Archive | September, 2010

Q&A

27 Sep

My lovely friend Jenna sent me a few Facebook questions recently, and I figured I would just answer them here.  It’s also Monday night, and I have nothing left to give. My students were total brats today so after writing this post I’ll probably go cry in the shower watch hours of Veronica Mars on my laptop.

Thanks Jenna for the easy blog-posting solution!

1. How is the food?? Korean food sort of scares me….are you liking it, or shedding pounds like mad?

Better packaging. Equal grease.

The food is kind of a work in progress. Korean food is like a mix of Chinese and Thai. It’s really good, but really really spicy. It’s hard to play it cool when you’re out to eat and your eyes are watering and you’re starting to sweat. But it is good. I definitely don’t like everything, but it’s super easy to find something you want; there are all kinds of international food in restaurants and at the grocery store.

The chopsticks are metal, which takes some getting used to, and Koreans like to put sugar in everything. Fortunately, they love them some coffee shops.  Unfortunately, the American chains here are probably our most unhealthy food: Popeye’s, Dunkin Donuts (on every corner), American-style pizza.  They are big on bakeries, so most of the time I just buy a sandwich.  I’m hoping to get used to the spicier foods, and in the meantime, avoid Popeye’s at all costs.

2. Do you enjoy teaching? Is it scary? Does it feel like you have no idea what you’re doing?

Yes, I enjoy it. Kids are generally really really funny – especially if after  40 minutes, you can give them back to their rightful owners. And teaching is fun because it changes every day. I don’t sit at a desk, and I never know exactly how a class is going to go. Usually that’s a good thing. But there are definitely days I want to beat them give up. Especially my older classes (10-12 year olds), because they are just straight-up little mouthy punks. So, it’s a lot of improvising, gestures, and raising your voice. And praying.

One of my faves areas in Yongin. Note the Dunkin Donuts.

I had a week of shadowing other teachers, and a few days of guided trial teaching, so I felt ready to be in front of the students. The only part I’m still getting used to is the administration-type stuff. For example, I’m making my October lesson plans right now, which is a little overwhelming. And today I forgot to print off like 4 different classes’ homework answers, which they reminded me of no less than 12 times.

But overall, I’m in a small, private school with 9 other ESL teachers, and we get a lot of guidance. We are given the curriculum, and a lot of the job is just following a schedule. Which is sometimes like herding cows. Cows who talk a lot, and don’t do their homework, and speak about you in Korean even though you’re right there.

3. Have you partied in Seoul yet? Korean boys: cute or just creepy? Is Karaoke as popular there as it is in Japan?

I actually made my first trip to Seoul on Saturday and it was sooo exciting. It was basically a Korean version of New York: huge, loud, smelly, and full of everything and everyone you could think of.  And like NYC it’s divided up into huge sections, so we were only in 1 part – with the sole purpose of getting Mexican food. It’s a 40-min bus ride to get there (and I have a Hello Kitty transportation card!!), which actually goes really fast. Now that I know how easy it is to get there and where the Mexican food is how much stuff there is to do, I’m sure I’ll be back often.

Typical Korean building.

Koreans in general are attractive. They dress well and they’re taller than you’d expect. I really haven’t found them creepy at all, and they’re actually very friendly and receptive to foreigners, but not aggressive. I’m sure if one wanted, one could find a cute, non-creepy, Korean to hook-up with. (This “one” is not looking – Hi Bossman!)

The ESL teachers at my school (and their many friends who live in our little “village”) do karaoke once a month. And unlike at home, the karaoking is done in private rooms, although I’m sure I’ll still manage to embarrass myself.  The other teachers said it’s more of a foreigner-type activity and that Koreans are sort of meh about it.

Whew. Sweet jesus, I just looked up and the Tyra Banks show was on the TV. She’s even trannier scarier in Korean.

Here’s hoping YOU don’t have a case o’ the Mondays!

Desperation

25 Sep

While I debated not writing about this “incident,” I figured you should all know the lowest of my lows.

So here’s what happened: (hangs head)

Last week while I was still at the Shining hotel, I woke up in the middle of the night starving.

Not wanting to venture outside, I luckily found a packet of ramen noodles in the room. I also had a water heater (for tea I guess?), so after making the ramen, I realize I HAVE NO UTENSILS.  I realize I can just use my hands as a last resort. But I’m in Korea now yo, no more sloppy American behavior.

So I rallied. I straight up pulled a MacGyver.

Shameful or pure, unadulterated genius?!

I used 2 free hotel toothbrushes as chopsticks. And I only spilled half of the noodles before admitting defeat and eating them off the sheets using my hands.

Just another day in paradise y’all.

What’s that mirror for?!

24 Sep

Earlier this week, I tried (in vain) to upload pics from my hotel room, dubbed The 70s Shag Pad. Of course, the Korean PC only wasted an hour of my time before refusing to upload my pics, and ruining a perfectly good blog post.

The pictures are somewhere in Korean cyberspace, so I’ll have to explain to you why my hotel was both creepy and awesome.

Sidenote: A popular joke among the teachers is the notion that we are all being secretly traded into sexual slavery. I realize that sounds really crude, but it’s pretty damn funny. A lot of stories begin, “So I was totally lost and this guy offered to help me call the school. . .” and ends with “. . .and that’s when I realized I was being sold into the sex trade.” This hotel’s decor only adds fuel to this joke’s fire.

All work and no play . . . makes you a perfectly unsuspecting candidate for the Asian sex trade.

Reasons why the hotel is creepy:

-After a 13+ hour flight and an hour car ride, you are immediately taken to this hotel. You do not have a cell phone or wifi.

-The hallways are lit with red and blue lights. Like the kind you see in CSI episodes before they find the dead body -in the hotel room.

-There are awkward mirrors everywhere. Not only by the headboard, but to the side of the bed. This meant I had a view of my hips/stomach/ass as I walked around the room. This caused me to change outfits no less than 4 times per day. There is also a mirror in the shower.

-The remote-control bidet, which other teachers have also mistakenly shot across the room.

-A huge jacuzzi bath tub with a big butt indent on one side . . . in case you weren’t sure where to sit while you dangle your legs in.

-Everything is remote-controlled; I just didn’t have time to find the switch that turns on the soft jazz and ignites the night vision camera.

Watch the movie Taken.

Then reread this post.

Soon, I’ll post pics of my new apartment. Everything in Korea is pretty much the same – except the showers. Only pictures will do it justice, so I’ll post soon.

It’s going to be an interesting year, y’all, complete with many a pair of shower shoes.

Pardon?

23 Sep

Excuse my Bill Cosby homage, but kids do, in fact, say the darndest things. Proof from my first week:

While giving an oral test to a student:
Me: What does your mother look like?
Student: My mother. . .looks like. . .the devil.
Me (choking): Why does she look like the devil?
Student: Because when she is mad. . .she can, ah kill me.

While doing a dictation exercise called “Love and Dating advice:”
Me: The boy wrote her a note, and the girl said –
Student: The girl said, get away from my ah window!

While checking homework:
Me: What is that drawing?
Student: It’s you, teacha! (the drawing is a robot)
Me: Well, you messed up. I’m not a robot. I’m a transformer.

While doing speaking practice:
Me: If you won the lottery, what would you buy?
Student: I would buy. . . Hawaii.
Me: So would you be the president of Hawaii?
Student: No. I would be the Friend of Hawaii. And I want to bring King Kong there too.
Me: Perfect.

Another teacher in the faculty room:
“I asked my student what the drawing was and he said it was me. It was a picture of a pig with a beard.”

Expect a post like this at least once a week. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Just Because

23 Sep
While I get my stunning good looks and charm from my mother, I like to think I am emotional creative because of my father. He just happens to write me some of the most lovely prose imaginable – you know, when he’s not saving lives.
This quote is from an e-mail he sent me this week. I keep coming back to it . . . even when you make big decisions for yourself, and yourself alone, it’s still nice to be told that someone is proud of you.

“Glad you are getting settled.  Hope it feels like an adventure still.  Proud of your striking out again in a foreign land.  Leaving sharpens a definition of home sometimes.  For better usually.”

Thanks for the support, Old Prospector! Love you.

Celebrations!

22 Sep

A-list teacher swag.

After working an entire 5 days, I was rewarded with a week off. Which seems counterproductive.

It’s Chuseok time in Korea, which is a week much like Thanksgiving. Which means no work until Friday!

And because in our school, the teachers are spoiled rotten, we all got gifts from our boss. I came into work last Friday to find a huge Nivea gift set on my desk; so I won’t be buying toiletries until spring.

I also got some Korean wine, which I haven’t been brave enough to try yet.

The days off could not come at a better time, actually; On Monday I moved into my apartment, and have spent the last 2 days unpacking, buying domestic apartment-type things, cleaning obsessively, and fighting a cold.

Baby Dylan! Note the above-average hospital gown

I sort of assumed I’d get sick at some point due to my proximity with children, and their questionable hygiene.

Friday also brought another reason to celebrate: My nephew Dylan graced us with his presence! And in keeping with family tradition, he is ridiculously good-looking.

I would like to give a big shout out to my sister-in-law, who not only birthed an actual human (which is both terrifying and primal) but did so in her specially ordered flower-print hospital gown. Very Tori Spelling/Bethanny Frankel. Leave it to my sis to avoid the cliché

Dylan with his cousin Grace and gma Monica. The little peanut has mittens on. I. Die.

sweaty-in-a-washed-out-blue-hopsital-gown” type pics, because not only did she rock a cute gown, but she never sweats. Which is unfair.

Dylan, I hope you are settling in well, feel free to cry whenever your needs aren’t being met – which is a family trait.

And happy Chuseok y’all! And happy finally having an apartment with internet!

Gettin Schooled

13 Sep

I’m way ahead of you; as in, I’m writing this at 8:45 am Tuesday morning, while back at home . . . the Mama is most definitely watching The Closer, her Monday night staple.

The time change, by far, is the trippiest thing about being in Korea. I’m just generally taking everything in, trying to stay calm, and then I think about what time it is for my friends, and becometotally disoriented. This has particularly effected my reading of celebrity gossip sites CNN and the BBC.

Time change aside, the transition has been pretty painless. The flight over (once I got on it, which is a totally different story, and btw WTF LAX, if someone has to walk a mile outside to get to a different terminal you should tell them that and not allow them to stuff their face and watch Modern Family episodes until the last minute – just.saying.) was uneventful, and Eddy a young Korean guy who works at the school picked me up and drive me to the hotel I’ll be staying in for the next week. And in case you were wondering, Eddy’s favorite song is “One” by Brian McKnight, and he does a really lovely rendition of it, if you ever have the pleasure of riding in a car with him.

 I have 1 week of following/sponging off/clinging to Sarah, the teacher who’s apartment and classes I’ll be taking over next Monday.

I’ll post pics of my hotel room soon, which is both awesome and hysterically funny. (preview: in my jetlagged and curious stupor, I accidentally shot the bidet across the bathroom and spent 5 minutes cleaning it up) It will also be easier to post pics once I’m in the apartment and I have wifi – the hotel doesn’t, but each room has a PC in it. In Korean. So that’s fun and not at all frustrating.

But I digress.

I started school yesterday; I’ll be working the afternoon shift from 1 pm – 8:30pm every day. Thank god. There are 10 other native English-speaking teachers there, almost all in their 20s, and from the US, with a few from exotic Canadia.  They are great; super friendly, hilarious (making fun of students is the universal language) and REALLY helpful, since moving to a new country is like being reduced to a 5 year-old. (Ex: I have a business card in my wallet that says “Please help our English-speaking guest return to the hotel” with the address listed. I’m supposed to hand it to strangers before resorting to a cab. Yeah right.)

The school is adorable; it’s private and small, and looks like a modern daycare  because the classes are so small (capped at 12, but most with 6), it smells like a cafeteria, and the “bell” is actually a little song.

Bonus: It has a hardcore coffee/espresso maker for all the teachers, and we are welcome to eat lunch there if we want (truth: I did run away to the teacher’s kitchen and poach off the student ricemaker for 10 minutes yesterday). So I figure if I run out of money, I can always live on free rice and coffee.

My day progresses from youngest to oldest, and each class is about 40 min.  My faves so far is kindergarten. Quite possibly the most adorable/hysterical 40 minutes I’ve ever had in my life. I’m stealing them all and bringing them home. (expect your fed-ex package in 7-10 business days).

In Korea, a person’s name is followed by their title so I’m “Claire teacher,” which the kindergarteners yell as CLA TEACHA!!!!!!

I. Love. It.

Ok I’m off to get ready; before work today I have to go to the hospital for a mandatory “health check,” that all new teachers have. . . and when I asked my co-workers what to expect they all laughed. Sweet.

Happy Monday night, state-side suckas!