11 Things I Dislike About Korea–Part 1 of 2

…and some things that just rub me the wrong way.

I’ve already written quite a bit on the things that I do like (here, here and here), so I’d like to finally write about my dislikes.
These are not in any particular order and are not meant to offend or anything.  These are just my personal observations from the 2.5+ years that I’ve spent living, working and traveling in Korea.

1. Spitting
This is extremely common and done by men/boys in their teens all the way up through to old age.  You can be walking down the street and you’l hear a “hhahwwwkwkkkkkkkkkkkk puuuutuh.”  (The sound of hawking a loogy in case you didn’t know.)
I’ve been directly behind them and had to sidestep out of the way to avoid it.  So nasty.  I dunno, drink more water or something.

2. Poor driving (cars parking on sidewalks, motorbikes, red lights)
I’m so, so, so glad that I don’t drive here.  Red lights seem to be more of a suggestion as people will just honk their way through as they run the light.  Maybe this is a city thing?, but I’ve never seen anything like it in other cities that I’ve been to…but parking on sidewalks and just…anywhere seems to be an ok thing.

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Delivery motorbikes zip in and out of traffic and drive on the bike paths on the sidewalks.  It’s a bit of a mess really.
Oh, and this is a common sight.

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Blocking the flow of traffic

I asked my friend and she said it was illegal but that people do it anyway because they don’t want to wait.  Which…you have to wait anyway because the cars in front aren’t moving and you block the flow of traffic for all of the other cars…but hey!  Why not?
That same friend had also said that she had been to the US and really liked how we seemed to have a system for 4-way stops (yes.)  In case you’re unaware, or not from the US, we operate under the “first-come, first-to-go” sort of policy.  If you’re there first, you stop, look and go.  Then the next person to arrive goes…and so it continues.
That doesn’t exist here.  If you wait your turn, you’ll never have one.

3. Lack of common sense (due to the need to follow directions all the time)

4. All work and no play makes Lee a dull boy.
The work-culture here is a bit insane.  People work incredibly long hours and sacrifice family time (if there is any) to advance at work.  Also, people will often come into work early and leave later because the amount of *time* spent at your job shows your dedication and commitment.  You might not be super productive during those hours, but if you’re there early and leave late, then you look better than those who are not.

This also affects the students because students are often at school from early in the morning til late at night.  Wealthier families try to send their kids to the after-school schools/cram schools/academies to get them ahead or extra tutoring.  Rather than have time playing games (OUTSIDE GAMES, not computer or phone games *headdesk*) or going to the park, they’re in school or at tae kwon do or at piano/flute/guitar/banjo/ballet/swimming/hapkido practice.

For example, I have one student in my 6-8 PM class that is always wearing his hapkido uniform because he has hapkido directly after our class.  It’s often school, then home for a snack and to change clothes, finish up some homework/play computer games (I’ve asked) and then off to hagwons (after school academies).

This leaves little time for kids to be kids or for any sort of self-exploration or discovery.  The schools don’t seem to have the same sort of club structure that we had in our schools (and yes, to each their own, but I think those school-sponsored clubs were a great way to discover your interests).

Anyway, I know this society is based on Confucianism and doesn’t really value individualism or developing your own hobbies and interests.  As a child, you’re basically told to do whatever your parents want you to do and that’s that.  It creates good rule-followers but does little to develop the self or any sort of creative instincts, which is very noticeable as a teacher.

5. Pushing/Shoving/Lack of Personal Space
Lines?  What lines?  Getting on the subway or train can be frustrating because everyone seems to be in a big hurry, which is part of the “bali bali” (“quick quick”/”hurry hurry”) culture.
It’s possible also that it stems from having so many people in such a small space.  However, when I visited Japan, people were still quite capable of making lines and not shoving eachother around.

I’ve also included this in a few of my classroom lessons.  Not sure if it’ll make a difference, but if I can stop it in my own classroom, then that will be enough for me and hopefully they can take those lessons outside of the classroom.
Unless someone is handing out free money or the train is leaving the platform in one minute, there isn’t a reason to shove other people.  So just calm down everyone.

I have students that push eachother to get to a chair when I open the door of my classroom and it’s like “Whoa there!  There are plenty of chairs for everyone.”  Maybe they’re all just super excited to be in my class.  :D  haha  Or trying to get that perfect chair in the room…I’m going to go with the former.

Here’s a great article on some of the pressures in Korean society.

6. Dirty Streets/Litter/Lack of Public Trashcans
Korea doesn’t have many public trashcans and it shows.  This is one of my top dislikes about Korea.  It makes it smell and it looks awful.  No, not awful…disgusting.

These were a few taken near my apartment, but it’s like this in a lot of places.

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Also, fliers are used as advertising and chucked all over the streets (and sometimes posters are taped to the ground) and it’s never really cleaned up.  A bunch of ajummas (older ladies) come by in the early mornings and pick things up, but the bright green tape is always there on the ground and the cigarette butts look like confetti on the sidewalks and streets.

//Taking a breather here because I just viewed it and this post looks a bit overwhelming and long.
Tune in next time for part 2.  It’s already outlined, I just need to add in some details.  :D
Hope you’re having a lovely week!

Halloween Luminaries Pinterest Project!

I love Pinterest but rarely get around to actually making something from there.  Today was not one of those days.

I fell in love with these guys and really wanted to make some to get my apartment ready for Halloween.  There aren’t many Halloween related decorations around here, so you have to get creative.

Anyway, here are mine.

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Not too shabby!  The white one looks a bit rough because I was impatient with waiting for the paint to dry and it came off a bit.  The orange pumpkin is my favorite :D

The original link/poster used a spray-on glaze for hers which makes them look polished (and better, IMO), but the only spray-on glaze that I found was about $20…and…yeah, no.

Anyway, they weren’t too difficult…just try to have a bit more patience than I did, haha.
Here’s the link again.

Ah…mini-post

All of my classes have diaries and we write about different prompts (“finish the story”, tell me about a time when…, What is your favorite season, etc.). Today, I did one with my younger kids and had them tell me about their mom.  I gave them the sentences but left blanks (rare) for them to fill in.
Most of them were adorable and one girl said she thought it was fun (to write about her mom).  Just things like her favorite color, likes and dislikes, etc.

Then…one girl wrote “My mom doesn’t like         me       and      giving me hugs           .”
God, my heart was going to break open.  I learned later from the woman at the front desk who interacts more with the parents that this mom is pretty strict and yells a lot.  I feel so horrible for this girl.  It’s a fairly small class of 10 (7 on MWF) and I feel like I have a general idea about them, but wow, I just wanted to scoop her up (She’s about 7) and give her a big hug.  I don’t know if that crosses any sort of lines, and I’m sure it does, but just heart-wrenching.
Extra love all around tomorrow.  I love all those babies like they were my own.  :(

Another girl said that her mom doesn’t like her dad, which was a wee bit awkward, but otherwise all of the responses were pretty standard.  “My mom doesn’t like cleaning/washing windows/etc”

Anyway, just wanted to share.
Lots of rain tonight so I’m off to have a wonderfully deep sleep.  :D

Done and done.

So, I went to immigration today and got myself sorted for the next year in Korea.  I’m thinking this will be my last year teaching in Korea.  I love teaching, but I’d like to further my education and I hope to teach in a more stable setting.

The after-school academies (or hagwons) tend to be a bit more unstable as they can be opened up with anyone with enough money (really) and they’re everywhere.  I really enjoy my classes and the school that I’m at so I’m hoping for another year like this one.  This past year seemed to breeze by pretty quickly.  There’s a bit of negativity though, and that can be a bit rough, but trying to keep my head down and do my own best with my classes and sort of just do what I’m doing.

I already have quite a few things in store for the coming year, so hopefully things go smoothly.

Here’s a teaser for the year to come–obviously things change and put this is what I’m looking at as of now:
*Hoping I get the OK to carve pumpkins with my kiddos at school.  Our classes are smaller and I’d LOVE to give them this experience.  Halloween isn’t really that big here yet (slowly…) so I’d like to let them experience making a jack-o-lantern.
I’m thinking that letting them draw and scoop out the mess would be best and I’ll do the cutting.
(Plus decorating my room a bit for Halloween!  Yay!  I love having my own classroom!)

* Christmas at home (first time in almost 3 years!! Squeeeee!)

*New Years in LA (first time!)

*back with ultimate frisbee in the spring :)  (Too many things going on in the fall right now to dedicate the time and money to it)

*Toying with the idea of Budapest in February (Yes, winter)

*Working on another surprise of sorts for my summer vacation— I sent my mom and brother on an all-expenses paid cruise two years ago (to the Bahamas, I believe).  Expensive, yes, but it makes me happy and I think that’s what life is about.  This won’t be quite that extravagant, but it still puts an extra spring in my step and makes my heart feel lighter when I think about it. My mom is a single mom and she works her butt off (and has) for years and years and never gets a vacation, so I had wanted to change that.

*Finish contract in September

*Thailand for a bit of muay thai fighting training

Anyway, this would be the dream scenario, but I like making my dreams happen.  So, we shall see :D

15 Things About Me

1. Age: 27 (28 in less than 2 weeks!)

2. Home Country: USA

3. Favorite Food: Indian curry and pizza

4. Favorite Countries: More than one…It’s very difficult to choose.  Italy, Croatia, Scotland, Thailand and Czech Republic

5. Favorite Books: Harry Potter (is that obvious?), The Giver, Eat. Pray. Love, and the His Dark Materials trilogy  (I’m getting back into reading for fun (finally), so if you have any favorites, send them my way!! :) :)

6. Hobbies: reading, exploring my city, eating, baking, blogging, planning stuff for my classroom, travel, organizing

7. Favorite Quotes: “Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be.” –Elizabeth Gilbert
and too many more to name…oi.  Go here.  :D
http://www.pinterest.com/stacey086/quotes-that-inspire/

8. Favorite Musicians/Artist: Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran

9. Favorite Color: Deep purple (was blue, then green and now it’s purple)

10. Favorite TV Show: So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), Game of Thrones, Walking Dead and Downton Abbey

11. What I’m Passionate About: Women and Men’s Rights (Feminism), Travel, Fitness, Family, Education, Photography, History, Becoming Debt Free (GAHHH…America and it’s student loans will be the death of me), Dance (and the arts, especially in schools) and Genealogy

12. Goals for the Future: Continue working here in Korea to save a bit more money and to pay down some debt (my student loans look like they’ll be here for awhile….)

13. Favorite Movies: The Book Thief, The Best Exotic Marygold Hotel, Monsters University and Harry Potter 6 and 7 (parts 1 and 2) Pitch Perfect and Despicable Me (and too many more…oi.)
Oh!  I just saw The Maze Runner yesterday.  I really liked it :)  I’ll have to add that to my list of books to read when my Kindle (Happy Bday to me!) arrives.

14. Favorite Season: Usually summer, but now that I’m a pedestrian that has to walk all the time and living with minimal A/C…fall/autumn is becoming my new favorite.

15. Pets?: One white hamster named Munch-a-Saurus Rex, or “Munch” for short.