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But how do you know…?

11 May

...if you’re good at your job?

With some jobs it may be easier to measure general proficiency and/or success*:  doctors whose patients live, lawyers who win their cases, Taco Bell employees who make delicious tacos, or Forever 21 assholes employees who won’t let you take more than 7 items in the dressing room NO MATTER WHAT.

*I just spelled success wrong. Not one shred of this irony is lost on me.

And I think certain teaching jobs at certain schools can yield impressive results, but let’s get real because we aren’t all that white lady from Freedom Writers.  My students are from wealthy families, whose parents are committed to their education. They began studying English around age 4, and when I met them 3 years later, they all had a ridiculously advanced grip on the language.

So of course I can improve their vocabulary, grammar, and dance social skills…but so much of their progress and success happened before me.  And with the parents they have, I’m pretty sure they would find a way to improve their English in any circumstance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure I’m adequate amazing at my job.  Or at least, I hope I am…because I’m really trying.  I joke about this job and everything else A LOT, but when I’m actually in front of my classes teaching a lesson, I’m trying.  I also like teaching more than I ever thought I would.  I really just wanted to travel around after college…but lately I’ve been tossing around the idea of making a serious go at this.

…but I keep coming back to the same question – how do you know if you’re good at your job?

Some things I am sure about.

……………..

Today’s quote, courtesy of Phoebe from Friends (and further proof that 90s sitcoms were and are awesome):

“I may play the fool at times, but I’m a little more than just a pretty blonde girl with an ass that won’t quit.”

 

……………..

Today I’m thankful that I have any job at all, because I do love spending making money. I also enjoy not sitting at a desk, the general hilarity of children, and working in a foreign country.  And I may or may not enjoy song time, Play-doh time, and freeze dance time….a lot.

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I Can’t Quit You

7 May

What started as a fun travel blog, later became a chore.  So I took a break; I felt like I was too focused on writing about my experiences instead of actually experiencing them…but after another fab conversation with Monica, and a writer’s-dilemma post from my friend Jenna, I realized it was time to get back to it.

Writers write.  So if I’m not writing, I’m not a writer.  And that made me uncomfortable.  So in the hope that motivation will win out over my penchant for self-indulgence, I’ve decided to make myself write every day.  Even if it’s just a paragraph.  Or a quote.  Or a picture with a caption. Something. Anything.

But, let’s quickly catch up.  During the last 8 months, I…

-met and fell in love with my nephew. I happily wear the crazy aunt hat.

Image

-got my TEFL certification, despite my best efforts to avoid scholarly pursuits outside of Jeopardy

-left Korea, amid a flurry of parties and tears.   3 months later I came back, amid a flurry of parties and tears.

-Dated someone I thought was really amazing, but we broke up because he wasn’t.

-Went to Malaysia for New Year’s Eve.  And Taiwan for a 3-day weekend. (pics of Taiwan to come- Malaysia will not be mentioned on the blog again due to aforementioned break up and my self-respect.)

-Became a kindergarten teacher.

-Got violently ill à la Bridesmaids at the Incheon Airport.

…and today I cut all my hair off, which was much needed.  I am metaphorically and literally lighter.  The last 4 months have been a challenge, and now that I’m finally coming out on the other side of it, it’s time to write again.  You’re so welcome, friends.

Image

Today’s quote:

“And in the spring I shed my skin
And it blows away with the changing wind”     
  –Florence and the Machine, “Rabbit Heart”

And lastly, to stop the constant self-deprecating humor, and for my own spoiled peace of mind, I’m going to write something I’m thankful for everyday – which is cheesy, but significant nonetheless.  Like a good episode of Gilmore Girls.

Today I’m thankful for how utterly humbling the last 4 months have been. (please see public food poisoning in above list) And I’m thankful they’re over.

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.

Rehash.

Rewrite.

Refresh.

That one time we tested fate

23 May

Ok, so this whole Rapture business got me thinking:  I’m pretty sure we all know I’m not going to be a “chosen” one, so I better blog the hell out of my last days/months/decades on earth.  It’s the only way I’m going to successfully get myself on a reality show and make my D-list mark on the world before my time is up.

So, without further ado, here’s the story I hinted at last month, the weekend that left me with PTSD.  But also a really good story, so it’s a wash.

. . . . .

In March, a few gal pals of mine and I signed up for a weekend excursion, about 6ish hours south of Seoul.  The plan was to spend Saturday hiking around an island called Jagged Ridge, and then spend Sunday at the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival.

The Facebook message about the trip said the hike would be fine for anyone who “exercises regularly.”  Having just finished my 30 day shred, I overconfidently persuaded my friends that this would be cake.

So our trip began Friday night, where we all boarded a charter bus in Seoul.  After an awkward say-your-name-in-a-microphone-to-break-the-ice-game, we all settled in to try and sleep.  Which is impossible on a Korean charter bus.  So we mainly all just shifted around a lot until sunrise.

A few minutes after 6 am we got off the bus at Yi Soon Shin Admiral Park in Tong Young to watch the sunrise.  While this was really pretty, it’s going to take a lot more than the sun to get me all jazzed at 6am after spending the night on a charter bus.

Please note: all pics stolen from Megan's blog, which she stole from Andrea's camera. Just try and sue me bitches.

Our bus then made its windy way to the ferry station, where we then traveled the 40 minutes to Sa Ryang Do Island, where we would hike.  We were given maps, and told there were 4 peaks, and if all goes well, we should be finished in about 4ish hours.

Lies.

The hike started pretty well.  Mainly because we were hiking around a beautiful island, so every rocky peak had amazing 360-views of the ocean.  We also met some cool people.  And we also met some people who were fun to laugh at.  But that’s another story.

About an hour or so into the hike, we were feeling fab – it was challenging, but certainly not impossible, the weather was perfect, we still had plenty of water, etc.

Much like Jurassic Park, we had no idea the horrors that awaited us on this island.

2 hours later, we start to get weary.  Mainly because Jagged Ridge is ridiculously unsafe.  Korean hiking is much like a Japanese game show: dangerous, fast, and best left to the Asians.

There are no rails, and few signs.  Everything is steep and rocky. If you fall, you die.  And why you’re contemplating that, 60-year-old Koreans in neon hiking gear are passing you left and right, usually while muttering about your slowness under their breath.  Note:  They also like to stop mid-hike for lunch and alcohol.  Seriously.

One of my fave pics of all time. Please note my 1 arm muscle - COUNT IT!

Time marched on, and so did we.  Slowly.  Complaining.  Mocking the lying Facebook message that got us into this perilous mess in the first place.  We got sunburned.  We were also cold.  We walked down vertical metal stairs.  We walked on the edge of cliffs.  And two times, we seriously had to use a rope to climb up the side of the mountain.

Why would that be a good idea?

I realize this sounds fun, which it is – in theory.  In reality, it’s really f-ing scary.  This is the one time during the hike I just straight up panicked.  Like halfway up, while death-gripping the rope, I looked down and thought “if i lose this rope, I’m going to fall. And die.”  And then I full on couldn’t breathe.  And may have cried a bit.  But thank god for my lady friends who got all motivational-speaker on my ass, and helped me through.  I still don’t know if it’s scarier to use the rope going up the mountain or going down.

Andrea going down the ropes. This was like Survivor with no money at the end.

Of course, the rope was easy for the Koreans.  As Megan so aptly described it: “Jesus, they all look like Spiderman.”

6 hours later, we made our way down.  Only to find that we were among the first 20 or so people finished with the 4-hour-hike.  Hello, validation.  By then my whole body was shaking, and my ankle was throbbing something terrible. . . so we ate ice cream and waited for the bus.  And had a bitchin’ nap on the floor of the ferry.

We then made our way to the pension – a Korean-style hostel, where you sleep on the heated floors, which is much more comfortable than it sounds.  After showering and thanking god for not killing us on the mountain, the whole group had a Korean style BBQ, which was of course delicious.  From what I remember.  I decided the best way to celebrate our triumphant hike was to drink copious amounts of soju.  Hence why I went to bed at 9pm.

But of course, not even bedtime was uneventful.  We found out that sometimes Betsy sleep-screams, where she subconsciously yells at people with her eyes open.  Which is scary.  We also awoke to the sound of 2 men yelling at each other in Arabic, around 4am.  Still thick with soju, I awoke and legitimately thought I was in a dream for about 5 minutes.  Until I saw Megan army crawl her way over to me to discuss our room’s “situation.”

As we learned the next day, the 2 men, who were far too old and unattractive to be pulling these stunts, were completely drunk from the bottle of rum they consumed the night before.  And because they are cavemen, this turned into a half-conscious middle of the night screaming match.  Just for added context: These two life rejects also peed in bottles on the charter bus on our way home.

Sunday was rainy, and we were oh-so sore.  We made a quick trip to see a Turtle Ship – a type of famous ancient ship created to fight the Japanese.  They are called Turtle ships because the round outside of the ship is covered in metal, like a shell.  Get it?!

Turtle Ship > Japanese

We then drove 2 hours to Jinhae, to see the sub par cherry blossoms.  At least we weren’t hiking.  The festival was similar to any street festival in the US: it’s packed with stalls for food and shopping.  That’s about it.  So for a few hours we wandered around, eating awesomely bad street food, and taking pics.  Fact:  I ate a corn dog WITH FRENCH FRIES ON IT.  Koreans are so far ahead of Americans, it’s not even funny.

Lots of tents + pretty cherry blossom trees = festival.

We then spent another 7 hours on the bus, cranky and uncomfortable, before finally arriving home.   Where I collapsed into fetal position. For the next 12 hours.

Much like Pearl Harbor y’all, we will never forget what happened that weekend on Jagged Ridge.

Red Scare

27 Dec

Warning: This post is about as politically incorrect as it comes.

Traveling abroad and meeting people from Canada-America’s Tophat different countries, has only increased my desire to make culturally insensitive jokes. Because they’re funny, people. And besides, I’m the first one to make fun of America when given the chance.

All of that aside, my first run in with China left much to be desired. The girls and I left freezing South Korea around 2pm Christmas Day, bound for China where we would spend our 4-hour layover. This was my first encounter with a Chinese airline, and can I just say. . ugh.

The first plane sat on the runway for no less than an hour before finally departing. This was relatively uneventful. We landed in China, ready to find our connecting flight and get some food.  And that’s where all the trouble began. . First we stopped at a bathroom that had a squatter toilet, which I happen to have a terrible track record with. I was contemplating using the sink, when thankfully we found that only 1 toilet in the restroom was a squatter.

We then attempted to pass through customs, which we thought would be pretty quick, considering we didn’t even fill out customs forms since we were just passing through China en route to sunnier, more liberal places. Wrong.

Along with about 50 or so other English-speaking people our age, also on holiday, our passports were promptly checked then confiscated. Along with our connecting boarding passes. We were not told why. We were all told to wait behind a yellow line.

Which we did for 30 minutes. At this point I was fairly certain we were headed for “re-education camp” a la Mao, or a firing squad.  Instead, one by painstaking one, a non-English speaking customs official waved our passports in the air, while our mob awaited, anxious, hoping to win the customs lottery. Total cluster cuss.

And still not totally sure why this happened or what it accomplished – but I’m sure we’re all on the Chinese list of “bad things” now, much like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

30 minutes later, we are back in line waiting to pass through security again, you know, in case some smartass stole a chopstick from the plane or something. While waiting, and growing ever more delirious, Lauren thought it was a good time to loudly read the political quotes off her passport (the newly issued passports have pictures and quotes; Lauren is partial to LBJ). We then passed through security, where Ryan nearly punched the woman who confiscated her hand sanitizer (“THAT SANITIZER HAS BEEN TO 5 COUNTRIES! WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?!”). It was also during this time that the woman using the hand scanner thing checked me for weapons, and proceeded to TAP me with the scanner, as opposed to just you know, scanning me. She noticeably tapped my ugh, chest, at the end, causing me to collapse in exhausted, immature giggles. (shrugs)

The three of us, now delirious and showing signs of post-traumatic-passport-stealing-syndrome, went off in search of food, before boarding our 11-hour flight to Sydney.

As if China hadn’t pissed me off enough, our terminal was a total dead zone, with only a few overpriced Chinese restaurants open. So we ate some fried rice, which would have been ok, save for the fact that we were downwind of the Persian mafia 2 middle-eastern men who had on more cologne than an abercrombie employee, giving me an immediate contact high.

We then attempted to find some gum and snacks; both searches proved fruitless. Instead of chewing gum, we found the following items available for sale: sheep placenta tablets, vibrators/sex toys, silk robes, perfume, and remote-controlled toy cars. And while I did find a candy bar, I was unable to pay for it with a credit card, my American accent, Australian dollars, or Korean won; which prompted this diplomatic gem:

“In communist China, the candy bar buys you!”

We finally boarded the plane, gumless and annoyed, only to find that the plane was set at a cool 15 degrees. We kept our winter coats on, and covered up in their flimsy blankets the entire time. Despite sleeping 9 hours on the plane (thank god), I continually woke up shivering. I also slept through the 1 meal, so I arrived in Sydney looking like a refugee hungry mess.

Needless to say, Australia was a breath of beautiful, capitalist air. I would love to give China another chance, as both Hong Kong and Beijing are on my list of places to visit, and I probs will. . . assuming this blog post doesn’t put my name on the “anti-communist activities list,” forever barring me from the country.

 

Let’s Address the Artillery-Wielding Elephant in the Room

7 Dec

Hey y’all, sorry it’s been almost a month. I honestly didn’t realize it until I started receiving hate mail.

And it has definitely been an eventful month: This weekend marks my 3-month anniversary in Korea, and tomorrow a new teacher arrives, meaning I’m no longer the “new girl,” (although I refuse to stop asking dumb questions); I survived my “open class” in which parents spent 40 minutes judging whether I was qualified to teach their children (I’m not, but I looked GREAT); I got over a cold, and I have not yet killed myself despite the fact that it’s 26 degrees outside.*

*I’m waiting until after my winter vacation in SYDNEY, which will commence Dec. 25, no thanks to Santa Clause – this trip was financed 100% by overzealous Korean parents.

I also survived a lot of yucky work drama/politics (by working out drinking). Oh and maybs you heard about the whole North Korea v. South Korea debacle.(tosses hair over shoulder and rolls eyes)

I’m kidding. You’ve totally heard. And you’ve totally sent me an email, warning me of my imminent doom and suggesting various exit strategies out of here. (and wondering which fabulous handbag or accessory you’ll be bequeathed in my will – vultures)

First of all, thanks. I’m totally psyched there are 10 people out there who don’t want me to stop blogging living. And a special shout out to my older bro, who went all “dad” on me and straight up told me to just leave, and it was actually really cute, although I’m sure he meant to sound really serious. (pauses to make “stern” face)

Second of all, life is completely the same. Yes, I too read the New York Times and CNN and I too am alarmed by the pictures I’ve seen and all the fast-approaching-war-rhetoric everyone is using.  But I’m also here. And nothing has changed. My Korean co-workers literally laughed off our fears and went on talking about lesson plans and winter vacation and which kid was more annoying. Like every other day.

So of course we are all keeping an eye on the situation, but at the same time, our Korean friends and coworkers are a lot more accustomed to these shenanigans than we are. So when they get panicked, so will I. And if I have to, I will leave – yes emailers, I would leave. No my boss is not holding me against my will and I’m fairly certain he would understand my need to choose life over the kiddos. And just for the record, I live about 45 minutes south of Seoul. (so stop asking, yo!)

So stop asking me about it. Rest assured if I’m freaked out/coming home/igniting a war with my beauty like Helen of Troy, you’ll know about it.

But just because I can’t help myself, and I mean who knows when I’ll get another chance to post this. . .

 

Funny. Every. Damn. Time.

All is well. Reary.

 

DM-Zizzle

21 Oct

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

Kidding.

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!