A Travellerspoint blog

Done and Done

by gabrielle

sunny 40 °F

The end of February marked the end of the school year and all of the kids moved up to the next class level. We commemorated this momentous event with 2.5 hour production that included a musical, 11 song performances, 2 drum performances, 2 poetry readings, 4 teacher speeches and a diploma/gift ceremony. Here are some of the highlights:

First, the musical, "Pinocchio" performed by the two oldest classes:
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Here's a taste of their musical prowess displayed in the finale: (I am still having problems uploading the videos so please just copy and paste the links)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88Z_SXO7dJE&list=UU5-z_95l34RyjlxGdvgI-ng&index=5&feature=plcp

After the musical each class got to sing their two songs. Alan (from another class) doesn't exactly crave the spotlight...
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But my Panda's are ready!
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I have to brag and say my kids were the only ones to sing to just music!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHiLoLGcgNY&list=UU5-z_95l34RyjlxGdvgI-ng&index=4&feature=plcp

And here's their dance party song that they can't get enough of:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bz2CLaZ8OsU&list=UU5-z_95l34RyjlxGdvgI-ng&index=3&feature=plcp

Here is a link to my YouTube channel where I posted a few other videos from the performance and various darling occasions throughout the year:
http://www.youtube.com/user/gabriellemerz?feature=mhee

Now after 11.5 months with my class, the Pandas are ready to move up to the next level. Here are few workbook pages so you can see what my now 4 year olds finished off the year with work wise:
About half of my class could read and match these sentences to pictures on their own:
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These types of exercises would have to be dictated to them but they could do the writing part on their own.
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This was the last page of their last workbook that they completed in February and had a key with all of the feelings listed in it. Their job was to determine the correct feeling based on the picture, find in the key and write it below. I had one student complete it entirely on her own... correctly!
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This is just me bragging about how nice some of their handwriting is! The first pic is from September and second one is from February for the same student.
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After graduation the kids took a week off school so we could move buildings. We only moved about 2 blocks down the street but it was still quite the chaotic mess. On our first "moving day" we were blocked in by the building owner because he and our director were fighting over their contract terms and some unpaid balances... surprise, surprise! Although we arrived at 9 am, we did about 30 minutes of actual moving and I watched two episodes of Grey's Anatomy online, Skyped with friends/family from home, returned some emails and at a long lunch before we got to leave around 3:30pm. Monday and Tuesday were supposed to be moving days as well but it became quickly apparent that the waygooks (foreigners) were just in the way. When there is no system or organized plan in the first place, it's pretty difficult to bark out random orders in Korean and have someone translate them into English so aside from cleaning some cubbies and making a few name tags, we spent both 9 hour work days like this:
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Or like this:
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Once Wednesday hit we had our new kiddos tearing through the halls and exploring the new space. David T. asked me his first three consecutive morning s, "How did we get here?" He was truly thrown off by the new school and told me after his 4th day he preferred the old school and class which I was took to mean he just missed being in my class! ;) I think that means David T. earned himself they most "Kids Say the Darndest Things" shout outs on the year.

The new school was pretty well designed and laid out aside from the fact that it still doesn't have a play area for the poor kids. There were all kinds of intense and awkward quotes on the walls around the school but this one was my fave because it truly epitomizes the attitude toward education in Korea... even in preschool.
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My last week in Korea was just about as emotionally draining as my first; but after the year I've had, it only seemed right I guess. My boss made everything as difficult and miserable as she possibly could for me but I am proud to say I stood my ground and got what I needed from her. Among many things there was a mix up about my flight home. She claims she "heard" me say I wanted to fly to San Francisco instead of Seattle even though I had 3 emails proving Seattle was my nearest international airport, not to mention I am from Washington, not California but don't get me started! The point is she also booked my flight for a day earlier than we had discussed which I didn't know until the day before I was supposed to leave because no one would give me the itinerary. All that being said, the day I found out was also the my last day in the country which meant I had to rush my goodbyes with friends and students and briefly freak out over the last bit of packing I had to do. Honestly, I was so ready to get out of there I was fine with it and it may have worked out better in the end. I didn't have time to prepare to be sad about leaving the kids really but I did cry saying goodbye to Donte. I am glad the kids are so young and will soon forget about me and become attached to their new teacher but I truly will miss being loved and needed by them. I had no idea when I got into all of this that I would fall into the half mother/half teacher role so completely but I sure did. No matter how many bad things I can say about my impossible boss, exhausting conditions and shady business practices, one fact remains the same and that is these kids are precious and I will miss them dearly!
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Even on their bad days! haha poor Olivia!
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I will miss a few other things about Korea... like the knowing smiles from the women at the take out restaurant by my building who start making my order as soon as they see me through the window. Or the giggle of the friendly doorman (the others are kinda mean) when he sees us collected and composed on our way to work when he remembers the state we may have been in after a night out. Or the loaded look you sometimes get from other foreigners you pass on the subway that says something like, "Yeah, I got tricked into this mess too." or "Just gotta make it to the weekend." I will also miss the two businessmen I tutored who provided me with such an unique look into the culture that I would never have gotten anywhere else. I was very curious about Koreans but not very fond of their culture as a whole so I kind of used the fellas as a way to prove me wrong about Koreans or at least show me a different, more positive side which they totally did and I am very grateful for that. The best way I can describe their relationship with me is as a "safe zone." Because of all of the gender role and hierarchical intricacies of Korean culture it is unheard of for a young girl to interrupt, correct or be the leader of sorts to older men but that was the nature of our relationship and we all got comfortable with it. I answered lots of questions they have probably always wanted to ask and they were so curious about so many things specific to American culture they knew and I knew I was the only one they could ask their questions to. I worked with them 5 mornings a week for 9 months and I am so glad I did it. They were an incredible balance to my crazy work day and they are the reason I can confidently leave Korea with a more well rounded opinion of Korean people. Here are the fellas:
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My dad keeps telling me that I got 10 years work experience over this past year and as hard as it was, I learned a lot of valuable lessons. As I count my blessings I acknowledge that I saved the money I wanted to save that will fund my travel habits and cover my bills, I made 3 of the most incredible new friends who will be able to reminisce about this year with me forever (Swhite too of course!) and I got to be a part of the lives of lovable tiny humans who will hopefully remember Gabrielle Teacher as one of their faves! ;) The last teacher to leave before me was Doug and he put it perfectly, "I don't regret it, but I would never do it again!"

Thanks for sticking with us this year, I hope you enjoyed reading our blog. Be sure to check out the pictures in the photo gallery as well and look out for Swhite's last post soon to come. Swhite and I aren't done globe trotting yet and will be starting our England-Thailand-Vietnam-Laos backpacking trip here in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned for the blog address on that one!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 03.28.2012 15:38 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

Believe it or Not

by gabrielle

sunny 10 °F

Bad news: Seoul is still freezing. As in, we consider any day above 20 degrees a serious treat.
Good news: the days are getting longer and we now leave work before it gets dark.
Even better news: Swhite is done teaching on February 29th and I am done on March 14th. Which means, believe it or not, we are about to finish this thing (Korea) and get the heck outta here!

As Swhite mentioned in her Tokyo post I have a lot of observations about Japan from the 5 days we spent there. Particularly observations about Japan vs. Korea as it pertains to the people and their attitudes. Japan and China are kind of the "Big 2" when you think of Asia but most people seem to sort of forget about Korea altogether. However, living in Korea for this past year it is plain to see that Koreans feel Korea is just as important and great as Japan and they don't seem too concerned with China at all. The competition, whether admitted or otherwise is fierce and stems from years and years of ugly and complicated history. Speaking purely of attitudes and way of life, Japan opened its doors to Western cultures, ideas and technologies about 100 years before Korea and has thrived because of it. At this point, Korea is still just desperately trying to catch up. Regardless of where you think my loyalty should lie, I gotta say it, Japan is just so much cooler than Korea.

Japan is so diverse. There are all sorts of styles and attitudes in they way people dress, act and conduct themselves. You could easily describe a typical Korean guy or a typical Korean girl but you'd be hard pressed to do so for the Japanese. There is just so much more variety. Japanese girls are willing to be thin, curvy or even chubby, wear lots of makeup, fake eyelashes daily, wear no makeup, tight clothes, loose clothes, daring fashions, colorful clothes, colorful hair, edgy cuts etc. The women are willing to talk loudly, laugh without covering their mouths and they walk tall and confident and proud. Korean girls have a definite ideal they all seem to be shooting for and no one seems very willing or maybe even interested to stand out or be an individual. From one packed, busy city perfect for people watching to another these differences were apparent immediately. Another glaring difference was stranger interaction. Strangers smiled, greeted each other and struck up random conversations instead of just putting in their headphones and watching TV on their smart phones. People were much more polite too. If a subway was full, people wait for the next one instead of cramming onto an already full car so everyone is extra uncomfortable. People also acknowledge you when they bump into you and apologize which is absolutely unheard of in Korea. People even hold the door open! The most important difference of all, in my opinion is that Japanese people seem happy. If they have stressful jobs and lives they do not let it show or affect them as much as Koreans do. Maybe the culture doesn't put the same kind of pressure on them as they do in Korea but regardless, it was nice to see people on their way to and from work who don't look exhausted, stressed and miserable. I truly hope the Koreans catch up sooner rather than later and start doing more things "the Japanese way." Even if they hate to admit it, it would greatly improve their quality of life.

Now back to Korea. Things at work have been extra rough lately which is unfortunate but I am not letting it bring me down because I only have 17 work days left and then I'm DONE! However the kids are still as cute as ever and practicing songs for their graduation ceremony at the end of the month. It's a pretty big ordeal actually. The two oldest classes are performing "Pinocchio" with costumes and everything and all of the younger classes are performing two songs each. My kids are singing, "My Favorite Things" from the Sound of music and "Brush Your Teeth" a super catchy Raffi tune. I hear all the kids wear caps and gowns and the oldest ones get year book type things professionally made to commemorate their first 3 years of pre-kindergarten. The two oldest classes are graduating and moving on to various prestigious elementary schools and all the other kids are moving up to the next level. I'll be sure to take a picture of of some of the kids' workbook pages from the beginning of the semester until now, their progress is incredible!

One of the baby classes downstairs has kids that are not quite two years old and three of them happen to be the younger siblings of three of my students. I am down there to babysit essentially once a week and though it's overwhelming to keep track of all of them they are pretty darn cute! It's hard to believe there are kids in school all day that are even younger than mine! The kids call their younger siblings "my baby" instead of "my sister" or "my brother.' Try to guess which "big kid" goes with which baby! Here are my three students (after a few attempts), Joy, Katie and Leo:
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And here are "their babies" Hyun, Leo and Chu-Nu:
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If you guessed Hyun is Joy's sister, Leo is Katie's brother and Chu-Nu is older Leo's brother you're right! We are all pretty obsessed with some of the kids in the youngest "baby class." Here are a few others:
More Hyun: Seriously just LOOK at that face!!
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This is Euna:
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This is June:
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This is Alejandro or The Queen of Hearts: the resemblance is striking, isn't it?
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And this is a new student we all really like in the upstairs class named Vinnie. Yes, his English name is Vinnie. Awesome right?
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And this is Vinnie's baby, Lucy: Lucy is still a bit afraid of foreigners but is warming up to us!
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My kids have been so funny lately so my "Kids Say the Darndest Thing" award is a tough one! But... I think I need to give it to Aiden. For some reason the Korean kids don't know what to call their boogers so if they just did some digging and need a tissue they just hold up their finger and ask for one. I don't know how I never noticed before but now I am trying to teacher them the word, "boogie" so they will say,"I have a boogie." instead of just waving an icky finger in the air. The kids think the word, "boogie" is hilarious and the giggle fits whenever anyone says it are a little outta control. One day as I was getting Aiden ready to go home he said, "Teacher I boogie word! Boogie I love you!" I think he wanted me to know his favorite word now is, "boogie."
Here is Aiden:
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Leo had another Aiden related gem worthy of note. As little kids do, my student love dancing and shaking their bottoms. When they do this I have gotten in the habit of singing, "Shake your groove thang, shake your groove thang yeah yeah!" They love it and have since started signing it too! One day last week Aiden said while scratching his bottom, "Teacher this itchy!" And I said, "Oh, you're bottom is itchy?" And Leo said, "No! Groove thing!"
Ahh darling!

Now onto some more serious things...
Yesterday I went to the DMZ or the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. The MDL (Military Demarcation Line) is in the middle and each side has a 1.24 mile stretch of no man's land essentially to separate them from their neighbor.
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I went on the USO tour with two military friends of mine. Before coming to Korea I read a book about the conflict and obviously have learned a lot more since living here. I don't know how things are portrayed in the Western media but here in Seoul, just 30 miles south of the border life goes on as usual without much concern to North Korea and what they may or may not be up to. I was a tad nervous when Kim Jong Il died that something would change but if it weren't for all of the news coverage, nothing happening in Seoul would have indicated that something big had happened. No one in South Korea is worried (from the people I have talked to) and everyone seems to have accepted the arrangement of sticking to their side of the 38th parallel and leaving the other side to do the same.
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The tour started with a video/brief overview of the DMZ then we went through a museum with more details and saw a helpful timeline outlining all of the events that had contributed to the conflict. Then, we got to go down into the 3rd tunnel. Four tunnels have been discovered along the DMZ and there are believed to be many more. The North Koreans dug them in order to infiltrate the South. Once they were discovered, the North Koreans claimed they were just coal mines but no coal has been found in them and not all of the walls are even black. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the tunnel but it was 239 feet underground, about 6 feet tall and wide and about a mile long. There were marks on the wall where the dynamite had blown it up to make the tunnel and it was very hot and humid down there. After the tunnel we went to Dorasan Station which used to connect the two countries by rail. You used to be able to take a train from South Korea all the way to Germany in 10 days! The last train ran in 2007 when the South Korean President was making some headway with reunification efforts but the next president had other ideas. Even though the station is new and in great condition it is essentially a useless building. Two trains a day run between Seoul and Dorasan Station purely for tourism.
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Here we are with some friendly ROK soldiers outside the station:
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Next we went to the Dora observatory where you can pay about 50 cents to look into North Korea with those binocular things. You are not allowed to take pictures right from the edge and must stand back about 20 feet which is pretty useless but here is what I got:
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After the observatory we went to the actual Military Demarcation Line where the Armistice Agreement took place after the Korean War and the meetings for reunification efforts still take place. Most importantly, this is the place where the North Korean soldiers and the ROK (Republic of Korea/South Korean) soldiers stand face to face to guard their side of the line.

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When we were there, the North Korean Solider was up on the steps in front of the North Korean Visitor Center looking at us through his binoculars. Our guide said they only come down and face the ROK soldier so close when they are particularly interested in the tour group or when there are meetings taking place in the UN building in the middle or MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building that straddles the actual MDL line. Here are my pics:
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Here I am inside the MAC building, technically in North Korea: The ROK soldier is standing at Tae Kwon-do first position at the ready and does not move at all! We couldn't even see his chest rising!
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The building on the South Korean side of the MDL is called the Freedom House and was built with the intention of reuniting families from both sides who were separated during the war. This is another unused building though because North Korea has refused to let people leave. We were not allowed to take pictures of the Freedom House or any pics in the direction of South Korea. We were also not allowed to point or wave when standing on the MDL for fear of the North Koreans using anything as propaganda.

After leaving the MDL we drove to a guard post that is surrounded by North Korea on three sides. From this post you can see Kijŏng-dong called Propaganda Village because it is uninhabited and all for show. The town has a 524 foot flag pole and one of the biggest flags in the world. Our guide said it rips in the rain sometimes because it is so huge. The flag pole used to be shorter but once South Korea put one up on their side that was taller, North Korean replaced theirs with this one:
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Our last stop on the tour was a quick drive by of the "Bridge of No Return" where the two sides exchanged prisoners at the end of the Korean War in 1953.
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All in all it was a good day and I'm really glad I went. I had been meaning to get up there all year. It's pretty amazing how much intensity is going on between the two countries just 30 miles away from Seoul. There is a lot of history there and I am so curious how it will all play out. I have heard the US military is planning to start pulling back and handing over the reigns to ROK army completely but who knows? Even though I have lived so close to a hostile conflict for so long, I can honestly say that I have never felt afraid and I'm grateful for that.

Update on the High-5 crew? The girls are all fine and doing well. We are starting to freak out a bit about separating in the near future but have made pacts and promises to keep our bond strong no matter where we are! Last night we celebrated Amy's 26th birthday by going to an 80's party at a bar in Itaewon. It was a blast!
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Swhite and I plan to each do one more post to wrap up our time here in Korea so look forward to those coming SOON!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 02.19.2012 03:18 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Shibuya, Shi-Shi-Shibuyaaaa

by sarah

0 °F

It has been absolutely freezing here (literally!), but we got very lucky last month with our trip to Japan. The weather was perfect and felt like we had traveled back to fall.
So after our lovely Korean Christmas, we headed across the pond a little ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Tokyo.
Here’s the rundown of what we did.
The Fab-5 left Mapo with our matching bows and enough luggage to cloth a small country, and headed for Shibuya, Tokyo.
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We were a big hit at both airports with our headgear. We got lots of nods, smiles and ‘ohh wow!’ reactions which was fun.
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Our hotel was in an awesome location, right in the heart of Shibuya, home to the largest crosswalk in the world! Shibuya is one of the more popular tourist areas and is a really buys area with a lot going on all day long.

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Of course our first meal upon arrival had to be sushi, and boy was it oishi (delicious)!

We headed out the first night to explore our area. We befriended some locals and got invited to a really small, intimate bar where everyone chanted ‘USA, USA, USA’ when they found out where we were from! We made some friends and learned a few useful Japanese words. Everyone was extremely friendly and eager to chat with us.

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The hotel provided these awesome sleeping suits for us. And yes, we did wear them every night!
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We spent our first official day exploring the city. The subway map was an absolute maze compared to Seoul, but we managed to find our way around.
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After wandering around some really cool neighborhoods we went to this park in the middle of the city that Gabrielle had read about. It was absolutely beautiful!! The fall colors were in full effect and it was so peaceful. We stopped to take our standard powerkick shots, and then wandered around the rest of the park.
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The park was extremely quiet and calm and a great little break from city life.

As the day was ending we went to a different part of the city to see the Tokyo tower. It is an attraction that gives a view of the whole city. We had read though that it isn’t that great of a view, and that there is a building that is much higher, and gives a view of the whole city plus the tower. We went up the 50 some floors and got to see how huge the whole city really was.
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Gabrielle and I had both read good things about the Tsukiji Fish Market. All the information said that it was best to get there by 4am in order to make sure you got to see all the action. The subway didn’t open until 5am, so we figured we would just go then and hope we got to see some of it. We followed the crowds and the smell of fish juice (lovely smell at 5am!) and found our way to the market. We didn’t really see much action, or any fellow tourists, so we kept wandering a little more. We finally saw an area that was busy and looked like the pictures we had seen. We wandered for a few minutes and saw some of the biggest fish I’ve ever seen, before we were politely escorted out by the market police!
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Turns out we were there during the ‘buying only’ time. We did wonder why we were the only foreigners in there, and the only people not wearing galoshes! We did manage to get some pictures before we were kicked out though.
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HUGE tuna!
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Using a saw to cut the head off
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They haven't quite got on board with the friendly recycling yet....sorry Bellingham!
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After our mini adventure at the market we treated ourselves to a nice sushi breakfast at 6am...yum yum!
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And then we were off on our Disney adventure!!
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We decided to spend a day at Disney Tokyo. It was exactly like Disney back home, but about a quarter of the size. They had all the same rides and critters. Before we went Gabrielle decided she wanted to try to get 10 character pictures throughout the day. We were off to a good start when we spotted these two right off the bat.
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We hit a bit of a lull after that. We saw a few others, but they were pretty popular so we decided to wait it out. We went on some rides and wandered a bit, and then decided to try our luck in again. We found some chipmunks who were pretty popular with the youngsters. I became quite the creep trying to get next in line and bump some kids out of the way, like these little cuties!
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I’m pretty sure I’m creeping in the background of about 50 pictures, but I can handle that. We didn’t see that many other characters the rest of the day so Gabrielle was a little worried we might not hit her goal. We decided to go back to the main gate to see who we found…and JACKPOT! They were all out there! We easily got our 10 pictures….even though we’re still not sure who the mice are. Maybe Fible and his sister?
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Mission Complete!

It was also cuteness overload there! I couldn’t handle all the little ones running around. But my favorite was this little family. They were getting their picture taken in front of a New Year’s sign, and the dad was holding they poor little guy like this the whole time!

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We spent the rest of our time exploring, celebrating and eating lots of sushi.
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Here's to our 8th consecutive New Year's! :)
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On New Year’s Day we decided to do the traditional Japanese thing and go visit a shrine. There was a huge crowd of people so we just joined in. Everyone was guided to the entrance of the shine, and then let in little by little.
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Also not loving the long line!
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Once inside everyone threw coins. We think it was to say thanks for the previous year. The smallest coin is about the same as $1, and everyone was throwing in at least 3 at a time. They sure got a lot of thanks this year!
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After that we continued to follow the crowd. Everyone was getting their fortunes for the New Year. You shake a box and a stick with a number comes out, and then they give you a fortune depending on the number you get. We got one in both English and Japanese.
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We had the people at our hotel translate it, and both of our fortunes were completely accurate and related to us perfectly! If you get a fortune you don’t like, you are supposed to tie it to a fence so it won’t come true. Luckily we didn’t need to do that and got a really neat souvenir out of it!

Sadly our time in Japan was over after that. I had heard lots of good things about Japan, and every single thing I heard was true. The people are extremely friendly, polite and considerate. The country has so much culture and tradition that is still alive, while at the same time it has a diversity and uniqueness to it that I really love. I have no doubt that I’ll go back one day! There is another post coming soon about more observations about Japan and Korea, so look forward to that!

See ya later!
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Posted by 3ifBySEA 22:22 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Ain't No Party Like a Onezie Party!

by gabrielle

sunny 20 °F

First off, Merry Christmas! This last post of 2011 will be split into two parts: part 1 being the general update and part 2, our Korean Christmas!

Part 1:

Holy cow, it's freezing! We have had snow (flurries mostly) 3 times so far this year and yes, it is beautiful but man it's sure cold!! Thanks to no daylight savings I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark which is pretty depressing HOWEVER, I did manage to snap this cool pic on my way to work one morning last week.
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In November a few of us went to see a professional basketball game with a Korean friend of mine. I love sports and sports fans and it is always interesting seeing how they do things abroad when language, culture etc are bound to make things a bit different. For example, most of the chants and cheers were in Korean except for, "De-fense!" Swhite noticed this and we asked our friend why just the one cheer was in English and he said, "Oh it's because the Korean word for "defense" is three syllables so it doesn't sound as good." Makes sense I guess!
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The mascot dressed as bowl of noodles with chopsticks wasn't exactly standard either!
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We were quite excited about the halftime performance too!
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It was a great game too... a real barn burner! It went into double overtime and the away team won with a buzzer beater! AHHH, I miss watching sports!
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One other thing that was evident right away is that the home team had only one foreign player and the away team had two. When we asked our friend about this he said, "Oh no, there's only one foreigner allowed per team." When we said, what about #15? He said, "No, he's Korean. His name is Moon Tae-young." This is the player in question:
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We were not convinced!
After a little research once I got home I discovered that Korean Immigration laws had recently changed.

Previously, Korean overseas adoptees and others who wished to acquire Korean citizenship had to renounce their previous nationality. But under the revised Nationality Act, which took effect on Jan. 1, the government offers dual citizenship to foreigners with outstanding talents.


This new law combined with the league's "Ethnic Korean Draft" system is the loop hole for multiple foreign players to be on the same team in the KBL (Korean Basketball League). Here is a summary of the "Ethnic Draft" from a website called "Halfkorean.com":

KBL Ethnic Draft Feature
On February 3, 2009, the Korean Basketball League (KBL) held a historic first-ever “Ethnic” draft. It was conducted on the day before the standard KBL draft. There was a bit of controversy due to some rules that the KBL placed on teams if they decided to choose players from this draft such as losing a pick in the standard draft along with other regulations. Although there was controversy, the draft could be considered a step forward in allowing mixed Koreans to play in the KBL and not be considered “foreign” players.

Moon Tae-young and his brother are among a handful of other half-Korean players who have been granted dual citizenship in order to play in the league and be counted as a Korean instead of a foreigner. Moon Tae-young and his brother Moon Tae-jong (formerly Greg and Jarod Stevenson) were raised in the US by their American father and Korean mother, both played college ball in the US and played in various professional leagues abroad before playing in Korea. Red carpet treatment is universal!
These are the Moon/Stevenson bothers:
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If you are as curious as I am about all of this, here are the two websites I found most of the information from:

http://www.koreaherald.com/sports/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20110721000736
and
http://www.halfkorean.com/?page_id=3293

Things at school have been just fine these days. I must say, I don't mind all of the vacations the kids are taking around the holidays... even one less kid for a day makes things so much easier! We are starting to prepare for our big graduation ceremony at the end of February and each class must perform two songs of the teacher's choice. I chose, "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music and my kids are rockin' it! I gave them each a printout with little clip art pictures since they can't really read yet and the only issue so far seems to be the "schnitzel" line... oops!

Each morning the kids spend the first two periods doing really difficult exercises in their workbook when their attention and focus for the workbooks is best. Because I know the books are so tough for them I let them do a coloring sheet that has something to do with one of their current vocab/phonics words the whole next period. They get to chat and relax a bit and that inevitably leads to them singing! There is a new K-Pop song called, "Hands Up" and the chorus is in English and just repeats the phrase, "Put your hands up!" My kids LOVE this song and sing it often. They even do the little stutter/auto tune part! Check it out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8F-Mat2Oba0&feature=related

Once again, my "Kid's say the Darndest Things" shout out goes to good ol' Donte. One day the kids were coloring and he just said, "Sometimes Gevon (his teenage brother) farts on me when I won't give him something he wants." Although I was laughing pretty hard, I was surprised how quickly and easily I responded to him saying, "Yeah, my brother used to do that to me too!" Donte looked surprised and said, "Daniel? Daniel did that to you?" I told him yes and then asked him what happens when Gevon does that and he said, "Well I say peee-yeeewww! And then I tell my dad and he comes in and opens the window." And with that, Donte went back to his coloring.

I have still been having lots of trouble getting the videos to upload onto the blog so here are the link to two more I have been wanting to post that you can copy and paste to watch on Youtube:

This is just a taste of what life is like when the Panda Class takes a field trip!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k53cgpKf36g&feature=related

And this is the email I received on my birthday from my coworker whose niece, Katie is in my class!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sgaxxTGLCU&feature=related

Part 2: Christmas time in Seoul!

The city has been decorated beautifully for Christmas since about mid-November but I was still unsure of how the Koreans usually celebrate. At school we had a Christmas party for the kids on the 21st and Santa (Tae-Kwon Do teacher) came, did a few magic tricks and gave each kid a gift that they were not allowed to open until they got home. The parents had been asked to send in a wrapped present for their child hidden in other paper for "Santa" to give them with a short message. I was asked to translate the note home for the American parents and the sample message was, "Big boys don't cry." I was so confused! It turns out they usually use "Santa" as an opportunity to tell their kid something they want them to work on and pretend Santa thinks so too. I didn't think the "Big boys don't cry." sample would make much sense so I altered it a bit and also gave a praising type idea as well and I think everyone understood. Right after Santa hobbled in and started talking one of the American kids asked, "Why is Santa speaking Korean?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk2UtbzUOk0&feature=related

(sorry about the rotation issue again!)
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My group of girlfriends (the High-5!) did a fantastic job banning together to make our first (and hopefully only) Christmas away from home special. It started off strong when we got the genius idea to take a group photo and send it home as a Christmas card for our families and friends. We went to a touristy area of the city and took 5 different pictures in Hanboks (traditional Korean clothing). Here are our five poses!
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After all Skyping with our respective families on Christmas morning, the High-5 girls got together to have a party in onezies, eat pizza, listen to Christmas music and exchange gifts. Yes, ONEZIE as in GIANT full bodied pajamas for adults! We had a blast and I can't imagine my Korean Christmas being any better than with this group of gals!
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Oh and the party doesn't stop here for the High-5.... we're heading to Tokyo tomorrow!
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See you in 2012!!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 12.25.2011 18:48 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Samzies-Yo, Head to Toe

by sarah

overcast 30 °F

Once again, it has been quite a while since I’ve written. Time continues to fly by, and I only have 3 months left now...ahhhsaaaah!

A while back Gabrielle talked about the ‘coupling’ phenomenon here. Gabrielle decided that she wanted to couple (with me, of course!) for her birthday celebrations. It’s mainly something that serious boyfriends and girlfriends do, but we have seen friends in matching shirts or shoes. However, we were still a little unsure of how it would be received. We didn’t want to offend anyone, but we were also really excited about it so we just went for it. We got matching sweatshirts, leggings, headbands with ears, earrings, rings and backpacks.
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Surprisingly, we went pretty unnoticed!
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The girls next to us only seemed to be annoyed that we were taking pictures, not that we were same-same head to toe!

We were with our other friends who were dressed normal, so if anything, we only got stares for being a group of waygooks! Our original plan was to go to landmarks around Seoul and maybe even do some tandem bike riding; but as luck would have it, it rained for the first time in months! We didn’t let that spoil our coupling adventure though. We looked up the best subway stops and just went to those instead. Jillian was our photographer for the day, so she got some candid shots of us on the subway and just walking around.
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When we got to our first stop, it looked as if it were set up for us! There was a balloon archway.
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A love swing.
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And a little cafe-like area.
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Once we explored the rest of the station we found an awesome backdrop for some coupling powerkicks, of course!
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And had to do some with the girls as well.
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The sign on the wall also happened to say ‘I love you’. How perfect!
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Since we hit the jackpot with that subway stop, we decided to just head to our next destination - the photo sticker booth!
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Gabrielle first experienced it with Ivan, and warned us that everything is in Korean (obviously) and that the photos are taken ridiculously fast. We tried to plan out some awesome poses before hand, but once it started we got a little overwhelmed and ended up with these:
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We do plan to go back for all birthday celebrations though so I’m sure we’ll be pros by the time we leave!

Overall it was a fantastic day of coupling!
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Other news: I’ve started getting a little sentimental realizing that I don’t have that much time left with these adorable little creatures, so I’ve gone a little picture crazy. Here are some of my faves.

David used to have the typical, stick-straight Korean hair, and then came in one day with this. He came running up and said “Look teacher, mommy gave me lion hair!” I’m assuming that’s his way of telling me he got a perm!
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David also isn’t the smartest one in the bunch, but he does try. We were learning about body parts and they had to cut out and assemble a mouse. David held his up proudly and said “Teacher fiiiiniiiished!!” I didn’t have the heart to tell him he forgot the body!
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When we learned about masks I attempted to teach the kids the upside down glasses trick. Some of them got it....
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Some of them did not...
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Group shots can be tough!
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The birthday boy lookin’ fresh!
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It must be that time of year....all my second year students are starting to lose their front teeth.
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I'm not going to lie, it freaks me out a little bit...especially when they have NO teeth like this little one!
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The other weekend one of our military friends was playing in a championship football game on base so we went to watch. I’ve only been on base here one other time, and it was pretty surreal and I felt like I was back in the US, and this time was even crazier! We were snacking on cheez-its, pizza hut and bud light. Only Americans could be seen and heard everywhere you looked, and we were sitting in the stands of the American high school! It felt like we had been transported back to small town America.
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We were reminded that we are still in Korea though when all the players bowed to the stands at the end of the game.
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And we got a kick out of this poor guy. His dog had the leash in his mouth and the owner was getting very frustrated chasing him around the field.
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The girls showing their support.
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And with our friend, the champion!
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After the game we went back to their dorm-like housing to play beer pong and hang out. It was by far the most American day I’ve had in years!! Gabrielle mentioned how it made her excited to get back to the US, and be around things that are so familiar and comfortable. For the first time in a very, very long time, I was actually thinking the same thing. I definitely haven’t got the travel bug out of my system yet, and can’t wait for all my adventures that are coming up, but it was nice and comforting to be around people that I could relate to so well. There was even another Washingtonian there!

One last side note that Gabrielle refers to as her favorite ‘lost in translation’ thing yet. We were out dancing the other night and had made friends with some of the dancing Koreans. I was tired so I was sitting at a booth by myself while Gabrielle continued to dance with our new friends. A guy came over to talk to me and Gabrielle thought I looked annoyed so she asked one of our new friends to come ‘save me’ from him. This Korean guy then slides up to me with his arms spread out and says “I’M JESUS!”. I was extremely confused and he just said again “I’M JESUS!”. I must have looked equally as confused because he followed that with “I’m Jesus, I’m here to save you!!’ Haha!

That’s all for now, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!
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Posted by 3ifBySEA 05:15 Archived in South Korea Comments (2)

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