Archive | October, 2010

I Wear Many Fabulous Hats

26 Oct

This weekend I had the pleasure of talking to my parents on Skype, and listening to them try to figure out the sound/camera/computer for 10 minutes while I just sat there and laughed. (“Where is the sound!? Do you have your glasses? Maybe it’s her computer.”)

They were asking about work, and I realized they must be pretty damn amused. Mainly because I have always been a closeted lover of children. Not in the Michael Jackson way (too soon?), but in the I-hate-babysitting and no-I-don’t-want-to-hold-your-baby, (even though secretly I totally do!!!) kind of way.  And then I sort of up and decided to teach elementary students after college.

And I was, and continue to be, a complete nightmare of a child myself – so, naturally my parents find it slightly hysterical that someone pays me to teach children and act like an adult all day.

That’s fair.

And as I was describing my job to them, I realized why I sometimes find it so exhausting (aside from my insomnia and general lack of normal human motivation): It’s like 15 different small jobs in one.

In any given day. . .

I am a cheerleader, enthusiastically pushing my students to do better and then celebrating and praising them when they do . . .

I am a zookeeper, running frantically to keep someone from biting someone else. . .

I am a warden, enforcing basic rules and keeping them from sunshine and freedom. . .

I am a teacher, making lesson plans, grading papers, and trying to pretend that I find basic grammar to be a bitchin’ good time . . .

I am a one-woman-Bob-Fosse show, gesturing and dancing and entertaining. . .

I am an impatient, tired 23-year-old, missing college life and general irresponsibility while counting down the minutes until work is over . . .

I am totally amused; so content in the company of the hilarious, blunt, and clever little people in my classroom. . .

I am an idiot, forgetting homework answers and begging my students for guidance. . .

I am Mean Mommy, giving my students tough love and trying to teach them basic societal decency (again, back to the biting), while using my “mom” voice (cringe) . . .

I am a wide-eyed, confused tourist from Kansas, pretending to be totally cool and cynical. . .

I am an annoyed coworker, asking the age-old question, “WHO THE F MOVED MY CHEESE?!”. . .

I am a silly student, giggling and waiting to be told what to do too. . .

Oh, and sometimes I’m just a gal pal trying the free skin mask from the Face Shop (an obvious subset of the Body Shop):

Sadly it was too late to knock on Ashley's door while holding a knife and playing "Hannibal Lector Goes to Korea"



But don’t worry y’all, most days I feel really f-ing fabulous:

Hi, I got bangs.

Have a good work day!

*(and to all my friends still in college, please take a mid-afternoon nap for me)


Happy (hiccup) Birthday

23 Oct

Picking up where our DMZ trip left off, the teachers and I were ready to get our drank on Saturday night.

After a hardcore power nap, and 30 minutes spent remembering how to do a damn smokey eye (I tend to wear pretty low-key makeup in front of the kiddos), we were off in a taxi to Bundang, about 15 minutes away.

All of the buildings build up, not out, so we first go into this office-looking building, ride the elevator, and exit into Traveler’s, a bar for drunken foreigners (re: us).

Traveler’s had all the fixins of a good American bar: shots, frat boys, rap music, awkward white people dancing, and lots of shouting. It. Was. Awesome.


And since my new teacher friends don’t know my exact alcohol tastes yet (whiskey people, du-uh!) they bought me shots of all kinds: vodka, tequila (not cool), Jager bomb (totally cool), and even some whiskey. So it is no surprise that the pictures from that night go from “sort of cute” to “you totally promise not to put that on facebook right?!

Who the F turned off Miley Cyrus?!

Oh and 2 people fell off their bar stools, which is completely unrelated, but hilarious nonetheless.

Alex Teacher: Professional Badass. Part-time Jurassic Park stand-in.

Around 2ish, we decided to leave Traveler’s and go dancing. After walking through a mall (seriously) we ended up in a crowded area, where Ryan teacher located a dance club (on the 4th floor of some rando building).

By dance club, I mean a closet-sized room with a bar, loud music, and lots of Koreans.


Cue lots of rap music, techno, and even more awkward dancing.

As I told my parents, I had this drunken weird, out-of-body experience at one point, where I just sort of looked around the room at all the gorgeous Koreans techno dancing and thought “Yeah, I live here. This is my life.” Kind of like culture shock, but in a good way.

Around 5am, I made my way into the apartment building, only to find my never-before-seen neighbor (one of the few who is not a foreign teacher) squatting in front of his door trying to find his keys. I screamed as loud as possible, nearly knocking him over.

Because I have no idea how to say sorry in Korean, I just semi-laughed and tried to look sorry while also trying to stop hyperventilating.

. . .

Cue the next morning when rigamortis my hangover set in. I smartly scheduled myself for a hair appointment at noon. After voming,  I crawled walked into the hair salon, only to have the hairstylist Sindy say “Oh, she does look tired,” to Ashley teacher, who had the appointment before mine.

In the next 3 hours, I not only got my hair did, I also managed to embarrass myself in the following ways:

-Fell asleep in the chair, thankfully not while Sindy had scissors in her hand

-Hiccupped so violently, that it took 2 girls to remove all the foils from my head

-Cringed so often that Sindy commented I had the most tender head she’d ever worked on. Sadly I don’t know the Korean translation of “No, that’s just my raging hangover.

Thankfully, I slept the rest of the afternoon, and woke up to the best present ever: 45 minutes of Skype time with Ben, Mandy, baby Dylan, and EVEY, my dog and #1 gal.

The new fam looked great, and seemed to be adjusting to parent-life really well; despite being peed on “like 4x a day.”

While Mandy and I tried to catch up and gossip, Ben stayed in the background, alternating between making Dylan and Evey dance.

Note: my nephew can c-walk with alarming accuracy.

B-day flowers! (in a coffeepot)


To close, a quote from Mama’s b-day email:

In closing, I have to say that the weather today reminds me of the gorgeous day back 23 years ago when you were born–BEAUTIFUL  fall day–just like you!!!

Couldn’t have said it better myself, babes.


21 Oct

In order to keep my pre-birthday mania in check, I decided to take a sobering trip to North Korea last Saturday.


I went to the Demilitarized Zone with the other teachers – this is a tourist/military-ish area between North and South Korea, which is pretty cool and semi creepy in its own way.

We took a tour which consisted of:

The train station that leads into NK, but only if you are special and one of the few people able to purchase a ticket:

Next stop, Communism!

A military building (yeah, I’m quite the history buff):

Camo is so hot right now

From this building, we could use the binoculars to see North Korea.  North and South Korea compete to see who has the highest flag pole (much like Texas and the United States), which landed them in the Guinness Book of World Records . . . for the highest flag pole.

If you walk over there, Bill Clinton will rescue you and you can go on the Oprah show.

Lastly, we stopped at the Third Tunnel; aka one of the 4 tunnels that NK used to try and get into SK. . . and which SK found – 4 times.  Very Shawshank Redemption. Props for persistence, though.

No cameras were allowed – a shame since we had to wear hard hats – and we walked down this huge slope, eventually leading to this cramped, wet tunnel, reminding me of a stooped Hoover Damn tour (which my parents made me go on). This was all well and good. Until we had to climb back up the huge slope.

Which was probs more painful than digging the damn third tunnel in the first place. Nothing like sweating your life away on a Saturday morning to make you appreciate capitalism:


Making dreams come true since the 1950s

Oh, and this is the cute, and rather eclectic, park at the entryway:

So pretty it almost makes you forget that whole "ideological war" thing, right?

Here’s to successfully staying on the correct side of the 38th parallel for 4 whole hours, y’all!

Cheese fries, mad lines, & good times

21 Oct

That title almost rhymes, right?

That or my English is deteriorating faster than you can say “Cla Teacha.

But I’m finally catching up on the blog, starting with a week and half ago, when Ashley (Teacha) and I went to Myeong-dong, in Seoul, to soak up the Korean culture shop until we couldn’t feel feelings any more.

Rumor had it that an H&M and Forever21 were somewhere in this little district, and I literally went bananas trying to find it. I would suddenly change direction on the sidewalk and make Ashley follow some unsuspecting girl who had a Forever21 bag, only to wind up in yet another high-end mall.

I realize high-end mall sounds like  a good thing; upon exiting the bus I was immediately drawn to one (think E.T.: phone hoooommme Claire) only to realize that they are filled with Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Hermes, Chanel, etc, etc. And while I love these brands, I’m still a teacher, not a mafia wife, so it was window-shopping only.

And much like Starbucks, THERE WAS A HIGH-END MALL ON EVERY DAMN CORNER. And they were busy. There was a line to get into Prada.

A line. To get into Prada. I stopped and stared until Ashley made me leave; it was just mind-boggling.

After coming up empty-handed on finding the stores, we decided to eat. I was craving Chinese, so we went into the first place we found, which was naturally way expensive and not what we wanted. So after the grandmotherly waitress brought us some tea and menus, we shamefully snuck out, repeating “just don’t look back, whatever you do, just don’t look back. I mean we didn’t even drink the tea, right?!”

Naturally this lead us to the Outback Steakhouse, which incidentally was filled with Koreans and had caviar on the menu. I contemplated just ordering a bowl of ranch like I wanted, but to keep up appearances, I asked for a salad (with ranch) and some cheese fries (with ranch).

After making love to my drug dressing of choice, I bugged the Outback manager until she gave me a map to H&M. Literally, a hand drawn treasure map.

We found it, and seriously it was more ridiculous than Prada. Mild-mannered Koreans turned into wild animals, pushing and clawing like it was a damn sample sale. Like it’s H&M yo, there are plenty of horizontal-striped Ts for everyone. Experiencing H&M culture shock, I left empty-handed, and accosted a woman on the escalator, until she promised to show us how to get to Forever 21.

She led us to an alley way that can only be described as El Dorado, because it was right under our noses the whole time, but we somehow missed this huge, sprawling maze of treasure. And of course upon seeing the Forever21, I wept and shouted, “I knew it was here! It exists, dammit!

Oh, and the Apple store is inexplicably called Frisbee here. Just a sidenote.

All in all, a ridiculous, and fun day, topped off by this SUV defying gravity outside the bookstore in Itaewon, where we stopped on the way home:


Newton obviously did not take Korean willpower into consideration.



Stop The Tape!

20 Oct

Yesterday during one of my classes, we were listening to a dictation exercise about music.  Obvs to help the students, the tapes are done in the most normal, non-accented type of English possible.

So basically they all sound like white people who live in the suburbs and are about 50 years old.

Normally they are pretty boring. But yesterday, the kids and I got a special treat:


Sally: Hi, Tom! What are you listening to?

Tom: I am listening to The Roots.

Sally: Oh? What is that?

Tom: They are rappers. I am just mad about black music!


This is where I nearly fell out of my mini plastic chair from laughing.  After gaining my composure (5 minutes later, with tears running down my face) I made my students promise me that they would never, ever say anything like that.

Because as I warned them:

“If you talk like that, you’ll never make friends in America. I’m just saying.”

Life Raft

12 Oct

Last Wednesday I totally wasn’t feeling school. My already-messed-up sleep has been even more wonky this week, so I was tired and too emotionally exhausted to deal with children.

My first class, however, reminded me why they are my favorites. They are about 7 years-old and just seriously the funniest, cutest group of mini people you’ve ever met.

Wednesday my hair was down, and apparently less greasy prettier than usual. One of the boys in this class asked:

“Teacha, your hair is gold. Why?”

I offered no plausible explanation, so in true journalistic form, he asked who in my family also had gold hair.

Not wanting to blow the lid off how I have been coloring my hair since I was 13, I told them that my sister-in-law has golden hair too. That seemed to appease them. They still thought gold hair was strange however, until one very astute student reasoned,

“Teacha’s hair is gold. Teacha is angel.”

That’s exactly right, class.

They then drew pictures of me with angel wings. Um, it’s hard to be attending your own pity-party when adorable children are drawing pictures of you as an angel. It was the perfect timing, and for real, sometimes my job is just the best.

Other highlights from the week:

At our monthly kindergarten birthday celebration:

“This cake smell soooo tasty!!!” -one of the kindergarten boys who seriously owns at least 14 pairs of plaid pants.

During my 2nd favorite class, a group of 10-ish year-olds:

“Teacha, you are funny. You should be actress. Why are you a teacha?”

I then did a few jazz hands, bowed, and left the room.

And then of course, my class of all boys, who always talks about death and blood. And killing rabbits. Always killing rabbits.

Me: So Benjamin left our class. He moved to the Philippines with his family.

Student: Yes, I look on Internet and they have monsoon in Philippine so he will die.

Other Student: Yes, very violent. He is die in Philippine.

. . .

Me: Why do you always write me stories about killing rabbits?

Student: BECAUSE THEY ARE DELICIOUS!! (he legitimately seemed dumbfounded that I failed to recognize the deliciousness of rabbits by this point in our teacher-student relationship)

They may exasperate me at times, but I have the coolest students ever.  And this week I couldn’t have been more thankful for their completely earnest and uncomplicated hilarity.

Well, Eff.

11 Oct

Soooo, last weekend Bossman and I broke up. (pause for Mandy to react)

Being in Korea has made me realize even more how badly I want to keep traveling and living in different places. Bossman’s job has made him realize how much he wants to stay in NYC for the forseeable future while he works his way up the proverbial corportate ladder.

With no concrete idea of when we would be living in the same place, it seemed silly to stay together now, when we are literally half a world apart.

. . .

Eff. Just eff that.

I also realized that the worst kind of a breakup is an amicable one. I think this week would have been much easier if I had felt pissed off about something stupid he’d done. But he didn’t do anything stupid. And neither did I. It was just bad timing. And without  a definitive target for my anger, I’m mainly just sad. And disappointed.

Really disappointed that I can’t have both. Because he is super duper. I have nothing bad to say about him. And I hate that. And we tried really hard. And I hate that too.

Ani DiFranco saying it better than I could:

“You are a china shop
and I am a bull.
You are really good food
and I am full.
I guess everything is timing,
I guess everything’s been said,
so I’m coming home with an empty head”

Sidenote: On Friday, my birthday present from Bossman arrived at school (my mailing address). My birthday is next week, but since he’s OCD a planner, it came a week early. And it was filled with pictures. And a note. And the most perfect bracelet/cuff ever – I will be the first to admit I’m kind of a prissy Princess and I honestly prefer to buy my own gifts, but dammit THIS BRACELET WAS EXACTLY MY STYLE. Oh, and did I mention there were tons of pictures of the 2 of us?! And I got it at work? Totes not the best day ever, but dammit I do love that bracelet.

But I digress.

I always struggle with having to leave people behind in order to do what I want. I’m the person who is always crying at airports.

But I also keep leaving. And I’ve found that it’s always worth the sacrifice.

One of my favorite quotes is from a poem by Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I plan to do everything.

I plan to do it up big.

And in the meantime, I plan to let everything work itself out.

I’m still in my mourning period, which consists of me listening to Ani Difranco and Alanis Morisette, and shopping more than usual. (yes Mom, I know I need to be fiscally responsible, don’t worry) And watching copious amounts of Veronica Mars.

At the end of the day, I did what I could. I tried as hard as I could. But you can’t force it.

And everyday, I’m reminded that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.