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Showing posts from July, 2006

So, Like you're Actually DOING something?

After my last class on Friday, I felt as light as air. I was free from work for 7 days.

This past month has been a rollercoaster - not so much of emotions but certainly communication - and I can't actually believe that one month ago today was my first full day in Korea.

There are so many things that I can do now. Food doesn't seem so challenging. Chopsticks are second nature.

And the food tastes great. Kimchi and kimbap (like California rolls) and we even at pig directly from a rotisserie. So...good...

Communicating isn't that bad. You figure is out in the end. Plus, it's kinda starting to sound like a language I could understand.

From what I gather, conujugation of a verb ends a lot in 'meeda'. So D and I wanted around the house, randomly blurting out 'kamsam needa' (thank you) just to make our little place sound Korean.

It feels a bit light a milestone - the first month in an Asian country. Only 11 more to go. And they'll go fast and faster as the month…

Just me and the boys

It was after a sat down at the cafeteria-like table with about 15 Korean men that I realised maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

A few of them were speaking directly to me, in English, many of them smiling at my slow talking answers.

But there was something in some of their eyes that made me think this just wasn't right.

It was by invitation that I had joined the table. One of my favorite students dad's had asked me about four times before I finally sat down.

It DID feel like elementary school. We were in the gym and the tables were filled with food - and drink! - sitting side by side. The bright florescent lights brought it all back. All we need was some Guns & Roses ballads and we' d be all set.

I was certainly breaking convention - or at least I felt it - but I had been told a number of times that foreign women don't really have to follow the rules. And I was invited....

After about 10 minutes of chatting I excused myself, to go to the ladies but also to remove my…

Teacher Extraordinaire

It seems that my teaching skills have improved so greatly that I have now been given another class at the end of the day on Monday Wednesday and Friday.

This means light posts on those days. It also means I will not want to speak at the end of the day. D I'm sure will enjoy the silence.

My last class will now be a 'free talking' class in which we simply discuss in English. Hey, I'm a girl that likes to gab. I'm sure I'll do well.

Booked 3 nights in Seoul next week and looking forward to the break. I'm trying not to think of the fact that there isn't another real break until October.

The UK spoiled me big time. Time to pull up my socks and get back to the real world.

I have to say, there were very few days as a high flying publicist that I was ever as exhausted as I have been on some nights over the last month.

Kudos to those people who choose to educate the young.

Happy Birthday Grandma N!

Happy Birthday Grams! I hope you enjoy your new present and you'll be able to read all about our adventures from the comfort of your own home.

I am always reminded of you whenever I put my earrings in. That was another birthday a long time ago when I turned 9 and you and I got ours ears pierced together.

I suppose it was an early birthday gift for you but it was one of those days I will always remember.

I'm sure I could also learn a lot from you and teaching children - you did it for many years! I was always quite proud to say that my Grandma was a teacher. And I remember your retirement party fondly...with lots of cake!

Thanks for being such a fun lady and always being cheery whenever we see each other.

Have something yummy on this special day.

Food for Thought

As I was sitting there today eating 'lunchy', two things crossed my mind.

"How weird is it that eating with chopsticks no longer seem strange or bizarre?"

and

"Is it possible that I'm addicted to kimchee the way some people are addicted to McDonalds since I'm dreaming about the stuff and can't wait for lunch to arrive so I can eat some?"

Like a Grade 7 Dance

A word to my early 20 self - you would not have survived here. Consdering you spent much of your time hanging out with boys or D's boys, you would find it now very difficult to adjust.

Koreans have a long standing custom, which I've been told stems from Confuscious, being that men and women rarely socialise together in public.

This is changing - we went out partying with Big A on his last night here - and there was a mixture of people - but looking back, the men sat at one end of the table, the women at the other.

This past weekend we had our kindergarten kids camp - which turned out to be one of the funnest weekends we've had here yet. Saturday evening was a BBQ - a Korean BBQ is essentially what we call a pig roast and let me tell you, that pig was good. Sorry if he was on his way to market but maybe he just should have stayed home.

All of our kindergartens are grouped into classes named after fruit. Peach, Orange, Cherry, etc. All the parents of each class, sit together.

It …

If It's Not the Weather it's the Garbage

They take their garbage very seriously over here in Korea. Our American friends were told off quite sternly (in Korean I'm guessing) when they threw out some garbage into the wrong bins. Funny thing was, no one SAW them do it, they just saw the garbage was incorrectly dumped and knew it MUST be the foreigners (there's just no hiding in Korea)

So, my paranoid must-please-everyone attitude makes me slightly stressed at the notion that one day a little old Korean lady will come to my door, spouting off Korean in what I will only be able to assume is all about garbage. Not perhaps that the building is on fire or would you like some traditional Korean food, no, it will only be about the fact that my perfectionist self is not properly disposing of refuse. Oh how I suck.

After we let the first Tuesday go by, patiently waiting for the garbage man to arrive and collect all the stuff from our hallway, we decided we had to take action.

We asked our friendly Korean teachers who said they'…

Our House...in the middle of...

Another million other aparment blocks.

I didn't really notice it until I was out with D walking late one night - this being after two Korean teachers called us at 11pm to invite us out for drinks. It was a school night but we had read MANY TIMES that refusing an offer of invite is considered quite rude. Well, I'm not going to be RUDE am I? Even if I had already washed my face, brushed my teeth, gotten into bed and read my book, only pages away from la la land.

My Gemini spirit loves a bit of spontaneity once in awhile. And lets face it, I am coming from the land of drink.

So ANYWAY, we were walking back from a lovely evening of lemo soju (read VERY VERY STRONG ALCOHOL. Sipping is okay but shooting it back tends to make the test more bearable) and food (all of which we had NO IDEA how to order again as it was all in Korean so it was a bit of a tease to dangle in front of our faces only to have us realise that we will only ever be able to eat good food if we're out with Koreans…

Communication Success!

For those of you following the comment saga, I have now made contact with the mothership and looking very much forward to hearing all her big news.

As today is Thursday, I will have more time this afternoon to update and I've finally thought of some things to write about other than the weather...(it must be those endorphins from the gym running)

Later this afternoon for many of you means 'not until tomorrow morning' so if you are checking on Wednesday night, apologies for the lack of words but hoping the story later on will be a bit more interesting then my struggle with not only the Korean language but my email.

They Started a Heat Wave

(sing)
a tropical heat wave....

(White Christmas fans? anyone? c'mon..)

Yes, there is a heat wave, with warm sun and highs of 30 but NOT HERE IN KOREA.

Yes, it is warm and humid but there is no sun. Do you want to know where the sun has ended up?

BELFAST!! Lucky bastards....I wanted a tan by August gosh darnit - I should have stayed with the Guinness.

And, it wouldn't have been a day on this blog without some reference to the weather.

The weekend was a nice long relaxing one but super panic hit on Monday night and I was ready to get out of the house. I was freaking out yet again about the garbage (what the hell is wrong with me?) and didn't have a great sleep.

There is something to be said for cooping yourself up in your house to watch English speaking DVDs for a day. But I think this only stops you from experiencing the culture.

I did venture out on Saturday by bus (whoa, crazy bus drivers) to Pusan where the open markets you can barter and get cheap shirts - thanks to my America…

Starring....

A Teacher and D Teacher! On local Gimhae TV. Having the cheesiest english conversation known to man!

A: Is it hot enough for you?

D: Yes, we need more rain

A: More rain, are you crazy? It will flood the streets again!

Can you believe it only took me 5 MINUTES to write that? Wow, I'm pretty talented. And pretty much a big geek.

The local cable station does a show every week about the school and Big A used to appear on a regular basis with his 'Daily Expression'.

I decided to take it to the next level. I created the 'Daily Conversation' and launched
D and I into the stardom that we so deserve here in Gimhae, considering everyone stares at us anyway.

No one in the camera crew spoke english and it was back to A-language again, with me nodding and smiling and pretending to understand. (this really works actually - why do people even learn the language anyway?)

It brought me back to the high school days when I used to produce a show for the local cable station about our high scho…

It's all starting to make sense

I am definitely happier when I am amongst the Koreans. I feel out of place when I'm holed up in my apartment and begin to worry unnecessarily. But after my first class yesterday, I just simply felt better.

I am also getting very good at 'pretending to understand', kinda like osmosis in an effort for the words to sink in. If I believe I know what they're talking about, then I do.

Due to the monsoon - yes, only here a week and I have lived through one. Lots of rain and wind. Kinda like a hurricane. But because we are so far inland, I don't think it ended up causing that much damage. Okay, ya, so I'm not really sure what happened around the whole country but we just had lots of rain that pooled up so high some streets were flooded. Doesn't really much matter if you don't have a car does it?

Anyway...due to the monsoon, our afternoon classes were cancelled. We left the school early to do some shopping at the Home Plus which is owned by Tesco and kinda reminds …

Garbage and the Kindness of Strangers

I didn't make it to the internet cafe this weekend so I'm still finding minutes between class to update. I have yet to plan any of the 5 classes I have this afternoon and since I have to be in class in another 20 minutes, this will be brief.

This weekend had its ups and downs. I'm very conscious of the fact that I have not exercised and thinking that I need some happy hormones to begin floating again. I am also aware that culture shock hits you in many different ways at different times.

Sunday I was left quite annoyed..at everything. There is this whole garbage system which we haven't really figured out and are not really sure who we're supposed to ask about. We had been told to leave our garbage out side our door and wait until Tuesday. Tuesday came and it was still there. On Sunday morning, I realised fruit flies were beginning to invade the garbage. I had left some food in one of the bags and the hallway was beginning to smell like shit.

For some reason, this put m…

Sweat is good for the Pores

The girl who obsesses about weather has been having a hay-day this week.

I'm so excited to be hot. sweaty. sticky. IT FEELS SO LONG. This morning I thought I was going to melt on the way to work and the thought of it made me smile.

I didn't realise how much the weather in Belfast had had an effect on me. I was missing the heat!

And air con. It's great to also have air con. Because as much as I love the stickyness, I don't know how I would sleep.

My skin looks great. All the sweat is cleansing the pores and making me shimmer and shine. Who knew I could love shining so much?

Who knew that by Friday I would have run out of words that all I could write about was how I was enjoying the hot sticky weather?

Next thing you know I'll be going on about those crazy kids and their rock and roll. Their music is just too darn loud.

Ooo Awww it's Thursday

The cool thing about teaching is that you have a different classes every day...well almost.

Our Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the same. Our Tuesday and Thursday are the same.

And am I already glad it's Thursday.

On MWF (which I will now refer to as the days that are so long) I teach straight through most of the afternoon. This is after 'playing' with kindergartens for two hours in the morning.

I leave here almost comotose. I can assume that perhaps because it's my first week, this is why I'm so extremely exhausted. At the same time, I've basically been talking for 6 hours straight.

Not only talking, but trying to communicate. And being very patient.

So patient that I tend to lose it a bit when I get home. Last night, I had a big freak out because laundry was taking up my 'couch potatoing time'.

I'm glad I'm being a teacher for this period because it is teaching me something that I would not have learned otherwise. I would never have had the opportun…

Ummm..Ya, About that Garbage

You tend to take simple things for granted when you live in your home country.

Like you will be able to read the signs as you walk down the street.

Or be able to read how long you are supposed to cook what you're hoping is rice - you only know that because there is a picture of the white stuff on the front.

In the UK (which by the way seems to be a phrase that I have been using A LOT lately), I did have to learn new words for things. Garbage became bin, dish soap became washing up liquid. Aluminum became, well they just pronounced it differently and liked to point it out A LOT.

But here, I am starting from stratch. I just mastered the sounds of the vowels in the language hangul last night. There were about 8 of them. I know what they sound like. Where they are placed in words and what those words mean? Oh yeah, well maybe somtime next to NEVER.

D and I are making a pact to try and dedicate 30 minutes a day to listening to the Korean tapes and learning the language. After a day of stand…

Did I mention the monsoon season?

There have been quite a few things we have learned on the fly over the last four days.

The first being that it doesn't matter how much you loved the country you were living in or how great a teacher you were, you will probably still leave your apartment in a disgusting mess for the new tenants to clean up. Thanks Big A, task 1 on Saturday.

There have been many others, such as food garbage must go separate, although we won't tell you where. And shoes must come off in houses, but at work, wander around as much as you like.

Teaching becomes easier when you have textbooks, although we didn't have those the first day and spent much of the time introducing ourselves...or should I say that took about 5 minutes adn the rest of the hour was spent singing songs and generally, making it up as we went along.

We've also learned you can commincate with people who don't speak your language and vice versa. D and I spent a car ride yesterday with a couple who spoke no English. And yet,…

Annyong Hasseyo

Which means, good morning, good afternoon, good evening.

And its the only thing I've learned so far.

That and thank you, which is kamsa-hamneeda, although I had to just look that up as I keep forgetting.

I'm on such information overload that I don't know where to start.

We arrived Friday to the friendliest welcome I have ever experienced. The evening was filled with nodding and poorly executed customs such as taking your shoes off and never pouring your own drink.

The last two days have been filled with preparation for tomorrow, fear and trepidation, wonder and amazement, tiredness and jet lag, overall emotional roller coaster.

There is not way to describe being in a country where you not only don't know the language, you can't understand the written words. It's been a very humbling and scary experience so far.

I'm planning for a couple of bad days over the next couple of weeks. Our apartment is beginning to feel a bit more like home but we are both ready to get…