Week 4, 2017

This week was the last week of Winter Intensive classes so we go back to our 12:30 start time tomorrow. Woohoo!

I attempted to braid my hair but my arms got tired and I couldn’t see what I was doing so I gave up after only braiding a quarter of my hair. I didn’t take it out and wore it to school the following day. Did I look like a dumb ass? Probably, but I don’t really care. The same day, I was attempting to eat pineapple when I dumped the package all over my desk and self. That was fun. Spill was one of the vocabulary words that day, so it worked out. And my boss tried to make me feel better by telling me, “at least you smell delicious!”


Hangman is a really popular game with my students… I’m not sure why. Maybe because they are in control of the class for that time? Whatever, I’m not complaining, they participate and speak English; that’s all I really ask.


Tuesday I came home and I could hear a cat crying. I was confused if it was in one of my neighbors’ houses, outside, or if I finally went completely nuts and it was in my head. I opened the door and the crying was louder. Okay, the cat’s totally in my building. I call out, “kitty” a couple times and peek down the stairs. No cat. So I go up the stairs… four flights in all and there’s a small cat sitting in the doorway to the roof. Um, okay? I hold out my hand and it comes and nudges me. Obviously a friendly thing. I scratch its ears and pet it. Its so dirty and cold. I attempt to pick it up and it runs away. After I gained its trust, I picked it up and started carrying it downstairs. I was going to put it outside and shut the building door, but no, I wanted to feed it first. So I took it in my house. Turns out kitty was  a boy, so I gave him some tuna and I felt really bad. I gave him a wet wipe bath which he seemed to really enjoy. I kept thinking, “omg what are you doing? You can’t keep this cat!” So after playing and snuggling, I put him back outside. Before I could close the building door, he ran up the stairs again. Fine, whatever. I started to feel itchy so I decided that it was good that I put him back outside, but I felt pretty guilty about it. If I knew what I was doing with my life I maybe would have kept him, but I don’t and I like not sneezing every two seconds.


Wednesday I apparently put the incorrect actor in a flashcard for the word “handsome” and it caused one of my classes to have a meltdown. “Teacher, ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” “Teacher, he’s NOT handsome!” and “Yuck!” were said multiple times. I asked them who they preferred and got some interesting answers. Later that day, in the same level, a different class had the opposite reaction. It was so funny. It told them their peers didn’t like the man in the photo and they were AGHAST.

Thursday wasn’t really all that special. I went to Suwon Station after work and found more shirts. I ate at Banes Taco and it was delicious but I almost pooed when I saw how much the fajitas were. It seems that this is the normal price for fajitas around here. *sobs* After that, I met up with Sunny and we had coffee and talked for quiet a long time.


Friday we didn’t have work because it’s Seollal or Lunar New Year. So… I go on the bus and went to Suwon Station again. I was determined to spend the 60,000 KRW gift certificates I had to Shinsegae. I remember seeing one of these stores last weekend when we went to Jukjeon for the work conference. And, since that is the location that seemed to be closest to home, I went there. The train was so empty is was unreal. Well, that store was closed. I had already spent an hour and half in transit time to get there, I didn’t want to turn around and go home… even though I thought about it. So I looked up the main branch of this store and it happened to be in Myeongdong – cool I know where that is. So I looked up on my handy subway app how to get there. On this journey, I forget where exactly, there was a man harassing people to buy his Josh Groban/Opera/Classical music CDs. Well, three line transfers and almost two more hours later I arrived at my destination. All while relaying my adventure with CeeCee. I got there, it was pretty busy. Walked around, inquired about the largest size shoes the vendors sold, was disappointed and went on my way. I used my gift certificates to buy a new Coach wristlet because my collection isn’t big enough already. I got home at 7pm so it was a pretty busy day of sitting on trains and spending money.

 


Saturday I wasn’t sure what would be open so I didn’t plan on anything. I decided to go for a walk because it was warm-ish outside. A new supermarket had opened on a main street by my house and it was open so I went there. They had tanks with live octopi in them and I wanted to buy one…I didn’t because I’m not going to eat it and it would die. They had a pretty loaded beverage section – I was impressed.

 


Yesterday, Sunday, I didn’t really do anything but do some laundry, watch movies, and consume food.

Today was a bit disorienting because I thought I had to go to work. I didn’t… so I didn’t really do much today either. I did make Sesame Chicken from scratch and that was pretty good but created a disaster in the kitchen. Cooking here, in this house is a pain because there is zero counter space.

Until next week,

B

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Weeks 2 and 3, 2017

I had a cold last week and didn’t open my computer at all. I didn’t feel as miserable as the last time I was sick but I just didn’t feel like updating. Nothing of substance really happened anyway.

It’s snowed a couple times in the past two weeks though none of it sticks much.


I had to bring home a stack of book reports to grade last Thursday and I had a pretty good assembly line set up while I was watching documentaries on Netflix.

I had some issues with the delivery person not wanting to leave my packages at my door; I wanted them left there because they were big and bulky and I didn’t want to carry junk over the pedestrian bridge. My school’s director, Chloe, was very kind and talked to the delivery people for me to have the items left even though I wasn’t home.

I walked to HomePlus last Saturday; the weather was windy and cold. I went up to another level I had never been to before. It was like finding the entrance to a secret club or something. There was a bookstore, pet store, music/guitar store, cafe, and random clothes shops up there. I, of course was drawn to the pet store. I looked at all the fish and small pets. Then I saw it. The cat room. There was a mama cat and three babies in a small plexi-glass room. One of the babies had a cone on his head. I wanted to take them all home. I did not. See, I do have some self control!

After HomePlus, I visited Etude House for some skin care products and got a pretty good haul. Then I walked back home because all my purchases from the day could fit in my backpack. When I got home I rested on the floor to warm my body. That in floor heating is good for something!  I then put together one of the big, bulking things I had ordered. A five drawer metal cabinet. It was pretty easy to figure out how to put together and I only hurt myself once to draw blood.

Sunday I didn’t feel right but thought I was just hungry. I took the bus to Suwon Station and then walked to Lotte Mall. This mall is laid out like a western style mall with a central path to get to stores and the stores actually being separated and sectioned off into actual stores. I went to eat at the Mexican restaurant. Though it doesn’t compare to the delicious Mexican food back home, it was pretty delicious. I decided to humor myself and go into one of the clothing shops, Uniqlo, to see if I could find any tops. I went to try on four tops and three of them fit! I was so shocked. So that made me happy. My last stop at the mall was the big grocery store. There are some products that I can’t find closer to my house so I scoped it out and everything I was looking for was there. I took a cab home because I feeling kind of shitty and I didn’t want to be on a crammed bus.

Monday, I woke up with a cold. How nice.

On Tuesday I felt the worst but I had time to rest so it wasn’t so bad. When I got home I realized I needed to wash some socks because I was out. I put a load of laundry in the washer and fell asleep. I woke up about an hour later and was confused. I went to check the wash and it was stopped but the water hadn’t drained out. I was panicking. I went upstairs to the landlord’s apartment and typed in my issue to Google translate. He came down and looked around my apartment before scoping out the washing machine. Then he called his wife to go get the neighbor that speaks English to be our translator. So there’s three extra people in my apartment trying to figure out what’s wrong with my washing machine. They determined the drain hose was frozen and that I needed to wait for it to thaw. That’s not so serious of a problem… I can deal with that. Around 11 pm I finally heard the water draining and made sure to spin the remaining water out of my clothes.

I could fully breath out my nose on Friday so I was happy about that.

Yesterday most everyone in the company I work for had to attend a conference at Dankook University in Seoul from 1 pm to 5 pm. I left my apartment at 10:20 am to grab some McDonald’s before the other foreign teachers and I met to catch the bus for our journey. It was lightly snowing as I sat and ate my breakfast. We got on the bus and transferred to the subway. We we got off the train we ran into one of the Korean teachers from our campus, Kathy. When we got towards the exit for the station, we saw the Korean head teacher, Jessica. We took two taxis to the University then we had to split up as there were separate lectures for Koreans and foreigners. We had to walk up a pretty steep hill, I was so tired after that. It wasn’t as boring as it could have been, so that’s good. Though for the last speaker, talking about games that we were told about at the last seminar, it was really hard to focus. While all this was going on, the snow continued to fall and had accumulated. Big, fluffy flakes were falling and it made me happy.

After the conference was over, we met back up with Jessica and Kathy. We tried to get a taxi but because of the snow there were none to be found. So, we took a packed bus back to the train station. We decided we would eat some Indian food after we got back to Suwon. We met a nice lady, Jen, on the platform for the train from the campus in Busan. We chatted the whole way back to Suwon. After a very delicious meal of Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, and Samosas Jessica, Olivia, and I went shopping. We went to the cellphone place and got Olivia a prepaid SIM for her phone. Then we went to a clothing store Jessica suggested. I found more shirts! Then we just kind of walked around. We ate ice cream and then came home.

It doesn’t feel like it’s 13 days until Christmas…

It doesn’t seem like Christmas is as close as it is. There is no snow, I killed a mosquito on Friday, and no one is really talking about it.

The week started off as any week would, there was a Monday… it was tiresome. Tuesday was a test on my patience. I have a class this term with three boys who have very high English comprehension and vocabularies. Two of them thought it would be hilarious to comment about how I have such a big butt, big stomach, and am equative to that of an Elephant. While I don’t deny that I am larger than the majority of Koreans (and even Americans), these boys did not stop commenting about this after I asked them to stop. After class I went to vent to my coworker and the director, as we all share a room. The director said she will talk to them on Thursday about it. And boy did she ever!

Wednesday made up for Tuesday because my cute class of all girls wanted to play “teacher draw…” where they shout out things from the story we read and they laugh at my horrible whiteboard drawings. Well, my bat wasn’t up to par with their expectations so they decided they wanted to try to draw it better. This turned into them drawing me on the board. Super cute.


Thursday came around and the director took the two boys into a private room and scolded them. I have no idea what she said because I had to look after the other student but when the two came back to class they looked so depressed and offered me a very insincere apology. Later that day, I had a class of learners who are lower level English learners and two boys from that class were not very behaved either. I had to write a list on the board of things they were not permitted to do in class (photo below). After warnings, I sent one kid to the desk team twice for disrupting the class. He clearly doesn’t care that it’s somewhat shameful to be sent to the desk to be scolded. Another kid from the same class was sent to the desk once and was on the verge of another trip.


All the native English speakers and a few of the Korean teachers went to trivia on Thursday. It was pretty fun but after round 3/5 for trivia and adding more and more alcohol to the mix, people lose their attention spans or it becomes boring. The bar has this really good ginger beer, Crabby’s, so I imbibed. On the way home, I stopped at McDonald’s and either said the wrong thing ordering or was misunderstood. I got a double quarter pounder – one quarter pound of beef on a burger is perfectly enough for me. When I paid I thought, “dang that seems really expensive…” but clearly didn’t care that much. I didn’t eat it until I walked home five minutes later and my fries were cold to discover why it was so spendy.

Friday night after work I got some jjajangmyeon, a Korean Chinese noodle dish topped with a thick sauce made of chunjang (a salty black soybean paste when unheated), diced pork and vegetables, and had a Netflix party with my bad self. I also decided at 3:45 am, that it was a good as time as any to start cleaning my apartment; I swept, Swiffered, washed the dishes, and took out my recycling.

Yesterday I went to HomePlus with my coworker Nick. I bought a lot of random things, but I found fajita mix in the foreigner food aisle! I bought a toaster oven, toaster, and groceries. I also found some raspberry sparkletini and bought two because it’s delicious and it reminds me of good times had with friends back home. After taking a taxi home with Nick I realized he took one of my bags of loot home with him. Thankfully he did because I started to look for my phone to message him as the taxi drove away. WHERES MY PHONE?! In the taxi! I swear to you, I have never ran that fast in my life!!! I got him to stop, retrieved my phone off the floor, and thanked him for stopping. That’s enough excitement for one day. 😑


Today I went to Myeongdong, Seoul to buy some gifts for Christmas. After some shopping I saw a hair place that was recommended to me. I went in, said I wanted a hair cut and was on my way to what would work out to be a two hour adventure. This place was far fancier than any other I’d ever been to. They take your bags and coat and put them in a locked locker. After that they give you a robe to put on and escort you to the shampooing room where it’s dim and relaxing. They put a thin tissue over your eyes so you don’t get splashed and cover you with a blanket. Then after the wash, they take you to the stylist’s chair and you get a cape and proceed with the cutting of hair. My intention was to just get a trim but while cutting my hair the stylist said, “why not get a straight perm?” Since I had been thinking about it, I went for it. After the initial cut, I was moved to what looked like a dining room table. There I got my perm chemicals applied by not one but two people and was put under a heater twice for five minutes to bake the chemicals into my hair. Then I was back in the shampoo room, taken back to the chair for blow drying and flat ironing, got some more chemicals put on my head, and had my hair washed for a third time and blown dry a second.

After all that, I did some more shopping and decided to go home. I got lost…again. I successfully got off at the correct subway station to catch my bus but I got on the wrong bus at the bus stop. I got on and things were going okay until I realized this bus was super old and didn’t have the tv that tells you which stop is next and I started to panic. I got off at some random stop when I looked at google maps and realized I was not where I should have been. My friend Sunny was able to help me figure out how to at least get to some place familiar and get home from there.

Now I’m home with my soft straightened hair and get to start it all over again tomorrow.

So I’ve been in South Korea for 33 days…

As the title states, I’ve been in Korea for 33 days now. I’ve experienced and learned loads of things.

Things I’ve learned:

  • moving to another country is OVERWHELMING as fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck
  • students are really impressed when you can spell your name in Hangul
  • students are also exponentially impressed when you answer them, outside of their paid class time, in Korean
  • taking the bus at night when you know nothing about your surroundings is terrifying – especially if you get lost
  • you get lost a lot – like A LOT
  • you will have so many blisters on your feet from walking around – like incepta-blisters (blisters on top of blisters, on top of blisters, on top of blisters)
  • the general public is either terrified of you (locking their car doors when they see you walking) or exponentially happy to see you (waving and smiling and trying to speak English to you)
  • bus drivers are really REALLY nice and will try to help you as much as they can
  • If you want American style pizza, like Papa John’s, it’s going to cost you about $30-ish for what we consider a medium size and it will be their large size
  • Koreans put sweet corn on their pizza – like wtf and I’m from Iowa
  • Korean shampoo makes my hair super greasy feeling – yuck
  • not having a clothes dryer actually kind of sucks in a really humid environment
  • if you can read Hungul but don’t comprehend what you’re reading it doesn’t really help that much
  • people like to abruptly stop in the middle of the sidewalk and you will bump into them and they will act like it is your fault
  • if you are female and someone calls you “pumpkin” it means they think you’re ugly
  • if you’re female and someone asks you if you’re Russian, it means they think you’re a prostitute
  •  you will make a ton of mistakes
  • just when you think you’re getting shit together, something else happens and you’re back to feeling like a loser who always fucks up

Yesterday I went to register myself as an alien. I love that I can say that. Yo, I’m an alien guys! The director’s assistant, Hyo Bin, and I went to the clinic to pick up the results for my health check that I had last week. He was exceptionally hung over and still reeked of alcohol – I wonder if he would have passed a breathalyzer.  I passed, obviously because I have neither HIV nor do methamphetamines which seem to be the most important tests they run on you. So we went to the opposite side of Suwon and I paid money to register myself as an alien. I also had my finger prints re-scanned and gave a picture of myself for my alien registration card (ARC). 

On the way back to school a 방탄소년단 or BTS song came on and I was trying very hard not to burst out in uncontrollable laughter. The song, Fire, is totally my jam and I tucked my lips inside my mouth over my teeth to keep from embarrassing myself. Well that shit didn’t work! I was humming along and Hyo Bin grabbed my shoulder in shock and asked me if I knew the song. He also asked me if I liked Kpop and I did my best to appear casual about it. And then he asked me which groups I like and I just pointed at his radio. He was like, “aaah but they’re babies!” And I was like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯   Yeah, so? He seemed so surprised that I knew that song though. 

This week we started calling students at home for phone speaking; where we have to call all students we have in our classes once per term. I found out I screwed up my phone schedule I handed out to the kids (see aforementioned fuck ups) so that was fun. My Korean and native English speaking coworkers were really understanding about it though and said some kind, encouraging words to me. I at least got a trail run to make a phone call to one student and it went pretty well. It is a bit weird though, calling students who don’t ever really talk in class and you’re like, wow you have a voice!?

One of my Korean co-teachers told me today that when she spoke with the kids’ parents the kids always tell the parents about how kind Britt Teacher is. That made me feel pretty good.

Today I learned if students are missing from class longer than three minutes I am to notify staff as they might have been injured or tried to attempt suicide. 😳

Monday, October 3 is Gaecheonjeol, or National Foundation Day. This is a pretty cool holiday because it celebrates the creation myth of Korea as the founding of the nation (see Creation Myth). Because of the three day weekend, my coworker Sean, girl who works at our parent company Brittany, and another girl who I have yet to meet Elizabeth are going to stay in a hostel and putz around Seoul. Luckily, there are loads of free or relatively inexpensive things for our broke asses to do. I know we’re going to the Korean War Memorial, Namsan Tower, Gyeonbok Palace, and some sort of theme cafe.

Say what? Earthquake?!

Hmm where I do start?

Friday was a pretty bad day. I have three students in my first class that seem to be out to be the shittiest little kids in all my classes as two or all three of them are throwing a fit about something everyday. The girl is essentially a seven year old baby. She cried because one of the boys touched her pencil case. There is one boy in the same class that legit looks like a mini version of a middle aged man that’s hung over and always pissed off about something. These kids are like 7 or 8 and in that class all hell broke loose on Friday and I got yelled at for not controlling the class better. I agree it was a shitshow, however that was only my 6th day teaching so I don’t really know why the expectations are that I’m perfect and nothing goes wrong, like ever.

My coworkers and I went to a bar close to work and had some beer (ew) and they succeeded in making me feel better. Afterwards, two of us wanted to get pizza but it was closed 😦 So I was shown the walking trail as an alternate to taking the pedestrian bridge.

Saturday the head teacher, Andrea, showed me how to get HomePlus which is like a Target or Walmart. It’s about a 20 minute walk if you’re a slow walker like me. This store is near the baseball stadium. The store was pretty cool. I went with the intent to look for a desk or table lamp and of course I didn’t remember that when I got there. I did, however, remember to buy pillow cases and a fitted sheet. I also bought about $50 worth of groceries. We took a cab back home because I bought lots of juice and that shit is heavy and I’m not about to carry that for 20+ minutes. Hell no.

Sunday I was excited to put my newly purchased and washed sheet on my bed… I bought the wrong damn size! I got a single/twin and my bed is a queen! I was not surprised because I do this kind of thing all the time.

Today I had my M-W-F kids, the same little terrors. The two trouble some boys started a fight over one’s book being over the halfway line of the desk. One of them even did the “come at me bro” action. tumblr_lmfoyckhfk1qii6tmo1_500 meanwhile, I was like, giphy and then I realized that I was the “responsible” adult in the room and made the least troublesome of the boys move to the back of the room.

As requested, I made this video of my walk from school to my apartment. Yes, that is a veterinarian’s office across the hall from my academy. I always peep in there and look at the doggies.
My Walk Home

After shooting this video there was apparently an earthquake in southeast Korea. I didn’t feel it but a girl who works in an academy down the street from me on the 6th floor did. Kind of makes me wonder if I even know what an earthquake “feels” like.

What am I even doing?

Yesterday it rained all day and the school’s director picked me up because of this; apparently she doesn’t live that far away from the hotel which is far from school. It was really nice of her to do that but it was also kind of awkward.

I was supposed to prepare for mock teaching and for my classes that start on Friday. I still don’t have a desk so that was fun. I was given syllabi and book lists that I’m sure make sense to people working there for more than a day but I seriously don’t get it. So I’m trying to organize things and it’s just so frustrating because I have this pile of shit and it means nothing to me. I’m in everyone’s way and they are so busy that I can’t really ask questions. I know nothing and it’s a bit irritating, honestly. So, I did as bad as expected on my mock teaching and was told I need to practice more and ask the other teachers for help (see above). 

It was one of the Korean teacher’s last day yesterday and we went to eat after work which was like at 9pm and we leave around 10. I wanted to take a cab but everyone was like it’s too expensive take the bus. I get on the bus but the stops are only in Korean so that doesn’t really mean anything to me as:

  1. I don’t know what corresponds with the stop names
  2.  It’s dark out so I have no idea where I am 
  3. I’m so stupid when it come to directions – if I can’t recognize my surroundings by landmark all hope is lost

So I’m clearly on the bus too long in some tiny ass neighborhood that I’ve never seen before so I message the head teacher “I’m lost and have no idea where I am” and send her my location from my phone. She’s like omg how?!  And tries to have a taxi come pick me up. No taxi. I finally see a taxi randomly driving and flag him down. He was super nice and got me back to my hotel in a hour. So I got back at midnight on the dot. Annnnd now I’m out roughly $50 when, if I would have taken a cab like I wanted it it would have been $30ish. 

Tl;dr – I am not having a good time. Yesterday sucked. 

I went solo

First off here’s a pic of the hotel all the teachers are staying at 


It has a wedding/convention center attached, which is bigger than the hotel and not pictured.

I, again, woke up at 5:45 am. #gross

So I only had one day of training at headquarters and today I’m off to see Suwon, my school, and meet everyone. I had to take a bus for 15/20 minutes to the subway station and then ride the subway for about an hour


At first I go on the train going the wrong way! 😱 Luckily I realized my mistake right away and got off at the next station and swapped trains. 

I got to my destination early and was able to walk around. I immediately spotted an Indian restaurant, three skin care brand stores, a Pizza Hut, Popeye’s Chicken, and Starbucks. My first thought: this is going to be ok. I slipped in to Starbucks and got a celebratory Frappucino for not getting too lost or dying! 

I met the current head foreign teacher who is leaving on Thursday and her replacement at the train station exit and caught a bus back to school where I was introduced to the staff and other teachers. 

The director of the school wanted to have a chat with me to get to know me rather than reading about me in a file. She seemed very impressed with the classes that I took through University of Iowa and King Sejong Insititute. She said that I have a really nice voice and that I have the dispossition for being an English teacher.

I only observed classes yesterday and honestly it was a bit overwhelming just because it was all so new. I also got my books and the schedule for what I’ll be teaching. I don’t have desk yet because the one teacher is still still teaching until Thursday and I’m  a bit in the way. 

Everyone at school is very nice and welcoming. Of the native English speaking teachers that are staying, two are Canadian, one is from UK, and one from Wisconsin. The director bought us lunch and told me a faster way to get home than I took. She also rode the bus with me and walked me to the hotel. Which was super nice because we had a meeting after classes were over and didn’t arrive at the hotel until 11pm. 

Friday is the big day. The director will pick me up in her car and take all my suitcases to school. I will start teaching classes on Friday. This is not a drill. I will start teaching classes on Friday. And after a full day of teaching I will move into my apartment. I’m moving into the apartment of the teacher that’s leaving so it makes it a bit weird right now having to come to and from the hotel everyday. 

First day of everything

I slept for a super long time yesterday 

Apparently moving across the globe can make you a morning person, who knew? 

After that glorious amount of sleep I got myself ready and went to to lobby to meet the school’s bus to take me to the first day of training. I was told there’d be other teachers going as well but when I got to the lobby ten minutes before I was told the bus would leave, I was the only one there…for a while. The first two people I met were super nice dudes, Ross and Jacob, who were also going to the same place I was. Yay! Everyone else in the group kind of ignored me. Boo!

I came to learn that all the other teachers in this group had been at our hotel/in the area since Friday or earlier, some coming a month ahead of time to scope things out. That must have been nice as a lot of them already are super comfortable with the public transit system and know the ins and outs of our neighborhood. 

So I learned about the system of my school and the names of the different levels and what is taught at each level yesterday…for eight hours; 9am to 5pm. For lunch my two new friends and two other guys and I went to Burger King! It was good, there was something we all couldn’t exactly describe but the meat tasted a little different. 

Afterwards, Jacob and I had to get our pictures taken for the directory so we had to stay behind and not get the academy bus back to our hotel. Luckily, he’s already been living here for a year and helped me get a transit money card and we took the subway then bus back. It took us about an hour to get back this way. 

Around 8pm, Jacob and I decided to get something to eat. Since he’d been here a couple days before me he knew where to look for food. We ate at a chicken restaurant and had a chicken, cabbage, rice cake stir fry thing topped with cheese that kind of resembled skillet lasagna. It was sooooooooooo delicious! After dinner he helped me figure out the route I’m supposed to take to my school today.

I still only know what’s going on on a day by day basis which I’m told is normal and I should get used to it. Meh.