Sunday, February 28, 2010

good news...i'm finally a TESOL grad! proof:

it was a long (sometimes agonizing) 4 weeks but it was worth it to get the certificate. glad to have that behind us!

to celebrate our graduation, we all went into seoul to shop our saturday away. the girls were all thrilled to find a 3-story forever21 in myeongdong. we spent alot of time & money there...we had a big group of about 12 teachers go up together. here are a few: my friend andy caught this picture in the middle of seoul shopping chaos. he's got quite the photographer's eye...check his blog for some other awesome shots from his canon.
it takes a little over an hour to get from cheonan to seoul by train, and costs a little under $6 each way. not too bad. seoul is enormous and we only saw one small part, so we will definitely be making some more trips up north. it was a long, but productive day, and we were all exhausted by the time we got home around 11pm.
i did have a funny experience while we were on the subway in seoul. our group was getting on the subway and i was in the rear. the subway was full so everybody was standing, but 2 older korean men slid over so i had room to sit on the bench. nobody was really paying attention so it probably looked like i wasn't a part of the "foreigner" group. anyways, i saw john looking at the subway map for our stop and i said "hey john, we have to get off in 3 stops." and there was this moment of sheer confusion as every korean in the car turned their head and stared at me, wondering where that weird accent-less english voice came from. i got uncharacteristically embarrassed because everyone was staring at me! hahaha. it was really funny.

patrick finally made it to korea this week! he made it on thursday night, but his luggage didn't make it til saturday. hahaha. he seems to be adjusting well and is ready to start teaching on tuesday. we are really glad to have him here. patrick was assigned to the same korean church that i attend, so he got to have his first experience this morning. it was hilarious. when we walked in the front door, pastor jo came up to greet us and all he said was - "WOW!" hahaha. patrick is really tall and all of the koreans have just been staring at him wherever he goes. he is amazing them! everyone at church was really glad to have him today and very interested in finding out more about him. we, of course, took some more family pictures. i don't have those yet, but here are some from john's visit a few weeks ago...

they are so welcoming to any friends that i bring with me...i love it! they are so happy when they get to meet new people.
here's a gem of a shot...3 year old yoon-hoo taking a pit stop to accept a nibble from a friend. hahaha. i love it.

i made a new korean friend named soo-in. she attends the international church on KNU campus and is getting ready to start her sophomore year of university. her english is SO blows me away. you know you are good at a 2nd language when you can understand the jokes and humor in that language. she knows alot of slang and idioms and likes to use them whenever given the opportunity. like the awful english teacher that i am, i sometimes teach her new slang phrases. hahaha. she is so sweet and so much fun to hang out with. we had an unusually warm and sunny day on friday so we got to spend the whole afternoon/evening/into late night together. we explored some of cheonan and did some shopping and she taught me some korean and i taught her some english slang and words like "jay-walking," which happens often here. later in the evening, we met up with some of the other new english teachers to celebrate a birthday korean-style with some noraebong, or korean karaoke. everybody gets really into it and it's hilarious. soo-in and i were looking for an english song to sing together (since her english is way better than my korean) and she kept asking me to sing english songs that i'd never even heard of before. hahaha. she is a better american than i am! we had a blast together...i look forward to spending more time with her this year. sorry i don't have any pictures of soo-in to share with you...i'm really terrible at remembering to take pictures. all of the shots you see on this blog are taken by friends who are much better at getting a good picture than i am. i guess i'm too busy living the moment to think of trying to capture it. thankful for my friends with great equipment who can capture them for me. :)

today i did a test run to make sure i knew how to get to both of my schools and all went well. i will start teaching on tuesday! a little nervous but i'm sure everything will be fine. we get tomorrow off for a korean holiday so we might be taking a trip to costco. woohoo! i will be buying the largest jar of peanut butter i can get my hands on. hahaha.

hope you all are well. have a great week!

Monday, February 22, 2010

sorry it has been a little while. things have been busy with TESOL, so i haven't had time for much else. and because of that...i have neither blogged nor had much to blog about. i am, however, glad to report that this is our last week of training and we will be graduates this friday! so excited. we will then have a long weekend (another korean holiday this monday...they have alot of those) then start teaching at our schools on tuesday, march 2nd. nervous and excited when i think about going to school and facing my hundreds and hundreds of students. pretty overwhelming...i hope i can handle it!

all of the treveccans are pretty excited to welcome another one of us to korea this week. patrick was supposed to come with us in january, but was delayed due to some paperwork complications. thankfully, it has all been worked out and he will arriving here thursday evening. keep him in your thoughts and prayers, though, because this means he will only have the weekend to conquer jetlag, familiarize himself with the area, experience some culture shock, and get prepared to start a new job. it has been pretty overwhelming to try to do all of these things in a month, so the idea of condensing it into one weekend is pretty mindblowing. i know he will be fine, but do me a favor and remember him this next week!

i had another wonderful sunday at church yesterday. we had a delicious meal after a great service, then played a popular korean game called yut. it is often played to celebrate the chinese new year (which was technically last week). it was alot of fun to see another aspect of the culture and learn a new game...even though my team came in last place. :( hoping for better luck next time.

i had a chance to share lunch with one of the professors here @ KNU last week. she is a korean adoptee who came back right after she graduated from a nazarene school...just like me! we had a great discussion about lots of things and she was a huge help to me. she is also alot of fun and super sweet, so it was just enjoyable! i hope to be able to share lots more of those lunches together. one thing we discussed was the rehabilitation program at KNU. i think this is so cool. the school has a major focus on helping students with disabilities or special needs, and offers several different majors related to rehabilitation and a great facility with some state of the art equipment. most of you know that special needs students are very near and dear to my heart, and i love the opportunity to spend time working with them. i also just think it is so cool to see the university not only recognizing an often-overlooked population, but also saying "we believe in you and want to help you in whatever way we can. we want to see you succeed!" i feel like this is such a beautiful way of living out the mission of the church and being the people we are supposed to be. all that to say, the KNU professor works in that program and was really excited when i told her how interested i was in it. she is putting me in touch with one of her students from that dept and hopefully i will be able to tour the facility soon and find out if there is a way i can help out. nothing would make me happier!

the dynamics of interpersonal relationships always take any situation and turn it into something infinitely more interesting. my time in korea is no exception. i have made alot of korean friends and i love spending time with them and learning more about their culture and them as individuals. i love spending time with my church family and sharing meals with them and getting to know them a little better every week. i love spending time with the other new teachers and learning about their backgrounds and personalities and likes and dislikes. and i love spending time with my old friends who i have known since freshman year of college. i love being thrown into a situation like this where we have no choice but to depend on each other and support one another and i love finding out new things about them and seeing that, just maybe, we don't know each other quite as well as we thought we did. our relationships with one another are some of the most frustrating and rewarding things about our short time here on this earth. healthy relationships don't come naturally and they sometimes take sweat, blood, and tears. but those are the things that make it all worth it in the end. take some time this week to consider your relationships with those around you and be reminded that nothing that is worthwhile comes easily.

may God bless you guys this week!

Monday, February 15, 2010

2 posts in 2 days...whoa! it's crazy, i know. but i have good stuff to share.

today, as mentioned earlier, is one of korea's biggest holidays. many people travel to visit their families for the weekend, so i knew attendance would be down at our already small church. this morning, pastor jo picked me up and i found out i was the only person coming. hahaha. it would just be me and his family. needless to say, i was surprised!

i have mentioned several times that koreans are very shy about using the english they know. even koreans who can speak it fluently are very reluctant to do so. so i was totally blown away when pastor conducted the service in about 65% english this morning. holy cow...such a huge gesture. he was definitely out of his comfort zone, but he sang the songs in english, and gave his sermon in as much english as he knew. his wife sat next to me and translated the best she could the parts that he was unable to. basically, they went WAY out of their comfort zone for my sole benefit. i was amazed and humbled...they are so thoughtful and accommodating.

after church, we normally go into the fellowship hall for dinner, but eun-sol told me that i would come to their house for lunch today. so generous! she made such a delicious spread of kalbi, broccoli, kimchi, fish cakes, and soup. it was so good & she prepared so much. i have good and bad days with the chopsticks, and i'll admit - today was definitely an off day. i mean - i was dropping food all over the embarrassing! but pastor's wife just laughed at me and ran in the kitchen to retrieve a fork. i was so grateful - hahaha. koreans often end their meals with fruit, so dessert was tangerines, apples, and strawberries. fruit tastes so much fresher here...i can't get enough of it! we shared such great conversation over the course of the meal, with few language complications. i am so impressed by their english...and grateful that they feel comfortable enough to use it around me. we laughed alot and had a great time getting to know each other better. i shared pictures of my family with them and they were very interested in learning more about us. they said from first impressions and just seeing a picture of my dad, he seems to be very kind and welcoming. how accurate! they also helped me with my hangul/korean. my pronunciation is often a bit off, so they helped me out alot in that area.

i have learned that you have to be really careful what you say around koreans because they are so anxious to help you. i happened to mention that the fruit here is so much better than what i am used to in the states, and eun-sol packed me up a HUGE bag of tangerines and apples to bring back to KNU with me. wayyyy more than one person could ever eat. then they remembered that i had mentioned weeks ago that i could only find very small bath towels here (a little bigger than the size of an average hand towel in the states), so she packed up 2 oversized towels for me to bring back! then i told them that i had gone to the store the previous day, and they asked if i had taken a bus. when i said i walked, they gasped dramatically and said "ani-eyo (or no in english)...too far! too far! next time, we go together!" i told them that some of the teachers were talking about going into another city (about an hour away) to go to costco, since it is a bit cheaper and has some american things that we can't find at other stores. and of course, pastor jo & eun-sol insisted that they take me into seoul to go to costco sometime soon. they are the most giving people i have ever met! it seriously blows my mind.

when it came time to leave, they packed up the whole family to bring me home. the whole ride back i was seriously touched by all they had done for me...and especially on a huge holiday when everyone is spending time with their families. they have only known me for a few weeks and have taken me in like i am one of their own. so i was racking my brain trying to think of some way i could repay them...but everything kept falling short. the only small gesture i could think of was to invite them in to see where i live. they acted like i had given them a million dollars! they were so happy that i had invited them. so we all marched into the dorm and up to my tiny room on the 4th floor. on the way up, with her hands full of fruit and towels that she was giving me, eun-sol gasped and said "we don't have a housewarming present for you!" i laughed and told her that we would just count the bags and bags of stuff she was giving me as the present. they have 2 small boys and as soon as we got in the room, the kids started going crazy, taking off their shoes and jumping on my bed. hahahaha. eun-sol was so embarrassed but i was cracking up. i have pictures of my friends and i hanging all over my room, and they studied each very carefully and asked about everyone in them. then pastor jo came to a picture that was taken on my photobooth and gasped. in the picture, we had set the camera on a setting that distorts your face and stretches it out so you look crazy. he started laughing so hard and pulled out his phone to take a picture of it...he was so impressed! hahaha. i turned on my computer and showed him how the program worked and they were all amazed. the kids thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen and were laughing until i thought they were going to stop breathing. they took pictures was so funny! here are a few shots:

apple computers aren't very popular here, so they had never seen a program like photobooth. they obviously loved it.

so i guess you could say i had the best lunar new year ever. i can't believe how blessed i have been to come into such an amazing church family!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

i've had numerous requests for an update...i can't believe you guys aren't sick of me yet! thanks for being such faithful readers.

things were much easier for us this week TESOL-wise. we are now officially halfway through...woohoo! we're all ready for the next 2 weeks to go by quickly. currently, we are enjoying a long weekend. the 14th is when koreans celebrate Seollal, or the lunar new year. this is one of the country's 2 biggest holidays. the city is quiet as most people travel to visit their families and most shops close down for a few days. our teachers were gracious and gave us no homework for the weekend, so we are all enjoying the time to relax, explore, and (personally) study korean.

we were all able to get our cellphones this week! it was a long and grueling process, taking about 3 hours with alot of communication via hand motions, broken english, and minimal korean. it was also a hilarious experience, as the cell phone store employees got so excited to have so many new contracts signed at once. they all started clapping and yelling and shouting: "we love you! we love america!" towards the end, the manager started running around and handing out bills of 10,000 won and shouting "discount, discount!" hahaha. it was like a little party in the cell phone store. they have become our new friends - i was walking past yesterday with one of the other teachers when the manager happened to look out the window and see us. he yelled and ran out the door to meet us and walked a block with us, just talking in the little english he knew and laughing with us. koreans are so friendly!

we also had a hilarious experience at dinner this week. a bunch of teachers were trying to decide where to eat, when i suggested we walk until we found a new place we hadn't tried yet. everybody looked at me like i was crazy and expressed concern over the fact that we probably wouldn't be able to read the menu, but i talked them into being adventurous. we walked til we found a place that had an interesting design on the window that caught my eye, and i decided that's where we should eat. hahaha. we went in and took our shoes off and sat down and all of the koreans started swarming. whenever a group of us goes out, they always assume that i am the translator, since i am the only korean in the group. i think it makes some of the other teachers uncomfortable - like they are unsure of how i will react or nervous that it will upset me. hopefully they will get to know me better as time goes on and they will see that i think it's hilarious. anyways, all the koreans start talking to me really fast and i'm trying to make them understand that i don't speak korean. all of the teachers are just gawking, like "how is she going to make this work?!" i finally got them to understand that i had no idea what they were saying to me and we decided on what to order (samgyupsal, google it!). they started bringing out all of these side dishes til our table was literally overflowing with food and everyone was amazed. the koreans realized we were dumb when it comes to things like trying to figure out what the food is and how to eat it, so they started treating us like kids and cutting up our food for us and passing out chopsticks and napkins and just laughing with us at our pure ignorance. hahaha. it was awesome. i loved watching the new teachers go from fear and trepidation to laughing and enjoying a new experience. and i loved interacting with the koreans and finding ways to communicate with them without having a common language. the whole experience turned into a night that left me laughing until my sides hurt. here are a couple shots of the spread & everybody who got to experience this hilarious evening:

i should probably note, too, that this entire meal cost each of us a little over 5,000 won. that's equivalent to about $5 USD...and we considered this meal to be a little bit on the expensive side! relatively speaking, everything is so much cheaper in korea!

this country is full of broken english and improper translations, and it's so funny. just walking down the street, you will see signs and things written totally wrong and just laugh your head off. a good example was when i was looking up movie listings today. the local theater normally plays all korean films and then about 2 american movies. i saw avatar and then this other movie i could not figure out for anything. after a good 2 minutes of racking my brain, i finally realized that "if the food falls from the sky" was "cloudy with a chance of meatballs." hahahaha!

i've had alot of questions about what types of things we have here that we also have in the states. the answer is: alot! you could easily find a pizza hut, krispy kreme, kfc, or starbucks here...but why would you want to if you have so many new things you could try?! i will note that all of the mcdonalds restaurants here have a delivery service! you always see the mcdonalds delivery guys zipping around the streets on their motorized scooters. hahaha. i do have a few staples here that i can't go without, such as...
this little can of heaven will run about 500 won, or less than 50 cents. diet coke is light coke here. :)

i've also been nibbling on these...
korean has alot of sounds that english doesn't have, and vice versa. so you sometimes just have to make do. this literally reads (backwards, of course): hershey's kee-sye-se.

oh and i'm currently on a card-writing frenzy. the post office workers here now recognize me when i come the door as that korean who can't speak korean. hahaha. they know i am always sending to miguk (america).
maybe one of these has YOUR name on it?! you'll see soon enough...these will be 미국 bound on tuesday!

time to go scavenge for some food. hope you all have a great weekend...happy lunar new year! :)

Monday, February 8, 2010


hard to believe i am already into my 3rd week of being here in korea. it seems like i just got here yesterday, but at the same time, like i have been here forever. does that even make sense?

glad to report that things are slowing down a bit in TESOL training. i had my first graded teaching practice last friday and by the grace of God...i somehow passed! such a relief. i will present another tomorrow, and then have the rest of the week off of homework and presentations! i won't even know what to do with that free time. we will then have 2 more weeks of TESOL.

we have a long weekend coming up as koreans celebrate the lunar new year. i hear it is one of the biggest holidays. all of the train tickets are already sold out as everyone travels to see relatives for the weekend. we haven't decided how we will spend this time yet...but there has been discussion about going into seoul for some sightseeing. we will have monday off of training, but have to make it up by going to classes on the following saturday. =(

this past saturday, our power was out for most of the day so i went into yawoori to visit some friends and shop. the mall has a giant stationery store that i could spend countless hours in. korean stationery is so wonderful. most of it has funny cartoons or designs on the front, and then some broken english. hahaha. i have been eating this stuff up. i had to give myself a spending limit and cut myself off after awhile. i bought a ton of stuff, so everybody email me your address if you want a card from across the world! i sent out a bunch of them today...only time will tell if you are in the lucky 1st batch. =) everybody run and check your mailboxes!

i got to attend my 2nd korean church service on sunday, and loved it as much as i did the first time. one of my very favorite things is being able to sing hymns and choruses alongside the koreans and know that we are singing to the same God, even if not in the same language. it's so humbling and i feel such a bond with them during those times. i am also proud to report that i have noticed a marked improvement in my ability to read hangul (korean). i can almost read & sing the characters with the rest of the church. music is a great way to practice your korean. again, this week, they translated the bulletin for me, gave me an english printout of the sermon outline, and the pastor sang some verses in english. i am so thankful! they also gave me a print with several of the pictures that we took last week's so sweet! they are the most thoughtful hosts i have ever met. john came with me this sunday, and everybody loved him...the kids, especially. during the course of lunch, john mentioned that he had studied vocal performance in college, so before we could leave, the pastor made john get up in front of everybody and sing a hymn. hahaha. they were all so amazed by his voice and kept saying, "wow! wow! wow!" next week, my 2 translators will be gone to visit their family for the holiday, so communication will be more limited than it has been. we'll see how it goes!

i haven't given a food update in a couple of days, so i will share one of my new favorite foods here: rabokki.
i get hungry just looking at this picture. rabokki is a mixture of many things, just like most korean foods. it starts with a hefty serving of ramen, covered in a red sauce. then it is covered in all kinds of things, among them: fish cakes, rice cakes, hard boiled egg, and rice cake tubes that are stuffed with cheese. it is so good and so filling. there is a place really close to KNU that has the best, and it is only 3,500 won...or around $3 USD. you can't beat that.

time to sleep before another teaching practice tomorrow. i pray that all of you are alive and well in the states. keep in touch via facebook or email!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

to put it lightly, TESOL is killing us. the course is much more intensive than any of us ever dreamed, so we weren't mentally prepared for all that is being thrown at us. we have ALOT of work in a short period of time...all while still adjusting to living in an absolutely foreign place (and for some, still getting over jetlag). we end everyday exhausted from information overload and stressed out til we cry. literally. hahaha. please pray for our endurance, but also that we would remember that we are expected to do our best in all things, working as though directly for the Lord. this is hard to remember when it's late at night and we just want to be finished with our lesson plans. 8 of us have our first graded teaching practice tomorrow (pass/fail)...i hope nobody faints or totally freaks!

on top of the craziness and chaos of TESOL, today i got the news that i have gotten an additional school. so i will be teaching at 2 schools, instead of just 1. another perfect example of how things ALWAYS change in korea. never write in pen, because you will always need to scratch it out. i have no idea how i got to be the chosen one to get 2 schools, as the only other teachers who have 2 schools are at least second-year...and are all males?! everyone held their breath when our KNU liaison told me about the 2nd school, knowing the stress we are all currently under and expecting me to break out into tears. i handled it surprisingly well. i know i will not be given more than i can handle, and trust that there is a reason i need to be at this 2nd school. it will mean a heavier workload and will double the amount of students i see weekly from a couple hundred to...ALOT. but i think i can handle it.

today, we received our alien registration cards. it was very exciting. we are now one step closer to getting cell phones. our liaison is working on opening bank accounts for each of us, then we will be able to purchase phones & plans! we are hoping to have everything settled by this time next week. we're all so happy.

i am getting to know all of the other new teachers better and better everyday. and i am enjoying it so much. there are so many personalities, likes and dislikes, quirks, and backgrounds represented in our group. these tough and stressful times are drawing us together so we don't really have a choice but to get really cozy and learn about each other. after a crazy day of class today, and then my finding out about my 2nd school, i had just about had it. so i said, "i NEED some pizza!" this resulted in everybody pitching into buy 10 large pizzas and piling into the common room for some time to relax and wind down before a long night of homework. it was such a great time together, sharing stories & laughing til our sides hurt. i am thrilled to have a year to spend with these folks.

time to rest before my first teaching practice tomorrow. can't wait for the weekend, even though it will be absolutely packed with homework & presentation prep! totally ready for TESOL to be finished and march to bring us the spring and time with our students!

here is my TESOL group...couldn't make it through without each others' support.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

we are at the end of TESOL (teaching english to speakers of other languages) training day #2 and we are all hoping that we will make it. 4 weeks is relatively short but it seems so loooong when you are in the middle of it. we are attending classes everyday M-F from 9:30a-5p. it's pretty intensive with plenty of note-taking, homework, lesson planning, and project presenting to do. we pretty much feel like we're back in college. i probably won't have alot to share in the month of february since we are all pretty exhausted by the end of everyday. by the time we get back, have dinner, and do some homework, we're ready for bed! pretty lame.

since i don't have any long stories to share, i figured i would throw out some random tidbits that didn't quite fit in any of the previous posts & get some things out of the way...

first, i'll say that korean culture is always fluid, constantly changing. there are always spur of the moment schedule adjustments and spontaneous things that come up. anyone who knows me, knows that this is NOT at all my personality! it stresses me out so badly. hahaha. maybe this is one of the things i will learn this year: how to be fluid and adapt. anyways, all that to say, nothing is concrete here. it would seem...not even addresses! as far as i have seen, there isn't one standard way to address something. so i think there are many ways to get things mailed here, but just to be safe, here is my "official" address. at least for this week!

Whitney Casey
Special District of International Education
Korea Nazarene University (Attn: Jenny Kim)
#117 Faith Hall (Miteumgwan)
456 Ssangyong-dong Seobukgu Cheonan City Choongnam
331 718 South Korea

next, i can't wait to get a cell phone. none of the new teachers are able to get one since we don't have our alien registration cards yet. we are all going crazy! i do think, though, that since we are so anxious to have one again, we were probably too attached and a month long break is healthy for us. it's kind of pathetic how dependent we are upon modern one more so than me. however, cell phones do serve their purpose. for example, this past weekend, john & i were shopping at a mall in yawoori, an area that is about a 20 min bus ride from KNU campus. this was definitely the most confusing mall i have ever been in, with about a bajillion floors that each had different sub floors...basically an impossible maze. while we were in the mall, we got separated and couldn't find each other for anything. we're talking like 45min-an hour of just riding up and down so many different escalators. i was so incredibly frustrated. this is an instance when cellphones would have been helpful.

have i mentioned the heating system here? i think i have but i'll just reinforce how awesome it is. all of the floors are heated, which makes a great deal of sense since heat rises. in addition, it makes getting up in the morning a much more pleasant experience. who wouldn't prefer stepping out of bed onto a nice heated floor, as opposed to some cold linoleum or hardwood? i hear this type of heating also exists in the states, though i have never experienced it. in my opinion, america should seriously consider making this practice more widespread. it might make everyone alot happier in morning rush hour traffic. just's a good way to start out the day.

finally, i'd like to say that i am really amazed by how many people have been keeping up with this blog. family, friends, family friends, friends' families, and people i don't even know. wow-thank you! i really don't know why you would want to read this, but i am flattered by your patronage and hope i don't disappoint. i am so glad to be able to share this experience with you. there really is nothing like being able to get completely out of your comfort zone to see a different culture. i would recommend it to anyone.

and if you are reading this, leave me some feedback! questions, comments, criticisms...i'm open to it all. i think there is even a way to leave anonymous feedback (but maybe not). facebook me, email me...whatever. i want to be able to keep up on your lives as well. i'm seriously out of the loop now that i live 8000 miles away, so send me all the latest news!

i love you guys!