Wednesday, June 24, 2009

recent transpirings

I almost feel like I'm reminiscing as I write this, because it seems like some of these events happened so long ago...

Two weekends ago I saw Rob's band play in Daegu. I brought a couple of my Korean friends (one teacher from my school and one from a private academy that students study at after normal school hours). The band was playing in a small bar with seating for about 30 people. I think it was mainly just their friends. I knew about 5 other people there that were friends of Rob's. I didn't care for the vocalists in the band. Rob was good on bass though. I actually ducked out a little early with my two Korean friends and we had some fun.

Last week was my friend 영주's (Young-Ju) so we went drinking. I wanted to sing happy birthday to her in Korean (its alot easier than the English version actually) but none of the other foreigners knew it... i think even the one who has been here for 4 years didn't know it. Its to the same rhythm and translates like this:
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Love of 's (Love for you on your birthday)
Happy Birthday

I've been going to the gym 4 or 5 times a week and I feel good. Also I've met some friends there. I learned that one of my friends from my gym knows another Korean friend of mine that teaches at an elementary school near my work. I was surprised to hear that they are friends because one is an oral surgeon and the other is a teacher. But supposedly they've been best friends since elementary school. So last Friday they invited me out with them for dinner, etc.

I didn't leave town last weekend. My friends that are in university are done with it now though. 선옥 (Sun-Ohk) and 사랑 (Sarang [the koeran word for "love"]) are both coming home to Gimcheon this week so I will meet with them soon. Their families live in Gimcheon but they go to university in Daegu. This coming weekend I want to go to the beach in Busan with one of my Korean friends who lives in Busan. And on July 4th weekend I will meet up with a few of my foreigner friends and go to a big city... maybe Daegu.

Yesterday I learned that my vacation will be from July 8th - July 19th (12 days total, 8 of them weekdays). My co-teacher only gets three days off because she has to do a TESOL training course over summer break. I don't know what my schedule will be like during the 3 weeks that I'm teaching. I'm excited to be teaching a class for my fellow teachers, though. I'm not sure how many of my co-workers will sign up for it. At first they were all so excited to have me here and they wanted to learn English but the enthusiasm has died down. I'm not a novelty anymore. But I like the idea of teaching adults. Also, the experience they will get in my class will unlock a lot of vocabulary that they know in the back of their mind but haven't used since their high school English classes.

Yesterday one of the teachers invited me out to dinner with his family. He wanted to introduce me to his daughter, who is going for an English major at university. So I said I would give her private lessons and she will help me with my Korean also. The hardest part about learning a language is listening, so it will help her alot.

I started Korean classes at a private academy on Monday. The class has been ongoing for a couple of months now but I didn't join before because my Korean was alot better than the other foreigners in Gimcheon. I felt I wouldn't have learned anything new. So I just started this week. I am learning some new vocabulary already and its good to have the practice because its hard to motivate myself sometimes to study by myself. There are only two other students. I think we are all at different places with our learning and they are good at speaking while I am good at writing and reading.

Students have exams next week from Wednesday to Saturday. It's the final exam for the semester. This week I made a review for them that is over 70 PowerPoint slides long. I've only done the review for one class so far, and about half of the students were wise enough to take notes. Considering how I got to write almost 20% of the exam questions (and I teach about 25% of their English classes) they should all be taking notes. Anyhow, remembering how I was in high school... I never would've taken notes for the class.

Friday, June 12, 2009


So, alot has happened in this last week.

First, I started teaching an evening class. All of my students are English teachers from many different schools. The class is held at 김천여자중학교 (Gimcheon Girls Middle School) which is about a 30 minute walk from my apartment. The class is geared towards elementary and middle school teachers... at it starts at 4:30pm and my high school has classes until after 6pm. So, I have to leave school early to go to this, and on Tuesday I missed one of my classes. This was assigned to me by the Province of Education (my employer) so I have to do it.

Anyhow, the class is great and I would gladly teach it for free every week if they let me. Because all of my students (it feels wrong to use that word, since they are teachers) are English teachers, we are able to converse freely. I have 7 students, but one could not attend this week because she was out of town. All of the students are women, and mostly in their 20s... so we get along great. This class has been running for over two months already because they rotate who the foreign teacher is every couple of weeks. I am last in the rotation and then the class is finished (but maybe there will be one over the summer or next semester). They love me and want to take me out to dinner for our last class next Tuesday (using the budget that the Province of Education gave us). I convinced them that not only should we do dinner, but also drinking and a karaoke room. I think we can use the budget for all of it, because someone said there might be a little bit left in the budget and I am the last in the rotation, after all.

The classes are really easy also. The first class we just had free conversation for 2 hours. The second class we had free conversation for 1 hour and then I showed them some Dear Abby articles (after deleting her answer) and we discussed what advice we would give to the person who wrote in. One of my students started giggling inanely out of shock whenever I said something in Korean. Even after the 20th time. They are all really laid back. It made me realize how stressed out everyone at my school is (because its a high school and they have to work soooo many hours). If I want to go out with my friends at the high school they will decline more often than not. But these elementary and middle school teachers leave at 4:30 every day without a care in the world and have lots of time to relax and enjoy themselves.

One of my "students" from that class helped me find a good health club to get signed up at last night. Her name is 옥헤 or 옥희 (pronounced Oak-hae... very similar to "OK"). She always makes me use her English name though. So I bought her dinner of sushi. Korean custom is not to split the bill... but to take turns paying. Since I have lots of money (only supporting myself, and I get a free apartment) I told her I'd pay since its the first time we went out. The taking turns paying gets awkward when you have large groups (8+ people) though, because nobody wants to pay.

Last night and today I made a drawing of my friend 민채 (Min-chae). I probably spent an hour and a half on it.... as I had to draw each line three times before getting it right. I gave it to her today and she really liked it. She liked it so much that she wanted to laminate it. I told her not to because if something goes wrong it is the only copy I have so it can't be replaced. Instead, I suggested we use hair spray on it (to form a protective layer that keeps the charcoal from smearing). She didn't like this idea, so she snuck off to laminate it, unbeknownst to me. And because I wasn't there... I couldn't instruct her in the proper method of using a laminating machine (I did work at Kinko's for 7 months). I'm sure you can predict what happened. The lamination got lots of wrinkles so it doesn't look that great now... I wish I would have taken a picture at least before she did that. I'm not very artistic and thus my portfolio is quite small... so I feel that anytime I make a decent piece of artwork that I should catalogue it.

So today I went to the gym for the first time. I was kinda dragging my feet a little bit after school but I finally cleaned my shoes, bought some training shorts, and managed to find the gym. Its just one big room with about 12 treadmills, 15 machines, 4 bicycles, and some free weights. But its a nice place. For one month it is 55,000 Won... about $43 I think. I get my own locker so I can keep my shoes and clothes there. I know that I'm going to be so sore tomorrow because I havent worked out since I've been to Korea. In my defense, though, I have done ALOT of walking because I dont have a car and I travel alot.

Tomorrow night I am going to Daegu to see my friend Rob play in his band. I wanted my friend 선옥 (Sun-Ohk) to come with because she goes to school in Daegu but she has to take exams on Saturday and Sunday so she can't go to a show that doesnt even start until 11pm. But she will come to Gimcheon after her semester finishes in a week so I should be able to meet up with her then. There should be some people that I know there. I know Erin will be there to support her boyfriend, and other people from our EPIK orientation as well so it should be a grand time. And I can get some shopping done beforehand. Also, Viruck and Candice might swing down this way to enjoy their saturday evening and they are always good company.

That's all, folks?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

notes pt3

So I got my package on Friday (finally!). I had a teacher at school write a really nice note and then I taped it to my neighbor's door. An hour later she calls me and we manage to agree that I will go pick up the package from her at 10:00pm. I was pretty proud of that because we had the conversation in Korean and over the phone (so no body language).

One thing that I learned very quickly is that when you're speaking English you need to speak at 30%-80% speed, depending on whom you're talking to. But Koreans never realize how hard it is for me to understand them when they talk full speed. Anyhow, I was very happy that I was in a situation where I was forced to speak Korean and that I had success.

The contents of the box are also noteworthy. Two boxes of Reese's Puffs cereal! Good timing too because there are only about 4 cereals in Korea and I needed some variety. Definitely can't find Reese's Puffs in Korea. I had some for breakfast on Saturday before I started my weekend trip. Also, two Axe deodorants, American candies that I can share with the office, a frisbee, and one thing that I can't possibly explain.

Busan was terrific this weekend and I wish I could've stayed longer... but life is great.

Friday, June 5, 2009

notes on the birthday (pt 2)

On June 1st we had a small office party between classes for teachers with June birthdays. It was just me and one other teacher. The school gave me a gift ... 3 pairs of Arnold Palmer socks. There was also rice cakes and candles and they sang happy birthday to me in korean. They wanted me to speak in korean, but they didnt give me any time to think of what to say... so i just said "thank you" and they probably have a bad impression of my ability to speak korean now.

A couple of my classes sang happy birthday to me also, but I wish I had girl students because they would have given me lots of presents. My boys never give me presents, but my friends at girl schools always get gifts.

On June 3rd a package arrived from home... but the mailman made a mistake and delivered it to room 202 instead of 303. I haven't gotten the package yet. They told me that I need to go speak to the resident in 202 to get the package. The problem is that when I knock on his door, he will never open up for me. He shouts to me from his apartment without coming to the door. I assume he says something like "Who is it?" so I reply "저는 이웃입니다" (I am the neighbor). The problem was that he still didnt come to the door. He kept shouting at me in Korean that I could not understand. I tried saying "삼백삼호 이웃" and "저는 미국 살암입니다" and "외국은입니다" (Apartment room 3o3 neighbor, I am from America, I am a foreigner) but still he wouldn't answer the door. Also I told him that I dont know korean, and that I can only speak a little bit. But then he just stopped talking to me and wouldnt answer. I'm going to have to think of a new approach to use today...

Monday, June 1, 2009

공주 syndrome

Saturday I planned on meeting Sandile, Viruck, Candice, Minchae and Mona in Daegu city to celebrate my birthday weekend. However, Sandile and Candice got sick, and Viruck was taking care of them.... so it was only me and Mona during the day. However, Mona's roommate from college was visiting Korea and later some friends from Youngyang came down so we had a good group together. In the evening, Minchae and her friend Juyoung joined us as well. We all had a good time going shopping, and to restaurants, bars, and clubs. We slept at a jjimjilbang and then did some shopping and lunch before I came back home on Sunday.

I got a birthday present from Minchae but I haven't opened it yet. I'm not sure how many birthday presents I will get this year (i'm not expecting many), so I want to open it on my birthday.

I've been practicing my palm reading. I felt confident enough in my abilities that today I did a lesson on superstition and fortune telling. In the second part of class I got a student volunteer to come up and I read his fortune for the class. I used a PPT to show them the lines I was reading and they all got a riot out of my reading the volunteer's fortune, especially when I said something bad about his future. I'm always in a good mood when my lessons go good. And when I have trouble with lessons I'm always stressed out. Thankfully, I think all of my lessons end up being gold, though sometimes the process of making and tweaking lessons gives me alot of trouble.

If you're curious about the title of this blog post (공주 syndrome) it means "princess syndrome." It's the problem that all korean women have. They think they always deserve to be treated like a princess. It's so common that they have a word just for it.