So very sweepy...

Monday, September 28, 2009
I Need Sleep

Today was a bit rough.

It goes back to Saturday night, when I didn't do anything in particular, but I could tell my throat was starting to get a bit sore. That's always the first sign that I'm coming down with some sort of cold-ish thing.

Sunday I woke up and felt a little sick. I didn't have anything planned for Sunday, so I decided I'd spend most of my day resting, which meant getting some extra sleep. Which I think actually worked pretty well, because today I think my minor illness is regressing.

But, the side-effect of sleeping so much was that I wasn't tired Sunday night. I couldn't sleep at all. At 2am, I actually ended up watching the Green Bay Packers for a bit on my computer, which was pretty exciting. I probably won't make a habit out of it because it's so late, but I'm glad I figured out how to watch them.

Anyway, I watched until halftime and then decided to try to go to sleep again. Needless to say, it didn't really work, and by the time I woke up, I probably only had 2 hours of sleep under my belt.

As you can imagine, school was a bit of a drag. My voice held up well enough, but I just didn't have any pep. I also had to teach one of my rowdier classes today, which is difficult enough when I'm not dead tired. Although on the positive side, my co-teacher and I discussed ways to keep them in line in the future. She made up a seating chart so they aren't all by their good friends, and we have some punishments in mind too for when they get out of hand. So, I guess some good came out of it.

I made it a point to avoid taking a nap today, so I should get plenty of sleep tonight. If I nap, I tend to just perpetuate the "cycle of tiredness" by staying up late again, so I'm glad I broke it today rather than later this week.

The Two Words That You Can't Escape When Living Abroad

On a related note, today made me start thinking even more about those "dreaded words" that every foreign traveler hears about:

Culture Shock

I've been thinking about what impact culture shock has been having on me (if any). Culture shock is usually described as a phenomenon that happens in stages, the first one being the "Honeymoon Phase", where everything about the new country you're in seems amazing. To be honest, I don't feel like I've experienced this very strongly, both in Japan and now in Korea. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of cool things here and I've had lots of good times, but I don't think I've had many "highs" that have been significantly higher than doing my favorite things back home.

Anyway, after the honeymoon comes some other stage that I can't remember the name of right now. But it basically involves becoming upset with lots of things about the culture that you're surrounded by.

This leaves me with a question: Is the way I'm feeling today a result of culture shock, or am I just having a crummy day?

The answer? Probably a little of both, but I'm inclined to believe it's mostly the latter. Maybe I'm lying to myself, but I think I'm still holding up alright in this new culture. I've been reading some other blog from people who recently came to Korea, and many of them seem to have a lot more to complain about than me. I'd like to think I'm a bit more open to just going with the flow, so to speak.

(Of course, it's possible I'm just repressing all of my feelings of discontent so they can all come out in one HUGE outburst!)

Okay, I honestly think that's unlikely, but the fact that I'm even writing about this suggests there's probably a little something going on in my head. Whatever it is, I'll deal with it.

So, in closing, don't worry! I think I'm just a bit tired, and overall I'd say things are still going well.

Peace out!

P.S. For those who haven't heard, The party's in DAEJEOONNNNN!


Saturday, September 26, 2009
I became a multi-millionaire this weekend.

I bought an AM/FM/Cassette Radio.

And a broom.

Don't worry mom! That new house you've always been dreaming of will be coming soon!

Oh, did I mention that my millions are in South Korean won? Presently, 1 US dollar is worth ~1184 won. So a million won is actually worth less than $1000.

Uh...on second thought, that house might be a while mom! Sorry!

Actually, on a somewhat related note, I showed my 5th and 6th graders some pictures of my parent's house this week. It's a fairly standard sized two-story house. It's quite old (think early 20th century), but it's well built and I do think it's a fine house. But by Korean standards, it's VERY big. So all of my students think I'm rich now...

If only they knew the truth...

Finally, Pictures! (At School)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Alright, here's some pictures, as promised. These are all from my schools.

You can click the pictures for a larger view!

Seonhwa Elementary

This is a view of the school from the front. Only half of this building is actually the school, the other half is some sort of Educational Office or something.

This is the English room at Seonhwa. It's also my office. It has 3 big LCDs, and one of them is actually a touch screen that you can use to control the cursor on the computer. The touch screen is nice...but for whatever reason, even if you turn the TV off, the touch screen is still active. Needless to say, students can't seem to keep their hands off it while I'm using my computer...*sigh*

Jungang Elementary

This is the view from the front. This is actually the only picture of it I have, I think I'll try to get some more.

This is Jungang's English room. I'm in an office with some other teachers at Jungang, so it's only used when class is being taught. It has only one LCD screen...and it isn't even a touch screen! Actually, I think I like this setup more because it's nice and simple, and I don't have students molesting the TV after classes. I there are 5 computers in the middle of the room, I haven't seen those used at all. And the desk in the back (by the 2 tables) was originally going to be my desk I think, but I'm glad I'm in a shared office at this school.

This is a semi-staged shot of me teaching. My co-teacher wanted to get some photos for a local newspaper, so we brought in the class that had missed my lesson and ran the bit about American lunch.

These photos were basically staged, I never get to work with a group this small. It was pretty easy to get everybody to laugh doing my "Hello, how are you today? How is the weather today?" shtick though. But wait, it gets better... co-teacher told me that she gathered the unmarried teachers in our school to be in some photos with Mrs. Choi! *blush*

Alright, that's all for now! See you next time!

For future reference...

Sunday, September 20, 2009
So, I just tried sending a text in Korean for the first time. Hopefully the first of many.

Actually, it was only half in Korean...but close enough, right?

Anyway, that's all, I just wanted to note the event for myself, but I guess you all get to hear about it to!

Epik High - [e]

Saturday, September 19, 2009
This doesn't have a whole lot to do with me personally, but I really want to post it.

Epik High released their 6th album, [e], a few days ago, on September 16th, but I just found out about it today!

For those who don't know, Epik High is a Korean hip-hop group. Generally speaking, I'm not too big into hip-hop, but I really like Epik High for some reason. I'm not sure if I can concretely explain why...I guess they're just really really good! :-)

I've been listening to the album for a bit, I'm not sure if it will become my favorite Epik High album, but I do feel it's quite good.

If you're interested, you can check it out at the link below.

Epik High - [e] at Asian Reloaded

P.S. I'll actually write something and get some pictures up sooooooon! I have internet at my place now...I've just been kind of lazy! Sorry!

Q&A - Part Deux

Sunday, September 13, 2009
Alright, I've been in Daejeon for a bit now, so I feel at least somewhat comfortable putting this up. It's part two of a previous call for questions.

If anybody has questions for me about Korea or Daejeon, please ask them in the comments or via e-mail (it's on my profile page). As I said in my last post, I'd appreciate some questions because it helps me organize and condense my thoughts, and also lets me know what people want to hear about! And maybe it'll require me to do some research too, which would be excellent because there's still a lot I need to learn about my surroundings.

Of course, if I don't get any, I'll still continue blogging as usual.

I hope to hear from you! Thanks!

One week down... :-)

Saturday, September 12, 2009
It's been awhile!

It's Saturday now, and I've completed my first full week of classes. Overall, I'd say it was a success!

I teach at two elementary schools, so I'll break it down.

Seonhwa Elementary

I teach at Seonhwa Elementary School on Monday and Tuesday. I have 7 classes there on those two days, and I teach with 4 different co-teachers. They all greeted me when I came in on Monday, and seemed fairly receptive to working with me. Out of the 4 teachers there, 3 of them are comfortable with spoken English, but one of them really isn't, which is a little difficult. He seemed friendly though, so I'm sure it'll all work out!

On Monday, I worked with 5th and 6th graders. I showed them a Powerpoint about myself, and then played a bingo game which involved them asking questions about me. Invariably, in every class, the question "Do you have a girlfriend?" would arise. Older elementary kids are funny like that. Some of them tried to ask for my phone number too. I told them "000-0000-0000". I'm sure I'll be getting a lot of calls soon!

On Tuesday I taught the 3rd and 4th grades. They don't know much English at all, so it's quite difficult, but I did my best. My co-teacher for those classes, Tiffany, had to do a lot of translation into Korean, but that's to be expected. When they only have English class once a week, I think it would be quite difficult for them to make any headway in a class that is completely in English.

At Seonhwa, my office is also the English room. It's a nice room, but it also kind of isolates me from the rest of the school. At the same time, it doesn't offer me any protection from students after school. I'm at school until 4:30pm, but the students get done well before that. And they decided to come visit me in the English room. It was fine for awhile, and I definitely enjoy interacting with them, but I really wanted to get some lesson planning done and I couldn't really do that. I'll have to find some way to deal with them in the future.

I felt like my time at Seonhwa went well, and I look forward to going back there next week. My co-teachers were all friendly, and the other staff were friendly too. On Tuesday I ate lunch with some of them even though none of them spoke English. Like I said, the English room isolates me from the other teachers a bit, but hopefully I can build a good relationship with the school in time.

Jungang Elementary

I spend Wednesday through Friday at Jungang Elementary School. It's my main school, and the school that my "handler" (the person who helps me deal with stuff I can't do myself) teaches at. I was actually there Thursday and Friday the week before do to some lesson planning, but I didn't start classes until this week. I have a much busier schedule there, with 15 classes over 3 days. I only have 2 co-teachers though, which is nice and I think it will allow me to co-teach with them more harmoniously. They both speak English well enough, one of them was a bit shy about it at first but she's been getting more comfortable with speaking to me, which is good!

On Wednesday, I worked with 4th graders. As in Seonhwa, their English level is quite low, so my co-teacher did a lot of talking in Korean to them. I introduced myself, and then I walked around the class and they all introduced themselves. We then played a bingo game which involved them pointing at each other and asking "Who is she?" Simple stuff, but it was pretty enjoyable for me.

Thursday and Friday were spent with 5th and 6th graders. Their English level is a little higher, so my co-teacher for those classes uses less Korean, but still a heavy dose to explain rules for games and things. We played some educational games, and then at the end of class opened things up to allow them to ask me questions. The asked me all of the expected questions, and also made me "sing" the chorus to a song called "Nobody" by "Wondergirls", which is a very famous K-pop song. All in all, things went pretty well. On Friday after school I also kicked a soccer ball around with some of the kids for a bit. I was wearing dress shoes, but I still had a solid showing, and it was fun!

At Jungang, my office is located in a room with some other teachers, so I have some protection from the students after classes are finished. I also like it because it affords me more opportunities to interact with other teachers at the school. The cafeteria at the school was under construction this week, so everyday me and some of the other teachers would order in some food, and actually on Thursday I went to a restaurant with some of them. I really appreciated that, and it makes me feel like I'm a part of the school. I also had some of the non-English teachers stop by and chat with me in English. There are a number of teachers who speak English quite well, which surprised me a little bit. Hopefully I can find some time to interact with them outside of school sometime, because I think it would be fun.


Because I'm not a teacher by trade, I was a little worried about how things would go, but overall I'd say everything went fairly well. I definitely need to improve my classroom management skills, but it hasn't been a huge issue because my co-teachers do a lot of that for me.

Also, I should say that's it's really interesting just being in these schools. In both schools, I am the first ever foreign teacher, so the kids are really intrigued by me. On Tuesday at Seonhwa, they all decided that they wanted by signature! I must've signed my name over 50 times, it was pretty nuts. I'm a good sport about it though, and I'm glad that they're reacting positively towards me.

I guess that's all for now, I'm sure there are a lot of things that I'm forgetting but feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences and I'll get back to you. In fact, I'd appreciate questions, because they help me organize my thoughts better and also let me know what people want to hear about. Maybe I'll post up another Q&A thread...

As I say at the end of class, "Goodbye! See you next time!"

A little poetry

Friday, September 04, 2009
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-"The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost (Full poem here)

I'm really not that big into poetry. Not because I think it's bad, but we only have time in indulge ourselves in so many hobbies and poetry isn't one I ever really got into. Music is much more my thing (as you can see here).

Anyway, this particular bit of poetry is special to me for two reasons. In fact, I had it up as my Facebook quote for a long, long time. First of all, I think that it describes my life at least somewhat. Secondly, I had to memorize it for Miss Hess's drama class during my senior year of high school, which was quite the endeavor.

First point

As cliched as it may sound, I'd like to think that my path in life so far has been "the one less traveled by". For example, while I'm sure that I'm not unique, I have yet to meet another person who majored in Japanese and Math. Doing both was a huge struggle, especially during my final year in college when I had returned from Japan and my interest level in mathematics was approximately zero. But somehow I finished it. Seeing that I'm currently teaching English in Korea, I don't know what good (if any) my majors will do me yet, but it'll be interesting to find out.

I also have a more concrete example, that I realized after I read this poem in high school. On the outskirts of my hometown, there was a bluff where I could look down and see the two roads that entered the village from the east. There was Highway 14, not a "major highway" by any means, but the main artery to the village. And then there was County Road KP, which was the secondary road that had far less traffic. Anyway, one night while I was sitting up on the bluff, I looked down at the car lights passing on the roads. A fair number of lights on 14, yet very, very few on KP. Visualizing this was really striking to me, and I realized that even though I always had the option of taking Highway 14, I'd almost always take KP. To me, it just felt like the thing to do, and it think it's a concrete example of how I like to lead my life.

(Okay, to be honest I probably only drove on KP because there weren't any cops to pull me over for speeding...but it made a good story! Right? Right?!!)

Second Point

So, like I said, I had quite the endeavour memorizing this poem in high school. Our drama gave us an assignment: pick a poem, memorize it and recite it. I think she recommended this one to my friend Alicia, but I decided I liked it and chose it. Anyway, I tried hard to memorize it, I really did! But when it came time to recite the poems in class, my brain just wouldn't do it! I completely butchered it, and Miss Hess told me to try again the next day.

I was soooo frustrated, so I decided to try a different approach. Putting my frustration to good use, I went to our family's piano and recorded a couple of minutes of me playing some scales and chords in C minor and decided to use this as background music for my poetry read. It was a reasonable short poem, but I had a couple minutes of music, so I ended up spacing out the lines so that there were pauses between them, which I figured would make things more "dramatic".

I went to class the next day, and read the poem as I had prepared it. I think having the music added helped me remember it, because I had absolutely no trouble the second time. Furthermore, to my surprise Miss Hess liked my reading so much that she made me read it again for her drama class the next period. She told me that when she first heard me pausing between lines, she thought maybe I was struggling to remember the next line, but she then realized what I was doing with my timing and really liked the approach aesthetically. So, despite the failure and frustration of my first try, things ended up working out really well!


I imagine you're wondering what this has to do with teaching English in South Korea. When it comes down to it, I'm not really sure myself. Reading some quotes on another friend's blog made me think of this quote, so I decided I'd go ahead and write about it. So maybe it has nothing to do with what I have going on here.

At the same time, perhaps this quote and it's place in my life have everything to do with being here in South Korea. First of all, despite being a more popular choice than it used to be, teaching abroad isn't exactly a "typical" career move. And thus we see a clear tie between my first point and what I'm doing here.

I think the second point is probably more important though, both because it's more personal, and because it has an important lesson in it that I need to try to remember while I'm here. And that lesson is that if I fail, I need to take a step back, reconsider, and try again. Being in a new country is a challenge, and while things have been going pretty well so far, there are definitely going to be "failures", both big and small, so I'm going to need to do my best to roll with them, learn from them, and get up and try again. And the experience of failing to memorize this quote, only to end up reciting it very well is probably an anecdote I should try to keep in mind as I deal with my new surroundings. I know I'll be able to overcome the challenges I encounter here, even if it might take me awhile.


Alright, I'd like to think that turned out fairly well. I'm writing in a PCbang and it's about 3am here, so please forgive any mental lapses in my grammar! Anyway, now it's back to reading about my Green Bay Packers...I think they're gonna finish 19-0 this year, for sure!

Til next time, cheers!

I Don't Think I'm in Kansas Anymore...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009
So, I had a bit of an adventure last night.

Around 9pm, I decided I'd go outside and take a little stroll around the neighborhood. I wasn't really planning to do anything in particular.

Anyway, as I'm walking out the front door of my apartment, I run into the apartment manager. I greeted him with an "Annyeonghaseyo!", which roughly translates to "Hello!" Then, he asks me something in Korean...and makes an "eating with chopsticks" motion with his hands.

Now, I had no idea what he was asking me, but I have heard that in Korean culture a common greeting is to ask "Have you eaten?" So, I figured that's probably what he was asking me, and responded with "ne", which means "yes".

Well...I have a feeling I got it wrong.

He must have asked me if I wanted to eat, because he proceeded to show me around the local restaurants, all the while talking to me in Korean. No joke, I think I understood only about 5 of the words that came out of his mouth. I was sooooooo confused! We ended up in a restaurant across the street from my apartment, and he ordered something for me. He then tried asking me some sort of question...and I just kind of struggled and acted extremely awkward for a bit, thinking "I have nooooooo idea what you're saying to me!! How am I supposed to answer?! AHHHHHHH!" At least when I was in Japan, I could kind of understand what people were saying to me...but here I'm am COMPLETELY LOST!!!!!! But hey, it's exciting that way, right?

Anyway, although I wasn't hungry at the time, I ended up eating some sort of dish made of beef in a sort of broth, plus a bunch of side dishes. It only cost me 5000won (less than $5). A very good deal, and I really liked it!

In conclusion, this was a VERY stressful situation, but it all worked out okay. I was smiling most of the time, so I probably made a good impression on the apartment manager as well as the hosts at the restaurant. I'm sure I'll go back there sometime, but hopefully not by myself...I need to find some Korean friends!

Anyway, I'm sure I can't perfectly convey how my experience felt in words...but just know that it was quite the little adventure!

I'm sure I'll have many, many more before my time in Korea is up.