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