Tuesday, November 29, 2011


So I had one of my brighter students break down on me today and give up when I pressed her on an answer...I thought, '"This is weird." Pulled her aside after class to figure out what's going on in her life to make her that upset. After some coaxing I got it out of her that she got a bad grade on a Korean writing assignment that she disagreed with. Amid tears and tissues, I explained to her that one bad grade does not make her a bad student. One bad grade does not mean her life is over. Yeah, today sucks but tomorrow and the next day and next day and when she's in a great college etc....she won't even remember this little grade. 

As a consequence, our relationship is better and I've probably taught her something that NO Korean high school teacher would ever have taught her.

There is a big debate right now among Koreans that foreign teachers are not helpful or needed, especially in high schools where students should just be focusing on the test that will make or break their lives. But don't tell me that Korean high school students don't need foreign teachers, even if our most important job is just to give them a dose of reality and teach them how to cope with their overly stressful lives.

In other words, this job is awesome and important despite my serious issues with my coteacher daily... And I've had a great day even though its only 11am. 


:) mlh

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cheongran School Festival!

So last Friday my school had their festival. Basically it was a giant excuse to party, dance, eat and go crazy in school and it was great!

Each class of the first and second grades (10th and 11th grade homerooms) made a theme for their room. There were cupcake cafes, face-painting bars, food vendors, movie rooms, horror houses, gaming rooms, massage rooms, and even DANCE CLUBS! All the teachers and students went around having fun. You had to pay entrance fees, food, or services...But most teachers got special discounts! ;) There were also lots of art pieces, student photography, and poetry on display throughout the school.

In the afternoon there was a big talent show sort-of thing: musicals, a little singing, and LOTS of dancing! I had been practising all last week for singing two songs. I was roped into singing with one of the English Clubs - but I'm glad I did it. We sang "True Colors" from GLEE because everyone is addicted to that show and "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" It went over really well.

Here's the photo album: Cheongran High School 2011 Festival

But after the show and the entire festival day, I couldn't help but think that these girls have so much energy and personality and creativity and talent...That is unfortunately stifled for these three years under the stress of studying like madwomen. But for one day they could let it shine. And it was brilliant.

I have lots of great videos from the whole thing...and I'll add them under here:

Yeah. So they were awesome. I have no idea when they practiced though...It's like they pulled all of this talent out of thin air!

Until later then...I've got a great album underway all about a stroll I took through Seoul. So look out for that soon too!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Walking Tour of My New Homestay: Take 2!

Here it is finally: the video of my new homestay! This apartment complex is one of the top (ie: nicest) ones in Daejeon. So it's very comfortable living. The Dunsan-dong area in general is considered the best area to live in...mostly because it is home to all the best hagwons.

So here it is! Sorry about the shaking...I'm no videographer.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My host sister's piano recital!

Just got back from my host sister's piano recital! She's been practicing for a while on the piano in her room since I've been here. So she goes to this piano and music hagwon (an after school academy) about twice a week.

And here's the result: The Entertainer. Enjoy!

All About My New Homestay....including how I got there

So, it's been about three weeks since I've been living with the 한 Family in Garam Apartments in Dunsan-dong, Daejeon, South Korea. I switched to this host family exactly one month after moving into my first homestay.

The mother's name is Joo-Yeon and she is a home economics teacher at my high school... Although she doesn't teach what we Americans would expect out of home ec! She teaches about things like how to arrange a marriage, finding a suitable marriage partner, how to have children (literally; I think they learn about conception and pregnancy...), and how to raise a family. No cooking or sewing though. Very different. But I get a ride with her to school and back home everyday and so that's very nice. She's also an excellent cook, and very kind. She does not know much English, but if I speak easily and slowly enough, she gets the gist of it.

The father works away from home during the week. He supervises the construction of LG factories. Right now he's in Gumi. He comes home on Friday or Saturday afternoons and then leaves early Sunday morning. And this past weekend he did not come home. So I've only met him once. I literally saw him for less than 24 hours, but he is very charming and certainly intelligent. And even though the children don't seem to miss their dad (I actually asked them about it...I guess they just don't know any different), he certainly loves and misses them.

The eldest daughter is names Seo-Yeong. She is 12 and very smart, and because she spent a month in the Phillipines at an English camp (which happens often, it seems), she is my main English speaker in the house. She is very well behaved and very motivated to achieve. Just tonight I went to her piano recital! ...That video will be up soon...And she loves Girl's Generation, a sister band to my favorite Kpop stars. So I'm in very good company.

The youngest boy is named Yeong-Hwan. He is 9 years old, but completely different from my first host brother. He is intelligent and motivated too. In fact he speaks a good bit of English too...Often when his sister is at a loss for some English vocabulary, she'll turn to him and he'll spit it out. He LOVES baseball and we play catch in the house often. (Don't know how we haven't broke anything yet).

Both of the kids get themselves up and out in the morning on their own since me and the mom leave around 7am every morning. They attend hagwon (or special extra classes in a certain subject) a number of times every week, and they both do a fair amount of self-study at home too. Their temperament is completely different from my last host siblings. They are more respectful, lovable and disciplined. I don't know how much of it is just their temperament though...They are raised differently....And although I shouldn't pass judgement, in my opinion they are raised better.

Which brings me to why I left my old homestay...To be honest, I have no idea why my family did not want to host me anymore. When my coteacher suggested it the Wednesday after Chuseok (see my post a few below), it shocked me. Yes, the eldest son did not like me and our relationship needed work. But it was nothing that I thought time couldn't heal. But no, my host mom was too sensitive to the trivial things that bother people in a homestay.  (When the definition of a homestay is necessarily that you experience those uncomfortable cultural differences). At the same time however, she was uncomfortable and unwilling to tell me what it was that I was or was not doing so that I could fix the problem and make things better.

She was too afraid of losing face to tell me why they couldn't host me anymore. Saving face is a huge deal in Korean (and maybe all Asian) culture. Also, indirectness is integral. In other words, Koreans beat around the bush about EVERYTHING. We were told this in orientation, but I had no idea it was this serious. It makes sense if you thing about it in the communal context: to express a need or a want directly makes you seem independent and insensitive to the needs of the group. So in other words, my host mom would not tell me what was wrong because she is SUPER indirect (it's in her personality beyond just the culture) and feared losing face to me by expressing a need or problem she was experiencing because of me.

Now back to the boy...The last night I was with them, they all took me out for a samgyupsal dinner. At separate times when one spouse was taking the children to the bathroom, they both told me how much they liked me and how much they wish I would visit them often, and how sad they were over the situation....Which makes me think they gave in to the demands of their eldest son.

Of course I understand why he would be upset with me; not only did I take his room (which I found out right before I left ><), but I was taking the time and attention of his parents away from him. I also may have "gotten him in trouble" a few times in  his eyes. He would get angry when I wouldn't let him have his way with me while playing a game. He would lash out and pretend to or actually hit me, in which case his mother would most certainly step in. Finally, in one case she spanked him as she ought to. Afterwards I asked her if there was anyway I could improve the relationship between her son and I and she simply said, "It was his fault. I didn't like the way he behaved." Good. But then she said this: "But now I feel bad and feel heavy because I had to do that."

For finally and properly disciplining her child she felt bad. This is the current state of child rearing in many Korean homes it seems. Many other ETAs are living with it. You can even see it on the street in the whining and crocodile tears that sway parents to unthinkable parenting behavior in American eyes. I have to say I never realized how well I was raised or how important it is to me that my future children (and children in general) are raised lovingly but authoritatively. Spare the rod, spoil the child is a lost saying for young Korean parents it seems.

Anyway, I hate to sound judgy...but it really got under my skin. Either way, I'm glad I quickly moved into my new homestay. And I'm sure my old family is better off without me and the added stress I put on their family. I don't hold any grudges at all and I'm planning on reaching out to them in the next few weeks like the parents asked and getting together for a dinner. But those are just my thoughts on why I made a move in exactly one month. (Which is an annoyingly short amount of time). But there are few other ETAs that are also making switches soon - for different reasons though. I might be the only one (this year) who had to switch because the eldest son was unhappy.

Ah well. As I said, my new homestay is much better. And I'm much happier ans stress-free. Besides the fact that I'm in a bigger room, basically have my own bathroom, and am in a more central part of town, the children and mother are much more honest.Also, I'm trying hard to stave off any behaviors (although I don't know what I did before...) that may upset their Korean cultural sensibilities.

Tomorrow I will take and post a video walk-through of the new home since I don't have school because of midterms. So look forward to that! :)

((((PS- One more point that I just thought of: I am completely convinced that this homestay switch had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the color of my skin. I guess I should do a post on how Koreans have received me thus far physicilly, but briefly...Let's just say I turn heads. In the good way. Often people don't know where I am from (I've gotten Filipino and Indian alternatively), but most of the time I just get "Oh, very pretty!" But I have no evidence that my ethnic orientation had anything to do with my move. Maybe my cultural orientation, but definitely not my race... Which is great! Go Korea on that front! ))))

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A quick bit on my new family...TOP SPINNING!!

Ok, so since I just took this video, I though I might as well put it up sooner rather than later and give you all two posts in a row to chew on!

I pretty much explain everything in the video...But in terms of my new host family, I believe they are a much better fit for me. At the very least, they have very different personalities than my last family. The host mom is a home economics teacher at my school ...although Korean Home Ec. is not at all the same as the American kind. She's very lovely. And I have a 12year old sister now and a 9year old brother who speak very serviceable English. They will be able to benefit from me much more than my ex-host siblings. The host dad works in construction and is away from home during the week and returns home only on the weekends. I will meet him for the first time this Saturday.

Anyway, here's me and the new brother having fun...in my new room by the way!

Hope you enjoyed that! More to come... :-)


So this might be a bit strange because this place where I've spent Chuseok and this family are no longer my family, but I think I should still talk about what happened before I moved. Because Chuseok was really interesting... and delicious.

Basically, you need to know that Chuseok for American purposes is like Korean Thanksgiving...sorta. It's a lot more than that though, and that's really a poor comparison. In fact, Chuseok is more like an ancestral worship and big harvest get-together. It's a big time to celebrate family, bounty, and remember the dead. It's also the largest holiday in Korea; it's that important.

So it's a whole lotta cookin' and eatin'. In that respect, it's very much like an American Thanksgiving. It's also a lot like Christmas too!!! Because it's the big gift-giving holiday. Christmas in Korea is more like a romantic holiday for couples...fascinating. So people get all kinds of fun gifts for Chuseok. When I heard this, I dived right in and got lots of gifts for my (ex-) family!

Here's the spread!

Who's the Chuseok Queen now?!?!
So I got gifts for each of my family members. Basically just made a big E-Mart and Stationary store run. But they were very surprised and liked it a lot!! Of course, who doesn't like gifts?!

For Host mom and Host little sister...
For Host dad and Host little brother...

Chuseok landed on a Monday (Sept 12th) this year (since it's related to the lunar calendar, it changes every year), so on Friday the roads were jammed with people leaving. Saturday it was also busy...last minute shopping and more people traveling. On Sunday it was also busy during the morning, since people were all going to the eldest son's .house in their .family to cook and prepare for the .holiday and ceremony on2 Monday.

I helped to cook!
Host grandmother and host cousin making "chon" and other yummy fried in egg veggie dishes. We are in my host uncle's house.

Also!!! There was. this super cute little dog in the house! Her name was "Sarang" or love. Precious. At first, she was pretty ugly, but she was so loving and cute, I couldn't help it. Plus I really miss pets. Most Koreans do not have dogs...and certainly not cats. They are considered like dirty street animals...Anyway, we got along well since we both spoke the least Korean! :) Actually...I bet she understood more korean than me...

Isn't she cute?! Kinda...?

Anyway, then on Monday morning I arrived at Host Uncle's apartment around 9am. Unfortunately they had already performed the worship ceremony. >< But I got to see a lot of the food laid out. I basically just arrived for a big meal...for breakfast. And it was great!

Host grandmother, host aunt, and host little sister. Host mom didn't want her picture taken and is hiding behind  little sister.

After eating and cleaning, we headed to the Grandfather's tomb. I was very surprised that I was allowed to come. But they invited me along and of course I said yes!

The tomb...or grave. I think "tomb" is more accurate.
Offerings. Soju (alcohol of choice in Korea), fruit, and a lit cigarette.
Insa of the sons to their father. I also just realized in looking at this picture, that all the male family members are present. I'm not sure about my little brother, but I know my host cousin was there on purpose. Chuseok is a patriarchal holiday (like nearly everything else in Korea), so the wife will always spend the actual worship and meal service with her husband's family. She may visit her family later, but just to help eat more leftovers. ~Another interesting point this reminds me of, the children in a family are the father's - they take their father's surname. But the wife keeps her family name upon marrying. Fascinating...

Except for the 10 seconds of insa (formal greeting), everyone just sort of went around cleaning things, pulling moss off the grave, getting rid of other forest debris and trying to keep cool. It was very sunny and humid. It was an odd mix of somber and also just a "doing your duty" kind of feeling. But it was interesting.

Here's a video I took of it all:

Afterwards, we just went back to Host Uncle's House and ate more food. It reminded me a lot of any other holiday in America, lots of eating, cooking, lazying-around, and watching TV. It was great.

...And then two days later I found out they didn't want to host me anymore. After all of that... >< But it's better this way. I'll comment on the switch in my next post...

Friday, September 2, 2011

A walking tour of my new home! ...and pictures!

On a slightly more fun note than my last post, here is a video (I guess I'm vlogging now) of my new home at 상아 (Sang-ah) Apartments in Mannyeon-dong Daejeon! I had a hard time getting this video to work...so I went ahead and made a YouTube account...only people with the link will be able to view the video though.

The food was actually delicious afterwards...although the thing I had to fry actually was like a porkchop. No idea meat was involved until I bit into it...probably should have cooked it some more. But I ate everything else!

Generally food in Korea is very cheap, and so eating in and cooking for yourself is even less expensive than eating out! So hopefully I will have a chance to learn how to cook a few things this year!

...Also, since this video was made a while ago, I also have another web photo album to share: A trip with my family to the National Cemetery. There are two in Korea - one in Seoul and one in Daejeon.

Visit to the National Cemetery

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My first Educational conflict in Korea...

So I've been at Cheongran All-Girls' High School for three days now. I haven't taught the last two days nor today since the schedule for my first grade advanced English students has not be finalized yet.

But already I've come into a very interesting conflict...Not only am I completely team-teaching (like literally back and forth with my CoTeacher for the entire 50 minute lessons), doing lessons solely from a textbook, and having very little opportunity to supplement the text with my own lessons, but I am in quite a quandry when it comes to sticking to my educational principles.

I am, it seems, not really needed for any speaking skills. Regardless of the entire purpose of having a native speaker (to get Koreans to actually SPEAK English with a live foreigner and to build confidence in that skill), I am needed only to provide the American cultural element to our lessons...Oh, and by "American cultural element" I mean a "fun video" at the end of every lesson. ><

(I should mention that I was already a little disappointed with the fact that I have to completely team teach anyway...and from a text. It seems there was a struggle to get a foreigner teacher into my school last for the first time last year. Most of the English teachers believed (and still do, in fact) that ETAs and EPIK teachers just play games and that this has no real benefit to their students' English ability. It is because of this misconception that I believe I am not trusted to teach any class on my own - since my students will obviously not benefit from such an instructor...sigh... There may also be some element of the Korean English Teacher being able to manage the classroom better. Basically, "foreign teachers cannot control their own classes and keep students on task" more or less. This last point hasn't been made explicit by my CoTeacher, but I think it may also play a part in the way she and others at my school view foreign english teachers. I should also point out that other ETAs around the country do not have this same situation at all. It varies TREMENDOUSLY! But for my own situation, I am kept under quite a tight leash.)

My main goals, the reason why I came to Korea to teach was because Koreans overall lack the ability to speak English with confidence and proficiency. They can read and memorize vocabulary like little English robots, but they do not know how to speak. My goal with my students was to encourage these skills through practice. My goal was to make them want to learn English and SPEAK English on their own. I wanted to instill in them a genuine personal interest in speaking a different language. I wanted to be a teacher that told them they could learn this difficult language. They could succeed and speak with a foreigner. I wanted to expand their conception of what it was possible for them to achieve. They could do it! In Korea, I might have been the first teacher to even say those kinds of things to them...I knew that I couldn't "get to" every student, but even one would have been enough.

But now it seems I may have to re-evaluate these goals. Or at the very least think of ways I can do these things outside of what is now a very controlled, text-based (ie: reading- and listening-based) lecture classroom...

CoTeacher came in today and told me that the Vice Principal (a lovely man by all accounts!) criticized them for the girls' English scores that came in today. Supposedly, they aren't so good. Basically, for me this means that we will be doing a lot more reading and listening than what we had initially planned. She says they need to improve their vocabulary, and that practicing speaking is good - but not as important. Classic teaching to the test basicallySo I tried to make a case for the inclusion of the vocab they need to know in speaking exercises and getting away from using the textbook all the time ...(since its obviously not making a difference).  And CT was like, "Well, really we blame the students. From this area, their quality is not so good."


That kind of thinking just totally flies in the face of what I fundamentally believe about education...I know deep down, that even though not every student is as good as the other, EVERYONE CAN LEARN! They just need to find their own motivation/style to learn and decide they want to learn on their own. So I tried to explain this idea and the whole "life-long learner" thing.

And she just nodded.

So... I suggested that I could find real articles or live interviews that discuss the topics we are learning and rephrase them for reading practice and make fill-in-the-blank worksheets for listening practice. I tried to explain the concept of getting away from the textbook as a motivation factor and creating excitement. Like, weren't we always like HOORAY! when the teacher said.."ok, let's close our texts and do something different." I told her in that moment we can be teaching exactly the same things as the textbook, but since we've just made a more exciting  environment, maybe the vocab and grammar and whatever the kids need to know, can stick! Also - emphasizing speaking the words can get students to remember too. Even our Korean Language teachers were always like, "Your brain likes your voice" during Orientation at Jungwon. I totally proscribe to this...

...Still she didn't buy it. "Well, the students are changing. They do not study as well. And they do not want to listen when we teach." Which of course I can see...Young koreans are becoming more and more like young americans in the classroom. But still, I just don't jive with that "blame the students" mentality. I told her, maybe to help the students, the teachers should try to change what they are doing and come up with new ideas. Which she agreed with...she said it earlier herself when she was explaining the initial problem. But, she seems to think that the only other way you can teach without a textbook = playing games. Which is to be avoided at all costs. UGH! so frustrating...

Anyway, its interesting at the very least to have my ideals about education come into direct conflict and try to work that out. I really just what's best for the students. But obviously, there are very different ideas about what exactly is "best" for students and how to get them to achieve that goal.

Married to text vs. let's try something new and engaging...We'll see which wins in the end! Or more likely, which kind of marriage of the two I will try to strike up in our classroom.

Comments on this appreciated!

Monday, August 22, 2011

I've got a lot of making-up to do, I know! But until then....


재 이 (Pronounced, "J" basically) is a (Korean age) four-year old, super precocious little girl. She's got her parents wrapped around her little finger...and I have to admit it's hard to resist her. She didn't take a nap today, so when the babysitter brought her home, she was asleep on arrival!

Cute, right?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My placement for the next year!

Just an hour ago I learned the name and nature of my school placement in South Korea for the next year!

I will be teaching at Cheongran Girls' High School, a private school in Daejeon. There are 876 students at my school, although I will likely not teach the 3rd year students (essentially seniors).

Here is the school's website! http://www.chran.hs.kr/

There are four other ETAs also placed in Daejeon with me, and my dear roommate is not far away in Cheonan. So we are all very happy and excited! Tomorrow I will probably have more information about my school and what kind of students these girls will be.

I will not find out any information on my homestay placement for another week or so though. But just knowing the school make-up and my location is great! Daejeon is basically in the middle of the country and situated right on the KTX line - the main railroad system in Korea. The KTX runs like an upside-down Y through the country and Daejeon is right in the junction of the three lines! So I'll be able to travel around the country easily and quickly! More on Daejeon here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daejeon

Basically, I'm super happy. More soon!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Samhwasa Temple in Mureung Valley, Donghae, SK

So this past weekend, the Fulbright Commission in Seoul paid for all of the ETAs to have a weekend vacation in Donghae. Donghae literally means "East Sea," and it is a little town considered "rural." Of course our walk through the downtown area made Donghae look much more like a city in American terms. But we've come to realize that Korean designations for urban, suburban and rural are very different.

Anyway, we got to visit a Korean Buddhist Temple in the beautiful Samhwasa valley. The Valley is very narrow, but filled with giant boulders and cliffs. Trees and other lush flora flourish on the rocks, and water runs down the valley from every spot. It's very lovely.

Here are some pictures:

Samhwasa Buddhist Temple in Mureung Valley, Donghae, South Korea

An awesome creek-thing ran through the middle of the narrow valley. There were lots of huge boulders everywhere and waterfalls all fell into the river from both sides of the valley side!

Fun rapids! And dry bedrock to relax on...

So these are all pictures of the Mureung Valley. We visited a Buddhist Temple, Samhwasa Temple, in the valley. We also walked all around on some of the hiking trails and took in the beauty of the valley! Hiking is THE national past-time of South Korea (besides drinking....seriously), so there were lots of fun paths to explore!

The rest of Donghae was great too! We visited the cave in the center of town - they had only discovered it in 1991. We had to wear hard hats and everything because the ceilings were so low, but it was a fun time. At the very least, it was nice to get out of the humidity.

Surprisingly, our single day on the beach was filled with great weather. A lot of us were expecting it to rain, but it was super sun-shiney! And we all got burned. The boardwalk was also a great hangout at night. We stayed at the Grand Tourist Hotel in Mansang, the most northern part of Donghae. The hotel was owned by the same people who created Jungwon, so we weren't quite able to escape the odd marble-mansion architecture. But it was a great stay!

On our way back to Goesan on Sunday (we took nice Jungwon buses to and fro), we winded our way through high mountains to a little museum. A more strange museum I've never known...There were lots of great pottery pieces and artifacts, but there was also a whole giant fake cave. Strange... But we had bibimbap afterwards for lunch and that was great.

Camp Fulbright is well underway, and I've already taught my first class. It went pretty well, but I still have a lot more to learn and practice!

The weather is now sunny and great in Jungwon, but since camp has begun I haven't gotten a chance to go out and take pictures. I'll get to it sometime...

But in the meantime, I might have post on Seoul soon...Although all the ETAs are going in a few weeks, a group of friends and I might try to swing our own visit this weekend! So the next post might be very fun... Stay tuned!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why I can't wait to go to Seoul...

Basically, I just wanted to give you all something to chew on while I try to work through my first teaching experiences this week. I'll be teaching some quite advanced Fulbright Campers tomorrow at 2pm! Wish me luck!

But until I talk about about this past weekend's vacation to Donghae in my next post (it was super fun!), please enjoy this tasty morsel!


(Thanks goes to Alex for the link!)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eating (well?) at Jungwon

I know it's been a while since my last update, but I had really hoping that this next one could be about Jungwon University and how pretty the grounds are. Lulu was in for a fabulous photo shoot ... However, it's been raining with very few breaks for the last four days or so. :(

So I decided I'd talk about food instead. When we first arrived in the underground student cafeteria for our first few meals at Jungwon, most of us were pleasantly surprised. Word had gotten around that the food was quite bad, but we enjoyed it. Like I said in my last post, the grape tomatoes are THE best I've ever tasted! And watermelon that is so juicy and sweet has been the main fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

But, after a site visit last Friday to an actual ETA placement high school in Daejeon and the lunch we had there, I've got second thoughts. You see, since Korean high school students eat 2 (or maybe all three) meals at school, the food is actually quite good. And we had a great lunch at the school there. That's when we first realized that maybe the food at Jungwon wasn't quite the best ... at least by Korean standards.

Still though, we eat very well. And my chopstick skills are improving by leaps and bounds! The way it works is this: we come down into the cafeteria and swipe our ADT security token (oddly enough) to keep count of our meals. Then we pick up spoon and chopsticks and place then on the tray in their little right-hand slot. The rice goes first in the large square area, and all the side dishes (or banchan) in the top four slots, and sauce in the little square in the top right corner; and finally we pick up our soup and place it in the little rounded area made just for it. I hadn't thought about it until now, but this tray arrangement summarizes Korean eating preferences well: rice and soup are key and all the other dishes (banchan) are secondary.

Anyway, here is a picture of what I ate for breakfast just the other day:

Clockwise from the top sauce square: ketchup in the square spot, my utensils, a tofu fishcake soup, rice with seaweed, apples, this cole slaw-like stuff with a yummy apple-tasting dressing, little mystery meat sausages cooked with egg, and (of course) kimchi. And that is breakfast. Yep, I said breakfast. So far it hasn't really bothered me much except for one day when I just really wanted a pop-tart. The kimchi isn't the best, but I always eat it all. The soup that day was actually the first that I didn't finish - the fishcake slices floating in there were just too soggy and it gave the entire soup a really weird flavor. We also always have apple slices in the morning.

This was (a surprising) lunch later that day:

We get the feeling they wanted to cook an "American" lunch, and it was good. But just very strange to eat in Korea. They've done this only once or twice, but it's strange to come in and just pick up a pre-made plate with very little kimchi and the rice molded into a pretty ball. This actually ended being a very thin fried pork cutlet (if it even merits the designation of "cutlet") and it wasn't too bad. It's just odd when they try to cater to what they think "American" tastes are. (Or maybe they do this every once in a while to Jungwon students regularly...I'm not sure.) But especially after we've gotten used to eating with our spoon and chopsticks (Koreans use their spoons A LOT!), lots of rice dipped in everything, and going without drinking during the meal the single plate, fork and knife meal was weird. 

I have to emphasize that Koreans do not drink anything during their meal at all; essentially you drink your soup. And you just get water to wash everything down after putting your tray away. Lots of the other ETAs don't really follow this little cultural difference and get their cups of water to drink during their meal like Americans. But I've adjusted pretty well to going the entire meal without a drink. (That was certainly one surprise and something I do feel like I can say that I've adjusted to!) 

Anyway, the food is alright I guess. But after having such a yummy lunch at the high school last Friday, I'm wondering what more is out there to taste in Korea. I was hoping to make a whole page on my blog with just pictures of my plates through the year, but I just haven't gotten the chance to really eat an original Korean meal outside of Jungwon. The good news is later this week, a bunch of us ETAs and our new Korean friends are going out to eat samgyupsal in Goesan - a classic Korean dish, which most Koreans consider their favorite food! So that meal will probably officially start the "Pictures of Plates" page.

In brief other news, out first lesson plans for an English summer camp (which starts next week) are due tonight. Representatives from the US Embassy will visit tomorrow. And the entire ETA class will visit Donghae (a town on the east sea which literally means "East Sea") over the weekend to relax and have fun right before the camp begins. Korean classes are picking up and moving fast, but I think I'm doing well to stay caught up. I think I'll do a little studying now in fact.

But here's a picture of Korena, my roommate and Lulu as we prepare the spend the night finalizing lesson plans and studying! She's very cool and thank my lucky stars, we get along super well!! It's so surprising to find such a friend of the heart in a situation like this. More on her later for sure as we go on adventures with Lulu!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Settled and ready ... hopefully

Well, this is the last day of our Orientation's "Welcome Days." We 88 ETA grantees to SK have spent the last two days traveling from Incheon Int'l Airport to little Goesan (which is really pronounced Gwehsan - romanization is evil!), settling in and meeting each other, eating well (in my opinion), and getting ready for the beginning of REAL orientation.

I suppose I should start with something on the flight, but since I was unable to take pictures of my Korean experience I'm afraid I won't be able to describe it very well. Let's just say that the 14 hour flight felt much nicer than the 4 flights I have taken across the Atlantic to Spain. Korean Air is just superb. Period. It truly did not feel like the long flight that it was, I was able to sleep well (enough) and eat well, and the leg room was fabulous. Everyone might consider coming to SK just to experience Korean Air. It might be worth it...

Anyway, we arrived in SK to be greeted by torrential rain, drove through torrential rain for 2 hours to Jungwon University (the site of our orientation), and carried our luggage through some of the thickest humidity I've ever been in, and tried to settle in quickly before starting the orientation program. My roommate had already arrived on an earlier flight the day before from her homestate of Hawaii, so that helped with my own moving in. She is very lovely, but I will talk about Miss Korena B. in another blog.

So we've eaten Korean meals 5 times now. And each time it's been so delicious. I HAD THE BEST GRAPE TOMATOES EVER for my first meal here!!! Anyone eating these would completely understand why tomatoes are classified as fruit. So fresh and tasty with that lovely sweetness that only really good vegetables can have - it was a highlight for sure. But of course the kimchi is pretty good...The only weird thing is having a "regular" meal for breakfast.

I thought about it though, and I have to say that it is kind of weird that we Americans and Western Europeans have such a different expectation for what breakfast should consist of. I mean, food is food right? And there isn't really anything particularly "natural" about eating eggs and toast and other "breakfast only" sort of foods in the morning. In fact, I think we might be weirder for having such a segregated meal ideal for breakfast. Just something I noticed. I, for one, quite like having bulgogi (yummy grilled meat that an American palate would most likely expect at dinner) for breakfast!

Alright, then. Here are some pics of the room for all of you to whet your appetite with until the next blog.


Jungwon Univeristy is BEAUTIFUL. This is me next to one of their "pavilions." Once I get more pictures of the campus, Lulu and I will make a whole post on the University.

The view into room 1002. Yep, we're on the 10th floor!

The bathroom...

Notice the shower head, yet no stall like you might expect. You just shower in the room...which leaves a puddle. Strangely, I'm getting used to the persistent wetness quickly.

My desk and a half with the 3rd unused (storage) bed behind.

Random wall. Seriously, Korena and I don't understand it's purpose other than limiting the options for re-arranging furniture. Also includes the sliding tinted windows...odd.

My bed. Korean beds only consist of a mattress cover, and mattress pad, and a coverlet-like blanket. No fitted sheet or loose sheet. Actually pretty easy to sleep with.

Lulu ready for Korean class tomorrow morning ... for 4 HOURS STRAIGHT!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Waiting before the journey begins...

I'm sitting in the Richmond Airport as I wait for my flight to JFK.We'll begin boarding soon...but so far there aren't many people here which is good. Hopefully the plane won't be too full...but maybe people just aren't as "on-time" as I try to be.

Saying goodbye to the family and best friends was easier than I thought it would be. Most likely because I won't really feel their absence until I'm surrounded by people who are all speaking a very foreign language in a very far away place. It was still a good goodbye though.

Security was a breeze. No one in line - which was good since my carry-on and "personal item" were quite large and required a lot of unpacking. I would go into the luggage situation more here, but I think I might have more to say after landing a walking through Incheon in SK with all of it!

Anyway, here are two pictures then...One of my new travel companion, Lulu FruFru Howard. She is a pink flamingo. I figure since I won't be in most of my pictures, I need a subject to show off the scale of things. Besides, she's pretty.

Lulu and I sad from saying goodbye to Alex, Chelsea, Taylor, Marissa, Mom & Dad.

Lulu waiting with class. (Also note the empty gate!)

Very well then. I believe I'm off whether I'm ready or not.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Three days left...

I know this first post is perhaps a little late...it is Tuesday and I'm leaving for Korea on Friday. But I figure as long as a get started, I'm good!

Anyway, I'm typing this first post on my new computer which will accompany me to Korea and provide my best and surest link back to the States. The rest of the day's plan includes making a master list of things to pack and get started on actually packing...maybe. meh. If you know me, you know I'm not a very light packer. So this will really be my first big test! And as a procrastinator, I am putting off this very large task. It'll get done eventually.

As of right now, I'm quite excited. Not really nervous yet, just ready to actually get over there. It seems like all the other ETAs are going to be great companions and hopefully great new friends. And the university where we'll be staying for the first 6 weeks for orientation will be lovely (Jungwon University: http://eng.jwu.ac.kr/menu.do?key=1 )

Well, I suppose I should get started on that packing inventory...I really hope that this blog can be a cool and easy way to connect with all of you who are interested in following my year-long adventure. Feel free to post comments and I'll try to answer any questions! Enjoy!