A Travellerspoint blog

Happy Birthday to Me!

"Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save gas, take your next trip in kilometers." ~ George Carlin

semi-overcast

Wow... I just realized how long it has been since my last post. I can't even say I have a good reason this time. Well I guess I could considering nothing too exciting has been happening to me lately. Well nothing much to write home about anyways.

The week after climbing the mountain followed the same amount of normalcy I've come to expect. Wake up. Go to school. Teach all day. Come home. Be super tired. Hang out with people. Eat dinner. Waste time on the internet. Go to bed way too late. Rinse and repeat. And add the extra bonus of having absolutely no control over how much extra work you shall receive. Although granted I cannot hold this circumstance against anyone and I gladly took on the work with no fuss because my co-teacher's grandfather passed away so I ended up taking all of her classes for Wednesday and Thursday. That doesn't sound too bad but it added 8 extra classes to my two days... Again I can't complain. I'm sure she would have preferred being at school than her grandfather's funeral. I am terribly sorry for her loss. A cultural tidbit. When someone dies in Korea their family members will bring food for everyone they work with, I know it the other way, but she brought candies and these corn cakes for everyone when she came back and I know that is the culturally expected thing to do in Korea.

Then came Saturday and the official start of my birthday celebration. Since my birthday fell on a weekday I decided to do something the weekend before. I had planned on taking a weekend trip to Jeju-do (an island off the southern coast of Korea) but decided that it would be too cold for an island trip and to stay closer to home. So a weekend getaway turned into a day trip to Everland!

Everland is the Disneyland equivalent in Korea. Or at least that is what it seemed liked. It is a lot smaller and a whole lot cheaper but it boasts the same concept. There are five different "lands" - American Adventure, European Adventure, Zoo-Topia, Global Fair, and Magic Land. It was quite entertaining to see the Korean perspective on the rest of the world and to see what they deemed important to put into an amusement park. I took the most note of things in American Adventure (obviously). They have a Columbus Adventure ride in which you ride either the Nina or the Santa Maria ships (it's like a huge version of fair rides where the boat just swings from side to side and you get higher and higher each time). It was actually quite fun. They also had a "rodeo" ride but you were riding in cars that looked like the DeLorean meshed with the Jurassic Park Jeeps. Yes live with that description because that is the best way I could think to describe them. This ride also boasted a large banner that said "Best Rodeo: Greatest Champions West of California." Yup if you didn't catch that, reread, then think about it a moment. Yup, there it is. This is the "American Adventure" area.... so how exactly do we get west of California? I was unaware that Hawaii had such an amazing rodeo scene. Clearly I was mistaken.

They at least got the food right in this area, haha, it was pretty much diner style and hamburgers and fries as far as the eye can see. The creators and designers of Everland were really trying to get as many eras as possible into one theme park too. There were 50s style diners with 60s and 70s decor and 80s and 90s style neon banners and signs and a lot of the buildings looked liked they belonged in the early 1900s steel and "look ma, a train" type architecture. I loved it. It was everything meshed into one tiny space. You can never be homesick... just go to Everland.

We walked around a bit. I saw real life monkeys but for the life of us we could not find the stupid penguin and lion cages... I was thoroughly annoyed. We went in, I honestly can say, scariest horror maze I have ever been in. This maze takes the cake on horror mazes. Let me describe the amazingness that is this horror maze. You line up outside and this is where the fun starts. As you are waiting to be let inside TV screens flash creepy insane asylum pictures with bloody doctors and people slumped over beds and in bathtubs with blood and gore surrounding them and various other lovely images like that. Speakers are set up so you hear the screams of the people who are in the maze already and the exit is right by the lines so every five minutes or so random groups of people come running out of the maze, often times screaming and tripping over themselves. Great way to psych you out. Kudos to you ride planning people. Then the moment of truth arrives. You are put into lines of 6 people. Did I mention this ride makes you bond with complete strangers? Well it does. You are in this line of 6 people and, depending on the size of your group, you will most likely not know that many people in your group. There are three lines at a time. The employee then stands in front of these lines and gives instructions and if you are like me you don't understand a word she is saying. She then directs everyone to take all their lose bags and whatnot to a locker that the entire line shares and then you are ushered back into line where the lead person gets a flashlight. And not a real flashlight, this light is just a tiny red light. You then are instructed to hold onto the shoulders of the person in front of you and to not let go until you exit the maze. Instant bonding. Then all three lines are led into a small room that is pitch black save this creepy portrait of a man whose eyes keep moving back and forth. One line enters the maze at a time. When it is your line's time to go through the maze you walk through almost total darkness and see creepy after creepier rooms that look like old hospitals, psych wards, other things I can't even remember. And if your mind is not playing as many tricks as it possibly can on you: enter the scariest thing ever. People dressed as axe murders, psychopathic doctors, asylum patients, etc jump out of dark corners, follow you through metal barred hallways whipping the bars with chains as you pass, show up through apparently solid walls to scare the crap out of you as you wonder where the heck they came from, and, of course, the kicker. Take a moment, if you will, and think to a time you've gone to a haunted house in the states. You are not allowed to touch the employees and they are not to touch you. Well that rule does not apply in Everland. Case and point. These nightmarish ghouls who work in this maze will grab your feet or legs or arms or whatever is passing as you are going through this maze just to make you scream. It works. Keep in mind you are still supposed to be holding onto the person in front of you. Yeah.... scariest thing ever. I so want to go again. We ended up literally running out of the maze at the end because as you are exiting the last long hallway people grab at your feet and stick hands out behind curtains.

The whole of Everland had been transformed to a Christmas paradise the weekend we went so it was really beautiful and when the sun went down the whole place exploded in beautiful Christmas lights. It took a very long bus ride to get to Everland so we decided to cut out early to miss the hoards of people who would be taking the bus back once the light parades and such had ended. It was great.

My work week thus far has been slightly easier albeit not stressless. My co-teacher is super stressed again because she keeps getting project after project thrust on her and we are having another open class on Tuesday (oh man I can barely contain my excitement... WOoooo...). I am spending a lot more time at work than I like at the moment and it still seems like there is so much to do! I do have to say though I am getting very good at being able to make lesson plans on the fly and to write out my weekly lesson plans in no time flat. Yay practice.

It seems that since I have been here I have been go go go and see see see. I am tired. I am taking a much needed break from going and doing and seeing this weekend to just stay home and relax. Perhaps I shall go out and take a nice long walk around Lake Park, or, who am I kidding, I will stay in my nice warm apartment and watch countless mind numbing hours of television. Because it is cold. The app on my phone may say it is 40 degrees outside but the wind chill is ridiculous. I wear leggings under my jeans, long socks, boots, two or three layers of shirts, and a down jacket and I am still cold when that wind hits me. We had freezing rain a few days back, which according to Koreans, means fall is over and winter has started. We should be getting snow anytime now. I am excited! I have always wanted to live somewhere where winter actually happened. Eeee!!

It is also weird to me that we are reaching the end of the school year. Koreans actually make sense... there school year starts in March and ends in December. Huh, imagine that... ending the school year with the actual year... yeah that just makes way too much sense. But it also means that I don't get time around Christmas off. I have Christmas day off but I am back at school the next day. Classes end on the 28th and my winter camp will start on the 31st. After winter camp I have two weeks of vacation and then I have no idea what I will do while I wait for school to resume. I assume I will be doing a lot of desk warming and "planning" for the next year. I do know that one of my two weeks will be spent in Japan and the other I am going to Taiwan. I am starting to plan the Japan trip with KL. Tentatively we are going to take a cruise ship from Busan to Japan, go through Hiroshima, Osaka, and then hit Tokyo (where we will go to Tokyo Disney), and then possibly head north and go to one of their famous spa/resort things that I have no idea what they are called. Again these are all tentative plans but we will have nine days to play with so I am excited! And for my Taiwan trip I am hoping to go in February so I can be there for the lantern festival. The lantern festival I have had my heart set on seeing for years and made exponentially more so by the movie Tangled. And we've also decided that, because we can, we are going to take a weekend trip to China and walk on the wall. Probably during Buddha's birthday so we have a long weekend but a weekend nonetheless. Woot!

Well, hopefully all these plans actually pan out, but so far my luck has been pretty amazing with trips actually happening. This really was the best decision! I could not be happier at the moment.

Well, until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 03:02 Archived in South Korea Tagged culture vacation adventure teaching kindness acclamation Comments (1)

In Which I Climbed A Mountain

"A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles." ~ Tim Cahill

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I am slowly, but surely, finding a rhythm in school. I am getting much better at lesson planning and I don't spend hours at home working on things anymore. Oddly I am having the most fun with my phonics classes. They are so cute and so eager to learn I can't help but love them. I have been in Korea for a little over two months and I can't believe how fast time is flying by! I still have so much I want to do but at the same time it seems like I have already done so much.

Usually my days teaching are unremarkable. I go to work. I teach. I plan. I come home. I eat dinner (usually with friends) and then I walk around and shop or I go home and watch TV via the wonderful internet. Although that is just during the week. Weekends are my time. I have written about my travels thus far on here so you already know what I have been up to but the simple fact that I know weekends are my time to go and do what I want when I want to makes me so very happy.

This past weekend I went with KL to Sokcho and the national park that is there. We went to Seoraksan mountain for the day. It was beautiful. This place is famous for being able to fully appreciate the fall foliage. It is a smallish mountain with a lot of little restaurants at the base as well as a Buddhist temple. We walked around a bit and had lunch then we took a cable car up to the top of the mountain. It was a beautiful trip. We went kind of late in the season so the colors of the leaves were not as vibrant as they could have been but it was still amazing. We then walked up a ton of stairs (and I mean a ton) to reach a rocky plateau, of sorts. There you could climb up to the peak and take pictures. For someone with a problem with heights this was an accomplishment. They make it fairly simple with ropes and steps placed around for easier access, but that does not diminish the fact it was climbing a mountain.

I am thoroughly proud of myself. Granted a family toting a five year old in a dress, tights, and ballet flats passed us on the way up... but we did not let the older-than-death Grandpa get a leg up on us. We do have a little pride. We took the obligatory photos atop the peak and then made the slightly perilous trip back down. I treated myself to ice cream afterwards. And how many people can say they ate ice cream whilst standing atop a mountain? (Besides the people who have gone to the top of Seoraksan that is...) Whatever I will take what I can get!

It was a long but accomplished day. It probably wouldn't have been as tiring but it was a three hour bus ride and we caught the bus at 710am and didn't arrive back home until after 10 pm. I think next time we will make it a two day trip.

It also doesn't help that I have had annoying cold-like problems pretty much since I have been here. I don't think my body likes the change in geographic locations. It usually isn't bad. Slightly runny nose or something like that but after Seoraksan my throat was killing me and now I have a cough that just will not give up. I went to the pharmacist (yes, because in Korea you can just go to a pharmacist, tell them your issues and they will give you medicine- usually a doctor visit is something you do in emergencies or if you need something diagnosed) and got some cold medicine so hopefully it helps. If it is not better by the weekend I will break down and actually go to the doctors but I really don't want to. Stubborn is my middle name apparently.

It is getting pretty cold here. I am definitely not used to it but I think I am going to love having an actual winter. Right now it is as cold as winter gets back home and it's barely the beginning of November. I can't wait for snow! I did not pack right for winter though. I clearly underestimated the effects of heating in schools, as in it has yet to be turned on, therefore I do not have enough long sleeve clothes. Ah well, any excuse to shop is ok with me.

Speaking of weather, we totally had the most random thunderstorm during class today. One minute it is grey and gloomy and then BAM thunderstorm. But it wasn't like "oh hey, the weather is turning nasty" it was I am in the middle of a sentence and I look out the window and see everything get really dark, start gusting wind, pouring rain, and lightening happen all before I finish said sentence. Eerie. And the storm lasted maybe ten minutes. It was crazy! But I love it.

Well as uneventful as this blog post was I have to get to sleep. I shall try and be more entertaining and tell you more about life in general in my next post... but that's it for now!

Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 04:53 Archived in South Korea Tagged rain adventure sick teaching Comments (0)

Busan Bound!

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and it not intent in arriving." Lao Tzu

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So far my personal travels away from Ilsan have centered around Seoul because it is fairly painless to reach by bus or subway. I have been to other parts of Korea (Andong and Pocheon) but they were trips planned and executed by either Hands Korea or the Korean Cultural Society so I didn't have much to do with anything except showing up and enjoying myself. But this past weekend I went to Busan with two fellow native teachers and friends, KL and KB. I still didn't have to do much planning because KL booked our tickets and hostel but it was still very nice to get out of town and not have a specific agenda and schedule to keep to.

Busan is a coastal city in the south east corner of Korea. We decided to take a bus to Busan Friday night because KB works until 730 we figured we would just sleep on the bus. We departed Ilsan at 1020 pm and one very long and bumpy ride later we arrived in Busan. And by long I mean we got to our hostel at 4 in the morning. Traffic. Gotta love it. I have never stayed in a hostel before and I was pleasantly surprised. It was clean and had all the necessary conveniences at our disposal (ranging from clean towels, shampoo, to hair dryers and computer access). There was a bit of a mishap with what room we were actually supposed to be in but that was all sorted out eventually.

We decided to sleep in a bit Saturday morning and didn't emerge from the hostel until close to 11. We had planned to go to Busan because it was the International Fireworks Festival and it was supposed to be amazing, and I saw was because we didn't get to see it, thank you random lightning storm... The entire day Saturday was pouring rain and as the afternoon got on it became more and more stormy until it was so windy that umbrellas were rendered useless and thunder and lightening were very loud and close. We ate lunch at this lovely BBQ place that specialized in pork and then we had to have a caffeine fix. We actually spent quite a while just sitting in the cafe by the ocean and talking while it rained outside. It was probably the most relaxing part of the whole weekend. Afterwards we went to the beach and took some pictures and kind of just basked in the glory of being at the beach even though it was pouring rain.

We then made our way to the Busan Aquarium. That was quite fun. There were a lot of different types of fish and they had displays for different parts of the world. I saw live penguins!! This aquarium also boasts the largest walk-through tunnel thing where you can see all the fish and sorts (I think in Korea...) needless to say I took a lot of pictures. We didn't know how but we saw people in wet suits with what looked like a guide inside the shark tank. As in they paid money and were walking with sharks. I so want to do that. And you could tell they were not workers because they had cameras and were obviously not Korean (red hair, pale skin, tall). I was definitely jealous. That's ok I got pictures. Totally the same thing... right?

After we emerged from the aquarium we decided we needed to go inside somewhere so we took the subway to the Shinsegae Mall. This mall puts all other malls to shame. The sheer size dictates you will not be able to visit the entire thing in one day. It is huge. Just to give you a little feel for what this place is like I shall tell of just a few of the things one can do while at this wonderful mecca of shopping delights. There are the basics of shopping like H&M and department stores along with pretty much every other kind of shop you could want or need. There were two floors dedicated just to food. One floor had a grocery store feel to it but it was mostly specialty items and such. The second had a food court feel to it. All standard things one expects to encounter while at a shopping mall, no? Well Shinsegae also has a spa (somewhat more random but still within the expected range), a movie theater (again most malls do now), an ice skating rink and the top three floors is a golf range. Yup. Ice skating rink and golf range. In a mall. Year round. We spent entirely too much time here but it was amazing. We meandered around the shops and then ate dinner went to Kyobo (the most amazing book store known to mankind) and then decided we were going to watch a movie. We saw OO7 Skyfall (with Korean subtitles) and clearly humor doesn't translate well or we really thought the movie was a lot funnier than everyone else because practically none of the Koreans laughed at the right moments... it was a little awkward. But it was my first time experiencing the seats that move and shake with the movie. That was exciting. I always wanted to try one but they were too expensive back home. At this theater all the seats were like that and the tickets were only 10,000 won (less than 10 bucks for those with currency exchange woes).

After the movie we headed back to the hostel and got some much needed sleep. Before the movie had started though I finally took it upon myself to learn the Korean alphabet so I can actually read signs and such. It is the easiest alphabet to learn. There are 14 consonants and 10 vowels. It can pretty much be memorized in an hour. I am really excited. It took me two months to finally commit to learning it but I can read Korean now! That doesn't do much for understanding it but I can read it nonetheless! Although a lot of the words here are English words so if you read it you can understand it when you say it out loud. I still sound like an idiot when I'm trying to read things because it takes me forever to read just one word but it will come in time I have no doubt. The next step is understanding what I am reading. Something tells me that is going to take a lot longer than an hour though.

Sunday dawned bright and the sun was shining. Busan was kind of slapping us in the face while laughing because we had to leave. The fireworks had been cancelled the night before and they moved them to Sunday night. If only we didn't have to travel to so long and work so early Monday morning... we might have stayed to watch them. As it was we missed out train back to Ilsan by a hair because the lines were so long to get our actual tickets (even though we had already bought them). It was almost disastrous because they only had standing tickets available until 1010pm. Standing for three hours on a bullet train? Yeah... no. What happened next rendered the best and most memorable quote from the weekend though. We pretty much panicked when the guy behind the counter informed us of the situation and he performed some amazing magic with the keyboard and found us seats on the train leaving at 110. If I could have jumped the counter and hugged the man I would have. In no time at all we were on the train and headed back to Seoul. Once back in Seoul we boarded a bus to get back to Ilsan.

It was a great weekend and I look forward to going back to Busan sometime, hopefully when it is not so rainy. I am glad I am seeing more of this country though. We are going to go to Jeju (an island off the coast of Korea) for my birthday. That I am excited for as well! So much to see and so much to do and so little time to do it all in! I can't believe as of last Saturday I have been in Korea for two months. Time sure is flying!

Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 06:28 Archived in South Korea Tagged rain shopping adventure busan Comments (0)

Korean Cultural Experience

"Our nature lies in movement, complete calm is death." ~ Blaise Pascal

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This past weekend I went on an overnight trip with a bunch of other native English teachers in public schools around my area. It was sponsored through the Korean Cultural Society. They wanted native English teachers to get a taste for Korean culture and history. I say they succeeded pretty well.

We had to meet outside one of the subway stations at 730am Saturday morning. I have not had to get up that early on a Saturday in a very long time. In order to get to the meeting spot at the right time I needed to be on the subway headed towards my destination no later than 645am. Thankfully I live two blocks down from a subway station that was fairly close (four stops) from where I was meeting so it wasn't too bad. Some of the people had maybe 30-45 minute commute. Yay for being close! I get to the meeting spot and they had McDonald's bags for all of us to eat breakfast, it was really a sweet gesture, and greatly appreciated because I did not eat breakfast before I came. We had to wait until close to 8 because a few of the people coming were late but then we headed on towards our destination via one of the nicest coach buses I have ever been on. It definitely lived up to the "first class limousine" stamped on the side in huge bold letters. We were headed towards Andong which was about three hours away so I took the most glorious naps.

When we arrived we ate a very typical meal for the region. Boiled chicken with spices and salted mackerel, given I don't like fishy fish it was actually pretty tasty because of the salt, I am not usually a salt person but I have not had a salty meal in so long it was a welcome taste. After lunch we went to Hahoa Village and walked around a bit. It had traditional Korean housing as well as farms and a lot of the carved wooden statues you see around. There was a beautiful lake and the leaves were changing color... gorgeous. We then went to the second largest museum in Korea, the Gyeongju National Museum. It is a historical museum for the Silla dynasty, we didn't get to stay long, but it was very interesting to look at all the stuff and hear tidbits of history. For all intents and purposes the US is a young country so it is weird to me when people talk about historical sites in Korea and say "oh this one is fairly young, it's only 600 years old"... um... young? Clearly we have two very different definitions for that word.

After the museum we were treated to a traditional multi-course dinner. After dinner came my favorite part of the trip. We went to this large park and listened to a traditional Korean band play. They had some beautiful sounding songs. I started narrating what was happening with one of my new found friends. At one point we were saying what was going on if these songs were soundtracks in movies. For example: what would play if we were listening to two people fall in love during a spring montage scene which quickly escalated to a tragic betrayal and then our characters had to make a horrible choice and it eventually ended in someone's death. Now I know I have a crazy imagination but that is totally the story the song was telling. The band also played popular Korean songs as well as Hey Jude and La Bamba. They had to keep things interesting. When we all entered the concert we were given a paper lantern and a pen. We were supposed to write a wish on the lantern and during the last song they started to light all our lanterns. We then walked over to the other side of the park with our lit lanterns. We went to the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia, which also happens to be the oldest scientific installation in the world, so clearly not a big deal at all. It was beautiful but really small considering... and there was no door so we are still unclear as to how it was actually used to look at and study stars. It basically looked like the rook piece in chess though.

We continued our moonlit walk with lanterns through some rice fields and this great outdoor lake with amazing old buildings everywhere. If you know me at all you have to know how amazing it was for me to walk with these lanterns in the moonlight with hundreds of other people doing the same thing. It was definitely a sight to see. We then headed to our hotel around 11 pm. It had been a very long day. The hotel was really nice though and western style so there were actual comfortable beds and a bathtub/shower. We had to be out of the hotel and on the bus by 830 so I didn't do much except go to sleep.

I loved breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal. I could eat breakfast foods all day if you let me and Koreans don't eat the same breakfasts westerners do. I miss eggs and hash browns and pancakes and every other delicious morning foods but thank everything that is good the hotel served a traditional western style buffet breakfast. Scrambled eggs, potatoes, fruit, yogurt, crescent rolls, heaven in my mouth. We then boarded our bus again and headed to the Bulguksa Temple. The Bulguksa Temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in South Korea. It was interesting to see all the old buildings and you could actually see people kneeling and praying in front of all the different Buddha statues around the temple. We weren't allowed to take pictures (although I will admit snapped a few before I realized we weren't supposed to).

After the temple we went to a small traditional home/school were we got to see a reenactment of a traditional Korean wedding. Some of our group were picked to be the bride and groom plus the bride's maids and grooms men. It was rather interesting to see but I wish they would have had actors or people who knew what to do showing us because then it would have been like watching a wedding rather than watching a poor performance of people trying to do what they are told with a Korean whispering directions and a translator trying to explain to the person what to do. All in all it wasn't bad it just could have been a lot cooler if it was done differently. After the wedding ceremony we could participate in activities like archery or rice cake pounding. I, of course, did both. We then had a few snacks that would have been served at a traditional wedding reception and then we headed off to lunch. We ate at a traditional Bulgogi Jeongol lunch (thin marinated slices of beef in a broth, and vegetable/seafood pancakes and ten thousand different side dishes to go along with it).

After lunch we were treated to a performance of the production "Flying." It combines gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, cheer leading, martial arts, and b-boying to create a very awesome show. It was funny and awesome to watch because these people really put the title into action and flew around that stage. I really want to see the show again.

After the show it was time to go home. It had been a very long weekend but it was definitely worth it. Unfortunately it seems Sundays are always ridiculous for traffic in Korea and the three hour trip turned into seven hours. I didn't get home until after 11. Thankfully I slept most of the bus ride so it didn't matter too much in terms of sleep but it still wasn't fun.

Monday dawned cloudy and rainy and my week started out with the most pathetic movie-esque quality. I was running late and my bus was already late. I was wearing a white jacket and had just closed my umbrella when another bus peels through the bus stop completely spraying water all over me. I would have been mad except the entire situation made me laugh. I felt like there were hidden cameras just waiting for me to break down. Although Monday turned out to be a good day the rest of the week has been packed full of stuff it has just been to busy to enjoy. The highlight of my week would definitely be the fact I finally have internet in my apartment! It took nearly two months but I can access internet from the comfort of my own home again! And speaking of two months I cannot believe that in two days it will officially be my two month mark in Korea. Time sure does fly. I have done a lot but there is still so much to experience!

Well that's it for now. I have lesson planning to get to! On the bright side... it's almost the weekend! Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 03:52 Archived in South Korea Tagged culture history adventure friends teaching Comments (0)

Moving to Midterms and Life in Between

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the idea of living.” ~ Miriam Beard

sunny 61 °F

So I basically am failing at keeping up to date with this blog. I know I know... my bad, but in all honesty I think I have a good excuse. Let’s see... when last I left you I was lamenting the worst day I had yet to have while teaching and complaining about various other things that obviously are so important I remember every detail.

Clearly I had no idea what I was talking about. When I first started, not even two months ago, I was terrified of making lesson plans and I had absolutely no idea what to do when I was standing in front of 30 plus students (let alone the 11 or 12 during my smaller extra after school classes). Oh to be young and naïve again.

Whoever (whomever?... yeah I am pathetically bad at grammar I can’t believe I’m an English teacher sometimes... anyways) whoever thought that moving classrooms right before midterms and our first open class was a good idea was a complete and utter idiot. The last two weeks have been so incredibly tense and stressful that I relish my alone time quietly making lesson plans and having nothing to think about except what I am teaching my kids for 40 minutes at a time.

My poor co-teacher, I tried- really tried, to help her with the midterm but communication barriers kept getting in the way and I never seemed to make the right kind of dialogues or stories that she was looking for so she practically wrote, well not practically, she did write the entire midterm herself. And not just once, oh no, our lovely managing teacher is really picky about midterms and tests and I’m pretty sure my co-teacher wrote about 4 different midterms until our managing teacher was satisfied. What did I do? I read over them and made sure that the English was ok and all the spacing was correct. Woohoo... I worked so hard. Not.

Well, no, that’s not true. I was very busy last week mostly because my co-teacher was so focused on the midterm and the open class plus the poor girl was sick that I took over a lot of the daily teaching and I took on so many after school classes that by the end of the week I couldn’t add anymore because I had all the blocks full and as far as I know I cannot be in two places at once yet so I was done.

It surprisingly wasn’t too bad it was just really exhausting by the time Friday came along, and speaking of Friday, I finally reentered the land of easily reachable! My co-teacher went with me to the cell phone store and I signed up for a cell phone that actually works in Korea! I wanted to just unlock my iPhone 4 but AT&T is stupid and wouldn’t unlock it because my contract wasn’t over (nevermind I’m still paying for it and I won’t cancel even when it does expire… grr) so I was just going to get a new phone. I really wanted to get the iPhone 5 but it’s not available in Korea yet so I went with the 4S. I know you must be thinking why would I pay for the 4S instead of just waiting for the 5? Well ladies and gentlemen I didn’t. I love it! Well ok I am paying for it but it is just part of the monthly bill but it is not that much extra. Plus I don’t have to buy another Lifeproof because the 4 and 4S are the same size.

Enter the beginning of the weekend. I didn’t come to Korea to sit alone and do nothing so I didn’t get much rest over the weekend but I take full responsibility for that one. Friday night was dinner et al with KL and KB. Saturday I slept but then I met up with KL and KB again and we walked around the mall and had dinner again. We watched a few minutes of a Korean Drama and then they headed into Seoul. I went home and slept. It was glorious.

Sunday I went with the preacher and a visiting preacher to a small island near Incheon after services to visit an older member who had had a stroke and was living in a home. It was a nice drive to the island. We stopped on the bridge at this little park area and ate gelato and watched some guys fly some really awesome kites. We saw the older gentleman for a little bit and then headed back to the mainland. The journey was a nice relaxing Sunday afternoon up until this point. I think there was a memo we didn’t get stating that everyone had to leave the island at the same time. I trip that took us less than an hour the first time took nearly four hours coming back. *facepalm* I got home in time to eat dinner, do a little lesson planning, and then go to bed.

I greatly disliked Monday. And that’s not a “oh woe is me I have to go back to work after the weekend” kind of dislike it’s an “open class is tomorrow and my co-teacher is on edge plus it’s my longest day with the most stress and midterms are in three days so all the teachers are freaking out and students are so stressed they are getting nose bleeds and falling asleep in class because they were up all night studying” kind of dislike. Monday sucked.

And then we come to the highlight of my week, the dreaded open class... duhn duhn duhn. An open class is basically when other teachers, principals, department of education people, basically anyone who wants to, will come in and watch you teach to gather helpful tips on technique and so forth. I almost wish we had a full house rather than what happened. Instead of a bunch of people crowding into a room we were video taped. I have no idea who is going to see this video but I am not happy that my performance today has been immortalized on tape. At least I didn’t act like a total moron. Our kids were great though! I am so proud of them and they know how important open classes are so they were super prepared. I almost want to tell all the classes that we will have open classes all the time just so they will sit quietly and pay attention and always be ready to volunteer.

Wishful thinking. It happens at all the schools and they are very important for Korean teachers because they get scored and if their scores are not high enough they cannot move forward in their career. We memorized a script, the students prepared their presentations and responses in advance, it was kind of a show, but they were still using English and it helped them to learn (even if it was a little scripted for the potential audience). It still showed our teaching because though it was a little over-prepared we do use the same teaching techniques usually. The main event for our open class was the initiation of the blue screen. *insert dramatic music here*

The entire reason we moved classrooms was because the school built an “English Village.” It is a really big room with a lot of white board space (much better than our old room) plus banners and posters all over the walls with English phrases and vocabulary. One large wall on the side is painted blue and they installed a video camera and TV and put a lot of high tech equipment all over (massive speakers and our own mic set? Sure… I’ll go with it) and during our open class we had different students get up and do role –plays and we changed the backgrounds *ooh ahhh* I’m sure all of you know what blue screen technology is, do I really need to elaborate? Great. Now that that is taken care of let us move on. The students loved it. They were having a ball watching the TV and being included in the pictures.

All in all the open class was a hit. My vice-principal said we did well and my co-teacher seemed happy with how everything went. There were no major hiccups, or hiccups at all actually (well except an unfortunate event with a bug but things like that happen and cannot be helped).

Wednesday, thankfully, was a lot less stressful. We had a nice day doing review and I actually left work on time for the first time in a long time. Monday I didn’t leave work until 630pm and needed to be back at school at 730am to finish getting the classroom back in order. We didn’t really decorate everything when we moved because we were still having to teach and prep so we had to take extra time to put up decorations on all the boards. I can’t really complain too much though… my co-teacher didn’t leave until 9pm. And when lesson, open class, and midterm prep I have been leaving around 515-530 everyday. It doesn’t sound bad but when you take into context that I have a 40 minute bus commute that means I have to leave my house at 720 and I don’t get back home until close to 6. So leaving at 430 was wonderful plus I was meeting with the former native teacher at my school because she is fluent in Korean and she helped me sign up for internet and cable!

Now I am super excited for Monday because after I get off work I am going to have everything installed in my apartment! Access to the Internet without having to sit downstairs in the lobby? Yes please! And even though I am not planning on watching much TV I got cable because it is amazing what watching television does for your understanding of languages. I picked up so many words watching one drama so I can only imagine what kind of help watching more will be like.

Now I am sitting and wasting the day away while all the students take their midterm exams. I have done all the planning I can and have all my lessons for the rest of the week ready and prepped. I have graded my portion of the midterm tests that have been returned to us. I have downloaded various PowerPoint presentations from other teachers. I have looked and found pretty much all the pictures I could ever need. I printed out my absentee ballot for voting. It’s amazing how productive you can be when you don’t have to do any teaching all day. It’s also amazing how boring it is… haha. Well even if you didn’t care you are all caught up on the life is that me right now.

I will try to be better and let’s face it once I have Internet in my place that is easily accessible I will have an easier time of keeping up with this blog.

Things to look forward to:
~ Andong & Gyeongju Cultural Tour
~ Busan Internatioanl Fireworks Festival
~ Seoraksan (it’s a mountain) to ride a tram and see all the beautiful fall foliage
~ An abandoned amusement park for Halloween.
~ Jejudo Island for my birthday
~ An USO tour of the DMZ
And much more…

Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 21:35 Archived in South Korea Tagged culture phone adventures internet overwhelming openclass Comments (0)

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