Tag Archives: school

Khristmas in Korea

I wish I could say that it began to look a lot like Christmas starting from two months ago, as it would back in the States, but that was not so. I did, however, begin to see a hint of Christmas-themed merchandise being offered at the beginning of November at Costco, but that was essentially the extent of it. That’s not to say that Christmas was conspicuously absent. I’m just saying that you had to look for it and mainly focus in on the shopping malls. As for Christmas carols, I did see one “choir” made up of 3 people; they were outside singing for a church function. Oh yes, and one of the neighborhood coffee shops has a playlist of Korean-sung Christmas songs (some rather badly and one reminds me of a Korean William Hung). The truth of the matter is that Christmas was brought from abroad and even then, it’s seen as more of a couple holiday rather than a family-oriented one.

HOWEVER, let me give you my rendition of it through snippets of modified Christmas carols (two, to be exact) and pictures illustrating said rectified lyrics…

I’ve been dreaming of a White Christmas,
But it’s no longer a dream here!
Where the treetops glisten and couples are kissin’,
Amidst a sheet of snow…

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Revealing Ruminations, Resulting Revelations

NOTE: This was started approximately a month ago but had been saved as a draft since then. I tried to proofread it and edit as needed, but… I don’t want to dwell on the tougher moments of life. The following may or may not include everything I was feeling at the time, but consider it a rant and an insight to some things foreign teachers may go through.

It’s about time to make the ultimate decision of whether or not I stay or go.

This is also because the relationship between my Co’s and I have become more strained than friendly for the most part. It’s more like we’re used to each other and tolerate one another but we don’t truly care about each other rather than the superficial things that displays that we’re on speaking terms. I don’t know what’s going on in their lives and vice versa. In short, I just want to get it all over with. I still like my kids a lot but because of my Co’s attitudes, nothing’s as exciting anymore. It’s coming to the point where I just don’t care, though I’m under the impression a lot of fellow GETs are in the same fix as me.

It came to something of a climax on Friday during lunch when the one Co still eating started off a conversation where she told me that she didn’t want to tell me something and it’s hard to do, but she has to (this always means it’s something that may not very pleasing to hear – it’s a Korean thing that gets on my nerves most of the time but never fails to amuse me). Honestly, if it’s hard to do and you’d rather not do it, why tell me? It’s like they just make it harder for themselves. Just spit it out.

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Eyes in Korea

Along with the stereotype of how Asians are good at studying – I’m beginning to see why and how this came about, living and teaching here – Asians also tend to need visual correction. I, myself, needed the aid of glasses to see perfectly in the third grade. I got my first pair of contacts in the sixth grade because I got tired of my glasses slipping down or needing to take them off or put them on while changing for gym. Approximately 87% of my coworkers that I share a room with need glasses as well, but most opt for the visually-pleasing contacts.

With Halloween coming up, I wanted to dress up but since I’m the school’s first foreign teacher from North America, I’m the first one to bring up what they plan on doing for Halloween. It seems like they never had this happen before as their previous native teachers were from New Zealand and South Africa, respectively. Apparently, Halloween isn’t very big in either of those countries. Either way, I’m American and I like Halloween. The fact that I get some fun out of this doesn’t hurt, either. 😉 However, since this is somewhat of a new concept – though the after school department at my school’s also trying to do a little Halloween celebration – I decided to tone down my dress a little and so I wanted a little something extra to spice up my lack of festive clothing: colored contacts.

Today, I took a trip to the local optometrist to get my first pair of colored contacts. This was what I got (just guess how much  I paid for it):

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I finally did it!!

Today, I took my first ever sick day ever since I arrived in Korea. 🙂

This may seem like such a small matter – you’re sick, you take a sick day, period – but not here. I also addressed this previously, as I’ve gone through this dilemma of whether or not I should take advantage of the handful of sick days I’m privileged to because the truth is that people here don’t really have this luxury. I’m sure they might, but so far, the only time I’ve seen a teacher absent is if they’re on official business or they’re on pregnant leave. Teachers here generally don’t have substitute teachers and on top of that, there’s this idea of showing to everyone else what a hard worker you are. Hence, after you see your Coteachers so sick that they don’t put on make up (trust me, this is a big thing) or come to school after they sliced open their thumb and got stitches at the nearby hospital, you begin to feel bad for taking a sick day because you’re sick.

It still baffles my mind but the truth is that my body cannot deal with this. I usually only get sick once a year, but in Korea, it’s as if I get sick once every two to three months. It’s ridiculous but the truth and I don’t think my body can undergo this constant beating against my immune system for much longer without a proper day of rest and low-key activities. As a result, I told myself regardless of how bad I would feel for taking advantage of my sick day (as odd as that sounds), I would take it because I didn’t want it to draw out an additional week or two.

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Mid-year Crisis

I’ve always lived my own way. Perhaps that makes me somewhat selfish in a way, but in truth, everyone’s selfish in some capacity, shape, or form. I once read somewhere the people choose their friends through what they believe they can gain from said potential friend. Anyway, this goes into how I pretty much listen to what I want to do. This isn’t completely true, though, as some people have told me I needed to be more opinionated, but I essentially make the big decisions for myself.

As a result, the Korean society in which people care more about their reputation seriously tires and annoys me. However, I can’t ignore the ‘importance’ of reputation because honestly speaking, the notion is prevalent in varying degrees throughout the world, but especially in Asia. Because I’m currently living and working in Asia, I can’t just ignore it, especially when it’s at the root of a number of past misunderstandings between my Coteachers and I. This is a bigger problem when I’m trying to find the ultimate answer to the question of, “Will I stay here another year?”

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The Storm

There’s always the calm before the storm and guess what? I’m currently being buffeted around by the aforementioned storm.

I had texted my head Coteacher over the Chuseok weekend telling her I was interested in staying for another year and if there was something I had to do to get it done. She never replied and it was never mentioned in class. I took it to mean she wasn’t 100% certain I should sign on for another year – and I was right. She finally told me her thoughts a week and a half later at the urgings of my other Co – the more opinionated and openly stubborn one.

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S-I-C-K:There’s No Such Thing

The title is a bit of a lie. Obviously, everyone gets sick at one point in their lives. It doesn’t matter when or if you only get sick once – you will get sick. This applies to Koreans, as well. However, it’s their attitude towards it that’s strikingly different and it’s something that really gets in the way between the Native teacher and the Korean teacher. On the surface, it’s fairly simple though with slight differences.

A day's dosage.

When you get sick, you can go to several places. There’s the pharmacy where you go to the counter, tell the pharmacist your symptoms, and they prescribe whatever they see fit. As you can see, this can be a problem if you don’t know much Korean. Luckily, when you’re sick, the symptoms tend to be obvious. These “over-the-counter” medications are usually in packets or in boxes, looking somewhat similar to the over-the-counter boxes of Tylenol, Advil, and other medications you can find in the States. They’re good for a beginning onslaught of some ailment.

Then, if you’re up to it or feeling a bit worse, you can visit a doctor at a clinic. Usually, the clinics tends to be grouped in the same building or area with a pharmacy located somewhere at the bottom. This requires a little more talking and they also ask for your ARC (Alien Registration Card) or ID for insurance in addition to other things like birth date and phone number. Then you see the doctor for a one-on-one consultation and here’s the catch – some may know a little bit of English, but they usually don’t. However, if you feel like you’re sick enough to merit a trip to the doctor, he might be able to tell. There’s the usual looking at the back of the throat and even a nice nostril cleaning that I had when I went to a clinic specialising in Nose, Ears, and Throat last semester. The end of this meeting results in a prescription which you will, once again, bring to the pharmacy. This time, they give you a series of individual, wax paper packets, each filled with pills and tablets of all shapes, colors, and sizes. It’s usually only enough for a couple of days (up to around five from what I’ve seen). They tell you when to take it, how, and anything else they’d like you to know, but I have no clue with the bright yellow and red pill does and that interesting triangular one boggles the mind.

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Gyeongju, Ulsan, & the 6th Graders

About a month ago, I was invited to go on a school trip with the sixth graders. I was merely told that it would be sometime in September over a couple of days. Well, the time came near and I found out the exact time and date five days before it came, which is fairly normal. However, this was when I also found out that the person who asked me never asked my coteachers. I had assumed they had spoken as the Korean teachers converse like buzzing bees and I got used to being left in the dark. Apparently, this is the one time someone decided to go straight to me, which is a nice feeling, but also means I have to deal with the fact that these three days of school trip means I don’t teach for three days and my coteachers that I teach with those days are left to teach alone. I felt bad… but not too bad. After all, it’s not like we’re all really close and I’ve pretty much given up trying to gain a relationship with them that’s more than coworker.

The first few impressions I got from the trip were interesting, but there was a definite theme. From a student and throughout a majority of the trip that dealt with Korean history and culture, there was an anti-Japanese vibe that was present. This was obvious when one of my better students, who’s a little quirky and slightly more mature for her age, came up to me and asked me if I heard of some Korean place of some historical significance. I replied in the negative and she said that it was once very beautiful – but then the Japanese came and burned it down. She then concluded that that was why all Koreans (yes, she said all) hate the Japanese. When the head homeroom teacher told me some background stories of sites, it was always because they were preventing invasion from invaders – “especially the Japanese”. (I’m sure “the Chinese” would have been included as well if I weren’t ethnically Chinese, haha.) Then you have my 5th grade co-teacher who loves Japan, the Japanese, and their language, but that’s another thing entirely.

Anyway – to the location. We took a roughly 3-hour long bus ride down to Gyeongju (경주), a city near the southeast coast of South Korea. It’s a smaller city and isn’t listed as one of the metropolitan cities, like my home city of Daejeon is (though, granted, Daejeon is the smallest Korean metropolitan city), but it’s a cute little place. It’s predominately known for the wealth of Korean culture and historical artifacts and sites that are present as well as the fact that it served as the capital of the Shilla (신라) Kingdom. This makes the city a very appropriate setting for a school field trip. In fact, throughout my three days away from teaching, I learned a bit about Korean history as well as the many other students who came with their schools to the same sites my school visited.

I got to school at 7:40 am and we left the school with a line of five charter buses; one for each class and as we have five 6th grade classes, there were five buses. I stayed with the head 6th grade homeroom teacher and so I sat in the first bus. Once we arrived, our first stop was up a mountain with our ultimate destination being a temple – Pulguksa, to be exact, but let’s not get too far ahead. When we got to Gyeongju, we went straight towards Mount Toham (토함산) and went to Seokguram (석굴암), which is host to a famous, historical grotto in which a stone sculpture of Buddha lies. It’s rather beautiful, but no pictures were allowed in the grotto. However, I did get some shots of the surrounding area.

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A Bit of an Update

It never occurred to me that I hadn’t posted on here in a while. Things got pretty busy.

Here I am, getting ready to go to school for Hermes Camp, a city-wide English Camp that I recall hearing is for the students who can’t afford to make their own school’s English Camps. I’m on my third day, but this camp business really cuts into my life, even though I get home early.

It still strikes me as ironically funny that when all the other teachers aren’t doing much (aka on vacation) is when all the native teachers are inundated with work – finally. At least that’s how I felt until this became my third week preparing for camp, but I’ve learned a bit when it comes to planning out 80-minute lesson plans the night before and making up the material. Honestly, I can’t wait until next week when I get to deskwarm. Don’t get me wrong, these camps have their moments and I don’t mind it terribly – it’s just I stay up late to make sure my materials are all up to par and appropriate for my kids’ levels. I don’t practice for taekwondo as much anymore and I find I don’t want to go until I’m sure I can perform correctly, especially since my instructor’s upping the material and standards in an attempt to prepare me for the black belt test next month, which I highly doubt I’ll be able to make. I need to have a talk with him. I also suppose me gaining a social life may also attribute to this lack of practice. Whoops. >.>

In addition, my sister will be coming into Korea on Monday! ^^ She’ll be coming to taekwondo with me.

Then the week after, it’s Japan… then China. ❤ It’s my vacation and even though I’m dying to get sleep now, I’m fairly sure my vacation will be fairly busy, but the good kind that makes me feel like I can go on for a while.

Anyway, I best be off to get ready to take that 15-minute bus ride to the host school for Hermes.
More detailed posts are coming up! This is just to fill in some space.

F <3 I

It all started on a normal day, as these things tend to go.

I was walking to taekwondo and suddenly, I feel something vibrate in my bag – it was my cell phone. Who in the world would be calling me at this time, I thought, but it all made sense when I looked at the caller ID. Two days earlier, I went on a business trip to a nearby elementary school, around a 20-minute walk away from my own school, for a meeting regarding Hermes camp. It’s an English camp during the vacation sponsored by the city and various native teachers are recruited for it. Like most things in Korea, things are usually done last minute and, unsurprisingly, I’m usually the last one to find out which makes it really last minute for me. I was required to go to my kids’ class and then right afterwards, I was told that I should “probably go now” since I planned on walking.

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