Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Reflections

Goodbye 2008. Does anyone remember what happened?

I do.

When January 1st 2008 happened last year I knew exactly what my New Year's Resolution would be. That was to live and work in Korea. I knew I had to do it, no matter the fact that I had a chronic illness or very little money.

And so as this is New Year's Eve I feel somewhat nostalgic and proud that I made my 2008 resolution come true.

But now what??

What New Year's resolution should I make now that I have completed last years? I feel somewhat intimidated from the fact that I reached a goal of mine.

I guess I need to think about what I want to see happen in my life in 2009.

So here are some lofty goals:
  • See more of Asia.
  • Create more Art (an everyday goal that slips past me)
  • See more Art
  • Make more friends
  • Become a better teacher.
  • Try to get a TESOL certificate
  • Complete a 2000 piece puzzle. (I secretly love jigsaw puzzles)
  • Learn Korean!
Anyways when you think about New Year's is a good time in life to be gracious for all you have. It means you lived one more year of life.

For Koreans the New Year also means that on January 1st everyone becomes a year older.

Tomorrow folks I will be 29 years old, via Korean age!!! I can't even comprehend where 27 and 28 went?? In my heart and mind I am still 27 years old. But BK likes to tease me that soon I will 30. I don't care about my age really and that I will someday be 30 or 40. In fact I have always enjoyed getting older.

Life these days has been calm and without large amounts of stress. I believe I have leaving the Hagwon to thank for that.

Tonight for New Year's Eve I have nothing planned. I could go venture out into Seoul, but it is too cold in my opinion. I am doing laundry right now and will figure out something "fun" to do.

I have tomorrow off and will meet up with BK, who is back from training finally.

Anyways to all those out there I wish everyone a fruitful and peaceful 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter Camp Photos Group 1

Today ended the 3rd and 4th graders session of Winter Camp at my school. They seemed lively today and enjoyed our role-play marketplace and the sandwich activity. Amazingly it all filled up 4 hrs of fun.

Here for you are snapshots from the day:
Market Time!!
First Round: Buyers = 4th grade / Sellers = 3rd grade
My coteacher and I laminated copies of American money for them to use. But somewhere along the way we lost our batch of $5 bills and only had $1 and $10, so we used Monopoly $5 bills.

The students made signs for their post and practiced saying "What would you like?" and "How much is this?"
Time to Eat!! I tried to get them to look at the camera, but they were enjoying their sandwiches too much.


And of course this post wouldn't be complete without a video show of the kids! Enjoy!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter Camp Duty

One of the stipulations in my contract is that I work Winter Camp sessions during the children's holiday.

There are 2 weeks of this and both are interesting.

1st Week:
  • Held at my school from 9am to 12:10pm.
  • The week is split up with 3rd and 4th grade coming the first half, and 5th and 6th coming the second half.
  • Class size is 20 students.
  • Our theme is: Animation, make a diorama, role-play market, make sandwiches
  • It is more fun than serious.
2nd Week:
  • Held not at school but all the way in Chung-nam province, Chungyan. Several other teachers will be there.
  • 4 nights 5 days.
  • Sleep and live in cabins. Work is from about 9am to 8pm at night, with breaks for food in between. (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • The first and last day are more about ceremony than lessons.
  • Not looking forward to this one seeing how I have to leave the comfort of my home, but what the heck right...it is part of the adventure.
Here for you is the email I received with further information:
Hello, teacher.

I'm Mr. Majaeok in Gunpo city-hall, I'm manager of Gunpo winter camp

I heard your questions about our winter camp

Gunpo English Winter camp will be held in Chung-nam province, Chungyang

You will stay in Chungyang Youth-Center that have pension or cabin

And You will teach the usual english expression to elementary students. (10~13years old)

The number of students are 75. we organize 5 group, the group has 15 students.

The subject of winter activity is snow sliding, flying a kite and Korean traditional games.

You will play with student and teach the usual english expression, naturally.

Because our camp is 4nights and 5days, You should prepare your clothes, toilet articles, and towers

We will give whole meal and some snack.

We will move through 2 big bus, please come to Gunpo City-hall 1st floor at 8:10 , 5th January.

I hope that my answer will be helpful to you. Thank you, see you later.
Wow, the subjects sound like PE activities. I just hope that they are not held outside. But I don't know how you can do kite flying indoors. :(

In a separate email there was attached our lesson plans which have subject matter that goes beyond these PE activities. So looks like they will learn Science and other subjects but through fun activities.

I feel some stress because one of the major things I struggle with as a teacher is being a fun person. I tend to explain stuff in a serious tone and then try to say something about it in a light and fun tone, but usually the kids just stare back at me blankly.

Sigh~

During this time I won't be able to blog...maybe the place will have some computers so I can check email. Well, that is my winter camp duty that most Public School teachers face here in one way or another.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Korean Over-The-Counter Medicine

Winter is that lovely time of the year when you wear more than one layer of clothing and have to spend 5 minutes getting your coat and everything on before you leave the house.

It is also the season of sneezing, coughing and runny noses. As a teacher one of the benefits is that you pay for a portion of health insurance. This means that you can go visit a doctor without the typical hassle one might encounter from a doctor back in America. For example, when I needed to visit a doctor back home if I had a bad flu I would have to go to the open clinic. Where I would sit and wait for an hour to see a Doctor. The fees would have been high too, I guess it depends on what insurance one had in America. (I had none)

Anyways, visiting a doctor here is not so hard. But like the post-office and Bank the doctor's office closes around 5pm here, that is for the English speaking doctor. So to get to him in time I have to request to leave work early.

The week before last I developed a cough and requested to see the doctor. But the doctor told me I didn't need medicine.

To this day I am still coughing. And within the past few weeks I have been to pharmacies getting non-prescription medicine, or over-the-counter meds.

Pharmacies here are not like the one's back home, where you walk into the drugstore and there are rows and rows of shelves selling over-the-counter products. Here a pharmacy usually has a few self-care things in the front, such as band-aids, toothpaste, vitamins but to get to the drugs you need to ask the person at the counter.

Apparently the "over-the-counter" drugs here are found behind the counter. Access to drugs like Tylenol can be given to you upon request.

With the use of my cell phone's dictionary I was able to retrieve a few cough medicines from the pharmacist.

Now for you is a pictorial review of the medicines I have collected.

Neocol-F are like cough medicine in pill form. These have the drug Guaifenesin, which is good for clearing you of snot. But it also dehydrates you, so drink a lot of water.

I would say this drug is effective at slowing down the cough rate and making things feel a little clearer. But I am still coughing so it isn't a miracle cure.


The next drug is called Hardy Cough F tab. I could not find any Internet info on it. But I asked BK what the difference is and he said this one is a lot stronger than the Neocol-F. I could definitely feel more of a difference with these and when taken at night I don't wake up coughing. But like I said I am still coughing, so still not a miracle cure.

And for a runny nose I found the medicine CONTAC Gold is similar to the American brand Contac drugs. It has a decongestant in it Phenylpropanolamine to clear up your sinuses. This drug worked really well when I had a non-stop runny and sneezy nose. I have also tried to use it to clear up the snot riding down my throat to stop the cough, but without success.


All of these medicines had no serious side effects except dehydration like I mentioned before. Also they were all pretty cheap coming in at 2000 Won (1.50 USD). Of course there are only about 10-12 tablets inside, which isn't a whole lot.

In general, if you can't get to a doctor here in Korea for ailments such as the cold or flu you can try to get these over-the-counter meds to help you feel better.

But the best medicine of all (rest and chicken soup) can only be found if you got the time and a can.

Anyways, hopefully my cough will start to go away. It isn't terrible just annoying.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joy to the World

Hey it is Christmas... in case you live in a cave with no holidays.

Got the day off today.

Spent it with BK as he had the day off from training. We met up in Yongsan, which has a huge shopping mall complex with movie theatre.

We saw the new movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still" which BK fell asleep to. It was all right but certainly nothing to remember.

Some other things we did were get our pictures taken, eat some candy and watch other couples.

Christmas is a couple holiday in Korea, so there were a lot of couples out holding hands.

Anyways, after all that BK took me to a Jimjilbang.

Basically it is a sauna house type place. There is one large room where the floor is heated and you can lie on it and take a break. This particular Jimjilbang was huge!

You get a set of clothing to wear at the place, which you change into in a locker room. The locker room is seperate from the men of course, and the women were naked.

This Jimjilbang had other sauna rooms you could go into, some smoking hot, mild and icy cold. You could pay to get a massage or sit in a massage chair. I did use the massage mechanical chair which hurt like hell.

The place was packed and mostly with families. So although appearing to be a relaxing place it really was a glorified public / relaxing space.

I would like to go to one again but maybe fine one a little more laid back, if even possible.

Well gotta work tomorrow. BK goes back to his last week of training.

The weather is staying at a cold temperature these days and I am praying for an early spring.

Oh, happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vacation Planning

Hi there people!

I get a vacation from Jan 13 to Jan 26th (start back on 27th). So far I have no plans formulated yet. I have a lot of ideas:
  • Visit another country (cost money and need to book tickets)
  • Go on bus tours around Korea
  • Find an art class for a couple of days.
  • Be a tourist.
If you coincidentally have time off during this period and haven't made plans yet, then maybe we can plan something together.

Or if you know of places to go and things to do..while it is freezing winter.. then clue me in!


Anyways, ~ happy holidays~!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Students

Ok let us move away from the "emo" stuff and back to other aspects of life in South Korea. One of which are my students. Besides my coteacher these are the people I see nearly every day.

I teach about 4 to 5 classes a day (except Friday which is 8 classes) and there are about 40 students in each class.

The cute 3rd graders want to give you a big smile and play along. While the 6th graders stare at you like you were evil scum and count down the minutes.

But there are some shining stars amongst all these.

I teach an advanced class 3 times a week, and sometimes on Fridays I let them play games. It is a good way for me to rest before going home and also try to be playful with them. I consider this class like a mini-hagwon because I design the classwork and activities. I know I need to make the course more fun, but I am struggling on how. Sigh... anyways here are some pictures.


Ok, these aren't kids from my advanced class. They are a pack of girls from one of the 6th grade class. The girl you see in front likes to frequent my office after lunch for some free English language exchange. She is soooo funny! She told me how she doesn't like a certain boy in class so now I tease her about it..hehe.

Here are the advanced class pics:
Some of the students took it upon themselves to keep log of those students who speak Korean. If they do they get a mark next to their name. This student is really sweet and her English skills are also very very good.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Past Me

*Warning, staying indoors with a cough and going through old photos will produce a contemplative mind.

Anyways, as I said I was digging through the past and while I was doing it I thought I would expunge some of this voyage onto my blog.


Seven years ago I was still into skater shoes and long unmanageably - long hair. Actually seeing that hat makes me miss it a lot. This picture was taken in Sacramento when my Mom use to live there.


Jump to Spring 2007 and you have caught me when I was finishing my last semester at college and an image of me while I was sick. This is me just as I was finally diagnosed and on the right medication. I was very skinny.

But then the drugs I had taken made me turn puffy. Here I am shown 3 months later at my graduation ceremony.

And so warp further into time and over a year later you can see me a happy girl enjoying herself in Korea.
This blog post could be probably deemed too personal to post. But whether people want to admit it or not, living abroad lends itself to contemplative moments. Bo Kwan is running around in Busan with his training fleet, and so I am on my own.

I am sure if we all look through our pasts we can see that we have all gone through a lot and come so far.

Allright, well looks like the weather is getting colder and colder...sigh.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

GEPIK Workshop

Today I went to Bundang for a GEPIK Workshop for Foreign Language Assistant Teachers. It was held at Dankook University.

To get there I took a bus, which was a lot faster than transferring 3 or 4 times via the subway.

Anyways, the first part consisted of a behavioral management lecture. The guy was Chinese - Canadian. His lecture wasn't too boring and actually very informational about how we can become better teachers instead of just babysitters. The emphasis was making the classroom a constructive and positive environment. I got a few ideas out of it and hope to improve my teaching style.

But I do have to say that it is kind of hopeful of him to think that we will all go back to our schools and adjust to to his suggested style of teaching. For starters, at our schools the only people to collaborate with our the Korean coteachers. So unless we have good relationships and the language barrier is not so bad, then changes are possible. But when I go back to my school it will be a bit of a task to collaborate with my coteacher on the teaching methods they talked to me about. However, I will try and also see if she is willing to learn some new things.

Anyways, I didn't stay for the second half because I woke up today with a cough. And then I proceeded to get a headache later on, which I still have. So I jumped on a bus and came home for rest. Fridays are the longest and most tiring days at my school, so I want to try and reserve my energy. Plus, they gave us a booklet with all the lecture material inside it, which I can just read.

All in all, it was structured okay and I think was a good way for us teachers to feel comfortable teaching here. I got to meet some other foreigners along the way.

Well, back to resting.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Get Your Art On

Yesterday I had the lovely privilege of going on an artsy gallery tour with my friend Jennifer. I was really excited for this adventure because I have been feeling guilty lately that I haven't been producing much art nor spending time seeing it.

Our area of interest was the Insadong and Samcheong-dong areas located near the Jongno-3 sam-ga station in Seoul. As many of you may know I have been to the Insadong area quite a few times, and enjoyed my visits. But I had a special feeling about this visit because my pal has been living in Korea for 10 yrs and is also into the Art Scene.Let me break down the map for you and our path. We started out at the beginning of Insadong street, which is the area closest to the Jongno-3 station. This is where most people start out when they are in this area. Anyways, Insadong street is an art district of Seoul, but is more so a tourist street. This is because along the main street there are shops that sell souvenirs and the usual knick-knacks one can take home. People often reference this street to a ChinaTown street like back in America. I had never gotten to the end of Insadong street and so of course had not gone past this area.

(View of the start of Insadong street with Bugak mountain in the background.)
We arrived around 11 AM and the shops were opening. This made it kind of difficult for us because we wanted to get brunch. But most of the shops were closed and not many cafes serving food were open yet. So we walked through Insadong street passing by mostly everything. As we passed by we did a little window shopping. Before I knew it we were already at the end of Insadong street. I felt somewhat amazed, I didn't realize how short distance the street actually was.

Next, we crossed a large intersection which was near the Angok subway station. It was here that Jennifer bought some roasted chestnuts, which I didn't care for too much. And also we made our way into Samcheong-dong. On this path Jennifter promised me that there were some cafes that served up some good brunch food (pancakes, sandwhiches...etc.)

The street we started walking up on had the atmosphere of being quiet and waking up. The path was somewhat more narrow than Insadong street and it appeared that the buildings were mostly residential. But we started to come upon the cafes. One place looked promising but it turned out they were still finishing the morning baking of goods...
Finally, we came upon a cafe that was just opening and ready for customers. It was inside a cute little building. Jennifer told me that the style and architecture of the building was built in the Colonial style.

I looked around at the structure and it had a familiar Japanese Colonial style. And so I mentioned this to Jennifer, and indeed it was built by the Japanese when they were in Korea. I found it somewhat thrilling to be inside this building. This is because I thought of how this building may not have existed if it weren't for the initial influence of the West on Japanese architecture after they opened their doors to the West. And then how the Japanese came over to Korea and built up this architectural style while they occupied Korea. It felt as if I had walked directly into a mini-historical-museum, but was actually just getting brunch.

(Brunch consisted of Pancakes + Ham + Egg + Syrup for Jennifer and a Ham + Cheese + Onion + Pepper Sandwich for myself)


Brunch was satisfying and we spent some time chatting and catching up on our own individual histories and opinions of life abroad. It felt awesome to get some girl-talk in and stew about certain aspects of foreigner life. But the streets and galleries were calling our name so we moved on.

Decaying Korean Architecture:
Did I mention Jennifer is rich in her knowledge of Korean Art and Architecture? Well, it was a delightful treat to be served a history lesson of the architecture in the area. Part of my Asian Art history courses back in college covered aspects of Asian architecture. But what I studied came from pictures, so of course it was exhilarating to see these structures in person.

The area, though, appeared to be going through many transformations. Apparently this part of Seoul is for the richy-rich folks. Indeed, I almost felt like I was walking through Nob Hill or the Marina district of San Francisco. How I could tell? Well not that many people were on the street, the majority of buildings were painted cleanly and also done up in very stylish ornamentation. But the old and the new existed side by side in this area, and was evident when Jennifer pointed out to me old Palace structures.
We could tell this structure was older than the rest of the buildings surrounding it because of the wear and tear in the wooden beams, and also within the style of the eave of the roof. If you look close enough at the second picture you can see remnants of painting left on the round beams coming out under the roof. In time this building will be torn down to be replaced with something new. I stood there trying to grasp this reality, wondering why the Korean government would not act to preserve each and every old building like this. But it is what they do and I in time will accept this part of Korean society.

So we moved on and came upon an area where they were tearing down old palace walls. This place had a kind of flux feeling feeling because we caught the walls in a state of suspended renovation. For one of the walls was cut away, like a cross section, and made for a particularly interesting study.


This area was really starting to grow on me. Of all the places I have seen in Seoul this one seemed to give me the impression of what I thought a Korean street may look like. That is with old Palace structures and nature tucked in between it all. So I became somewhat envious of the residents in this neighborhood and wanted my own traditional yet modern home.
Cafe and Gallery Streets:

Our path then took us onto the Cafe / Gallery street of Samcheong-dong, which reminded me of such places like Laguna Beach in Orange County and Geary Street in San Francisco. You could see Gallery window displays and cafes arranged next to one another. Also many of the shops had unique storefronts or architectural elements.
We stopped in a few galleries and took note of the art inside. Actually we didn't really go inside many galleries, I guess I was getting more of a feel for this area. But no doubt an artistic and creative edge permeated throughout this area, even if we didn't step inside many galleries.

As we walked up the street we came upon another Japanese Colonial style building. This time I could easily spot the Japanese elements. (Rectangular elongated windows and shortened eaves.) Jennifer made an accurate point about telling me how you can spot the irregularities, because it basically looks different than Korean homes. For those who live here I think you too can notice the difference. I think though that this structure has had some modern improvements and embellishments.
Turning the corner we came upon another street with cafes and galleries. On our way we spotted some graffiti art and a cafe with a crazy storefront.

Vista Viewpoint:
Then we came upon an uphill road, which yielded a spectacular view. Not only of the mountain in the distance but of the Geoncheondong palace structures, and in the foreground below us were old rooftops.
I was told that couples like to take thier sweethearts here for a walk at night, supposedly very romantic. (Hint, hint...BK)

At this point the weather was getting colder and colder, and for some reason my body wasn't warming up enough. So I suggested we head back towards a subway station, as a way to see more sites and also get out of the cold. On our way we tried to find a cafe to sit in, but they all seemed too pricey for just a cup of tea.

Jennifer remembered that she knew a friend of hers who had a store in the area, and said that she couldn't pass by without visiting.

An Actual Cultural Experience:

It was here at Jennifer's friends shop that I felt like I had a real cultural experience. It has been rattling around in my idea of what actually makes a cultural experience? Is it when you go see a place that is designated as a cultural icon? Or could a cultural experience come from the interaction with the people of the culture?

Anyways, the shop this woman runs is, what I guess, a tailor shop. She handmade everything inside including hanboks, coats, scarfs and decorative cloth materials. It was a tiny little shop, with a kitchen and storage room in the back. When you walked in you came across a large table, where she did her needlework. Jennifer and I were greeted with a warm smile, tea, walnuts freshly cracked and mandarins. The shop keeper was an unmarried woman who looked like she was in her 40's or 50's (hope that is somewhat accurate.) A sweet woman with rosy cheeks and a wise smile.

Inside we drank tea and Jennifer talked it up with her friend about boyfriends, marriage and past times. I enjoyed sitting and sipping my tea and looking at all the handiwork.
As I sat there it felt like I was on one of those adventure travel shows where the host is seen going inside a local person's home and being given a modest portion of something to drink and eat. While at the same time he narrates the scene by saying "You can really get to know a culture by being a guest inside a locals home." Or "You really must get to know this culture by going off the beaten path and engaging yourself locally."

That is how I felt sitting there, for it was as if I was off the tourist path. Inside the store I caught a glimpse of a little storefront, that I would otherwise pass by. So I wondered to myself whether or not this designated itself as an actual cultural experience. I would like to think so.

Chinese for Dinner:
Hunger was calling our name and so we said our goodbyes and headed back towards Anguk subway station. On our way we stopped at a Chinese noodle restaurant that is actually managed by Chinese people. From the picture on the wall I knew it was going to be delicious and indeed it was. The dish had that familiar ChinaTown from America taste, and perhaps actually better!
Ah, come on Joy...give us a smile!
And so ends my Art adventure with Jennifer. Thank you so much, and I can't wait to do it again...next time we will actually go inside more galleries.
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