized my situation – these kids are really young. I put myself into their shoes and what I was like when I was their age and tried to imagine what kind of ‘teacher’ or ‘classroom setting’ I would have enjoyed at that age. After doing that, my ‘work’ became easier. Now I won’t say that my ‘work’ has become ‘play’ because that would be a flat out lie. However, it’s easier to come to work in the mornings when the kids like you and really enjoy the class. (It’s a whole nother story whether they actually ‘learn’ anything heh) Anywho, I’d like to think I have ‘grown up’ a bit since I’ve come to Korea. It’s my first time being really ‘on my own’ and it’s…a learning experience. I have some things I regret but I’m gonna try to not dwell on them and instead focus on the now. “Live in the moment” might be an apt description of how I feel. I’m really glad I came to Korea, it’s given me much time to think and reflect on my life. Who knows – maybe if I meet that special someone I could stay here for the rest of my life!? ㅋㅋㅋ

I’ve met a lot of good people since I’ve been here. I feel really lucky to have met you guys. I think I might have a ‘gift’ in meeting and getting to know people ^_^ 

To be honest, I’ve been stressed out due to my contract and visa issues lately. I’m going to remain positive though because worrying about it won’t do anything. I’m really looking forward to my vacation. I really could use it…maybe I’ll go someplace warm~

Trilogie part I.

*DISCLAIMER: This story is fiction. Any names of real characters, places, and organizations in the story are purely coincidental.*

There once was a boy named Andre. Andre lived in a small town in Europe, a quiet little hamlet near the Black Sea. Andre’s father operated the local butcher shop with his mother. Andre’s parents worked from sunrise until sunset but Andre wasn’t lonely. He had several friends in his village, including an elder woman named Natasya. This woman was very wise and well informed of the goings on of the village and was well connected to the townspeople. Natasya was simply put, the ‘village grapevine’ and she informed young Andre of various things. She was in essence his caretaker and babysitter when Andre came home from school. Natasya was more than happy to see young Andre because her own children had all grown up and moved to the big cities. It was only natural that these two became good friends despite the significant age difference.

Life would carry on for young Andre for a few years when his parents’ goal was about to be realized. They had finally saved enough money to immigrate to America! Andre did not know what to expect or how to react to this news. He didn’t have any choice in the matter and was both anxious and scared about his imminent move. He went and told Natasya the news. She was saddened but didn’t let Andre know it, instead just cheering him up and providing warm encouragement.

(Fast forward a few weeks)

America the land of opportunity! Andre’s family was both terrified and excited about the possibilities of starting a new life in America. Andre in particular was worried if he would be able to fit in. Because Andre couldn’t speak much English, he entered primary school a grade lower than he should have been. Andre’s first day was quite the experience. He wasn’t feeling very well to begin with. It was as if there were butterflies in his stomach, he was very nervous when he was introduced to his classmates. Andre didn’t understand much English and so he just nodded along to whatever the teacher said and sat down at an empty desk. Andre was feeling completely miserable and wanted to see his parents and missed Natasya terribly. Somehow he survived until lunchtime and what a sight he saw. The cafeteria was teeming with movement as kids hurried about carrying their lunch trays. Also the looks and smells of entirely foreign foods made Andre very nauseous. Then there was black. Andre woke up and found himself in what was the nurse’s office – he had fainted while waiting in the lunch line. Fortunately a classmate of his quickly assessed the situation and got Andre to the office. This boy’s name was Preston and the two would become best friends. (Andre’s only friend for a bit actually) As time went on, Andre slowly but surely grasped the English language through his ESL teacher. The highlight of Andre’s day was his ESL class in which he wasn’t the only person struggling to adopt a new language. His teacher was a young woman named Miss Catalano. Miss Catalano was a recent college graduate with a fresh outlook on life and very enthusiastic about her work. Even though he didn’t understand what she was saying, Andre enjoyed just simply watching Miss Catalano and wondering what she would do next. Preston wasn’t in ESL but he and Andre quickly bonded because of the many similarities they had. Andre was a year older than his classmates but Preston was also a bit ‘older’ because he had an early birthday. They were both only sons as well. The boys also had a comment interest in both games and music. They would each have sleep overs often and had an informal cultural exchange going on. Preston would learn and experience Andre’s culture whenever he visited and vice versa. Life was getting pretty good for Andre and he enjoyed his new surroundings and friend.

(two years later)

Andre had finally ‘graduated’ from ESL and spoke as well as a native. He also had made a lot of friends and went on adventures with them. One adventure in particular was raiding the local candy store for jelly beans. Andre had never seen jelly beans before but Preston told him they were a ‘gift from God’ and so off they went to go steal some jelly beans. The owner of the sweets shop knew the children but smiled because he thought “kids will be kids.” At the end of the year, there was heartbreak for Andre and his friends. Miss Catalano was getting married and was quitting the school. It wasn’t just the ESL kids who had a strong bond with Miss Catalano but her homeroom kids as well. It was only after a few years and in retrospect that Andre and his friends realized what a beauty Miss Catalano was. She was the closest thing to an angel on Earth – beautiful, blonde-haired, blue eyed, with a warm and friendly demeanor to boot! The next term Andre entered middle school and his middle school years flew by. It wasn’t until high school that things started changing for Andre.

Thus ends Part I.

I hope yall enjoyed the story, part II should be up in a week or so.

Almost shed a tear today.

I might get a little emotional in this post. Forgive me in advance.

So I teach at a Technical High School once a week. For those of you who don’t know what that is, don’t worry. Imagine those ‘vocational/trade’ schools (read: colleges) in the States, and put that in a “high school” level and Voila! These kids, are most likely not going to college and so they are learning various skills and ‘trades’. Most of these are the cookie-cutter ‘majors’ like ‘engineering,’ ‘architecture,’ while some are very general like ‘electronics’.

Anyways so I teach two 3rd grade classes and three 1st grade classes. I won’t get into the 1st graders, they are little rascals, well some of them anyway. But my 3rd graders are quite dear to me. My 1st class is all boys, but they are all good kids. Their only ‘fault’ if I can even call it a fault is that they don’t give a shit about English. And realistically speaking, they don’t need English for their various ‘jobs’. My other class is ‘mixed’ but really there are only 5 girls in a class of 14 or so. I’ve heard that this school originally started as an all-boys school but only recently has it allowed female students in its ranks.

Anyways, the reason I got a little emotional was because most of these kids are going to be going off to their respective jobs and I would probably never see them again~It is the fall semester and most kids are busy interviewing or training for their respective ‘trades.’ Not going to lie, my girl students are ‘cute.’ This might be sad, but I’ve never been so ‘popular’ in my life until I started teaching this class. Even before my first day ended all the girls had ‘heard’ about the new English teacher aka Me. Anyways, I’ve heard most of these girls are awaiting the results of their interview (I hope they did well) and will begin work shortly thereafter.

I don’t like to give out my phone number but I put it on the board today for my third graders. The very next class, I got mass texted by my girl students. It put a smile on my face and I mass texted them back when I had the time 🙂

Anyways, back to my boys. They are like my 동생s (dong seng – younger sibling), since they are only about 5-6 years younger than me. I can see their environment in which they reside and this boonie town is pretty crappy. The population is constantly shrinking. I don’t know if I mentioned this before but the current population barely hits 40,000 people. Man the UT student populace was about 50,000 people!  However, these kids all have a smile on their face (usually) and are cheerful in their surroundings. All this positive energy is quite infectious, and they are quite sweet as well. They try their darn hardest in my class and so I certainly appreciate that. I ‘dumb’ down my English quite a bit when I talk to these kids but they don’t seem to mind, the fact that my class is ‘different’ than their other classes leads them to be much more relaxed in my class. (although sometimes this backfires when I catch half the class sleeping on me :P)

Well, I’m looking forward to the precious time I have remaining with these kids. I gotta keep reminding myself to bring my camera to class so I can show you guys what students I have remaining~

Thursday – Feel Good Inc.

So today is an odd day that I’m gonna post (being Thursday and all) but I’d just like to jot down some of my feelings right now.

I feel really good, its just a simple feeling, being happy, yet I haven’t this good in a long time. How can I describe this – I feel good, energized, and just HAPPY. I’ve had a smile on my face practically all day. Not much has upset me, actually nothing has upset me today. Even though my two 3rd grade classes were rowdy AS USUAL hahaha. Anyways a recap.

I got a wake up call – God I appreciate it. I’m sure to other people it may not be a big deal but to me, it was special. It reminded me of those times when I was woken up by my loving family member(s); because really who doesn’t like to be woken up by someone? (and that someone is someone who really really cares for you?) Anyways, I woke up about an hour earlier than usual, was kinda freaking cuz I didn’t have any solid lesson plans AS USUAL (heh) but I seriously had no care in the world. Anyways with a good mind and spirit I went to class. My first class was a group of 1st graders and these kids are pretty darn cute. The fact that they pay attention to me (most of em, a handful don’t give a sh!t) was good. My “improv” lesson went by pretty well too. (To be honest, it was a lesson I used on my “elite” kids a couple months ago) Worked like a charm, and time went by pretty quick too. It wasn’t all too interactive/engaging but the kids rolled with it. I’ll briefly go over my two 3rd grade classes I had in the afternoon – basically these 3rd graders think they’re the shit and so they don’t wanna listen, AND they especially get loud during my class (maybe cuz my class is different and so they can be at ease and go crazy) BUT I still like the kids, and I think they like me too. Some of them really try hard to pay attention and actually yell at the other kids to LISTEN UP but 34 kids is tough to handle…especially since my coteacher was busy with other things.

ANYWAYS I concluded my day with my “elites” (in actuality its about 6-7 kids selected at first by my co teacher, who actually have an interest in English conversation. The class started at around 14 kids but I weeded out a few kids and some kids just stopped showin’ up. Meh, its all good since I have a closer bond with the remaining kids anyway.) Also I use the word “elite” quite relatively here, these kids are considered “elite” only in the boonies and they are mostly just “elite” in English lol. Although one of them is a self-proclaimed “geek” and trance lover AND is SUPER studious heh. It’s been fun watching him open up more b/c he’s quite the introvert but he really lets loose when there are only a few kids around ^^ Seeing these kids at the end of the day, is quite the bright spot for me regardless of my mood!

Anyways, theres a “teacher’s meeting/dinner” tonite but I’m not gonna be able to make it because I already have a 약속 (yak sohk – literally it means “promise” but in this case, it means previous engagement or appointment). This dinner is actually a “farewell party” of sorts because a couple of teachers (3 I believe) are transferring schools for one reason or another. Well, two reasons. The one teacher, her contract is up at this school; while the other two teachers applied to move back to Wonju which is the city in which they reside (Wonju is about 70 minutes away from Yeongwol by car). They all finish 8/30 and so tonite was sort of their “sending off” if you will. I felt a little bad for not being able to make it (only a little bit mind you, because I’m gonna meet some friends for dinner and drinks tonite HAH!) and so I basically bought all the teachers some juice (cuz I couldn’t just give those 3, without making it look AWKWARD) and now my conscience is at ease~~

By the way, I wonder if yall know the song Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz (I used to really like Gorillaz, had their first two CDs even, but yeah that was a WHILE back~). Well, its a pretty good song and I FEEL GOOD today and so I wanted to share it – here’s the Youtube link

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyHNuVaZJ- Also, a happy picture for everyone to have a good day and cheer up if you’re feeling down. I can’t physically smile that big but yeah, its pretty cute. Oh, and the picture beside it is well…FUNNY!

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