Sunday, March 31, 2013

Camping with Koreans

A couple of weeks ago, Ellen and I signed up to go on a camping trip with our cross-fit gym. We thought it would be cool to make some Korean friends in our area that we see on a day to day basis. So we paid our 25 dollars to go on a camping trip. We kept trying to find out where we were going or what we needed to bring, but no one had an answer for us. They said "just bring yourself"...we were like, "what about food, or sleeping bag, we have no tent, is that ok? Should we bring soju?" The reply "bring what you want, we bring everything."

Unknowing of what is going on, we show up Saturday morning with our stuff at 10 am feeling slightly "under the weather." Everyone laughs at how much stuff we have (which for me was just a sleeping bag, pad, some warm clothes and marshmallows). Then we head on our way. Our new friend, Jason, drives us and even he has no idea where we're going. Eventually we turn onto this road, that isn't a road at all, but a paved...mound of dirt? with fields on each side? I don't even know how to describe is a picture (sketchy is what it was).

We drive past this lake, full of garbage, where people are fishing. Some people fish from boats. Other people fish from little houses. They have small floating houses (REALLY small) that fit probably one bed, and then they set their fishing stuff out side and use the house part to avoid the sun (I pretty much made all of that up, but that's my best guess).

Then we turn into the "campsite" which looks like a mound of dirt. Layers of mounds of dirt. When I think of camping, I think of beautiful places, or hiking, or....something to do. This place, not so beautiful, and NOTHING to do.

We get there and everyone starts setting stuff up. But not speaking the language, we have no idea what to do or how to ask how to help or anything, so we stand around and watch. After everything is set up, they build a fire and feed us some hotdogs (yum!). Then when everyone is bored, we decide to go rent some boats and go rowing. We row around for about an hour. Oh...each boat must have one man (because they're stronger, naturally). Turns out our one man, not so strong. Doesn't quite get the concept of paddles IN the water to make the boat go. He starts to row us back, and gets us stuck next to shore in the garbage water. Ellen and I try and direct him in very broken English. Then I finally stand up and say "changeee" and he moves, and I haul ass out of there. Everyone is very shocked (especially my trainer because she seems to think I've never worked out before in my life (FALSE) and yet I can row better than the next guy (literally)). At that point, we were cold, it was windy, and we wanted to just go back. Not to mention we were extremely exhausted from the night before.
Life Jacket, no big deal. 

When we get back to the campsite, they start cooking again. Meat. Lots and lots of meat. BEST meat I've ever tasted though, seriously. SO SO good. We eat, we drink, it starts raining. I decided to sit inside the tent with the heater (yes, we had a heater) and make best friends with the littler girl. That's right, did I mention that one of the first things we found out when we got to the campsite was that one of our Aran students was there (his parents recognized us right away). Fortunately he wasn't OUR kid and his sister was adorable AND they didn't stay the night, so it was fine. So anyways, I start making friends with the girl, passes the rainy time, good times had by all. Also ate some DELICIOUS hamburger meat of some kind. WOW the food was soooo good all weekend long.
My new little friend. She went and got her sun glasses because I was wearing mine! OMG so adorable!
This meat was sooooo good. Seriously. I can't even explain. 

Camping Korean style...with a heater, and electrical outlet.

Gym owners gettin jiggy Gangnam Style. 

All in all,  made some awesome new friends, experienced camping Korean style, and had a fun time!

Some cultural things that I thought were hilarious:

  • They were absolutely fine with burning plastic. These people, who if they have tiny bit of black on their meat think they'll get cancer...BURN PLASTIC!
  • Obviously alcohol opens everyone up a little, but Koreans are particularly shy around us..until alcohol is involved. Then they are QUITE open.
  • The heater thing.
  • Also, Koreans are quite the sharers...and it's still a little hard to get used to. Very kind, but also, being a Westerner, I like MY things for ME....
  • Koreans LOVE marshmallows. They ate them all day, all night and all morning. Thank you Costco and you're welcome Fitness Camp people!
  • We got stared at a lot. Ellen made a nice analogy this morning about how we're like zoo wanna watch them from afar, but you don't necessarily want to get in the cage. (I think some of them were legitimately afraid of us)

In other news. Today was Easter. So we decided to dye some Easter eggs thanks to my lovely mother who sent me egg dye. However we only had apple vinegar...didn't work quite so well...but got the job done. Oh and BROWN eggs (some colors don't work so well, like yellow). And the kit itself was a tye dye kit, not a normal dye kit. So we probably did the whole thing wrong. Oh and then found out that our flat of like 30 eggs weren't boiled all the way, so we can't give them away or eat them, most of them we'll have to throw out :( Oh's about the process NOT the product (story of our teaching lives and otherwise...reggio emilia style up in Korea)

Have a great Easter everyone! People here are still pretty un-phased about North Korea. Not sure how to feel at this point. I guess not much I can do but have a plan, some cash, and my passport ready to go? I love you all! Miss the great Miguk (Korean for America). I hit my 6 months of being IN Korea on the 25th ish, but won't hit my 6 month teaching mark till the 15th. It's hard right now. I miss home. I hope with the weather change, time will start to FLY...if only the weather would change. LOVE!!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Saint Patty's Day and My Kiddos!

This year I celebrated Saint Patrick's Day for the first time in the history of my life. Which is ironic, because I'm in Korea. However Seoul has a "huge" Saint Patty's party every year so me and my coworkers decided to trek that way. I've never been a huge Saint Patty's goer, but I think the love that my co-worker Ellen has for the holiday moved me in that direction. We started our festivities at 11am which included (but was not limited to) as many temporary tattoos as I could find room for on  my body (they quickly became an obsession of where I could put them...I haven't done them since I was like, 10) decorating our selves in everything green, and taking pictures. Then around 12:30 we headed to the festival.

Here I am all tatted up!

 We got there and it was actually a fairly small area. However it was PACKED with foreigners and green. There were pretty much zero Koreans. The coolest part about being there, in my opinion, was it helped me see the community and friends I've made during my time here in Korea. It was amazing to see so many people I knew that I had been on trips with, or met out, or who were friends of friends. This reminded me of being out in Bellingham when you walk into a bar and everyone is a familiar face. It was quite nice to see so many familiar faces in such a foreign country and in such a HUGE city.

This is the festival. There was some Irish dancing in the middle and everyone was watching and drinking and talking. 

Green beer!

After that, we moseyed on over to the other main foreigner part of town (Itaewon) where there are a couple Irish pubs, but also mostly just a good time. I experienced my first ever green beer, and did more socializing with friends and coworkers. It was overall a really fun time and I'd like to thank Ellen for loving Saint Patrick's Day so much that I got to fully experience it : )

In other news, the new school year is still extremely difficult and taxing. However we have the CUTEST 5 year olds (although in American age they're 3 and 4 year olds) I have ever seen in my life! They literally make my day every day. EVERY DAY. They are the joys of my teaching. Them and this one kid, Ryan. The other day I was walking with him to his class and I said "Ryan, you are the diamond in the rough." (because our classes really are very rough right now) and he just looked up at me and was like "Teacher, what?" and then Mandy Teacher (that's my co teacher) was like "Ryan, you're like Aladdin." And he was like "oh." and that was it. I have a passion for these students, even if they often refuse to be taught. Sigh. We'll get there soon kids, we will.
My fives playing freeze dance.
Playing a name game with our kids in a "circle"

More freeze dance (me and little Andy)

And you guessed it...more freeze dance. (We play a lot of freeze dance because they speak next to no English). 

And these are a couple of my 7's. However the purpose of this picture is to show you my little diamond in the rough, Ryan, in the front wearing blue. Oh how endless their adorableness is. And yet they are so challenging. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New Faces

In the past few weeks, many changes have happened here in good ole Korea. The biggest downfall to being an expat is constantly having to say goodbye to people. And unfortunately this ranges from children to coworkers to loved ones to friends.

With the start of the new school year, I lost nearly all of my 7's I was teaching. They graduated Kindergarten and moved to first grade. The good news is, I still see about 5 of my kids I had last year at our elementary in the evenings. The bad news is, the rest of them are gone. It's quite sad. The other good news, however, is that I have a whole lot of new 7 year olds, and boy are they cute (some of the time).

Another change that occurred at our school is the classes in which we teach. Originally I was teaching 4 35 minute classes with 30 kids, a 60 minute class with 7 kids, and then my elementary second graders with 5 kids. NOW I'm teaching 2 7's classes of 30 kids for 30 minutes, a class of 30 5 year olds (which in korea are actually 3 years old) for 30 minutes (that starts on Monday, I'll let ya know how that goes), a class of 21 kids for 80 minutes and then 3rd grade with my same kids (YAY!) plus 2 more, one of which was my old student back in october and november. So to say the least, our style in which we are teaching, as well as curriculum and time periods, have changed very dramatically. Today is only day 4 of teaching this way, so it's still taking a lot of getting used to and we STILL don't even have all of our classes yet.

All that aside, we got 2 new coworkers, who are simply from good ole "Seattle" (actually Lynnwood for those who are counting...but I tell people I'm from Seattle as well because that gets me closer to home than even saying Washington because people assume D.C), the other is from Cali. Both speak Korean so that's kind of nice to have around in our lives :)

However I also lost Anushca and Steve...people who were in my life for such a brief amount of time (although they'll prooooobably still be around even though they're not in Korea, and in fact ARE in communication with me even though they aren't in Korea)..but they had such a huge impact on me because they're super awesome people, and I'm sad they're gone :(

Let's see...other changes, I just joined a gym this week. Workout day 3 completed today. Personal trainer surprised an extra thing in my set and then an extra set overall. But I'm excited about it and its going well. Although on a side note, Ellen and I were watching soccer while doing our cardio, and Korean soccer drives me crazy. They're all really big babies and get ouchies too easily. Jeez laweez. So not necessary.

Ah and if you're in the states and reading this, I'm sure you're quite concerned for my safety with North Korea and a ripped up armistice and nuclear bombs and whatnot. The funny thing about Koreans is they are completely unphased. Not to mention, they don't like to talk about it. Essentially, North Korea give this threat like every  year and nothing ever happens. Sure, sure there is a new ruler now, but they are still not worried. My take on the matter...if they're gunna nuke this country, there's not a whole lot I can do about it as a civilian. Reminds me of World War whatever when people were practicing hiding under their desks if we got nuked.
If you get nuked, your desk isn't gunna save ya. In my opinion, it's kind of in the hands of the governments and militaries of all countries,  and since I'm involved with neither, I take what's coming my way. Living life to the fullest, having no regrets, and telling my loved ones I love them as often as I can (hey loved ones, I love you!) So take a deep breath. I'm doing fine and dandy over here, and really, whatshisface in North Korea probably hates America more than South Korea so maybe you have more to worried about than I do? I'm worried about YOU in the states, so don't you worry about ME in South Korea :)

Love to all!