Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tails of Saturday and Sunday

Last Friday I panicked over the kittens and everything. Practically one month left to pack up and get everything ready to go back home. With the thought of having to find good homes for these kittens on top of everything else I need to do it seemed my mind couldn't handle it. I woke up Saturday with a sore throat and groggy head, which wasn't helpful since I was helping my friend with Halloween festivities at her hagwon.

Nevertheless, I helped her out and rested when I got home. JH spent all night and today with me learning about what it is like to take care of kittens.

The kittens are all doing well and are exhibiting their own personalities. I think since we were with them most of the day today they got use to being with us. But that is going to have to change soon for some of them.

One of my friends (the ex-foreign teacher at my school) has chosen one to take home. But she won't till after they get their shots and I think it is best to give them some more time. Another friend of hers was enticed by a photo-text message that was sent, and so there is a possibility that two will be taken to good homes. This leaves one which I have decided to keep. As for when I will be in the States and looking for a job I am finding a cat sitter. So far I have one friend who will be up for this but gotta get that squared away.

To be honest it is going to be hard to see these guys seperate and move on. I know it might be best to keep them together but most people in Korea don't live in big enough homes to care for them all. Sure two could stay together but at this point I have to do what I can to insure that by the end of November they all have a place to live.

To be honest I am torn between keeping the black one or one of the orange ones. Sigh ~ do I keep both? agh

Going back to the help I gave at my friend's hagwon, which was fun. Except for the part when I was alone in a room with a group of kindergarten kids. After the activity there was extra time and I just stood there like a deer in headlights. I tried to come up with a game but it was failing. It reminded me of when I worked at a hagwon and how at that time I just didn't know what to do.

This is troubling because I have a possible job opportunity at a hagwon in Jeongja, Bundang. I can get my mind into that it will be a challenge to overcome and teach myself how to do. But I am worried that this natural sense in myself that just recoils in a room full of 5 year olds might never change. The job is spectacular, though, with decent hours and really good wage (let's just say above 2.5). Plus I love the location and the house will be a guarantee. For now, I suppose, I will go to the interview and see what happens.

I am still worried about not getting a reference letter. I told one recruiter and he seemed concerend and so wanted to contact my coteacher. But I haven't heard back about it. As far as I can see if I don't make a stink about with the recruiters then things should just putter along as usual.

Sigh... the black one is sleeping on my lap and I need to get up to get my dinner. haha

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Became a Cat Lady Overnight

There I was in my kitchen getting ready to make my usual stir fried tofu. I had all the ingredients out and was just about to start chopping, when my boyfriend came in. I wasn't expecting him, but it isn't unusual that he surprises me after work.

In his hand was a shoebox and he held it up like it was a cake box. He approached me and said, "This is a surprise. Open it."

I opened it and there were three little kitten heads popping out. Boy was I surprised! My immediate reaction was, "Three! Three kittens! Why?" And he went on to explain that his client in Incheon gave them to him.

They were dirty and the smell was overwhelming so we immediately gave them a bath. Over which we quickly discussed what we were going to do. I kept going on about how I love cats but kittens are different. They require more attention and training. He was a bit perplexed by my attitude and claimed, "But you love cats, Joy."

It's true I do love cats, and since we have been together I have spent a lot of time explaining why I love cats. I didn't think it would mean that he would bring home three stray kittens in a box. I definitely believe now the saying, "That you should be careful what you wish for."

The cat bath was interesting. At first I took them into the bathroom and tried to clean them with a cloth rubbing off the dirt. But JH had nothing of this and filled up a bucket with warm water and then scrubbed them down himself. Those were some loud kitten calls.

After we washed them we dried them with a hairdryer. Then we knew we needed to take them to a vet. So we put them in a fresh box and went on our way.
The local vet looked at them and spoke a lot with JH. But he didn't do much inspection, as far as I was concerned. He told JH that we should bring them back in a week after they have adjusted, since giving them shots then would have stressed them out more. I asked what sex they were and this resulted in the vet inspecting the kitties in what looked like an uncomfortable way. Poor things. The vet told us they were all boys and I think he is right but maybe we will know better later.

On the way back to the car I vented my concerns and stresses. This led JH to think that it was a bad idea and he told me he would take them back to his client. I calmed him down and said I was hungry and tired and let's at least give them a nice place to sleep. We took them back to my house where I set up their litter box and food.

JH and I discussed what we were going to do, because I told him one cat is easy but three cats... NO! We decided that we will pick one to keep and give the other two up for adoption or foster care.

That night they all slept huddled together in a dark corner near my suitcases. This morning when I lifted up the blankets their cute little heads popped out. As I got ready to go to work they ate and drank water. Thankfully, the night before I did well and trained them to use the litter box. Although, one is still having a little trouble.

Let me tell you that last night I didn't get much sleep. It wasn't because they were noisy or ran around my head, it was because I was overwhelmed. It is one thing to plan for having a kitten or cat in your life but another to have them suddenly show up. I know JH was being a sweetheart and took my love for cats a bit too literal. I think his heart must of went out to these strays. What is odd is that he has always vehemently told me how much he doesn't like cats and loves dogs more. So I was really confused why he would bring me three kittens when he knows he will visit my house. Maybe he doesn't hate cats after all. At one point last night one of the kittens fell asleep on him. He was amused.

So I am still adjusting to these new additions to my life.

At work today I talked all about what happened and then requested to go home early to take care of my kitties. It certainly made for an amusing story.

When I got home I didn't know what to expect. Would the house be turned upside down? Well thankfully things were in order as much as they could be. Since I am moving soon most of my stuff is in boxes anyways. After I got home today I cleaned up the house and did some more packing so to give the kitties ample and free space to do what they want.

 I made sure to pick up some essential items at Lotte mart last night like toys and a blanket for them.

So far my heart is going out for the black one, which I guess is because he is the "different" one of the bunch. But time is going to run out and I need to get two of them into homes before I move at the beginning of December.

I am calling out to you, my readers, if you would like to adopt or foster one of my kittens please let me know. I am training them well so that they won't have too many bad habits.

I hope to use sites such as AnimalRescue and Nabiya to advertise the kitties. They are all sweet and adorable and adopting one at this age would be great because you can really train them to be behaved household cats when they grow up.

Trust me my heart wants to keep all three and see them grow but I know I just can't do that.

They must of had a hard time living on the streets because they like the darkest corner where they can huddle together and get their sleep. So darn cute!
Let me know if you want one! Or know some body or know what works well to get them adopted~

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Heart to Heart

I would like to start this post with a quote from the recent New Yorker about a column regarding the Chilean miners that were recently rescued. It was written by Adam Gopnik. As we all know the miners spent a long time down there and their story could have been grim. The article speaks to how their story is one of the more "warmer" ones out there. After coming home and thinking about what happened today this article sprang to mind. Here is the part I feel most connected with:
The men can say now "At least I'm not trapped down at the bottom of a mine." Certainly, veterans of war suffer, but many also shine with the quiet feeling that, from now on, life can never get quiet enough. People are trapped by circumstances; other people help them. There is a way out. Since this is the fable that every life hopes to trace, maybe the madness isn't so mad at all.
For the past 2.5 years here in Korea I have felt trapped by my circumstances. What am I speaking about? Finding myself having a difficult time working with Korean people. Ever since I got to Korea and had a hard time at the hagwon, it felt like I had been fighting an endless fight. I know that my actions at the hagwon led to my coworkers reacting the way they did. I left there never making amends. The problems I developed there carried with me to the next school and the next. My casual and cold attitude is not palatable to Korean tastes.

For the longest time I always felt it was a battle I needed to win. That I needed to somehow change them and by my indifferent ways that could be achieved. But we all know that didn't work and indeed got me into a lot of trouble. At some point I either needed to realize that I was wrong and should learn things or pack up and return home. However, I did learn and have realized many important things.

Let's zoom into what happened today. I have been asking my coteacher (Mr. J) for a reference letter. I got one from my last school when I left and so figured it wouldn't be a problem here. I even showed him the one I have from last year. This was about a month ago and so recently I reminded him about it.

This morning I got a text message on my computer from him stating he was sorry but the Principal made the decision not to give it to me. I became alarmed and worried. But not because I couldn't get this document mostly because the Principal was refusing to do it. I inquired and pushed for an explanation. This was before classes started and we couldn't talk much about it.

Then came the after lunch time. I inquired about it again with the youngest coteacher (Miss. K or as I have called her in the past the "princess"). What started as a civil conversation ended up into one about the past. She was being polite and things weren't getting harsh. But I was trying to defend my situation, that no one gave me the chance to listen to my perspective when things were bad. Then Mrs. W (the middle coteacher, older) came in.

She basically vented everything she ever wanted to say to me since the beginning. I realized through it that I had to just let her talk, which she did. Again I tried to point out to her that I was never really given a chance to explain myself. That I would have liked to talk to them but I realized it was hopeless and gave up.

But time was running out and I had to go teach my afterschool class. As I left the office I was in mild tears. I told Mrs. W (now Mr. J and Miss. K were out of the office) that I was deeply sorry for the burden I had caused her. That I always wanted to talk about it and meet eye to eye, but that I was scared and realized it was too late. I went to class.

At that point I felt inside the usual feeling that I get when I am in this situation. That feeling of being trapped and wanting to run away from it all. To run out of the school crying and head home. Of course I didn't do this and actually suppressed it. But there I was trapped in my own cave that I had created seeing the darkness close in around me. (Okay maybe too dramatic)

Did I think I would be able to come out of it in peace? No. 

After class I came back to the office and my face showed I was distraught. Mr. J saw this and said "Let's go for a walk." We found a bench near the school that was off the path. He told me that he needed to know that I knew that everywhere in Korea is the same. I told him I knew this and understood. I confided in him about what happened with Mrs. K and that is why I had given up any hope of relationship building. He didn't say much but I warmed things up by saying thank you and that I didn't mind about not getting the letter. We agreed that a school certificate will work just fine.

Then we were back at the office. I sent Miss. K an endearing text-letter apologizing and giving praise to her help in the office. She liked it and I sent her hope that we can move past this.

Sometime after that Mrs.W asked to talk with me. We did so in the office and over a cup of tea. It turned out to be a real heart to heart talk. She expressed to me the things she understood and were sorry for as did I. Our talk was significant because it got me out of my cave. It helped me see the light, sort of speak, and understand in a true way her side of the story. In the end, I feel closer to her and that our bad past has been amended.

For the longest time I have felt that I had to always defend the "foreigner" fort and stand up for what I thought was right treatment. Sure there are some cases of actual mistreatment, but I think I let it go to my head.

"There is a way out." It begins with opening up and and letting go. I have found my way out of the cave I built around myself and it feels good. I can't guarantee that at my next job things will go peachy but I know now really where to start and what to do.

For those not in Korea yet and are considering coming over bear this in mind. Not everyone has this experience like I had. You will find yourself facing cultural and personal differences when working with Korean people but what happens next depends on your personality.

Also bear in mind that we would like to think that the technical aspects of the job matter most. I am talking about how we teach class, the materials we make and lesson planning. Sure you can do a great job at this but if you suck in the interpersonal department then you will end up with nothing to lean on. All I am saying is that to be considered as a "good" teacher here in Korea you have to put more emphasis on positive relationships than you do on the actual teaching part of the job. I am only speaking to public schools and likely private schools. As for University teaching I think they lean more towards your teaching capabilities.

But let me tell you it will benefit your life and your time here in Korea if you heed my message. Having a good relationship with your coteacher(s) means that they will help you and be almost like family. Even though I haven't exactly established this with any of my coteachers I can see it in other people and definitely can feel it. That is why, although I initially thought this was invasive, I see it now as an asset of Korean culture.

This was a long post and whoever read the whole thing, thank you! For those who read enough to get the point.... thank you! If anything in here was of actual help to anyone else...well...good luck! If my grammar sucked again...sorry!

The madness is over.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Coat and Scarf

Winter has introduced itself today by having the temperature drop down to 34F as I walked to work. That required me to take out my old winter coat and wrap a scarf around my neck. It takes me 30 minutes to walk to work and so I guess I enjoyed the chilly stroll.

From checking the weather report it looks like this cold snap will last till about Friday when things will slightly warm up again. Of course, though 34F is not as cold as 13F which is how it is in February.

Already I have gotten news about my attempt to work for the Gangnam Public Schools.
I regret to inform you that we will not continuing on to the final interview stage. We received a large number of highly qualified applicants and unfortunately you did not pass the final screening process. I wish you luck with your job search.
That final screening process is the "checking your references" section. My references were my current coteacher (male) and my ex-coteacher from the Sanbon school. I wondered who said what and how it affected me. After inquiring with my current coteacher, saying, "Oh the Gangnam schools decided not to interview me," he looked pretty shocked and sympathetic. Meaning it probably wasn't what he said. On Sunday I mustered up the courage and called my ex-coteacher from my previous school. I didn't reveal to her that they decided not to interview me, and instead fished around to see what her feelings were. I tried to tell her that if it is a burden to her I won't give out her number. Also I noted that usually I don't have to give two references but places like Gangnam and Universities request it, stating further that later on I probably don't need to give out her number when looking for a normal public school. All the while, she seemed okay with everything. However, her tone sounded kind of hesitant when she talked about the Gangnam recruiter. I know we didn't have a good past together but since moving on I have emailed her thanking her and telling her that I missed her.

Whether or not my ex-coteacher can't help but be honest on the phone is still a slight mystery. I came to the conclusion that Gangnam indeed had a lot of "qualified" applicants and whatever my coteachers said on the phone didn't bring me up to their status. I am ok with not getting offered a position, as the housing situation was going to be difficult, but it left me hoping my references won't get me in to trouble.

For now all that is left is a University I applied for, which is in Seoul. They will call around November 8th if they want to interview me. The interview will consist of giving a three minute demo based upon their materials. Already I am brainstorming a demo, even though I am unsure whether I will even be called for to interview.

My current job, which will end in about 38 days, is trucking along. Yesterday we had our open class with the fourth graders and it went well. It had to since my coteacher prepared them so much. People were impressed and pleased. I am just happy to get that duty over with. As for my plan to perk up and try to make "amends" with certain people in this office that has started to die off. I realized I can't make them feel anything no matter what I do, but at least not tip things in the wrong direction. I noticed that I was feeling unbearably insecure due to the new foreign guy at the office. He was getting the "new person" treatment and I couldn't help but reflect on all the crap I received. For some odd reason I feel myself getting over this today. Maybe everyone has finally cooled off.

I am trying really hard to just not care about the nuances at work,which is difficult when working in a tiny office with 4 other people. To do this I am focusing on my future, consisting of a holiday vacation with my family and boyfriend back in America and my future job.

All right folks! Take your Vitamin C and dig out those gloves...winter is here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Caption Contest: F1 Race

From the F1 race that just wrapped up. Here we see Ferrari's Fernando Alonso excited over winning. Hey folks give me your caption to go along with this photo. I might just send you a little gift if yours is really great.

Mine (from the top of my head) "Wow! That kimchi is spicy!"

Scrabble Time: 2

My idea for the Scrabble group is still running. I made a meeting for last Friday and two new gals showed up. We first enjoyed a Vietnamese dinner and then sat in a cafe playing a game.

The best part was when they both revealed they didn't like drinking and were more into well non-alochol related activities. Keep in mind I really don't have anything against the drinking folks. Just I have never felt comfortable doing that. Anyways, it was fun and we had some good conversation. I still want to do my podcast idea but haven't pitched it yet to the new players.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday Afternoon with Simon & Garfunkel

I don't really watch a whole lot of Korean TV. Sure if I turned on the TV in my officetel I could find programs with a lot of variety from comedies to dramas. As I haven't "done the right thing" and studied Korean enough to understand it all I kind of get bored of it pretty fast. However, I am still getting my fill of "TV watching" done. It just comes in through my computer.

Lately, I have been watching the series Mad Men. Several months ago I started with the first season so that I could catch up to the fourth. My mom has been watching the latest season and she said it was good. You know what? It is good. Really good. The first season is by far the best and really captures the social climate of the late 1950's. The characters in the show are well rounded and the actors do a great job across the board.

The best part about the show is that it makes me contemplate the issues at that time, and gives me great stuff to talk about with my Mom. Another benefit of the show are the songs they play when the credits roll. On the episode I watched today, Season 4 episode 7, they played Simon & Garfunkel's "Bleecker Street". Silly me thought it was a modern folk song but found it was played by this classic group. I immediately got the album "Wednesday Morning 3AM" to listen to. The whole thing put me in a mood to paint and so from 2 pm to 5pm I found myself stuffed inside my office-tel painting away.

I took inspiration from my recent mountain climbing trip with my fellow teachers. Let's see if you recognize the imagery.
It's not finished but I figure I'd better stop before getting through it too fast. Today I could have taken the bus to Myeongdong for their "nude" drawing class or gone off to a festival somewhere. But after doing some housekeeping / packing I decided to stay in. However, the weather was lovely and we should appreciate it since the forecast says it will dip down into the 40's - 50's Monday.

Last night I couldn't help but think, although in a sleepy daze, that soon I will be without a home again. Sure I will call the guest bed at my friend's house in Bundang home for a while, yet not till next year will I get to settle into a place again. The prospect of this cast a dim light over my mind as I fell asleep. But I woke up from several dreams ready to hit the day.

Who will love a little Sparrow?
Will no one write her eulogy?
"I will," said the Earth,
"For all I've created returns unto me,
From dust were ye made and dust ye shall be.
From S&G's "Sparrow"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Teachers Went Hiking

Let's all just put the stress of everyday life away and go into the woods. Because that is what I did with my fellow teachers on Wednesday. It was the obligatory "hike the mountain" day. I didn't really go all the way up and instead stayed around the bottom exploring.

As you can see it was really beautiful and made for a great fall afternoon. The name of the mountain was Cheongyesan, which was a swift bus ride away from the school.

I made my way up a hill and when I got to the top there was a path with a farm beyond it.

To the right of this was a large outcrop of boulders. I climbed this and found myself a nice little spot to relax. It reminded me of hiking trips I would take in the hills of Berkeley.

When I made my way back to the start of the trail I walked past the farm. I saw this bug in the path, which turned out to be dead. Then I admired the farm and the people tending to it. In the distance there was music playing, which sounded like a choir. It permeated over the whole swath of the farm. As the farmers beat some materials the music seemed so soothing. I made a video of this, but can't put it up since I am at work.

Fall colors haven't fully come in yet, but this tree didn't seem to mind showing off early. I went down towards the town and met up with other teachers. We eventually all enjoyed a tofu meal. I got to talk with the Grade 1 teachers, who wanted to practice English. We shared a lot and I felt very comfortable talking with them. I should go and visit them sometime.

It was really pleasant and made me interested in doing more hiking. Certainly need to get more in shape. Anyways I am tired from hardly sleeping last night due to the drama in my mind. But am meeting new pals for Scrabble. I guess I'll sleep when it happens to catch up with me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Before and After

Pictures of our time before and after seeing Eat, Pray, Love didn't make it into that post so I thought I share them here.

Before we headed to the theater I found myself in a small alley near JH's new office. They are still setting it up so he had to show up to double check things. As I waited for him the sun was shining brightly through the alley and I noticed a motorcycle covered by a blue cloth.

Then while we were waiting to enter the theater at the TechnoMart CGV, we were amused by a large touch screen gadget.
What you did was stand in front of this screen and the program would lock on your head and take a picture. From there it would guess your age and post it with your picture on the screen.
For some reason it liked taking JH's photo and guessed he was about 10 - 20 years old. Astonishingly, the computer accurately guessed my age (Korean wise) at 30.

After the movie we took a breath of fresh air outside near the theaters.

It might have been Saturday evening but that didn't stop clients from calling JH. 

As I turned around I tried to capture our reflection in the building's windows.
We headed home and called it a day, but overall it was fun.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eat Kimchi, Teach English, Love

Yes, that's right. Last weekend I went to the movies with JH and saw Eat, Pray, Love. Although JH had scathing reviews of it afterward I leaned on the warmer side of the fence.
No I did not read the book but recall it in the hands of many friends and family back when it was a popular read. 

What this movie has going for it is the story and the scenery. However it was pieced together in a very banal and typical way. I enjoyed seeing the story of a woman who didn't accept her married life and decided to seek out the adventures she always wanted. She ate (a lot apparently) in Italy, found prayer in India and love in Bali. None of this became a surprise as it went along since the director made it all perfectly clear. 

Looking back I think this movie would have been more enjoyable (at least for me) if it were directed in the same manner as Lost in Translation. I think we can put Lost in Translation in the category of movies where the protagonist is off in a foreign country and finds themselves. I think this movie better captures the feeling of what it is like to stay in a foreign country. The feeling of not knowing exactly what is going on, what people are saying and especially the intrinsic feeling that comes with being a westerner in Asian territory. They touched on this a little in Eat, Pray, Love but they showed Julia Roberts picking up the language and customs quite easily. Sure not all have difficulties with this, but for the most part not everyday is a walk in the park. Lost in Translation better showed how we see the oddities of the host culture and end up fascinated by it. Julia Robert's character seemed to just see it all a little bit too touristy for my taste. More of "Oooo" than "awe."

If I were to relate the movie Eat, Pray, Love to my own experience of living and traveling around Korea and Japan, I would say I have done a lot of kimchi eating, teaching English and finding love. 
Of course there is so much to life here than just these three aspects. But I guess that will have to fill up the pages of a book someday. ;)
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