Archive | July, 2011

4th O’July

8 Jul

For the first time in my life, I celebrated the Fourth of July outside the US. . . which was fine by me.  As most of my friends at home know, I do not like this holiday. I never have.  I like America, but it’s special day has always seemed more like a pain in the ass than an excuse to party.

But that doesn’t mean I downplayed it here in Korea.  On the contrary, I went on the offensive – when in foreign lands, you have to represent. (write that down)

Sunday, July 3rd the foreign teachers and I enjoyed LOTS of US-only food and Korean drinks at a bbq/party.  Unfortunately the torrential downpour forced our would-be balcony party to become an apartment party, but the food made up for it.  Sadly, I did not get pics of Diane squatting under 2 umbrellas while grilling hotdogs and hamburgers.  That was true patriotism.

Monday the 4th. . . was a normal work day.  But I tried to represent by wearing a red & white skirt, and with my AWESOME nails.  (cracked nail polish has changed my life.  I’m a one-woman manicuring machine right now):

Awesome nails + striped skirt = Happy Fourth of July from Korea

And Tuesday the 5th, we celebrated once again on a friend’s rooftop.  His parents were visiting from the US so they brought a ton of US candy with them.  I nearly went into a diabetic coma upon tasting my first Skittle  and M&M in nearly a year.  Worth  it.

So while it was definitely a different kind of Independence Day (and while I unabashedly celebrated  Canada Day much harder), it was not without its highlights:

Cla Teacha Tries to Explain Independence Day to Korean 8 year-olds:

Me: “Today is a very special day.  It’s my country’s birthday.”  (ps: history buffs, don’t go getting all technical on me until you’ve spent an hour teaching ESL)

Boy: “Teacha, it’s your birthday?!”

Me: “No, it’s not my birthday, it’s America’s.”

Another boy: “It’s Erica’s birthday?!”  (looking at Erica, a student in our class)

Me: “Noooo, it’s not Erica’s birthday, it’s the United States’ birthday.  My home country.”

Girl: “Your home?  It’s your sister’s birthday?”

Me: “Nope. Nevermind, let’s take out our books.”


Can’t say I didn’t try.  Sorry ‘merica.


Blame Canada

5 Jul

I have never celebrated Canada Day.  And much like “Boxing Day” and “Flag Day” I have no real concept of what goes on during these supposed “holidays.”  If I’m not getting a day off work/school, or at least a present of some kind, the day doesn’t exist.

Until now.

In Korea, we celebrate Canada Day.  Why?  Because if you don’t, or if you even show a slight reluctance to celebrate the day, your Canadian coworkers will beat you with hockey sticks will guilt-trip you with so much good cheer and northern friendliness that your natural American shame will force you to celebrate. (That and I’m pretty sure Canadians outnumber Americans here by like 5 to 1.  The irony that I have met far more Canadians in Korea than in the US does not escape me.)

So, for all the shenanigans that happened last Friday night – Blame Canada.

. . .

Two of my favorite people - this was also before I got too sweaty to take pictures.

Literally the entire office staff went out on Friday – and most of the foreigner bars we go to here (not in Seoul) are owned by Canadians, so the places were packed.  And nothing is more fun than drinking with your Korean boss, and I say that with absolutely no sarcasm.  My boss is a no BS woman, who’s completely unfiltered, inappropriate, and hilarious.  We get along famously.  Especially when there’s alcohol involved.

Unfortunately she deleted the only pic I took of her that night, but she made up for it by insisting we do Flaming Dr. Pepper shots.  Well twist my arm, I’d love to!

After that, the night was a blur in the way that only Korean nights are:  too much singing, too many heart-to-hearts because we’re all wandering hippies deep down, too many arguments-turned-almost-fights with rude, ignorant US military guys, too many discussions of college with Jenna, too many new Canadian friends. . .and Korean dance clubs at 4am, where the techno is loud, the Koreans do hipster line dances that are impossible to learn, and where I sweat like the filthy American I am.

It.Was.Awesome.  I was having so much fun that I was hardly annoyed by the Canadians who ran around draped in their country’s flag, singing “Oh, Canada” at the top of their lungs.

So as the sun came up and I finally released my feet from my high heels while in a taxi, I thought. . .where the hell are my coworkers?

And then I remembered: Everything’s fine.  Just Blame Canada. (Which I did all day Saturday)

PS: I was going to title this post, Whatever You Do, Don’t Say Bruins, but I felt it was too soon.

The Problem With Being the World’s Best Teacher. . .

3 Jul

. . . is that your students will become so smart and so comfortable with speaking English, that they will morph into total smartasses.  AKA I’m reaping what I sow:

Repressed Teenage Angst

Q: What would you ask your mom, if you could ask anything and not get in trouble?

A: “Why are you not good at cooking?”

Q: Okaaaay, what would you ask your middle school teacher if you wouldn’t get in trouble for it?

A: “Why are you not good at teaching?”

When an 8-year-old troublemaker turns into a creepy Frenchmen:

Q: Okay, make the sentence “You are walking” into a question.

A: “. . . you are walkiiiinnnnggg??”

Dammit Kenneth, the answer was “Are you walking?”

While preparing for open class, in which their parents observe my class and scare the shit out of me:

Q: “Okay, why is this story so important?”

A: “Uh, because it’s for our open class.”

Yes, smartass that is why it’s important, but just for that remark I will shame you in front of your mother.


Q: What can you see at the Korean Folk Village?

A: “What can’t you see at the Korean Folk Village?”


Honest mistakes by not-yet-jaded children:

Vocab word: fluttered

“My work shit fluttered in the wind.”

While that sounds like quite the predicament, I’m fairly certain you meant shirt there, Tara.

Vocab word: snuggle

“I snuggle with the Earth.”

Prove it.  Somebody has an early God-complex.

Vocab word: gasped

“I gasped! Oh my god, it’s an ugly person!”

Well sorry to say Jina, but you’re going to have quite the rude awakening if you ever leave Korea. Rude.


You just got Sanduped: The Test Heard Round the World

Sandy is a very young student in my friend Ashley’s class.  Her latest test has provided nearly a month’s worth of jokes.  It all started when she wrote her name as Sandu on the test, leading to the now infamous phrase, “You’ve just been Sanduped.” A few gems from her answers:

Q: “Are you a boy?”

A: “No, I’m a yes.”

Q: “Is this an umbrella?”

A: “Friend, it is.”

When shown a picture of a chair:

A: “He is a student.”


A mad-libs enhanced first try at poetry:

Venus flytraps are green,

Cobras are blue,

You are very normal,

And I love you.


A very wise, and mysterious kindergartener:

Q: “What do you think is in a pyramid?”

A: “What’s in a pyramid? Power.

Well-played Charlie, well-played.


And now back to the smartasses, who can’t stop talking about poop, despite my repeated threats of lasting psychological harm:

Vocab word: Place

A: “Please don’t poo in this place.  I’m eating dinner.”

Vocab word: Position

A: “I position Claire Teacher in the toilet.”

Q: “What’s one problem with having pets?”

A: “They could poo on your face?”


Things I may or may not have been overheard saying in my classroom:

“My last class was a ZOO, and now you’ve just become the CIRCUS.  What a TREAT for me.”

When discussing making difficult decisions, and the class erupts into a flurry of Korean:

“My next decision is going to be which one of you to hit first, and trust me, it won’t be that difficult.”  (then they just laughed at me for about 5 minutes – which is why I actually love this class)

Common class responses to the question, “What does Claire Teacher always say?”:

“Don’t be a lazybones!”

“I don’t caaaaarrrrrreeeeee.”

“Really?!  REALLY?!”

“You’re killing me (insert student’s name here).  You.Are.Killing.Me.”



Rehash, Rewrite, Refresh

1 Jul

As my sister-in-law says, “When you’re not writing, I know something’s wrong.”

So I decided to stop being lazy and catch you all up.  In my defense, I haven’t written this month because my mind has been elsewhere.  About 6 weeks ago, my personal life literally imploded.  I’m talking my love life, my relationship with my friends, everything.  And I feel like I’ve spent the weeks following working through all that.  And I don’t write about that stuff, or at least I try not to.  So I’ve been avoiding y’all, while slowly moving things back on track.

Without further ado, Awesome Things I’ve Done While Not Writing:

1) EVERLAND!!!!  To celebrate Teacher’s Day, which was anticlimactic to say the least, some of the ladies and I finally ventured out to Everland, which is basically Korea’s own Disneyland.  Everland is an amusement park, zoo/safari, and full-on entertainment venue, with performers, parades, singing, dancing, and of course, lots of merchandising.  It was beautiful, and SO FUN!  And unlike Disney, it didn’t cost a million dollars:  we got in for $19, and all the food was about $5.  Please for a minute imagine if Disney or anything theme park in the US was like that.  You can’t, because it will never happen.  But don’t worry, we’ll always have Everland. And I finally rode the famous T-Express roller coaster – a huge wooden monstrosity, that has the scariest vertical drop EVER.  And it.was.awesome.  Honestly worth the nearly 2 hours we waited in line for it.  Oh, and it also gave me infinite street cred with my students – most of whom are too scared to ride it.

Bad things don't happen here. That's a fact.

T-Express: Please note the pee-in-your-pants drop at the beginning

2) Buddha’s Birthday/Lantern Festival

Earlier in May, we headed out to Seoul for the annual Lantern Festival and parade.  It was really pretty, colorful, and tame – meaning we sat in chairs and no one got into a fistfight because this is Korea, not the US.  Happy Birthday Buddha, you look great!

Not Buddha


3) The sweet escape:  Earlier this month we had a 3-day weekend for Korean Independence Day (or something like that, my students weren’t exactly clear, or helpful).  We decided to take advantage of the time off and head down to Busan, a huge city on the southern coast.  And while the city is broken up into many different parts, we really only explored Haeundae Beach, which kept us more than entertained.  We spent our days relaxing on the beach, which was hosting all kinds of contests and activities because this was a huge weekend for travel.  And we spent our nights partying.  Please note, I saw more foreigners this weekend than I have in the last 10 months.  White People Spring Break 2011 was a great success.

The ratio of Koreans to umbrellas is approximately 1:1

4) FINALLY going out in Hongdae, the university party area in Seoul.  (Also home to Korea’s 2nd Taco Bell, but that’s another story) Hongdae is just a huge, winding maze of club and bar-filled alleyways.  It’s full of foreign teachers, military guys from the US, and more drunk Koreans than you can count.  While Koreans are the epitome of prim and proper during the day, they have no shame in their drinking game.  It is absolutely normal and acceptable to get black-out drunk, stumble around while balancing on a friend’s arm, or just straight up pass out in the street.  No one will look twice, or rob you.  My favorite of the night  was a guy driving a Vespa, with his comatose friend sleeping on him on the back.  That is love people. And that is Hongdae.

5) Getting my early morning meditation on: the ballet studio changed owners, and so we are now taking yoga class 3x/week.  While this is not “hot yoga” it is a veritable sweat lodge in there, due to my sadist teacher’s aversion to air conditioning.  Oh, and did I mention it’s now at approximately 300% humidity here?  So despite losing at least a pound in water weight every morning, I’m loving the class.  They’ve finally hired a replacement ballet teacher so next week we start ballet on Tues/Thurs., meaning I will be working out before work every day.  I will pause for my parents to express their surprise, pride, and utter delight.

6) Preparing for the apocalypse: and by that, I mean the rainy season.  As I said, the humidity is stifling, and it’s been raining for the last week.  Every day.  All complaining aside, I really do prefer this to the cold.  And since everyone has been warning me about this for months in advance, I knew what was coming.  This weekend I bought my first pair of real rain boots (in eye-assaulting teal), and my 3rd umbrella in Korea (while buying rain boots, I LOST my umbrella in the store. . .only to have to buy another one in the same store.  Both ironic and cruel) Either way, I’m now fully outfitted for this season, which is best described by Forrest Gump:

“One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night… “

This is basically how I look and feel everyday.

At least it’s given me a plausible excuse to wear my hair in a ponytail every day, and whittle my makeup routine down to eyeliner and chapstick.  What can I say, I’m a sweaty kid.

7) Reading like a mad woman.  I’ve been geeking out, and devouring books left and right lately.  Currently finishing up the 19th Wife, and just finished an engrossing non-fiction book called Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, written by an amazing journalist.  Like I said, geeking out.

8) Contemplating how the hell an entire year has gone by since I graduated.

9) Crying over pictures of my nephew (no really) and getting really excited to see my parents and younger brother in LESS THAN A MONTH!  I might literally pull a Scarlet O’Hara and faint with heatstroke emotion.

10) Freaking out that I am the next teacher to leave.  Granted, that’s not for 3 more months, but it’s still pretty weird.  There is absolutely no other word to describe it than bittersweet.

11) Bungee jumping!  Some of the teachers and I peed our pants had our first bungee jumping experience at Yuldong Park in Bundang.  It is insane how long the free fall feels (say that 3x fast).  It’s just like falling. And falling. Forever.  Then you bounce up, and do it again. And again.  And finally, we were lowered into a  row boat, with a less than enthused teenage driver, that would take us to shore.  Nothing makes you feel more like cattle than being lowered via crane, into an awaiting boat.  I also used this prepaid harness time to work on my Circ du Soleil moves, but like I said, the boat guy was less than impressed.

Peer pressure: If all your friends jump off a bridge-type building, are you going to jump too? Why yes, yes I am.

And lastly, I’ve just been trying to figure out what the hell happened the last 6 weeks.  Not that it has been terrible, or in any way unbearable, just confusing and at times sad.  And like I always try to explain, everything is magnified when you’re in another country.  As my very wise friend Betsy said, “You just feel so vulnerable here.”

So, onward and upward.