A Travellerspoint blog

Everybody Clap Your Hands

by gabrielle

sunny 85 °F

This past Friday my Korean coworker, Grace got married. She told me about the wedding two months ago and I had been looking forward to because, A) I'm a girl and love weddings and B) I have never been to a foreign wedding and was super curious. Over the past couple months I found out some interesting tidbits about the wedding/marriage deal here in Korea such as the fact that there is no "engagement" period specifically and they do not have a term for fiance, nor do they call there significant other anything different once the decision has been made to get married. Grace told me that the wedding simply happens once the planning is done and not with a particular date in mind way in advance. Like our tradition, the bride's family pays for the wedding. Whereas here, it's not a negotiation where the groom's family may step up and offer to help. I think that's mainly because the groom is in charge of buying the house/apartment for the new couple as well as two years worth of rent up front, including a hefty deposit. The bride is then responsible for buying the furnishings that go in the new home down to the bathroom towels and the groom pays for the honeymoon. I think after all that the couple starts working with their finances collectively.
Grace's wedding took place in the downstairs chapel/banquet hall area of a really nice (office?) building near where we work. When we first came in, Grace and her betrothed were sitting in a room with a nice couch and flowers taking pictures. As the guests came in they could stop and pose for pictures with the couple which I thought was a unique way to make sure everyone got to say "hey." We then went downstairs and gave our white envelopes of money which is the only gift people give for weddings here. Our names were recorded vertically in a guest book type registry and our envelope was numbered so the amount we gave could later be recorded. This custom seemed really tacky to me but it's totally standard here and the idea behind it, apparently is that when you get married, they give the same value gift to you. The plants with banners behind the gift table were "well wishes" that people can buy for the couple to have displayed at the wedding.
Next up we migrated into the banquet hall for the most incredible and impressive buffet I have ever seen! There were all types of meat, seafood, fruit, salad, fried food, fresh food, Korean specialties, desserts and a bomb collection of sushi rolls! I was beyond pleased. After my second serving we noticed on the screen in the banquet hall that projected what was happening in the chapel that all the seats were full and the ceremony was about to start. We asked our Korean coworkers if it was time to go in and they causally responded that we could if we wanted to. However our Korean coworkers, along with many others stayed to eat in the banquet hall and just watched the screen that didn't even have sound! Odd, huh? The ceremony started by Grace walking down the stairs to meet her father who walked her down the red carpet lined with her own personal paparazzi and into the chapel. At the door she was met by her future husband and they walked up the aisle together. The couple is Christian and the ceremony started with the pastor speaking for awhile (remember, everything was conducted in Korean so my play-by-play is purely speculation.)
Next, both Grace and her man read something while facing each other which I assume was their vows. Rings are only recently trendy here and only some people wear them so there was no exchange of rings. Next the couple faced the the musicians that had set up near the front and various friends performed. First, a duet by sung by friends I assume because this is the point when Grace started to tear up. Next, a male friend of the groom sang "Lean on Me" in English and rocked it! (I later learned that he is a famous singer here). Towards the end of the song when it's usually sung acapella, the performer said, "Everybody clap your hands!" and the pastor started the over the head clap! It was fantastic!
I knew Grace's now husband was an aspiring K-Pop (Korean pop music) artist and she said she was hoping he would sing to her at the wedding and he did!! It was pretty darn sweet so I took a video of it.

After the total of four performances Grace stood facing her new in-laws and spoke for a while, then her husband did the same for her parents. I think they were thanking them but whatever they were saying it was very emotional for everyone. After that, the groom's father got up to speak then the bride, groom and both sets of parents go up and bowed together.
Next, they cut the cake! That's right, during the ceremony and right up at the front! After the cake cutting they slowly walked down the aisle together and everyone stood up and clapped. A group of school girls the groom teaches chanted "kiss her" (we were told) but they never kissed. Then everything was over! So in summary we ate first, and the ceremony included lots of customs we would reserve for the reception. All in all a REALLY neat experience that I was so lucky to be a part of. The picture of the Korean women with the bride is of all of my Korean coworkers. The group one of the American teachers is ridiculous, I know but it's the only one I have!

Now an update on all other things. First, work related...

Our school takes some neat field trips with the kids; one per month to be exact! In May we went to a bubble show. Believe it or not it was exactly what I expected it to be, a cheerful person doing tricks with bubbles! Here are some pics:
Our June field trip was to an animal show that took place at the zoo. We paraded the kids right past an awesome set of outdoor exhibits with zebras, ostriches and other big, smelly creatures and into the show (what a tease!). The show was pretty cool, it was Aladdin themed unbeknownst to Disney I'm sure and they had some impressively obedient little critters! My fave was a monkey dressed as Aboo (Aladdin's trusty sidekick) who soared down to the stage from the back of the theater via cart and pulley! He was too speedy to get a picture but I got some other fun ones from the show. My student, Aiden even got chosen to help the seals do their basketball contest.
Honestly, the bus rides to the field trips and attempts at keeping all the little munchkins together in one line are often the most entertaining parts!
My "Kid's Say the Darndest Things" shout out for this post goes to Mint. Mint is a really sweet girl in the middle age group so she's four turning five and I only have her once a week for arts and crafts. As the kids are working they are constantly shouting, "Teacher, look at this!" or "Teacher, is mine beautiful?" and if I say any one thing to one kid, the others have to ask for immediate validation as well. So I looked at Ajin's and said something about her being very creative. She responded by saying "My mom is making me a coat. Because she is a designer." I said "Oh wow, how impressive!" and Mint, with a panicked look on her face was searching for a way to one up her dear friend, Ajin so she said, "Yeah, well my dad can make pancakes!" pause.... "and blueberry muffins!" Love it!

We got a few new kids in the past month and I really like two of them. I know I am not supposed to have favorites but I do. Neither of them are in my class but I do my best to bond with them during arts and crafts or playtime. I have won the affection of Hugo, and am still working on William. :) Hugo is on the right in this pic. He is half Japanese and half Swedish. He doesn't speak a lick of English but is a sweet kid and seems happy in spite of the language barrier. We have notebooks that the kids take to and from school each day as a way to communicate with the teachers and apparently Hugo had asked his dad, "What's a Swedish?" because everyone kept calling him that at school. Such a cutie! Oh yeah, I guess I can't ignore Hery on the left with his impressive Popei impression!
This is William on the left. He is American with some Filipino roots. I knew we would be great friends because he said, "Hey Teach, you like my socks?" the first day we met. And he also thinks Batman's first name is "Bat." Awesome.
And non work things...

Unfortunately, it has rained for the past six days straight and is forecasted to keep raining for the foreseeable future. It sucks. BUT before the typhoon moving through Taiwan decided to mess with our nice weather it had been wonderfully sunny and we have gotten to enjoy some fun outdoor activities around the city. One included going to a professional baseball game! The fans are super energetic and instead of having walk out songs for each batter playing from a sound system, the fans have a special chant/song they sing in impressive unison as each player steps up to the plate. Even though they are singing in Korean, some of the beats and melodies were definitely familiar such as "Surfin' USA"! You can't beat a day at the ball park! Especially when there are 7-11 type stores on the concourse for snacks and cheap beer without that darn game day inflation!
Another fun outdoor activity was climbing up the many steps to Seoul Tower. It looks kind of like Seattle's Space Needle and is a big attraction here for tourists and locals alike. At the base of the tower and the top of the stairs there is a deck with it's fence type enclosure completely covered with pad locks! The idea is that couples come to Seoul Tower to "lock" their love. People will come and put a locket with a love note on the fence and then sit in these funny benches that force you to be close to your hunny. I had no idea any part of the tower was loved themed but it looks pretty darn cool. I only found a few written in English but they were sweet.
We took the elevator to the top of the tower to enjoy a 360 view of the city and it really helped me get my barrings straight. The windows had other world cities' names and how far they were written in the correct direction the window faced. Does that make sense? I took some pics of the important ones. :)
We also have a great park within walking distance that we sometimes go hang out at on a the weekends. We sat near this family with a young son and the dad did an admirable job entertaining him all afternoon while the mom lounged in the tent. They played catch, roller bladed, played soccer and did a bit of tae-kwon-do sparring.... at least until the son kicked his dad in the jewels and he had to call it a day!!
Here are some other fun pics from our day at the park.
An interesting cultural note... My coworker whose Mom visited last month went to dinner at a restaurant near our work and they sat on the patio section with their beers and food. One of our Korean coworkers past them on her way home and the next day made a comment about what a "beautiful" scene it was to see mother and daughter drinking together. She is 27 years old and said she could never drink with her parents and they don't approve of her drinking at all. In fact, she said if she ever takes a sip in front of her dad she has to look away and not face him because that would be extra disrespectful. She said Americans are so lucky (and many other Western cultures) that our culture is accepting of parents and children socializing so casually. I am also really grateful for this. I mean, I love playing beer pong with the 'rents! But on a more serious note, I think it's healthy to have a somewhat relaxed relationship with parents, especially as an adult. The balance between parent/friend-child and parent-child is a tough one but it sounds like the former isn't even an option here. Bummer.

In regards to the job I feel about the same as I have. I count down the minutes until six o'clock Monday through Friday and when I am really frustrated, count the weeks or days I left in my contract. However, the kids haven't lost their cuteness and my friendships with my coworkers are continuing to blossom! Haha. I also think that Korea does a good job of randomly cheering me up. For example, when I was walking down the street by my building complaining to myself about this or that, a guy with head phones on rode by on a moped belting out some ballad with no modesty whatsoever! There were no other cars on the street at the time so he made his presence known to the few of us walking on that block and we all seemed amused. Another time I was really dragging my feet moving through the subway station one Monday and past a grown man with a picture of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh on his shirt that said, "Tigger: bounce master." I smiled most of the rest of the way to work. And also, I think the flies in Korea may be slower... is that possible? When a few sneak into my room I usually get them on my first try with one swift swat of a rolled up magazine. I feel like that kid from Jungle-2-Jungle minus his nifty blow tool!

As my coworker's mom brilliantly put it, regardless of whether or not you enjoy your job or certain aspects of life in Korea, at least we'll be constantly stimulated here. I think that statement is completely true. No matter what, I will have daily "huh?" moments and questions about this culture and my curiosity is constantly peaked. I think I'm going to make it!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 04:28 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

Super Teacher to the Rescue

by sarah

sunny 79 °F

Sorry it has been a whole month since our last post!! I have officially been here three months, yahooo!

So this post is going to be a random collection of things that have happened lately. I know it jumps all over the place, so I’ll try to start writing more often as things come up. We keep on preaching about this, but time really is flying by here and the weeks are just blending together!

I’ve affectionately become known as ‘Super Teacher’ by one of my classes. I don’t entirely know how the nickname started, but it is one that I’m not gonna fight, as I do feel like I’ve developed some super powers while dealing with all these kids! ‘Jupiter’ class is the one that calls me Super Teacher, and they are one of my favorites because their English is slightly more advanced than the others, so I can really have some fun with them. There is one little girl (let’s call her Scully) who has traveled all over, and even has an English boyfriend, so her English is much more advanced than the other students. The other day one of my coworkers did a project with the kids about secret admirers. I came in to find the kids all giggling over their personal notes and asked to see a few. These were the two best ones, both written by Scully to two different boys.

The pictures are from my phone so unfortunately they show up too small on here. I'll transcribe them so everyone can enjoy them!


Hello, A. Jusin
you is my best friend you is very big boy. I love you. your crayon and my crayon is same SiZe, And you is hansome and you is prince. and you is very big boy. and yo uis strong boy. you is my hanseme boy. and I like your hairstyle you is very cute boy I love you most.


Dear Aiden your
sweet enough your cute like a rabbit and your handsome like prince hahaha! your as fast as the wind your strong as a tree are you a hero? your so strong! I love <3 you so much I really love you oh your my love <3 I want to kiss you oh your so sweet.

“My crayon and your crayon is same size”…I mean what else could you ask for?! They also did a project today about writing and sending letters, and Scully decided to write hers to me and this is what it said,


Dear sarah teacher I love you so much your stong like a tree and fast like a wind and a river I wish I was like you! your so Beautiful like a Fairy I wish you was my mom! Have a nice day I am so happy that you was my teacher! XXXXXXX Goob bye -

She seems to be really into the similes!

In that class I have two Justins, so we have A Justin and B Justin. In a class that I don’t teach there are two Brians, so I assumed that they would have an A and B situation as well…but it turns out that one of them is called ‘Smart Brian’!! and the other one is ‘Other Brian’! Those poor kids are gonna have some complexes when they get older!
I also have a boy in that class who is struggling with saying ‘excuse me’ and it comes out as ‘be-kews -me’ and when I try to correct him he just looks up at me and says ‘yes, beekeeewsss me!’ as if it we are saying the exact same thing.

One of my coworkers did the ‘midnight run’, where you leave without telling your boss to avoid paying back your flight and recruiter fee. It is pretty shady, but with so many schools not holding up their end of the deal it tends to happen a lot here. In this case my coworker really wanted to go home for a week, but wasn’t allowed the time off so he just decided to leave anyway. He left the day we had our ‘spring picnic’, which was my first field trip. It was basically just the kids running around at a park, but it was nice to get to play with them outside of the classroom! It was pretty chaotic, but the kids seemed to have a good time!


One parent per class is required to bring a lunch for each teacher, and they usually pack an entire feast! All this was what a parent packed just for me!


I shared some with the little ones. This kid may only be three, but he sure loves to eat!


This is Becky, who was hoola-hooping like nobody’s business for a good ten minutes! She really got into the power stance and wasn’t letting anyone or anything distract her!


Back to my coworker leaving. This meant that we needed to get a new teacher in a quickly as possible, and somehow my boss got someone the same day! This isn’t the first time it’s happened, so I’m pretty sure she just has a supply of teachers standing by for when someone leaves! The new girl was named Katie, so my boss sent a letter home telling all the parents that my coworker had gone back to the US and we had a new Katie Teacher. She didn’t want to tell them why he left though, so she lied and said that his dad died! And I had to find that out from one of my students so it was all a little twisted. It turned out that Katie had just had surgery, and her mom didn’t want her working full time, (which none of us really buy…) but that meant that we were out a teacher yet again. My boss of course was able to get someone new that same day. She told us all that the new teacher would also have to be called Katie so that the parents don’t ask questions! I asked this poor girl what he name is and she just replied “Katie” with a confused look on her face as if she didn’t know if she should tell me her real name! There are slowly some small changes being made at work so I’m hoping that she is starting to realize that all these people are leaving because of the work environment and she will make even more positive changes.

So I’m in my new apartment now and MUCH happier! It is a bit of a trek to get to, but every day when I get home I am relieved not to be in the cave anymore so it is worth it! And it turns out I have the cutest landlord ever, so that is a huge bonus! Moving all of my things here was a bit of a mission though. Gabrielle came over and helped my move everything out of the cave and into the entryway of the building. Our plan was to get a taxi driver, have him talk to my boss and then take me to the new place. My boss didn’t answer when I called (of course!) but she had sent me a text with directions. I showed the driver and he seemed to be very confused about what we were trying to do. After speaking to a translation helpline we managed to get everything I own, along with Gabrielle and myself into the taxi. We arrived at my new apartment with my landlord waiting outside for me. I still have no idea how he knew when I’d be arriving, but I’m very glad he was there! He showed me around, and then invited Gabrielle and I up to his apartment. His wife was very excited to see us, and we hung out up there for a little while. They are totally the type of old couple I hope to be like one day. There are so adorable and have traveled all over the world together. They have something from every country they’ve been to displayed throughout their home. They told us to come back in an hour for dinner. We showed up to find the table set for two. So Gabrielle and I ate while they looked on from the next room. Mr. Kim kept coming over to make sure everything was okay, and to tell us that we were holding our chopsticks wrong. Mrs. Kim was busy shouting at the TV at some intense game show. When we asked about it however, neither of them could actually tell us what was going on! I’ve seen Mr. Kim around a few times and he is the cheeriest person I have ever met. It is nice to know that he is here if I need anything.

The weather is starting to get much warmer, so all the kids are busting out their summer gear. The visors are big here, since people want to stay pale and avoid sun exposure. Mainly old ladies are seen wearing them. But one little girl came in with this ridiculous thing on the other day!



And when it does rain, this is the kind of gear they come in. Just too cute!


All in all things are good, time is flying by, and Gabrielle and I are having a grand old time!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 04:14 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

"T" as in Turtle

by gabrielle

sunny 68 °F

Friday marked two months for me here in Korea! I can't believe it! Here's what the latest...

So last Thursday we had the day off because it was Children's Day. Apparently it is a pretty big deal and the kids get lots of gifts like we would on our birthday or Christmas. I was just thrilled to have a random day off so Swhite and I went for a hike with her coworker and his friend. It was a beautiful day and the mountain was pretty packed with intense old peeps and their walking sticks but we managed to navigate our way to the top and enjoy a rare "above the smog" view of the city. The hike was much more strenuous than we had expected and there were some times we needed to legitimately climb and hang on to chains so we wouldn't tumble down the mountain! Here are some pics of our hike... as you can see the Powerkick movement has made it's way to Korea!!!
As if we weren't spoiled enough by having Thursday off, Buddha's birthday was on the following Tuesday and our boss decided to close the school Monday as well because so many families were taking trips. So we had a day off, work Friday and then a 4 day weekend! On that Saturday there was a Lotus Lantern festival in honor of "Lord" Buddha's birthday with some pretty impressive and colorful floats. Swhite and I met up with a coworker and her mom who is visiting, made lanterns and enjoyed the parade once the sun went down. Many streets have have been lined with lanterns for few weeks leading up to Buddha's big day but we thought this little stream/river was the prettiest!
On the school front. I think I am feeling pretty settled now and have simply joined the ranks of most other adults who don't love their job, but accept that work is work and they need to do it. I really, really love my students tho and it's really nice being loved by them too! They are just so unbelievably cute and lovable! It just warms my heart when they when they run to hug me in the morning even though I saw them the previous day! However, our first day back after the long weekend the kids were a little blue and all seemed to want to be at home. They are SOOO young to be away from home for 6 hours 5 days a week and they just miss their mommies! So we had quite a few criers that first day back. My mom and I were talking and it's crazy that American kids go to part time preschool at 4/5 then half or full time kindergarten at 5/6 and therefore have at least 2 extra years at home that these poor kids don't get! We have "the babies" downstairs who are two turning three and they are here from 9:30am to 2:20pm as well. Too soon! Acknowledging that aspect is hard because i'm in no position to change this fact, all I can do give them lots of love while they're at school and keep them distracted.
Most of my kids can write their names these days and I'm pretty darn proud. But Leo has been struggling. These past two months he has learned the "L" and the "O" so he usually writes an "L", leaves a space then writes an "O" then desperately exclaims "Teacher!!!" and calls me over with a panicked expression on his face. It's consistent, and hilarious! He then expects me to put my hand on his hand and help him write the "e." HOWEVER, today he called me over as usually with the space ready for his "e" and then i went to put my hand on his, he swatted it away and made it himself!!! That little trickster just called me over to make sure I was watching! I was so happy and extremely proud! Leo's reaction was priceless, he sat up a little straighter and was just beaming! I had to take a picture of course...
I'm really thrown off by the stranger interaction here in Korea. The lack of "common courtesies" I am used to back home (smiling at strangers, holding doors, saying "excuse me" when you bump someone etc) really don't exist here. I am trying not to spite or blame Koreans but rather just accept that it's a cultural difference and in their eyes, probably not rude at all. However I am totally thrown off because in past few weeks, I have two very contradictory examples. First, I had my hands full and was debating just guessing which subway direction to take and at the last minute tried to go for it and only to have the doors close in my face! These two older men who were undoubtedly watching the whole thing stuck a foot each in the door to block the sensors so it would open for me again! They eagerly waved me in, nodded and smiled. People miss the subway by a sliver ALL the time and I have never seen anyone do that. I was so excited about the random act of kindness and told my coworker what had happened the next day at work only to find out he had just gotten his crutches stolen while at a table with some friends... damn, I guess it's a wash!

Stereotypically karaoke is very popular in Asia. I love singing along to songs like no ones business but am not good at it and therefore too bashful to get into the karaoke scene although I think it's a fantastic idea. Korea however, has developed a perfect solution to this predicament that I, and I assume many others have... the Norae-bong! The Norae-bong is a personal karaoke room you rent with just your friends where you can do your singing and dancing without stage fright standing in the way. It's awesome!! My coworker and I met some Korean guys who we went with last week after a bar and were there from about 3-4 am! They dazzled us with their K-pop songs and well practiced stage presence and we overwhelmed them with some Spice Girls "Wannabe" and Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you!" You can order snacks and drinks and it's a fantastically good time! This past Friday, I went again with Swhite, my coworkers and the same mom who is visiting and had a ball! Just a warning: anyone who comes to visit is participating!
My "Kids Say the Darndest Things" this post goes to Crystal. On the bus ride to our museum field trip a couple of weeks ago I noticed Crystal's fly was down. They are too young to get embarrassed so I just said, "Hey, you need to zip up your pants" but she was having trouble because she was sitting down and the material was all scrunched up. I told her not to worry about it and that I would help her once we got to the museum, she looked panicked at this and said, "No, we gotta do it now before someone sees my goodies!" I burst out laughing which made her laugh as well as Donte! She said she learned the term from her mom. Haha!

Speaking of funny... this past Friday, Swhite and I went out dancing after singing up at a storm at the Norae-bong. It was loud as usual and I was talking to this guy who was trying to tell me his name. I couldn't tell if he was saying "Trey" or "Dre" so I asked him, "Like "T" as in turtle, or "D" as in dragon?" He seemed a tad surprised but responded "T" as in turtle. Later when I told Swhite about it we just cracked up laughing and decided, wow, I am SUCH a teacher! Who says that to a grown man? haha I could have at least taken the whole T for Tom approach, but no, I have turtles and dragons and Hello Kitty on my mind at all times these days! Sheesh!

I forgot to mention that Teacher's Day was this past Sunday and my students were too kind! On Friday I received some flowers, a darling clip, a couple cards and some really fancy beauty products! (Yes, that's a Chanel box... who buys $30 nail polish??) I had to take a close up pic of my Lancome gift pack from Aileen... how cute is that??
Oh, and this is a "Gargle Dispenser" it dispenses mouthwash shots at a coffee shop. Genius idea, awesome name!
I'm really happy and enjoying my life here. That's all for now! :)

Posted by 3ifBySEA 05:47 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Different Strokes for Different Folks

by gabrielle

sunny 60 °F

It's the weekend, hooray! It's pretty unbelievable how much I love Fridays these days. I thought I liked weekends before but now I feel deserving of them and that's new.

Swhite mentioned in her last post that more pics were on the way of our fantastic day of people watching and enjoying the perfect 60 degree temperature at the cherry blossom festival last Saturday so here they are!
I am seriously affected by the weather and was just so happy all day because of the gorgeous weather and I wasn't the only one... It was so nice to see Koreans smiling too! That may sound odd but Koreans are under lots of pressure at work and school and during the week I ride the subway with tons of stressed, somber, silent Koreans headed off to another day on the grind. No one chats, no one smiles, no one even makes eye contact! So you can see why it's so nice to see Koreans out and about, enjoying the weather, their loved ones and just having fun! I love to people watch and got pretty caught up watching cute couples and cute kids. Unlike most other places I have traveled, I am not the only one constantly whipping out my camera to take pictures of this or that; Koreans are picture taking fiends! It's nice because now I can just take pictures of whatever without being at all timid. Here are some of my faves on the day:
The reason for the title of this blog post is because I MUST talk about the most baffling cultural quirk I have come across since finding out they use their hands instead of toilet paper in India... COUPLING! Swhite touched on it in her post but I have photographic evidence to really drive the point home. Couples dressing alike. Not complimentary colors or similar styles, like exactly alike. Same shirt, same pants, SAME SHOES, it's unreal and it's serious! They are not being funny, it's not a special occasion or themed party, it's what people do. I love it because it's hilarious but I do not see the appeal and would personally never get into it. Since pictures speak louder than words, check out these examples of the mind blowing phenomenon of "coupling." :)
Speaking of things Koreans love, my students LOVE Pikachu. For those of you who don't remember the Pokemon craze in the States circa 1999 here is the little thing (a rabbit maybe?)
I'm not sure if Pokemon is popular still but Pikachu specifically is VERY popular amongst my students to the point that they call their yellow crayons "Pikachu." Since I have my homeroom students for five periods on Fridays I thought I would try and win their affection by doing a Pikachu craft with them. Boy were they ecstatic! (first pic is of my example)
All the students at school are oddly obsessed with stickers as well. They bring full sheets to school and it's chaos when they bust them out at play time because everyone wants one. They usually stick them on their hands or desk or they have their secret stashes on the inside door of their cubbies.

This is Joy, I would probably call her the Godfather of the sticker ring. At least among the two three year old classes. She is fierce and fearless and is not afraid to claw and scratch if it means getting a coveted Hello Kitty puffy sticker.
This is my schedule I have on the wall near where I keep my things. I could lie and tell you I have accumulated this many stickers because the students adore me, but only about a third of these are direct gifts from the children. One third I find on the floor or walls at the end of the day when i am cleaning my room and the last third I confiscate from the kids when they are fighting over them or they are distracting them in class and stealing my thunder!
My "Kid's say the Darndest Things" award this post goes to Donte. I have a new Korean student in my homeroom class who only comes on Mondays and Tuesdays because he has asthma I am told and also is trying to adjust to being away from his mom. The first two weeks he cried non stop and a Korean teacher had to sit in my class the entire time. Now he is doing better and even smiling a bit. Phew! Anyway, he does not have an English name yet so I pronounce his Korean name as best I can. Phonetically I would say it's "Zay-Peel" but the "Z" sound also kind of sounds like the French "J" sound. So Donte always has something to say, and since he's American I can understand him usually. But this past week he started saying something about "champion" and pointing to crayons I had no idea what he was talking about! I kept trying to clarify and he just kept saying "champion" and mumbling some other stuff. He eventually said, "I'm usin' the new kids crayons, Champion's crayons!" Oh Donte! I know I can't pronounce his name very well, but I at least know it's not Champion! Hey, at least he says it with confidence, right?

Second place goes to Alyssa, she's half Korean, a twin and in the middle age group. When I was doing an Easter egg tree for arts and crafts with her class on Wednesday I asked the kids if they knew what holiday was this Sunday and she immediately raised her hand and yelled, "spring cleaning! It's spring cleaning on Friday at my house!" Nice work, mom.
I am extremely please to report that my students are learning!! My first or second week, we made books in class that I planned to collect so we could add to them each day during the week. I was told to collect assignments and send them home with the kids on Fridays but when I took Aileen's book she burst in tears! I had to get a Korean teacher to explain to her that it would be given back tomorrow and she could take it home on Friday because she was not understanding me at all. Nowadays, when the kids finish something they bring it to me automatically and Aileen even says "home Friday!" Yay! I have also been working with the kids on recognizing lowercase letters and matching them to their capital counterpart. My mom told me this may be a lost cause for their age but another teacher informed me that Aileen said "big A, not small A" or something to that affect on the bus when she was looking at something! Score! I am so proud!

I found some puppets in the office at school and read a zoo story to my students hoping the puppets would capture their interest for a bit longer than two pages. I was right, the puppets were a hit but once I started reading I realized I had an empty bank of funny voices or accents or anything to use when the different puppets were talking. When I opened my mouth to be the voice of the zebra what came out resembled the classic Adam Sandler/waterboy voice! The kids loved it but it was hard for me to keep it up without laughing! I felt so ridiculous! I immediately thought, my brother would be so ashamed; he is quite talented with accents and impressions and his repertoire is substantial! To make matters worse, when I had to switch it up for the female leopard, the Adam Sandler voice stuck around but kind of morphed into a higher pitch version with a southern twang. Absurd!
This is John. He doesn't talk much but always has a suspicious and pensive look on his face. We are all convinced he is plotting to take over the world. At the very least, we know he knows a lot more than he lets on. He had his hair styled in a mohawk one day this week so I had to take some pics!
Last school story.... As I mentioned in a previous post, one Friday a month we have a "birthday party" for any kids who parents chose to pay and who have their birthday in that month. It essentially means we leave our classrooms for the downstairs playroom for 10 minutes and sing to the birthday kids while they pose in front of the fancy staged table of treats and the Korean teachers take tons of pictures of them for their parents. We then go back to our rooms and eat pizza and spaghetti instead of rice and seaweed and each kid gets a tablespoon size piece of the cake. I dig the food variety so I'm not complaining! Spaghetti faces are pretty cute too! :)
As far as life in general I am getting increasing more comfortable here and really enjoying myself! The job is tough, the hours are rough and the communication with our Korean teachers is frustrating but I am getting used to all things. I also bought a chair for my desk. :) The weather has been splendid, I doing some origami to spruce up my apartment, I have taken some long walks exploring new neighborhoods and am looking forward to all that lies ahead!

That's all for now, be sure to check out the photo gallery for the rest of the pics we have taken so far!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 20:47 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Korean Superstitions

by sarah

sunny 59 °F

First off I want to say that things at my school have improved a little. I know there are still better schools out there, but I have to keep reminding myself that there are also worse. I am still getting very frustrated with my boss, lack of materials and flexibility but I am getting better at leaving things at work and not thinking about it the rest of the time. I’ve realized that I don’t know each kid as much as I’d like to, and that I am still figuring out what works best for each individual. I want to get to know them more so that it makes it easier for me and them. Even though I’m in my 6th week already, since I have some kids only once a day, I’ve only really taught them for the equivalent of one week’s time. I move from class to class throughout the day so it’s not like elementary in the US where they have the same teacher all day. There are some benefits to this, but it also means that it takes a little longer to know what works best for each class. But, like I said, I’m getting the hang of things and I’ve got my own routine going.

I’m also happy to report that I get to move apartments this weekend! I am beyond excited to move. I thought I’d get used to having no daylight, but the opposite was actually true. It just got worse and worse each day, and with the weather getting better (hooray!) it just made it even worse. After talking to my boss and receiving several post-it note replies (her favorite form of communication) I was allowed to move to the building that the other foreign teacher is in. I got to take a look at the apartment today and I already know I will be much happier there! It is a little further from school but there is a bus that goes door to door for when the weather is bad, and a nice scenic walk for the rest of the time! I’ll upload some pictures of it once I’m all settled in.

Now, the main purpose of this post was to talk about some weird superstitions that have come up here. The first is something called ‘fan death’. I read about it before I came but thought it was pure folklore, but it came up at school one day and apparently is true. Many Koreans believe that if you sleep with a fan on you will die, simple as that. When I first heard about it I thought that it was referring to a ceiling fan, and it falling on you while you slept (to be honest I was worried about this happening a few times in India so didn’t think it was that weird), but turns out that isn’t it. Some people think that the fan will suck all the air out of the room and make it so you can’t breathe, therefore killing you in your sleep! There are many different ways it can suck all the air out, such as creating a vacuum effect, or if it is too close to your face, sucking all the air away so you can’t get it! Check out this wiki page for more details http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_death All the fans sold here come with a timer so that when you go to sleep you are safe. Now that the weather is getting a little warmer I have already been warned to use that timer!

The newest superstition (not sure if that is the right word, but I don’t really know what else to call it) is that there is radiation from Japan in the rain so you can’t let it touch you! It has only rained two or three times since all that has happened in Japan, but on those days we have had students absent and some elementary schools were closed. We also weren’t allowed to open the windows at school. I don’t have an umbrella yet so I walked to school without one (it was barely raining, and I wouldn’t have even used one if I did have one) and some kids nearly had a heart attack when they found out! My secretary even made me borrow one from the school to walk home with. Now, I don’t know how realistic it is that there is radiation in the rain, but as the other foreign teacher pointed out, the rain falls on the earth, crops and animals here, and people eventually eat those, so having it touch your skin really isn’t any worse. The Korean teacher he said this too just kind of shrugged and insisted that you still shouldn’t let it touch you. I have a feeling I’ll be just fine, though.

And lastly, this is probably more of a coincidence, but it’s still worth mentioning. One of my coworkers and her husband wanted to have a baby but never got pregnant, so she started at our school. She only started 3 months before me. The other week she told me that her friend called her because she had had a dream that she bought some baby shoes, but knew they weren’t for herself. She had a feeling that they were for my coworker. My coworker told me that she therefore thought she must be pregnant because of this, so she scheduled a doctor’s appointment. She said she had no symptoms but thought she should go because of this dream….and turns out she is pregnant! I’ve never really believed in things like this so I was pretty impressed that it turned out that way. Of course I’m really happy for her, and can’t wait to meet the little guy! Apparently when someone is pregnant it is bad luck to go to happy events for someone else. I’m not sure of the details, but Gabrielle said that when her boss was pregnant she couldn’t go to her friend’s wedding because of this, so she sent her husband. We’ll see if my coworker has to do the same thing!


Like I mentioned earlier, the weather is getting nicer out, and we just had a beautiful weekend. The cherry blossoms are in full swing now and turns out they are everywhere!
When they were just bare tress I never really noticed them, but now that the blossoms are out you can see them on nearly every street which is really nice. Over the weekend we went to a cherry blossom festival at a park on the river. It was a gorgeous day and a perfect place to do some people watching. The park was absolutely packed!
We found a nice spot to sit and spent hours just watching the people around us. We were impressed with the amount of ‘coupling’ we saw (Gabrielle has some more to tell about this later this week, but it is when a couple dresses identical). My secretary even told me that it is one of her favorite things to do, and that her and her boyfriend even wear the same underwear! I think it is like a rite of passage, and shows how serious a couple is so they take a lot of pride in it! We had a lot of fun at the park, and met some other teachers. As much as Gabrielle and I can have fun just the two of us, it is always nice to expand and have some other people around! It is also nice to hear that other teachers are having the same frustrations as you. Every school has bad kids, or whiny kids, or the kid that just stares at you like ‘huh??’ no matter what you say! And it helps me to realize that the whole ‘grass is greener’ thing isn’t always true!

Sorry for the lack of pictures this post, I know that is always the best part, but I promise the ones G puts up next time will be worth it!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 08:07 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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