Friday, November 26, 2010

Give Thanks

It was Thanksgiving Day today, except they don't celebrate that here in Korea... It felt strangely (?) lonely today, despite being surrounded by children and co-teachers... I think it's pathetic/ironic, perhaps? that Halloween has carried over to Korea and is celebrated with enthusiasm and special activities, but one of my co-teachers was surprised to learn that we still really celebrate Thanksgiving in the States... Sheesh. In college, we got a whole week (+) off for Thanksgiving, but I have never once gotten a school day off for Halloween! (Not to mention, my family doesn't really celebrate Halloween... it's really Reformation Day, y'all!) So, to me, to have Thanksgiving sooooo under-celebrated is a poor reflection on the States...

Anyway, I hope you all have had/will have/are having an excellent Thanksgiving meal with loads of friends and family to share it with - I anticipate my version of it on Saturday, when my English church is having Thanksgiving dinner (I'm making mashed potatoes and applesauce! Kudos to Dad, who taught us kids that when life gives you apples that have gone soft/are going bad, make applesauce. Literally.). However, tonight's Thanksgiving Day dinner... well... it was probably the least great (yeah, go ahead and read: worst) Thanksgiving dinner so far... I went to Outback Steakhouse, which was tasty (except for the canned mango chunks... just not quite right), but dinner was kinda soured when I sighted (the hostess thought I was part of the group) my school supervisor and the other foreign teachers already there (they didn't see me)... I had not been invited. *hums* "One is the loneliest number..." Yeah. It was kinda depressing. Thankfully, I was able to Skype video chat with Josi, and she tipped me off to listening to Tampa's Christmas station online and making your own Advent calendar to celebrate the season alllll month long! (I've come up with my 24 things, hopefully there's enough balance that I'll be able to do them at a one-a-day pace, instead of cramming them all into my weekends.

I've still got a hectic schedule, but there's hope, which I'll reveal in a moment... Katrina posted on facebook to give thanks for as many things as you are years old, so I'll give thanks for 23 things, since I've been claiming my Korean age (years since you were born, counting the year you were born... I'll be 24 in January!) quite freely...

So here it is - I'm thankful for/because...
1. My plants are showing signs of producing fruit, including a tiny pea pod growing away. Hurrah! My care has not been in vain!
2. I have internet. Nothing like the internet to not feel quite so far away.
3. I have a warm and dry place to sleep.
4. I have food to eat. (and it IS edible (usually even tasty!), even the occasional tentacle in the lunchtime soup...)
5. I have money to spend.
6. I have warm clothing to wear as the weather cools.
7. God loves me. (Actually, that one could pretty much be #1-23 all by itself, but there's sooo much He's given me!!)
8. My family loves me. (and I love them, too!)
9. Many others love me, including my different church families, the college family, and more!
10. There are a LOT of people praying for me. Thank you.
11. I have money to save.
12. I have a good relationship with my family. God is good.
13. I have 2(!) loving church families here in Korea. God is generous.
14. My Korean is improving.
15. I have a good relationship with my co-teachers. (On second thought, pray for my relationship with my Kindergarten co-teacher... there's recently been some tension there, and I don't really know why, and it bothers me, but I've been trying to not take it personally...)
16. I should get snow this winter. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've missed it. A LOT!)
17. I'm living in Korea. And I still love it!
18. Christmas music. There's nothing like it to make you feel cheery... unless you play it in July... then it's just weird... sort of.
19. I like kimchi. (even when it brings tears to my eyes... IT BURRRNNNNSSSS!!!) This is a good thing, because a. I am served kimchi nearly every day, and b. it's evidently VERY healthy for you... hey, even c. spicy foods are supposed to help you lose weight!
20. I have good friends.
21. I am forgiven.
22. Heaven. It's coming, and I'm going to belong there. Hallelujah!!!!
23. God. He IS that great. and good. and .... well, it would take a little too long to try to put it into words, but most of you know what I'm talking about.

Don't forget to give thanks for your own blessings.

Thaaaanks be to God! He reviveth the thirsty land! (gotta love Elijah!)

Signing off for now,
Miss Chatters.

PS Oh! 24. There's a new foreign teacher coming!!! He'll arrive to teach in January, but now I have hope that my crazy schedule will ease up eventually!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Another Update

Wow. Has it really been over a month since I've updated?? Sorry, folks... life and laziness are my excuses. Thanks to the parentals, who have been lately nudging me to hurry it up and post something.

Let's start off with a little list, just for fun.

Signs I am becoming Korean:
1. I frequently enjoy a supper (or breakfast...) of rice with seaweed, often there's a slice of melty "cheddar" (American with cheddar flavoring added (I assume), sold as cheddar here) and/or tuna mixed in for a 'fusion' twist and also to help balance the diet out.
2. Tonight, when I looked in my rice cooker (which is really cute, for a rice cooker), I thought that my rice looked "luscious."
3. I am able to somewhat follow certain Korean conversations (when I know the context and recognize a few key words).
4. I semi-automatically speak in Korean to ahjummas, and ahjusshis (Korean for older women and older men), basically anyone who looks to be 20-30+ years older than me.
5. I can almost read the lyrics well enough to sing along in Korean church (I may not know what I'm singing, but their songs have pretty solid lyrics, when I've seen the subtitles).
6. My Korean-accented English sounds pretty Korean... accented... (Don't worry, I only speak it on purpose!!)
7. I can spell some Korean words well enough to use my cell-phone dictionary to look up the English meaning after hearing the word (several times... and it still doesn't work sometimes...).
8. I'm getting pretty good at texting Korean words. (Still run into the spelling problem on occasion, but still...)
9. I am learning (and remembering!) new Korean words almost every day! (okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but then again, maybe not...)
10. I am coming to terms with the fact that (at least here) I am remarkably beautiful, and am even starting to take second glances in stride. (Is it because I'm white or because I'm beautiful that they look again? I don't know, I'll just chalk it up to being astonishingly pretty. :-D)

I began my 3rd month of teaching 2 Fridays ago, and this month is pretty grueling. Instead of teaching all the Kindergarten classes occasionally, I am now one of the primary teachers of the youngest Kindergarten class, called Harvard. (All the classes/classrooms are named after famous universities, so I have now taught at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Brown, Oxford, Columbia, Berkley, and Duke. Pretty impressive-sounding, even if I do say it myself. I'm still waiting to be assigned a class in Cambridge. ^_^) Let me just say, teaching Kindergarten is not easy, especially when there is CCTV in every classroom, and it is on display for anyone in the lobby to watch, including my boss. Add to that the fact that the classroom is to look orderly and controlled, and you have about 10-15 minutes of every (40 min) class taken up with making sure that the children are sitting nicely and listening quietly and not playing across the table with their friends. Throw in an out of control kid with several who are willing to be distracted, and four little girls who have their own little clique and love to socialize as long as you allow when they're simply supposed to be getting a book from their backpack or cupboard, and you pretty much have my 10 Harvard kids. Some of them are really sweet and sometimes well-behaved, but they love to play more than they love to listen or behave really well. Oh, there's also a little boy who is very... touchy... it's a little creepy sometimes, I'm not gonna lie, but he really does not get the whole "Keep your hands to yourself" thing, and rarely does he pass up an opportunity for 'skinship' (an Asian term based in English, basically meaning skin contact...). It's not that he's cuddly, he's just... touchy. He's had a couple run-ins with the out of control boy, who is a whole 'nother writhing can of worms.

On the upside, I still get to teach science to two of the other classes, which makes for a nice break (even though it's in addition to, not instead of, my Harvard classes). Still, students from the other classes, (as in, non-Harvard students) will ask, "Madeline Teacher, why no art? or why no science?" (It's a habit I'm trying to help them out of, but they call their teachers "Madeline Teacher" or "Nick Teacher" or "Pink Teacher" (yes, that is the chosen English name of one of my co-workers... I'm thinking of gently nudging her to change it sometime... we're close, so it wouldn't be rude of me...), so I try to refer to my co-teachers as Miss Pink or Mr Nick. Hopefully it'll eventually rub off... It doesn't help that the other teachers use the "So-and-so Teacher" format, but one can hope...) So, anyway, I am at least missed by the other Kinder students, and I really miss the one class that I don't have at all anymore...

My afternoon and evening classes are going quite well, overall. My 'bad class' is improving with the promise/threat of wasabi peanuts - each boy starts with 5, and the number can go down, and if they're really good, it can go up. They love wasabi peanuts. There is also a new addition to the class, a quiet boy who is a real encouragement to me, in that he actually tries to do his work and answer questions.

My preschool boys have gotten even cuter and sweeter, and we now have a really good relationship. They love me like an extra mother or a little boy crush... not sure which, maybe both, but I love them both dearly.

I'm feeling more and more comfortable as a teacher and also as a resident of Korea. It was bunches of fun to have Mom and H here and show them around and introduce them to friends... and to tip them off about the sentinel robots disguised as apartment buildings which I can see through the office window (Mom took it much better than Heidi, who scoffed, but just watch! If someday they're missing, I'll KNOW something's about to happen.) I also have good reason to believe that they enjoyed their time here. ^_^

I visited China during my break from school - Chuseok, kind of a Korean Thanksgiving... except traditionally (and still today) Koreans thank their ancestors, not God... Anyway, I was able to visit China for a few days in late September, and really enjoyed my time there. I was glad to return to Korea, though. I'm exceedingly thankful that God has placed me here... and, I get to open my home to my sisters as a retreat from the pressures of living in China.

I can definitely see myself here for a long time. Not that I don't miss my family and friends, but I am content and comfortable here. (Not only that, but my skin is doing rather well and I'm losing weight here - I'm going to need my belts for several pairs of pants which used to fit snugly. ^_^)

Well, that's all for now.
Signing off,
Miss Chatters

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Short (?) Update

Dear Everyone,

I'm not going to do a play-by-play... Sorry, I know you were reeeeaaaally looking forward to a couple hours worth of reading, but I think it would also require several hours worth of writing... so I'm just going to give a sketch.

Firstly, I am still loving living in Korea! I could see myself here for a long time, if God permits. (I know, I'm still in the 'honeymoon phase'.) I have now been teaching for four weeks - one full month of classes. Wow. It still doesn't seem quite real, but eso, si que es (or, as I like to think it: S-O-C-K-S) (Spanish meaning - Yes, that is the way it is. Not that I know Spanish, but I do know this one phrase... and gracias and hamburgesa and other random words ^_^)

I am teaching students from Kindergarten through 9(?)th grade (at least, I'm guessing that student is in 9th grade... I don't know for sure. Oh, and two pre-schoolers, too! (I love them, they're so cute and well-behaved.) For Kindergarten, I mostly teach Science and Art and Crafts, with a few Phonics classes thrown in for good measure. I especially like the Science and Art and Crafts part - it's a good fit for me. ^_^ The rest of my classes are English - which I happen to know very well! The students are fairly good, except for a few classes which are giving me white hairs (Seriously, I keep finding white hairs. I'm only 22!!!! At least I have a lot of hair, and it's fine-textured, so the whites don't show up so easily...) - I definitely need to work on my classroom management techniques for them. Of course, the Kindergarten tricks don't work quite so well for the middle-schoolers... So I'm being challenged as a teacher, and it's good for me, just like brussels sprouts. Speaking of food, I get a free lunch with the Kindergarteners, so I eat kimchi every weekday, and most Sundays, I think. I've decided that I like kimchi, especially when there's rice on hand in case it gets too hot (I also like pretty much all Korean food that I've tried, unless it's too hot...). Spicy hot is a big thing here in Korea - they sell tubs of chili paste in every grocery store... and it's a big display, not just some little end-cap. In my opinion - chili is harder than wasabi or horseradish to deal with, because it leaves a lasting, burning heat, unlike wasabi and horseradish, which is like - POW! then it's done. However, I think my spicy tolerance is inching up, and I've been told that Sprite/Sierra Mist (or, as they call it here, ci-da (cider)) is a lot of help

I've been looking for a church, which has been going... interestingly... So I'd appreciate your prayers for me regarding that.

It's been rather rainy lately, which I am perfectly fine with for two reasons - a. rainy = cooler (Some locals have said that this summer, Seoul has been feeling more like Bangkok than Seoul) and b. rain gives me a reason to use my umbrella! (If you recall, it was one of my first purchases, but I went at least 2 weeks without using it!) I can hardly tell you how excited I am about having fall!!! And winter, and spring!! Florida just doesn't do seasons well... except for, and I quote "In Florida, we have two seasons, Paradise and Hades, right now it's ________." (I guess it's still Hades for you FL folks.) So I am delighted at the prospect of breaking out (some of) my warmer clothing within a scant month! The fact that I am rotating between only about 6 'nice' tops for work only adds to the delight of that prospect.
Me at my wardrobe on Mondays: Okay, which shirt am I *not* going to wear this week?
I will probably do some clothes shopping after my first payday, which is coming up in about 1 week!

Well, this has been rather short, but it has been an update, of sorts, and I hope you've enjoyed it!

Signing off,
MJ/Miss Chatters

PS If you happen to know any nifty tricks for getting middle school boys to behave well, please share!

Monday, August 16, 2010

My Virus

I have a virus. It's not dangerous. It's not life-threatening. And it isn't contagious. However, it causes other people to react to me in a certain way. It's called Foreignokorean-itis. It causes me to be an object of great curiousity. It even makes me relatively exotic, in some cases. But it shows its negative symptoms in certain contexts. You see, though some people barely acknowledge the virus and try to fight past the language barrier and usually wind up managing to communicate. However, some people find it very challenging to be around a person with my condition and are greatly relieved, even if they show it unintentionally, when they don't feel a burden of communication. The thing is, I think people misunderstand. I don't mind not knowing exactly what's going on. I mean, a full sermon where I don't get a lick from it is kind of frustrating, but a 15-20 min block of time is okay. I'm also misdiagnosed in many cases. To be specific, I have Foreignlittlekorean-itis, but most assume that I have Foreignokorean-itis, so they're scared that I can't muddle along at least some, and they're scared that they can't use any Korean around me. It's quite discouraging when I come in contact with people who fear Foreignokorean-itis. The funny thing is, they're usually able to communicate, but are highly self-conscious about their English. So whereas I think things are going fairly well, they're greatly taxed when they're around Foreignokorean-itis.

Apart from that, things are going fairly well - I just ran into a situation where they were scared or intimidated (I'll give them the benefit of doubt) of Foreignokorean-itis last night, and it was discouraging, to say the least... I felt pretty down last evening afterwards. However, there are bunches of things going well, I juuuust might get my ARC on Tuesday, and I have a God who doesn't care one whit about Foreignokorea-itis, or any language disease whatsoever. So I'm going to be just fine.

Pray for me as I'm continuing in my church search - it's a challenging task, but, I trust, rewarding at the end.

I must needs go and get ready for classes.

Signing off,
MJ (aka Miss Chatters)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Korea - Week 1 (one week later...)

Jet lag has not been very nice these past few days. For example, I woke up around 5 on Sunday morning. On Monday morning, I woke up around 8, which wasn’t half bad, but this morning again I woke up far too early – around 6:15. I think the only reason I slept in ‘til 8 yesterday was because I was completely exhausted. Of course, that theory falls apart when I think about how much I resembled a walking zombie for most of the day yesterday – shouldn’t I have slept in longer this morning??? *pouts* Apart from the whole jet lag thing, I’m okay… except I have a rash – like a minor poison ivy rash – it isn’t large bubbles or anything, just uneven skin with pink pinpoints all over. It itches sometimes, and is on the area around the inside of both elbows, the back of my left hand, and I think on my feet, too… I really need to find an antihistamine sometime soon, I’ve had the rash for two days now, and I’m pretty impatient about it.

I’m having difficulty connecting to the internet, so I’ll state here that I began writing this around 8:35 PM on Tuesday evening. And I stopped writing around 8:45 PM, then got ready for bed, and now I’m going to bed. I’ll resume this sometime tomorrow.

Okay, it’s now 7:45 PM on Saturday evening. I’m at Sweet Buns Coffee shop, sipping an iced Americano – I didn’t see the translated beverage list until after I gave up trying to sound out the words on the sign and ordered an “Ice capp-eh” and the friendly guy at the counter translated “Ice Americano?” and I agreed. I don’t know how this will go, with caffeine at this hour – I just might try to save it for the morning, but next time I’m ordering a green tea latte. I came because I was hoping to pick up a wireless signal, but to no avail – I’d heard that at any coffee shop, you can get a signal, but, alas, not at this one. C’est la vie.

I came here from supper at a Chinese restaurant, where I dined on jajangmyun and mandoo – noodles with black bean paste and Chinese dumplings (mandoo just means dumpling, not necessarily Chinese, but these ones were). KK, I was totally thinking of you.

Okay, to pick up where I left off last time. Be forewarned, this is going to be a looong post, ‘cause a LOT has happened.

Sunday went *very* well. I woke up much earlier than I intended to, as indicated by my brief post about changing the blog’s appearance. Anyway, I was left with plenty of time to shower and get ready for church. I left around 8:30, and arrived at the church at about 10:10. On the way, I changed subway lines, and there was a 7-11 in the subway station, where I grabbed some breakfast – a triangular rice ball (rice ball? I don’t know a better term, sorry.) wrapped in seaweed with some topping between the rice and seaweed (I’d seen them in the dramas, and totally had to try one.). The 7-11 clerk spoke English, which was a small thing, but a HUGE blessing… one of those things that you realize God gave you, because He knew you needed it… and was able to tell me what flavor it was – tuna and kimchi. I was a bit nervous, but it was delicious! I was late for Sunday School, but church didn’t start until 11:00, and the guys in the lobby encouraged me to go to the ladies’ Sunday School. So I did. There was only one lady there, and we talked awhile, until a second lady arrived, and then the talking *really* got started – the second lady, an English-speaking Korean lady, picked up on the fact that I know some Korean, and from then on, she started pushing the limits of/cultivating my Korean. There were prayer requests, etc., then Sunday School was over, and it was time for church. Church went fairly well. Ben Horne, the CCC grad through whom I found the church (Well, it was his wife who told me the name of the church, and where I could find directions to get there), found me and introduced himself. The pastor said some things (several times) which I disagree with, which is part of why I don’t think I’ll settle at that church. (He said things to the effect of – ‘God can use our bad decisions in spite of things’, whereas I would say, ‘God ordains our decisions, and even though we might make bad decisions, and suffer their consequences, God is working in those decisions to bring glory to himself in ways we may never see, or don’t recognize until later.’)

The Sunday School ladies had invited me to lunch after church, along with another girl visiting for the first time, a Korean-American (she’s lived in the US since 5th grade, I believe, but she’s still a Korean citizen) who is a student at Illinois University or University of Illinois… one of those, I think. It was a lunch for royalty (literally – it was a “King’s table” spread), even though it was a good hour away by car. It was a farewell lunch for one of the ladies who had lived in Seoul for 3 years, and was moving back to Malaysia/Singapore (I know they’re not the same place, but it’s complicated.). It was a good meal, with good fellowship, and the ladies were highly impressed by my familiarity with the Bible, and invited me to be the leader of their Sunday School class (the last leader moved away when her husband was reassigned to a new base). I was flattered, but kinda declined. (I was trying to be diplomatic…) Anyway, it was late in the afternoon when I was dropped off near a subway station with my new unni (Korean word for older sister – the second lady at Sunday School). She helped me purchase a T-money (subway/bus/taxi fare) charm, which will go on my cell phone whenever I finally get one… I know it’s only been a week, but still… but for now, the T-money charm is on my purse.

About T-money: All I have to do is load money on the charm, then tap the charm at the subway stile to pay the fare. (AND I get a 100 won discount on each fare… which is about 10 cents, but every little bit helps! I’ve still got a few rides until the charm is paid for by the discount, but it’ll happen… eventually.) If you don’t have a T-money card or charm, you have to purchase a single-journey ticket for each trip, and, this is Seoul’s inventive way to recycle/prevent littering/be economical, you pay a 500 won deposit (about 50 cents) for each ticket, which you can redeem after your journey at a machine in the subway station.

I finally got back to my hotel around 6, and I think I took a nap. The next morning, I woke up around 8:00, and met the school manager at 11. There was a hiccup – we (the other new foreign teacher and myself) found out that we were observing classes that day, not just dropping our big luggage at the school, we were both dressed for comfort (It turns out that school hadn’t cheaped out - the A/C was operated by the TV remote, but neither of us knew/figured that out, so we’d both been sweating it out over the weekend.), not professionalism, so we both had to change, which was complicated, because we both had most of our clothes in the suitcases we were carrying…

Before the observation began, the Academic Director, our new immediate boss, took us out for pho, and made sure we were familiar with our responsibilities, obligations, etc. etc. etc. I was royally whupped up on by jet lag around the time I was to begin observation (I think it was made worse by a caffeine crash), so I felt like a zombie the whole time I was supposed to be attentively observing. It was bad. To complicate matters, the teacher whose apartment I was taking over was moving out that night, so while I was able to move in one night earlier than planned, I was relatively stuck at the school until she was ready for me to move in. Thankfully, a couple of the other teachers pitched in and helped me with my luggage (I got a few ‘What in the world did you pack!?!?’ comments in the process, but I was too tired and too thankful for the help to really care… too much.) Of course, once I got into my apartment, zombie mode turned off for awhile, so I didn’t wind up going to bed for awhile after I thought I would.

I slept until about 6:30 AM, and was able to get online a bit (some the night before, too), but then the wireless I was pirating went on the fritz, and I was no longer able to connect to the wireless (I have an odd internet situation for now – Skype works, but that’s it… it’s complicated). Anyway, I went ahead and got a nap around 10/10:30 when I started to feel tired again, then I had a medical check at a hospital, where they took an x-ray, measured height and weight, and took blood and urine samples. Lemme just say here – peeing into a cup is awkward/not an experience I want to repeat if necessary. Yeah… After we were returned to our apartment building, I went to try bingsu - a shaved ice treat with diced fruit, syrup, etc. - SUPER delish. I also got a microwaveable meal from a convenience store – beef and rice and 2 sides – which I didn’t microwave at the store. I should have, since I don’t have a microwave, (don’t plan to get one) so it was a cold meal.

The next day was the beginning of teacher training. I found teacher training very helpful/instructive, and it was one of the reasons I found my company so attractive – I didn’t want to be thrown into a classroom as a completely inexperienced teacher. Now I’m still inexperienced, but I have a better idea of what to do. From Wednesday to Friday, most of my time was taken with teacher training, but the evenings were mine. Wednesday I made a trip to E-mart, and purchased/found a lot of the things I’d determined I needed for the apartment. I’d accidently left most of my cash (won) at home, so I had to be very economical in my purchases, which was good for me. I was quite pleased, though, at how much I was able to find by trial and error. I also stopped by the pharmacy and got an antihistamine, which was happily effective.

Thursday, I decided to explore what was past a door in the subway station (don’t worry, it was an entrance, not just some shady door in the wall) – it turns out that it led to a department store with alllll kinds of stuff, including a grocery store. I found a hair dryer there, which I was pleased about (there was a hair dryer in the hotel, but I’d been missing having one since I’d moved in). It seems that hair dryers are smaller in Korea, but mine works just fine. If I see a big hair dryer, I might think about getting it, but I probably won’t – I already have one, and they are relatively expensive. I fixed my first real meal in my apartment, and it was good. Afterward, I headed to a coffee shop (not this one, much snazzier) in the same building as my school – which is right next to my apartment building. (I’m still getting used to the multi-tiered nature of things here – there are different things on many different floors, including basement levels – welcome to the city, I guess.) I got some dessert and citron tea (which isn’t too bad, but it was the cheapest beverage on the menu) while I used their wifi… at least I think it was their wifi…

Friday, I had a friend over. It was the girl from church, and she helped me figure out the uses and buttons of my appliances (I had already figured out that the dish sanitizer also doubled as a radio – but while I’d figured out the radio, I didn’t know how to use the dish sanitizer). Not only does my washing machine have multiple settings, but it also doubles as a dryer (I’m writing 1 week later right now, and there is a load in my washer/dryer as I type – it should be done in about an hour.)

Saturday, I putzed around the house, and wrote nearly all of this blog post. And now you know how my first full week in Korea went!

More to come later – like about my second week! (I hope to get internet sometime this coming week, once I receive my ARC – Alien Registration Card, which will allow me to do pretty much everything short of rob a bank. Not quite, but it really helps A LOT.)

Signing off for now,

Miss Chatters

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Layout

I woke up quite early today. Evidently God really wants me to be on time for church. Aaand jet lag helped me wake up, too.

Anyway, I have tweaked the blog around, giving it a new look.

Do you like it???

If you have difficulty reading it, post a comment, so that I can change things around.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

First Impressions

I have safely arrived in Korea.

It's been a been a bit over 24 hrs since I arrived, and I definitely have a ways to go before I feel comfortable? familiar? confident? in my surroundings. Not gonna lie, I feel like a total dork/loser walking around on the street. In Korean, the phrase for that is "Chashin opsoyo" trans. "I have no confidence." Sooo I need to make some friends. Soon.

Anyway, I have the weekend to myself - time to acclimate and explore, though I haven't done much exploring yet. I'm not certain where I'll go to church tomorrow, I have a few options, but I'm trying to decide whether I want to meet more Korean or more foreigner/ex-pat/American people at church... Either way, I'll have to brave the subway... Not that I don't enjoy subways, or whatnot, but I'm going to have to know my stops, etc.

So far, I haven't done too much, but I'll tell you how things have gone, anyway.

To quote Maria from The Sound of Music, "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start..."

It was a very late night before I left - I think I fell asleep around 2ish. KK, as per my request, woke me up around 5:15. There was some last minute packing, saying goodbye to Gram, eating some breakfast, then we (me, Mom, Dad, and KK) went to the airport. As is somewhat expected, there was some re-packing at the airport to get the suitcases at the right weight. However, everything fit in somewhere, so nothing had to be sent home. The flight to Atlanta was uneventful, but I did enjoy the On-Demand entertainment - making a tidy little playlist that I listened to for most of the flight. One of the songs was Jai Ho from the film Slumdog Millionaire - I've determined that Jai Ho was my theme song for the trip - it played several times in my head, along with another song...

The layover in Atlanta wasn't bad at all. When I went to the Korean Air counter to get my ticket/boarding pass, the agent hooked me up with a more spacious window seat as opposed to the middle seat I was initially to get. My last meal in the States was an Arby's Beef n Cheddar Melt with a medium Jamocha shake. (I do love Arby's, even though they do top their Beef n Cheddar Melt buns with onions...) I met a few people in the airport waiting for the plane, one family of four, and a Filipino mother with her son (who were on the flight to ATL, too - they've lived in the States for several years and were en route to visit her family).

It turned out that the gate agent's good intentions were in vain - when I got to my seat, the passenger who was to sit next to me asked if I could switch with her friend so that they could sit together. I was a little grumpy about losing the extra space, but I went ahead and switched, moving up 6 rows to another aisle seat. Naturally, it was a providential switch, and the girl sitting next to me was also moving to Korea to work for YBM (my company), but in Daegu. We were going to exchange contact information, but I wanted to give her one of my calling cards, which were packed overhead somewhere, and after I had corralled my carry-ons and disembarked from the plane, she had already gone on to her connecting flight. Hopefully, we'll still be able to get in contact some way.

I'll insert here that the Korean Air flight attendants are very helpful and polite: For example, as I was stowing my bulky-and-heavy-but-still-carry-on-size bags, the attendant insisted on helping me find a place for my first bag, then encouraged me to allow her to find a place for my second bag instead of keeping it under the seat in front of me so that I could have room for my legs to stretch out. I really appreciated the thoughtfulness.

The plane was warm throughout the trip - not very good news for me, as I had worn pants that aren't very good for warm weather in anticipation of a cooler plane. It was not exactly uncomfortable, just warm. Most of my flying time was spent watching movies: Date Night, Invictus, The Spy Next Door, and Valentine's Day. For the record, Valentine's Day was lame. Invictus, however, which I watched on Dad's recommendation, was very good, not only am I now more able to appreciate the strides South Africa has made (even though there is still a long way to go), but I now want to watch a real rugby game. The rest of my flying time was spent chatting with Kelly (the other new YBM teacher), listening to another playlist, and, sometimes, catnapping.

I got through passport control and baggage collection without too much trouble (except for those heavy carry-ons that didn't always cooperate with what I mentally ordered them to do...), and learned upon meeting my school's manager that we were going to stay awhile at the airport because the other new foreign teacher was arriving in another 1 1/2 - 2 hrs. In the meantime, I settled in before a display TV showing clips of StarKing, a Korean variety show. I also had an iced tea, courtesy of Mr Choi (the manager). When the other teacher arrived, it hit me that I had packed like a girl. Here I was, with 4 heavy suitcases on a luggage cart, and there he was, with one larger suitcase, a backpack, and one small (and I do mean small) carry-on rolly bag (rolly bag = suitcase with wheels). I have no idea how he fit everything in, or how our concepts of "everything" compare.

We drove to Hwajeong (the area where we will be living), which was about a half-hour trip (I think), and in the meantime I learned that Hwajeong isn't part of the city of Ilsan, but part of the city of Gokyang/Kokyang, and Ilsan is another part of Gokyang. I really need to find a good map to get all of that... Moving on... We drove past the hotel and made a circuit of the area, while Mr Choi pointed out significant places: stores, restaurants, and the school. Upon entering my room, I was confronted with a new reality: house shoes. I'm still getting into the habit of wearing them around and switching from regular house shoes to bathroom shoes/sandals.

The house shoes and the bathroom shoes

I'm still getting the hang of the whole "insert picture" thing...

I've also been confronted with another reality (for now): No A/C. I think you have to pay extra to use the A/C, which requires a remote control, and we didn't get A/C remotes. Right now, Korea is humid and warm, with highs in the upper 80s and lows in the mid 70s... yeah, it's not super comfortable...

There is also a very interesting shower - there are no shower walls - just a large corner tub with a shower head. It took some adjustment...

Some of you may be asking "Why are you in a hotel?" Well, it's really more of a motel, evidently, but it's because we (we here means myself and the other new teacher) will be moving into our apartments on Tuesday.

Anyway, we got our luggage into our respective rooms and when asked, I confessed that I was in fact hungry, so Mr Choi took us to a nearby Paris Baguette Cafe (a small version of Paris Baguette - a bakery, etc. chain in Korea), where we picked out sandwiches (mine was a BLT), and popsicles (green tea flavor! Yum.), then returned to the hotel. Mr Choi will pick us up on Monday at 11 with our large luggage (I think it's mostly b/c of me) so that we won't have to wrestle it out on Tuesday (instead we'll wrestle it out on Monday...), but until then, we are at our leisure. (The idea is that we recover from jet lag, I think.)

My ideas for going out and exploring fell by the wayside today - I wound up waking up around 8, trying to sleep longer, getting up around 9, putzing around all morning, eating the sandwich and drinking some instant coffee, discovering that I could get a wifi signal, then sleeping from about 1-3:30. I had set an alarm for 2:00, but the program didn't sense the new time setting, so I just woke up at my leisure.

After I got up, I watched some tv, then went out. My primary visit was to "E-Mart", Korea's version of Wal-Mart. I think it should be called Sigma Mart, and I will probably call it that around friends I've explained it to...

Tell me that ----> is not a Sigma!

Anyway, at E-mart, I managed, through the language barrier, to order some food and then made the mistake of mixing everything up, spreading the chili sauce everywhere. Next time, when I'm asked for how much hot I want, I am replying "opsayo" or "none" for now. Anyway, despite the fact that I really hate wasting food, I couldn't finish and left a regrettably large amount of food uneaten. Afterward, I found my way downstairs to, where I found a headset (as in, microphone and headphones) for 8,000 (Won, not dollars) and an umbrella, which is a pretty blue plaid, for 11,000. I considered shelling out the extra 4,000 for an umbrella which opened AND closed at the push of a button, but decided to go with the cheaper option. Next time I go out, I'm bringing along a tote bag, because it was decidedly uncomfortable to walk around carrying my purchases under my arm. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped in again at Paris Baguette Cafe and bought another Green Tea flavored popsicle.

And it is now time for bed. I plan to leave somewhat early for church to allow time for breakfast, transit, and finding the place, so I will finish for now. (By the way, I've decided to go to a church where I'll meet Americans.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I should really stop writing these when I'm tired, but this post has been building in my head for awhile, and I suppose there's no time like the present... 'cause there may or may not be a good point in the near future for writing. Carpe momentum, I suppose.

I'm leaving next Wednesday.

It's still surreal to say and think that in a little over one week, my life is going to dramatically change.

I was cutting out pretty pictures to use for decorating in Korea, and thought, 'I think I like these pictures because I really want to travel. No, duh. You're going to be using these in KOREA. That IS travelling!' It was mildly amusing to a. be talking with myself (which kinda happens often, not gonna lie...) and b. realize that I was still thinking about travelling when I am about to travel.

One of the things on my 'to do' list is to sort my things and either
a. get rid of
b. pack away
c. pack to take along
everything I own... pretty much. It's not an intimidating task, not at all, certainly not intimidating enough for me to put it off for a good 2 months... of course not... Okay, so I just really got started today. I've decided that I need more sleep and more iron because I was definitely doing caffeine today to keep working. (If you know my caffeine habit, you'd know that it's pretty much nonexistent - I try to avoid caffeine dependence as best as I can.) Of course, all the sleep in the world won't help much if you're low in iron, which I often am - Iron deficiency is often responsible for why girls feel tired easily, and often attributed to lack of sleep (according to a website produced by some branch of the British government). I guess I'll be popping some iron pills tonight, 'cause we're cleaning the garage tomorrow. Whoopee... About as fun as cleaning my own room, but Mom wants to get it done while J and I are still in town/in the country/on the continent of North America. I will also be given the opportunity to mow the lawn one more time before I leave (Read: Mowing the lawn is not something I particularly enjoy and something I avoid if I can.)

Madeline's version of an advertisement/product plug:
This is the part of the blog post where I throw in the fact that I love this stuff called cooling powder. Yeah. I discovered it because of my thing for the Korean band Super Junior, who were part of a funny commercial to promote/endorse a particular brand (naturally the brand I use now ^_^). Watch the commercial here. ^_^ When I watched it, I thought, 'If that stuff really works, I could use it in China! Wait a minute, I live in Florida, for Heaven's sake! I'm in the perfect place to be using cooling powder.' To make a story short(er), I found an ebay seller in Thailand who carried the right brand, etc, and bought a bottle. I was in l.o.v.e. It works, no lie. When I mow the lawn (sometimes I really can't avoid it) in the Florida heat, a cold shower really won't cool me down all the way, but once I put on the cooling powder after drying off most of the way, I am coooool. Like I said, I love the stuff, and if you live in a warm climate (or something... it's nice for summer, too), I would encourage you to check it out.
[End of advertisement/product plug. Note: I am not sponsored or paid in any way by the company 12 Plus. I just think that if you find something that works, you should share it.]

I visited Atlanta last week - I was required by the Korean Consulate for the Southeast to appear in person for an interview with the Consul to get my teaching visa. It was really something God was working in, of course. I took Greyhound to get there - the cheapest short-notice flights I could find were about 300 round trip (And the little bank account said "Ouch!"), Greyhound was 145 round trip (And the little bank account said, "That isn't as painful!"). I stayed with the Hildebrand family, who are connected with CCC (I actually stayed with them as part of a group en route to the Student Global Impact conference in Detroit). Now, I don't really like asking people I don't know very well for favors (although my sisters have called me 'demanding' on occasion. Ouch.), but I think God was using this trip to say, 'Madeline, your pride really doesn't matter. You need to be willing to ask people for help, even if you don't feel like you're in a position to ask.' It turned out really well. The Hildebrands are super hospitable, and I was pretty much absorbed into the action. Because I stayed with them, I also got to help out some with the soccer camp at Killian Hill Baptist Church (the Hildebrands home church, also the home church of several others who go to CCC), and I got to know the ladies who prepare the delicious food for the staff meal every night - I re-learned how to play Hand and Foot (it had been 7 years since I last played it), and enjoyed the fellowship. (I also had to grin whenever they said, "If you can move to Korea in two weeks, you can _____." :-D) The visa was obtained without difficulty (Praise God!), and I returned safely to Clearwater via Greyhound (And MARTA, Atlanta's rail transit system). During the last three hours of the through-the-night trip, I talked with a fellow by the name of Max. Pray for him.

It was weird to get home and be so close to leaving and not have Dad home. He returns from Cambridge a few days before D-Day (I suppose here D-Day is Departure Day). It'll be good to see him. Yeah, I'm a Daddy's girl.

I mentioned my 'to-do' list earlier, and another job on it is 'write thank you cards'. I'm not an ingrate... I just haven't sat down to finish writing the cards. Sorry that it's taken me so long, but they ARE coming! Scout's honor. (not that I ever was a scout...)

Pray for me
- that I won't be overwhelmed in preparing to go
- that I will enjoy and value the remaining time with my family
- that I won't forget something important
- that I won't pack things I really won't need
- that my family won't take our (myself and J) leaving too hard
- that I won't be overwhelmed when I arrive

Thank you, all for your prayers. (and for making it to the end of the post)


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The beginning of a regular blog (?)

Since I've been handing out a bunch of business cards with this blog on them, I think it's only proper to write a post. Welcome to all of you who just perhaps might happen to be new readers! ^_^

I've just returned home from a crazy/busy/delightful/memorable whirlwind visit to PA. For those of you not from the blessed state: Yes, people from Pennsylvania call Pennsylvania PA, and we will continue to do so, even if no other state does it. Mostly, I got to see a. family - people who will love you and be connected to you forever, if only because you're related somewhere back there and b. old friends - people who knew you back when you did incredibly embarrassing things because you were to little to know to be embarrassed, and they love you anyway.

I love visiting Western PA (Fayette County, particularly), because there's family everywhere! They might be my grandmother's brother's wife's cousin's grandchildren, but we're still related! (Okay, I don't think I met any grandmother's brother's wife's cousin's grandchildren, but it approximates some of the family connections in Fayette County). I got to see all my Martin cousins in PA (talk about having a blast! Every time we get together is a great time.), my uncles and aunts, several 'somehow' cousins (a "somehow cousin" - you're somehow cousins, but it's complicated. Yeah, I made that up.), a great-aunt, and a great-great-aunt. I wouldn't mind settling in Fayette County sometime...

... but there would be competition from Eastern PA - where so many old friends live. We visited sooo many old friends, who have known me/my family since [before] I was born. As we drove allllll around our old stomping grounds, I was looking back and forth, back and forth, looking to see if I saw something I recognized. Sometimes I recalled the place(s) perfectly, but other times there was only a vague impression of a memory, and, of course, other times I drew a blank. It was thrilling to see so many old friends - friends my age, and friends who treated me as their own children. I realized my old habit (started by my parents) of calling my older old friends "Uncle" and "Aunt" was as comfortable as it ever was. I guess if I think about it, it's a little new for my "Uncles" and "Aunts" to be more like friends than secondary parents... Not that I mind. ^_^

So, the week was great. I loved getting to see family, old friends, and everyone else, and now that I'm older, hearing "We pray for you every day" means far more than it ever did before, especially since I'm preparing to move abroad. There are some things on the trip I doubt I'll ever forget, but I won't put them on public record for now. ^_-

For those of you who are new readers, and the old readers, too, feel free to comment (translation - DO!!), it helps me to know who actually reads this and encourages me to write more.

Signing off for now,
Miss Chatters

PS If you happen to notice that Penny Book and MJ both contribute to this blog, it's because they're both me. ^_^

PPS It's my birthday tomorrow! Twin digits!! Thanks to those of you who already said Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Check it out!

Earlier I posted about my favorite online clothing store, c28, but now I'm telling you about a certain Etsy store. For those of you who are asking "What is etsy???", allow me to enlighten you... sort of. Etsy is a site which allows people to sell their crafts or crafting supplies to other crafty-minded people, or people who simply like cool stuff. So whose Etsy store am I promoting? Call it nepotism, but I'm endorsing the little shop my sister and mom have made:
In the event that you didn't know (and there are plenty of those events), my mom is a serious crafter. She loves making things and trying new ideas, and loves when she can spend a whole day just crafting. Some of the things Mom has made are handbags, like this one, and she just might put more up for sale if they seem to be selling. My sister has also caught the crafting bug. She enjoys repurposing things like making a fork into a bracelet - a fracelet. She's also changed a lot of shirts - adding ruffles to make a plain t-shirt into a dressy faux tuxedo shirt, but she likes to wear those herself. She is, however, selling her collection of ties, which are pretty much a steal at about a dollar apiece.
So, check it out, buy some stuff, and support the good cause. What good cause? I forgot to mention it! "We're selling these items to help Jos head to the other side of the world. She's excited to go, and we're excited that you're interested in helping her get there!" - from the shop.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This will be brief... I think.

I should totally be getting ready for bed right now, I already had a headache earlier today from lack of sleep - bad me. Howsomever, I just logged back onto blogger, so I feel drawn to post something.

Right now I am listening to the single of a rookie Korean band which debuted in Korea this past week. I like the song enough to play it twice in a row. I partly like the band because one of the members was in a drama this fall that I loved!

I've begun my final semester!!! Woohoo! Hopefully I'll acquit myself well. I "get" to have 4 English classes this semester, plus two more classes on top of that. Why did I decide to add an English major? I'm not really sure, but it's too late to turn back now.

People have been dying this year. A few years ago, my dad was performing one funeral each week from the beginning of the year until sometime in March, and that phenomenon seems to be recurring. There have been 5 people who have died so far this year who are connected in some way to my family, it's kind of weird. I wasn't really close to any of them, but even so I don't feel guilty about not being grief-stricken - I know for certain that they are in a better place. But then there are the people in Haiti. One earthquake shattered their already-unstable land last week, which was horrifying in and of itself, but then a second one today. I'm thankful that God has a plan, because if I didn't know this, I think I would be upset that He would allow such massive losses of life in such a sudden, catastrophic way. Haiti's earthquakes weren't halfway around the world, which makes them far more shocking and personal to me. It's not as personal as it would be if I knew people who died, but I know people who knew people... It's a strange feeling.

I'm tired. Just physically tired? I don't know, but I need rest.
Ergo, I'm signing off now,
Miss Chatters