Sunday, June 27, 2010

short blog post today...things have been busy around cheonan lately!

however, i wanted to let you know that our summer vacation plans have been finalized...and we purchased our plane tickets to visit india for 10 days in august! if the ticket-buying is any indication, we're in for a real adventure. hahaha. (one night this week, i spent 3 hours on a 100% korean website trying to work out the itinerary. by the end, i thought my brain was going to explode from taking in so much korean!) we're really excited but a little overwhelmed with all of the planning still left to do. fortunately, my friends there have been a life-saving contact and are helping us out big time! the flight is a little pricey, but once we arrive in india, everything will seem dirt-cheap to us. has anyone visited india? any suggestions of must-see attractions?

i'm glad to report that, while not yet to 100%, i'm feeling much better these days. i finally went to see a doctor last week (which i should have done about 3 weeks earlier), and the medicine has helped me a lot. thanks for all of your thoughts and concern! this week saw me back to my normal self & running around like a chicken with my head cut off. hahaha. typical, right? but i promise not to revert back 100% to the former ways - at least 2 nights a week, i'm taking time for myself to rest up! this week saw some quality time with other american teachers - something i have been deeply deprived of. i told you that the KNU students have all returned to their hometowns, so sadly, i can't see them 1/4 as much as i'd like to! but we try to work out meetings - this week one came to see me @ KNU for dinner/coffee, and i traveled 1.5 hr by subway to visit another for dinner/korean karaoke! i cherish my dear friends here.

this week will be crazy as i just found out that i have an open class next tuesday. that means the principal/VP/school administrators/other teachers will all come to watch me teach for a period. it's terribly unnerving - and since i am the only foreign teacher, the place is guaranteed to be packed out. i also found out that my open class has to be 6th grade - not my preference! anything can happen. this week will see tons of lesson planning/prep/practice/etc. probably gonna be ready to scream more than once. think of me!

if you are a korean or american (or maybe both, like me!), my deepest condolences on the recent world cup losses. for you americans, at least you weren't here to watch the games - my friends stayed up all night to see korea play @ 11pm and u.s. @ 3am - and both ended in losses. heartbreaking! (i was sound asleep for both, obviously!)

everyone, be well!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

hello dear friends!

happy american fathers day to you. i am missing my dear dad something terrible today. he's been my best friend for 23+ years now & we're still going strong. wish we could be together today to eat mexican food and nap in the man-cave basement with some sports blaring on the flat-screen. :( here's to you, dad!however, we will meet again soon enough! did i mention that mom & dad are coming to visit me in september? they're making the long trek over for a week of korean culture & more than their fill of time with me. hahaha. korea's a small country, but there is a ton to see. does anyone (reading this blog from korea) have suggestions of the best places to visit in a time crunch??

there is little to report from cheonan this week. unfortunately, i have been feeling extremely under the weather these days. i think it is a combination of a lot of things that has culminated into this pure, debilitating exhaustion that has rendered me pretty useless. i'll be making a visit to the hospital tomorrow to try to figure out what's going on. nobody should panic, as i'm sure it's nothing serious! just keep me in your prayers. my teachers sent me home from school early several days this week to just rest because they said i looked pretty terrible. hahaha. koreans are pretty blunt, so you can't take it personally! i appreciate their care and concern.

i have mentioned a bit about the world cup madness here in korea. it continues! haha. on thursday, some of us went to the sports complex/stadium here in our city to watch korea take on argentina. unfortunately, the game didn't turn out quite as we would have hoped, but it was still a great experience. there were several thousand fans there cheering like crazy as if we were at the actual game in south africa. alot of fun. the next korea match will take place this wednesday - at 3:30am local time! i have a feeling i might not make that game. :/

frankly speaking, the weather here is pretty lousy these days. i complained a lot about the humidity when i moved from ohio to tennessee. then i came to korea. hahaha. dumb, right?? i have never experienced humidity like this. it's miserable! it's the kind that makes you wonder why you even shower in the morning, because you'll be drenched as soon as you walk out the front door. also, A/C isn't as widely used here as it is in the states...i have heard it's too expensive. so while teaching saturday school yesterday, both me and my students were sweating our butts off. between the uncomfortable weather & world cup, my students might as well not even come to school! hahaha. their concentration is way off these days. and we still have another month until summer vacation!

in between long naps, i have been working hard on studying korean. i have really been amazed at the improvement that i've seen in the few short weeks since i got really serious about learning the language. it's still incredibly difficult and impossibly different from english, but i am slowly making progress. on friday, through a confusing series of events, john and i found ourselves in a part of town that we were totally unfamiliar with. the only way we could get to where we were going was by jumping into a cab. i was able to successfully ask the cabby if he knew of the restaurant we were trying to get to. when he said no, we were able to figure out a store that was near the restaurant for him to drop us off at. i was satisfied when i realized i would not have been able to accomplish such a seemingly trivial task just a few weeks ago. i am texting only in korean now, and learning a lot that way! my friends joke around and ask - "are you like a real korean now?!"

after school on friday, a bunch of the 6th grade teachers were sitting around eating watermelon and chatting. it was a pleasant way to pass some time until, to my horror, the science teacher brought this big cup of some white milky substance and sat it in front of me. she looked at me expectantly like - "i made it for you! please drink it!" i asked my teacher what it was and she said "homemade soy milk!" and by homemade she meant it was straight from the science lab. gag me! hahaha. but i couldn't say no and everyone was watching, so i picked it up and took a huge gulp. it was AWFUL. hahaha. like drinking straight sawdust. it was so chalky that you had to chew it and it resembled something like drinking pancake batter. only it was even worse than that because pancake batter at least tastes delicious. i really thought i was going to die. i somehow managed to choke down the entire cup and then had to fight the urge to vomit for the next couple of hours. by far my worst food experience here in korea!

2 quick stories from the classroom to close out this entry. on friday i was giving a speaking test to my 5th graders, which has proven to be a difficult task because their pronunciation leaves much to be desired. in an effort to help one of her friends pass, a student came behind me during the test and started massaging my shoulders! hahaha. i started laughing so hard. sadly, the massage didn't help her friend who clearly hadn't studied. in another 5th grade class, i had a student who actually did really well on the exam. i went to mark her passing grade on the grading sheet, and asked her for her student number. she told me in korean, but all of my kids know that i will only mark it if they tell me in english. i don't understand why, but the girl refused to tell me "eighteen" in english. all of her friends were like "just say it! just say it!" i am the most stubborn of all the stubborn people in the world, so i was not about to give in. i told her that if she wouldn't tell me, she wouldn't pass. then she started crying these huge crocodile tears. my heart of stone didn't budge. hahaha. she stood there crying for about 2 minutes before she realized that it wasn't helping, and she finally told me her number was 18. say what you will - i may be heartless, but i make my students use their english!

i'm off to take my sunday afternoon nap. :) if you are fortunate enough to be together today, give your dad a big squeeze and tell him how much you love him!

Monday, June 14, 2010

the mood of this blog entry will be less than enthusiastic. sorry!
lately i have been tremendously run-down and overly exhausted. a huge part of my personality is to constantly stay busy, always be on-the-go. it's great for productivity, but terrible for your health. i want to try to cram as much as possible in my day without having any downtime and sometimes it just catches up with you. having a packed schedule for the past month and a half without any downtime finally caught up with me this weekend. i've been really dragging the past couple of weeks - even taking up coffee-drinking just to make it through the day. i've hated the stuff for the past 23 years, and still don't necessarily enjoy it, but it has been my lifeline lately. this weekend, my body sort of shut down - and i kept falling asleep wherever i sat down! so embarrassing. i stopped in a friend's room to say hi on sunday, and almost mid-conversation, my body decided that a 2-hr nap was in order. what the heck?! today i was at work and thought i was just going to pass out. my head felt like it was full of lead and i had a fever and some dizziness. i decided to take a half-day to come home and rest. i laid down for a little nap - and woke up 4 hours later! i couldn't believe it. my body is definitely trying to tell me something so i am finally going to listen. i'm cutting back on my schedule and taking more time to rest. it's miserable to feel this way! the weather definitely contributes - it's been rainy and gross here lately. and work has been a daily struggle, as i have mentioned before. so morale is a little low here these days - please keep us in your prayers!

having said that, i am tremendously blessed with a great support system here! we really try to take care of each other. my friends do a lot for raising my morale without even knowing it. tonight, someone was just in the area so they stopped by my room to say hey and bring me a vitamin water. after a crappy day, a smile was just what i needed! then i got to share dinner with a korean friend and it also did wonders for bringing up my mood. i don't know how i could make it through this experience without having my dear friends around me.

all of that crap out of the way, there are definitely still some great things happening here in korea! koreans live and breathe soccer - they claim it as 'their' sport. so the world cup is a HUGE event here. it's so different from being in america - where i don't even remember ever watching a single world cup game. saturday was korea's first game (vs greece) and as you may or may not know, korea dominated! i watched it at a restaurant with 2 other foreign teachers and one of my korean friends. it was quite the experience. american football has NOTHING on korean soccer. the fans are crazy! hahaha. it's so cool to watch. americans are definitely proud to be americans and have a definite grasp on patriotism. but koreans have national pride like i have never seen. i guess when your entire country is the size of 1 of america's 50 states, you will have that. it's such a cool experience to be here, though, and see the entire country rally behind something like this. if you ever get the chance to visit korea, come during the world cup! :)

i got a late birthday package from my sister last week - chock-full of american boxed dessert mixes! i was thrilled out of my mind. hahahaha. i whipped up some american brownies last week and shared them with both korean and american friends. the americans were drooling over them - a little taste of home. and the koreans went nuts! some of them said they were a little too sweet - all american foods are much sweeter than anything in korea. but some of them LOVED them. like - they won't stop talking about it! hahaha. fortunately, my sister really stocked me up so i will be making more soon. :) recently, i also found a shop here that serves dr. pepper. WOW! this is a big deal. all of the americans have been frequenting the place because we haven't had a dr. pepper in 4+ months. it's really hard to find here. in fact, none of my korean friends have had it before! one of them tried it for the first time tonight and his eyes lit up..."wow! really delicious!" and he chugged it. hahaha. i love being able to share a piece of america with my korean friends.

it's 9.30 pm here so i'm signing off to try to get some extra rest tonight before i go back to work tomorrow. please keep all of our 50+ teachers in your well as the 10+ new teachers who are preparing to come from the states next month. it's taxing to live in a foreign country...even seemingly normal, mindless tasks are much more challenging and draining. and a large part of culture shock is more susceptibility to illness. your thoughts are appreciated!

until next time...korea fighting!

Monday, June 7, 2010

this just in...i am a total idiot.
tell us something we didn't know, right?!

when i first came to korea 4+ months ago, i had minimal ability in reading korean. in each of our rooms, we were set up with the bare necessities, including huge costco size bottles of shampoo & conditioner. i took my best guess of which bottle was which, then never bothered to look back once i got into a routine. when i showered, i used the brown bottle first as shampoo, then the white bottle as conditioner. but over time my hair has become unmanageable. i used to have beautiful, stick straight hair. it is currently in a frizzed-out, 100% unable-to-be-tamed state. i didn't know what was wrong. maybe a change in water? change in environment? change in hair products? i was contemplating paying for professional straightening or treatment because it was so bad. and then on saturday, i actually read my shampoo and conditioner bottles. and saw that the "conditioner" i was using was actually shampoo. so everyday for the past 4+ months, i have been shampooing twice and using no conditioner. what the heck?! no wonder my hair freaked out. moral of the story: learn the language before you go to a foreign country and fry your once-great hair.

i had a busy week last week catching up with friends. all of their english is progressing so well...i'm really proud! i won't get to see many of them this week, though, because of final exams. (they already have final exams for the semester that just began in march!) after that, KNU will be a ghost town because all of the students will return to their hometowns for summer vacation. :( it will be so sad!

last entry, i mentioned that i decided to crack down and really study korean. i have thus far been able to stick to that, and i am amazed at the improvement i've seen in just a week. it's been very rewarding and motivating. so these days, i spend less time on facebook, and more time studying. i'm still really horrible at it, but it's coming along little by little. and when i have studied til my brain can take no more, i "rest" by watching korean tv. i'm pushing myself hard to really try to get the hang of this.

contrary to popular belief, a lot of koreans are really tall. so unfortunately, i still can't fit in a lot of the clothes here! yesterday, i went to a tailor shop to get some pants hemmed. and i'm glad to report that it costs less than $3 per pair. hahaha. i love how cheap everything is here!

i have become so aware lately of how really, really fortunate i am. coming into this experience, i had no idea what to expect...and really anything could have happened. but my program is great and treats all of our teachers absolutely wonderfully. and i made a ton of really good friends so quickly. i have had a lot of bad days at work, but i am always with friends in the evening who can cheer me up without even knowing it. i am so, so thankful.

my 6th graders are on their way, so i'd better run. everyone take care and be well!