Archive | March, 2011

Fun at a Child’s Expense

19 Mar

For your amusement, this week’s class quotes:

Question: What are you most afraid of?

Boy 1: “My mother.”

Boy 2: “My homework.”


Question: What is something interesting about you?

Girl: “An interesting thing about me, is that my friends say I look like a squirrel.”

 

A random interruption during class:

Girl: “Teacha, my stomach hurts. It’s like . . . bubbling.”

 

After discussing a story in which the main character is deaf and attended a school for deaf children:

Question: What do you think her school was like?

Boy: “Quiet?”

 

While looking at a picture of a man offering a bouquet of flowers to a woman, the children were asked to make up their own dialogue:

Boy: “The man is saying ‘I love you.’  Then the woman says ‘But I’m a boy.’ “

 

During a rather heated debate class:

Girl: “Do you really think that was a good question to ask?”

Boy: “Yes. Because I said so.”

Girl: “Oh really? And who are you?!

 

When discussing how it is difficult to tell if Korean women are married because they don’t wear rings:

Boy: “Is. . . *Ella teacha married?”

*(editor’s note: a beautiful Korean teacher in our school)

Me: “No.  Wait, why are you asking that?”

Boy: “I don’t know!” (he then looked down at his paper and blushed for the next 5 minutes)

 

And lastly, a game of hangman that just wouldn’t end:

Me: “OK Kai, the class isn’t going to guess the word, so just tell us what it is.”

He then writes the word instroduction.

Me: “Well Kai, they didn’t guess it. . . because that’s not a word.”

Kai: “Yes it is. You know, instroduction.”

He then proceeded to argue with me about the word’s existence for the next 2 minutes before I finally told him that if he found the word in a book I would give him 20 stickers.

. . . He never did get those 20 stickers.

 

Have a good weekend y’all!

Delayed Gratification: The Boracay Post

18 Mar

So now you know all the effort put into actually getting to this little island. And as I mentioned in the previous post, once we arrived, we went straight to our hostel, which was like a Filipino Swiss Family Robinson type deal.  The hostel is run by a family, although they all appear to be about the same age, and we couldn’t ever distinguish how they were related to each other.

And this family, including their patriarch, Two-Teeth-Jubi, not only run a hostel in the most laid back manner possible, but they do it all while singing.  I don’t think a single hello or good-bye was exchanged during our 4 days that didn’t include a song and dance number.  And you know how much I appreciate a random jazzhand and a little fanfare.  So we instantly fell in our love with our quirky, oral-hygiene-challenged hosts.

The baby-bed we shared, which ironically provided me with the best sleep I've had in months.

After getting as gussied up as possible after nearly 15 hours of travel, Ms. Betsy and I headed out to the famous White Beach. This is absolutely the best part of Boracay; everything is accessible from the White Beach.  Not only can you lie around on it during the day, you can use it as a road/walkway to get to all the shopping, restaurants, and nightclubs.

After dinner, we started drinking, and promptly harassed our young Filipino waiters into showing us where the good clubs were after they got off work.  So at midnight, we followed our very nice new hosts down the beach.  For like 2 miles.  At this point I became convinced we were walking into our Law & Order SVU-style doom.  We passed countless restaurants and bars.  And a few clubs.

But at last, we arrived at the most crowded, loud, colorful club of them all. It was just what we were looking for. The front part of the clubs opens up to the road, and the back is right on the beach.  So if you need a break from dancing or just want to put your feet in the water, you just take a few steps out the back. It’s perfect.

We danced our little English-teaching hearts out. The drinks were cheap.  The music was loud.  The people were friendly.  Oh, and they was even an extremely talented midget (little person?!) go-go dancer by the DJ.

Blurry club shot

We walked the 2 miles home – beach front of course – and fell into our tiny bed around 5 a.m.

This would set the tone for our short trip: Wake up to the sounds of the birds/sheep/rooster/goats from the family farm next to us.  Make our way lazily to a restaurant to enjoy delicious Western-style (!!!) brunch/lunch.  Walk 10 feet from the restaurant to a lounge chair and spend the day at the beach.

In the afternoons we would walk around the White Beach, doing a little shopping, and even going down to the White Beach Starbucks. (which is remarkably cheaper and has a security guard check your bags before entering) We both enjoyed a $6, hour-long massage on the beach along with some seriously amazing fresh fruit shakes.Granted, for everything we actually did stop and try/buy, we were solicited for 20 more.  No matter where you are on the White Beach, people will approach you to buy just about anything.

Perfect shot of the main walkway on the White Beach via boracay.com

Oh, and one day Ms. Betsy tried scuba diving, but she quit after an hour with this observation: “It’s just unnatural for humans to breathe underwater.”

Word.

We would then take long siestas, before venturing out for dinner and clubbing. Even if we happened to start at different places, we always ended back up at the club from night 1.  So some obvious advice: Always ask the locals where the good places are! This is also the club where we saw half the people from our Manila flight, which was funny and a bit awkward.

The second night of our trip also happened to be the actual Lunar New Year. So while I chatted with a very intoxicated guy who also happened to be a fellow Arizona alum, we watched a traditional LNY performance that included very colorful dragons dancing around and drinking beer. No really, the dragons drank beer –which really boosts the ancient Chinese up a few points in my book.

That night we also decided to make our way back to the club from night 1.  Assuming we could just follow the same path, we set off down the beach, only to reach a large obstacle: the tide.  Apparently the tide was remarkably low the first night, which allowed us to walk on the beach.  But because we are idiots adventurous, we decided to just walk along the cliffs.  While holding onto a chain-link fence.  While waves crashed up on our legs. No offense to my husband James Franco, but this was my 127 hours people.  Not only did my bum ankle and I make it the 20 minutes across the cliffs, but I did it in flip-flops and a minidress, while holding my clutch.

My only motivation was fear, and my inner monologue sounded something like this:

“If you let go of the fence and fall into the water, you will probably re-break your ankle.  And hit your head. And drown.  And die.”

and

“If you let go of your purse, your passport, your ID, your camera, and your phone will wash away forever. You will never get off this island. You’ll probably die here.”

While my actual voice was shouting things like this:

“Betsy WTF is wrong with you?!  What a terrible idea!  I just got out of my cast Betsy, and now we’re McGyvering over a GD fence in the ocean?! Do you want me to die Betsy, do you?!”

Naturally, she made it across much easier than I did.  Further insulting, were the 10 year-old kids who ran past us to get to the other side.  Rude.

But we made it. And then drank heavily after our near-death experience. Oh, and when we left the club (and for the next 2 nights), we went out the front door and took the street home. It doesn’t really provide the scenery or the death-defying adrenaline rush as the cliffs, but it gets the job done.

Overall, it was the perfect short trip to blow off some steam before the long grind of spring/summer teaching.  Boracay has a distinct feel to it, because it’s not too Westernized. And because it’s not too Westernized, everything is insanely cheap. Like sinfully cheap, y’all. It more than makes up for the expensive plane tickets and hellish travel to reach it.

And although this post will never do it justice, please take away this one point: This vacation was just. so. worth. it. Worth the money, the energy, and the time. Worth enduring a Monday workday that started 4 hours after we got home. And worth cleaning out a suitcase that projectile vomited sand all over my apartment.

I miss everything about this. (sidenote: 2 good ankles y'all!)

Boracay: Getting There

15 Mar

OK, so I’m like *6 weeks late on the Boracay post, and (spoiler alert!) this isn’t even a post about my Boracay vacation. I had to dedicate an entire post to the epic travel experience that was just getting to and from that blessed little island.

So. . on a cold Wednesday morning at around 4:45 a.m., I met Ms. Betsy and caught a cab to the nearest airport bus stop.  The perpetually angry driver picked us up around 5:10 a.m., and we had one hour in the warm, dark airport bus to relax. (except who could relax when they are a mere 12 hours away from the sandy beaches of Boracay? Answer: Me. It was 5:10 a.m. )

The airport was a Lunar New Year nightmare of lines, but in typical Korean fashion, everything was taken care of with the utmost politeness and efficiency. Betsy and I then parted ways, with plans to regroup and catch a flight together in Manila.  My first flight to Hong Kong was uneventful.

Except that we left the runway in Seoul about 45 minutes late, making me dangerously close to missing my connecting flight in HK. As I stepped off the plane, I immediately saw a beautiful flight attendant holding a sign with my name on it – never a good sign.  She nicely informed me that I was really f-ing late, and that we were going to run and pray and then maybe I would get on the flight to Manila.

And run we did. Please keep in mind that at this point I’ve had about 3 hours of sleep, and was just 1 week out of my cast. So I was hobbling and huffing along next to a model-worthy flight attendant through the Hong Kong airport.  And we just. kept. running. We caught a tram. We climbed escalators, and jogged on moving walkways.  We took service elevators, and I even got to sneak through the airport personnel security checkpoint, instead of the invasive laymen one.  (you don’t have to take your shoes off!)

And through some divine miracle (or maybe some repaid karma from having a cast for the last month) we made it. We arrived at the gate, with 5 minutes to spare. I looked at the flight attendant and asked if I would be boarding now. In response, she gestured at my sweaty face and generally disgusting appearance and said:

“No. You have 5 minutes. . . You should go to the restroom.”

Touche.

My flight from HK to Manila was rather uneventful, save for the Sweet Valley High twins next to me, who looked to be about 18, and talked incessantly about how this was their first time flying abroad, while continuing to ask for more wine from the flight attendant. Because (hint!) you won’t ever get carded for ordering drinks on an international flight. Oh, they also read each other excerpts from the latest Cosmopolitan magazine and discussed the finer points, ie “I mean can you ever like really know if your boyfriend is over his ex?”

But luckily I did meet some cool teachers from HK who were also on their way to Boracay.  Please note that I would eventually end up seeing all the people on this flight at the clubs in Boracay, which was really, really strange. (the way people act on a plane is not always how they will act in a club while on vacation – write that down)

I finally made it to Manila and met up with Betsy. I would just like to warn y’all that the Manila airport is one of the most lackadaisical, maddeningly frustrating airports EVER.  They don’t actually tell you anything, but expect you to magically have your customs declaration form, or a fistful of Philippine pesos ready to pay for your entrance fee into the country.  Oh, you didn’t get those already?  Hmmm, well you can probably find them. . . somewhere over there, around the corner or something. Yeah, that is totally not a frustrating conversation to have when you are freaking the eff out because you might miss your plane.

And because I didn’t even realize that we had gone through yet another time zone change, I had all but resigned myself to the fact that I missed my third and final flight of the day to Kalibo. . . until Betsy came up and found me, and I realized I still had an hour to spare. Whew.

Our one-hour flight to Kalibo was fine.  We landed, and walked from the plane to the “airport” – a two-room, very crowded little island building. Which was fine; it was balmy and tropical and dammit,  we were almost there.

After wrestling the crowds to find our luggage, we found 2-teeth-Jubi, the man our hostel sent to help us navigate our way to Boracay. Jubi then found us a large white passenger van that would drive us to the ferry stand – about 2 hours away since it was dark. The vans just wait around the Kalibo airport to take passengers to the ferry, so your van could be crowded with people from anywhere in the world, speaking any number of languages, all trying to get to Boracay. Unfortunately, we arrived at night, so the drive took much longer than it would during daylight hours. And unfortunately it’s nothing but winding, island roads, where we routinely harassed little moped and motorcycle drivers and tempted our fate.  The whole time I just kept thinking “My mom would die if she saw the way this man was driving.”

Two motion-sickness-inducing hours later, and we arrived at the ferry.  Jubi helped us buy our tickets, and he took care of our bags.  We then got onto a crowded, rickety ferry, along with approximately 25 other travel-weary vacationers and about 1,000 pounds of collective luggage, which they put on the roof. (the ferry workers spent the ride climbing all over the boat, fixing and securing things, and generally looking like a bunch of Filipino Spidermen) We had to wear those hideous bright orange life vests that you wear on cruise ships (the universally unflattering color) while we rocked back and forth in the pitch darkness that is the ocean at night.  Oh, and the girl in front of me vomited.

Bitchin’.

10 minutes later, and the ferry dropped us off on Boracay island.  Please immediately go back to the top of this post and reread all the ridiculousness we went through to get to this tropical paradise: taxi, bus, 3 planes (including airport trams), a van, and then a ferry.

To get our luggage to our hostel, we got a little island “taxi” – a motorcycle with a huge, covered sidecar attached.  The 3 of us, and our luggage all managed to fit, and as we got some island air in our lungs we darted along more tiny, unmarked roads, and squeezed through quite a few narrow alleyways.

Courtesy of bwanasurfer @ flickr

We got to our room by 10 p.m.  15 minutes later we were changed and walking along the White Beach, looking for a place to eat dinner. This turned out to be one of the most fun, adventurous nights of our trip, but that will all come later in the next post.

And please realize that a mere 4 days later, completely depressed that the trip was over, I had to reverse all these insane travel methods  to get home to my cold, Korean apartment at 7:30 a.m. On a Monday.

Now that is the 7th circle of hell, y’all.

 

*And I’m pretty sure I’m only inspired to write the Boracay posts this week to spite my family all the people at home who are enjoying spring break right now.

Anniversary

14 Mar

6 months ago, I moved to South Korea with a lot of clothes, a little fear, and no teaching experience.

And 6 months later, I am happy to report that we are pretty happy together.  We stumbled along for the first month, and really hit our stride around my 23rd birthday in October. The fall was easy.  It was fun.  It was full of preparation for a Christmas/New Year’s trip to Sydney that was absolutely perfect.

And then our honeymoon phase ended. The weather became unbearable. I got hurt and spent a month in a cast. One of my favorite people left.  I was broke.  Things weren’t looking good for us.

But we pulled through, and took a much-needed trip to Boracay, where we decided to use Lunar New Year as the official starting point for 2011, since January was so shitty anyway.

And since then, things have been slow and steady.  We are in a routine. We know what works for us.  We see a future together, at least another 6 months. I’m still in love with Korea, but in a more comfortable way – like I can take my make up off and start wearing sweatpants kind of way. But I love it, loyally.

And in semi-related news. . .

Last week my boss asked me to consider staying on for another year to teach.  If a school likes you and your teaching, this is pretty common. But there are always factors, and it can of course get political, and you never really know who will be asked.  But I was.

And that’s a really, really good feeling.  Like the warm feeling I got this afternoon when one of the kindergarten classes sang “Let It Be” to me.

And although I haven’t told my boss this yet (I’m waiting until our next schedule comes out – seriously) I will not be extending my contract.  I have some big things planned for next year, which I will tell you more about at the appropriate time.

But just like all those Oscar losers always say . . . it’s an honor just to be nominated. (cue gracious smile)

So on this rainy Monday, when there doesn’t seem to ever be enough coffee which is OK because 5 year-olds are singing the Beatles, I just want to take a moment to stop. And wish myself a happy anniversary.

Because let’s be honest – it’s one of my longest relationships ever.

It’s Genetic

12 Mar

Yesterday I received one of the single funniest e-mails of my life. It is from my older brother and Tator Tot.  That is all the introduction it needs. You’re welcome:

Dylan and Ben here.  We just wanted to let you know the following two things we found after having just read ‘The Little Red Caboose:’

1.) The Little Red Caboose’s voice is that of Snarf

2.) While climbing up the mountain, we noticed the Little Red Caboose actually travels past a group of Native Americans.  While this is believable-enough, one of the Native American’s is punching a horse in the face.  We’ll find a way to send you a picture of this Indian v. Horse mountainside brawl.

Love you,
Ben and (I’m letting Dylan type his own name here)  bi   imv     c rrrrcrrdxddddddx0hgbn ‘nn’

Consider me homesick y’all, because that. was. awesome.

The Claw

11 Mar

The month of March has brought many decent things my way: 50-degree weather, an exercise routine, Ms. Megan.  It has also brought me in influx of “special classes.”  Special classes are 50-minute themed classes with the kindergarteners, an age group I will inevitably scar for life am definitely not an expert in.  But the March calendar says that I am now teaching 4 special classes every week: 2 arts & crafts classes (how many gluey hands does it take to make Cla Teacha start sniffing the markers?), 1 game class (daycare), and 1 science class ( someone help Cla Teacha with the experiment because this stuff is hard yo).

And today was science class.  And I was dreading it, much like I used to dread science classes when I was a student. But as I began preparing for the class, my heart started racing. I couldn’t believe it.  As I confirmed that yes, in fact my wildest dreams were coming true, I triumphantly stood up and yelled “OMG YOU GUYS WE ARE MAKING CLAW HANDS IN SCIENCE CLASS!”

No response from the faculty room.  Typical.

Not that this deterred me in any way. Claw hands mean more to me than I can even express, but allow me to try.

This all began many years ago, when inexplicably Claw became one of my nicknames. This was before I ever thought about teaching Korean children who would call me Cla Teacha approximately 6 million times per day. My older brother in particular, really latched on to the nickname.  He also happened to have a claw hand toy from his childhood.

Please keep in mind that my brothers are almost a full foot taller than me. (don’t cry for me Argentina, I got the pretty face. Obvs.) And during my senior year of college when I moved into my own apartment, I would joke that I couldn’t reach anything.

So for Christmas last year, my older brother gave me his claw hand.

Christmas 2009: Claire's life is forever changed.

He may have thought it would be some huge joke, but in fact, the claw hand changed my life. I took it back to college, and proceeded to use it around the apartment, while simultaneously managing to bring it up in casual conversation with friends.*

*Please note that Bossman routinely brings up the fact that I showed him my claw hand on our first date

Unfortunately, the claw hand could not come to Korea with me, due to my mom taking it out of my suitcase space issues.  But now, everything is right with the world.

I not only made a claw hand in science class today, I showed the magic of the claw to a whole new generation of impressionable short people.  Things came full circle.

That is until I had to dismantle my own claw hand and give its various parts to students who had already managed to break their own (and consequently why I don’t have a picture to show you from today)

Le sigh.

Le Has-Beens

10 Mar

As I briefly mentioned a few times, I have been taking ballet class for the last month. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday before work, I take an hour-long class along with 2 other teachers I work with.  And while they are learning something new, I’ve taken dance class my entire life – at least until 3 years ago.

Hence, Le Has-Beens.  Granted, I’m the only Has-Been, but group solidarity and support is key when you’re  23 and wearing a leotard and pink tights.

Luckily, ballet class is not for talking. Because the last thing I want to do after I wake up is speak. But dance, well that I don’t mind. Even if it means losing an hour of sleep, packing my work clothes, and consequently getting ready for work in a tiny dressing room with 2 other people.

Part of the reason I like the ballet class? Our teacher, whom I call Princess Grace.  She weighs 90 pounds tops, and is everything a dancer should be: effortlessly graceful, outrageously flexible, and teeny tiny.  Even though I understand about 1/8 of what she says (and that’s usually just when she uses the French terms for the ballet words), I’m borderline obsessed with her.  She is really patient with us, even though it’s early for her too. And she probably laughs at us after class, much like I do with my own students.

Fact: Princess Grace is unamused by your pain and thinks you can stretch further.

And the other reason I like ballet class?  It’s my happy place.

First, a bit o’ background: I started dancing when I was 3, and continued up through my freshman year of college. I got serious about it during middle school, and in high school it became my only “after school activity.”  And by activity, I mean I was part of a  competitive company that did a lot of competitions, and practiced 6 days a week.  And I really, really loved it. Especially during those melodramatic high school years, when everything is either absolutely amazing or insanely bad. There was no in between. But dance kept me balanced. And focused. And introduced me to people, places, and feelings I otherwise probably wouldn’t have discovered as a teenager in Kansas (this also started my obsession with gay men and rhinestones).

And during my freshman year at Emory, when I was homesick and confused, dance remained my happy place.  It was the one thing that seemed to stay the same that year. I needed that.  And it was the only class(es) I never skipped. (sorry Mom and Dad)

And then of course, I took a 15 pound 3-year hiatus, which happens.

Then, in February, as I approached my fifth month in Korea, I realized that my life here was starting to seem normal, and at times, lacking. So I set off to find my happy again. Or more specifically, something that was “mine.”  I think that’s really important in a new place – you have to have something that is just yours, that you do for pure pleasure, and that will sustain you through the less glamorous times.

And thankfully, I’ve found mine. I found my happy.

This is what 11 a.m. looks like.

And yes, half of the lesson is in Korean, but the basics are the same. Dance is the universal language, and for the most part, my body still speaks it. I’m definitely not as strong or as flexible as I used to be, but my muscles generally remember what to do.

It feels right and yummy and exciting and normal all at the same time. Finding your happy is definitely worth losing an hour of sleep for.  Even if you have to wear a leotard.