Too Much Pinterest Makes Stacey a Crazy Lady

I’ve been on Pinterest way too much today…and now I have a ton of ideas on how to re-organize my classroom.
I sketched it out and it looks pretty snazzy, IMHO (in my humble opinion), but I wish my brain would learn to shut off at times, haha.  :D

I think my classroom looks good now, but I *love* organizing things and making things more practical and useful and Pinterest is amazing for new ideas.
I’ll try and take pictures of how it looks now once I get back into the classroom on Monday so I can get some comparing and contrasting in.
Sprucing up a classroom is a bit difficult when you only have 2 weeks off per year, so I actually try my best to change things as I go along.  I think it helps keep things fresh and the students get excited when they come in and something looks different.  Example:  I moved the bookshelf from being flush against the wall to perpendicular to the wall (trying to create a nook-like area) and they all got super excited and loved the change.  haha.
I also used to have the tables arranged differently, but it always bothered me that some kids were further from the board than I liked but I couldn’t figure out how to fix it.  Better now though :)

Grandma/Family–if you’re reading, my room is roughly the size of your living room (minus the kitchen), but anyway, here are some rough sketches I drew out.  I’m hoping to organize the walls a bit more into bulletin board/typical classroom style.  I’d like to make the walls look a bit neater and brighter.

CAM03386 CAM03387 CAM03388

For the birthdays, I’m using this idea:

http://scrappingwest.blogspot.kr/2010/08/birthday-cupcakes.html

Community Helpers (LOVE THESE!!! And Free :D :D)

http://www.teachersnotebook.com/product/kadeenwhitby/free-community-helpers-posters

I’m planning to put up some velcro and put a spotlight on only 3 or so (depending on space) and change them out every 1-2 weeks.  The pictures are adorable and I love the multi-cultural aspect on the posters as well.  And they’re beautiful :)

To make this new wall, I’d also be removing the colors and numbers, which worries me a bit because they still use these for spelling purposes.  It’s also a bit different because with these after-school type schools, we get new students all the time and sometimes without notice, so I don’t change displays too much because there’s likely always a newer kid who might still need them.
However, I found these on Pinterest:

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Monster-Theme-Name-Plates-34-Unique-Designs-Editable-767893


They’re nameplates for the desks!  SO CUTE…and practical!  Yay!
Another challenge is that my classes are two hours long and then I change students.  I have 3, 2-hour long classes a day.  They’re back-to-back with 5-10 minutes “break” in between.  Another thing about teaching ESL over here is there isn’t a defined “school year” when you teach in the academies after school.  There’s a heavier registration time, but otherwise the classes continue on.  My particular classes “re-set” every 3-4 months and then we shuffle the kids around depending on where kids are currently at ability-wise.  Some kids work harder and they’re ready to advance and some kids aren’t.  So they’ll stay in the same class or might get bumped down.  (THANK THE LORD that my current school lets us bump kids down to a lower level…several schools (including my last) didn’t want kids to go lower because they thought the parents would be angry and pull their kids out of the school.)

Anyway, I was thinking about getting some of these and laminating them (makes it easy for kids that are new or “trying out” the class).  Then, we could stick them onto the desks with Velcro, and the kids could change them as they came in for the day and hang them up at the end.
ALSO, this would free up some wall space.  :D
Granted, they would still need the numbers, but I could just add them to my fancy new word wall.

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I’m thinking of making something out of the little fake window and actually using it to pretend it’s a real window.  I’m thinking of going to Daiso (our version of the dollar store) and getting a cheap curtain to rig up. I’ll laminate some weather words and pictures and we can change them each day.  I’d like to also move the seasons from the front wall to this wall so everything “weather” can all be in one space.

Again, just sketches for now, but maybe it’ll help give an idea better than me just rambling on about it.  Anyway, I’m also hoping to make a little “student center” somewhere where they can get their pencils, erasers, and bookmarks (new idea!) and how to make it look a little better than it currently does.

I need more wall space!!!  I love this idea too!

http://fieldofpoppies.blogspot.kr/2012/09/shades-of-meaning.html

Other things I’d like to do:
*create a super cute and functional reading nook from minimal space for minimal wons (or dollars…)
–I have the beginning stages, but I want better, fun seating for them.  Some throw pillows or cushions for the area and some Christmas lights when the time comes.
*customized pencils would be AWESOME.  Ideally pencils with my name/borrowed from/etc and/or other pencils with the school’s name on it.  I haven’t seen much customization anywhere in this country… Granted, I am in Asia, and the group is more important than the individual usually, but still…the students would freak out (in a good way) if they got pencils with their names on them.  I’ll have to see what I can do when I get back to the US.
*I want to be able to use these or these  or these somehow! :( :) :( :)

And yes, I know, these things cost money, but I don’t mind spending the money when I feel it helps my students or makes them excited.  Plus, I get excited about these things too, so it’s a win-win.  Also, I’m also at work nearly as much as I’m at home (or more sometimes, it feels like) and I’d like to make my second-home as cozy as possible.  I also hope that the students like the room so they keep wanting to come back and that it feels like a little home to them too.

Anyway, it’s late, so off to bed :D

Edit:
LOOK AT THESE ROOMS!!!!
http://www.theschoolsupplyaddict.com/room-setup.html

AND how cool is this?!?!?
http://newadventuresinfirstgrade.blogspot.ch/2011/09/where-it-happens-wednesday.html

I want to be in their classes!  How do I go back to elementary school?
So so fun!

My Favorite Things About Korea–Pt2

I’m in need of this post today.  Feeling a bit homesick and just blah.  I’m on summer vacation, but just feeling annoyed with this and that.  Not sure if that technically qualifies as homesick or not, but there it is.  I really wish fruit wasn’t so expensive here and also that it wasn’t sold pre-packaged.  Sorry Korea, but I don’t need 6 apples, especially when those 6 apples cost about $7 and when things seem to mold and go bad so quickly.  It’s hard for me to eat that much fruit in such a short amount of time.  I’d also like to buy 2 tomatoes, not a box of 12.  Even if the boxes are buy one, get one free.  I don’t need 4kg of tomatoes.  ESPECIALLY when they are also $7 a box.  
Ugh.  I’m actually thinking about getting into a bit of indoor gardening to minimize costs.  
I’d like to plant some tomatoes, but I need a bit more space for that.  I might start with basil as it’s a bit easier to manage.

Anyway…to the good stuff, right?

5. Transit Cards: Buses, Taxis, Subway
Korea’s public transport system, as I’ve mentioned before is cheap, punctual and very convenient.  Did I mention cheap?

I don’t take the bus very often because I prefer the subway, taxis and walking, but the bus is a very popular mode of transport in most Korean cities.  You can use a transportation card (T-Money card) to pay quickly as you board.  The cost is just over 1000won.  You also get a discount on subsequent buses if you use your card when you travel.  

More on transportation

Subways are clean and typically well connected to train stations, intercity bus stations and other popular areas.  I love that I can get from one end of the city to the other for under 2000won ($2).  Pretty nice.  
Taxis are also pretty cheap–2,300 won (I’m 99% sure this is the basic fare as of 2014, but don’t hold me to it.)  This is also for the city of Daejeon.  It’s a wee bit more expensive (maybe 2,500W) in bigger cities like Seoul and Busan.  Basically $2.30-$2.50 and an extra 100 won (.10) every 30-40 seconds or every 140-150 meters.  
I try to avoid taking the taxi in cities like Seoul and Busan unless I’m with a group of friends because then we can divide up the cost, but here in Daejeon, it’s pretty reasonable.  In those other cities, I’ll just take the bus or the subway.  Again, cheap, clean, punctual and well-connected.  The cost for taxis goes up to about 2,600 won after midnight (about 12-4/5am, and adjust accordingly for the other cities).  Still, not bad at all.

More on taxis here.  Ignore the price information though as that isn’t accurate, but everything else looks good.  Also, Seoul and Busan (bigger cities) have a bigger variety of taxis, but they’re still EVERYWHERE.  Unless it’s raining.  :(  haha
Just an example, but I can go from my apartment to the train station (about 15 minutes drive) for about $8.  
Public transportation tends to shut down around 11:45pm-midnight and taxis run all night.  
Taxis also accept the T-Money (transportation cards), which is nice and convenient if you don’t have cash.  You can load them up at subway stations and some 7-11 convenience stores.  I stick mine in my phone case behind my phone and I can tap it quickly while going on the subway or bus.  No messing with paper bills or coins.  Some bank cards also have an option where you can use that card as your T-money/transport card as well as a bank card.  

T-Money card variations–card and keychain styles

T-Money card reloading machine in a subway station and a place to buy individual tickets.

Turnstiles at the subway–place your card on the reader at the top to go through. Money is automatically deducted from your card. No card? You can get a chip from one of the machines after you pay with cash at one of the other machines.

6. Colored District Trash Bags
Each district (gu 구) within a city has a different color trashbag (which you can pick up from some “marts” or convenience stores and all grocery stores.
The thing I like about this is that you can use these plastic bags as grocery bags and then turn around and reuse them once you get home as trashbags.  Same bag.  No extra waste or plastic.  They come in a few different sizes for any size trashcan you might have.  

Note:  Food waste and plastic go in separate containers.

Trash bags

Food Waste Tub–looks a bit like this

7. Public Bike-Sharing Program–“Tashu”
I love, love, looooove this.  This is a newer program (from what I’ve read) and I’m grateful that it’s here in Daejeon.  There are stations set up throughout the city and you’re able to basically rent a bike for however long.  Typically up to a few hours, but to each their own.  
You find a bike station (typically in well populated areas, but they’re scattered throughout the city) and each bike station has 10+ bikes (depending on the city and how populated that particular area is.  
Again, you can use your T-Money card for this or have it added to your phone bill.
Anyway, you check out the bike and you can return it to any bike station in the city.

More info here.
Prices are on the website, but up to an hour it’s free and (up to 3 hours) it’s 500won (.50) for every additional 30 minutes.  Over 3 hours it’s 2000 won (about $2) every 30 minutes.

Bike Rental Station

Also, there are goverment/city workers that come by and repair bikes as needed.  Also, if a bike needs to be checked out or repaired, there is an option for that on the checkout machine and someone will come by to take it to the repair shop.

Remaining Topics:
*Carrying pizzas/watermelon
*Food Delivery
*Baseball games 

My Favorite Things About Korea–Pt1 of 2

I’m sure I’ve griped a bit about this and that enough while being here, but I wanted to make a post about the things I really enjoy about Korea.

1. Table Bells
At the traditional Korean restaurants, you’re seated like at a normal restaurant, but each table has a little red buzzer/bell that you push whenever you need anything.  Personally, I still really like having waiters/waitresses and especially when you have a good one, you never need to ask for anything.  However, this is still pretty cool.  They only come to your table when you push the button.
Push it if you need an extra set of chopsticks (although there is a box of chopsticks and spoons on the table), push it if you’re ready to order, push it if you need an extra water pitcher or if you’d like to order something else.

At other restaurants, you just flag the waiter/employee down by raising your hand or shouting out (ahhh! I still can’t do it.) “Cheogeo!”.  That basically means “Over here/Excuse Me”.  You have to do it or you won’t get served.  I hate shouting in public, so I’m still terrible at it even after 2+ years here.  haha.  Probably another reason why the buzzers rock.

Table Buzzers–Korea

2. KakaoTalk

KakaoTalk was/is one my favorite disoveries since arriving.  KakaoTalk is Korea’s version of the app called WhatsApp, which is a FREE texting service.  It works basically like the old AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), except you can get it in app form for your phone.
FREE TEXTING.  It’s an app and you don’t have to buy a texting plan with your local phone service provider.  Seriously.
People in Europe, South Africa and several other countries use a similar app called WhatsApp, but they’re essentially the same thing.
I got both my mom and grandma to get it and I can text them both for FREE on the other side of the planet.  Pretty nifty.  You can send pictures and video clips and do group chats too.  Oh, and you can download it on your PC too, so you can text people faster if you happen to be at your computer and prefer that method instead.
I feel like a salesperson, but I’m so shocked that (at least with people I know) that this sort of thing isn’t really used in the US.  It’s FREE, UNLIMITED TEXTING.

KakaoTalk Screenshot (not mine :D)                       cxvk

WhatsApp Screenshot

3. Banking–Specifically: Bill Paying and Money Transfering

Checkbook?  Checks?  What are those?
I posted a video awhile back on my Facebook about what it’s like at the ATM here and it’s pretty great.  I can pay bills (or they have a special machine inside the bank and I just insert each bill (and my card) and it pays each of them right then and there for me.  Instantly.)
One main difference is that all bills have an account number printed on the statement and that’s the number that you send the money to when you’re paying the bill.  It’s the same for online shopping.  They give you an account number (and it has a matching corresponding name and the name of the bank it’s going to so you know it’s going to the right place) and you type in the information at the ATM and send the money off. (Or you can pay with a credit card, but the online shopping places tend to give you about 7 days to pay).  You could buy the item, wait the two days til payday and then go to the ATM and send the money over at your convenience.

Anyway, this is also great because if you owe a friend money for something, you can just get their bank number and send it directly to them.  That way you don’t have to withdrawal a large amount of cash and travel around with it.  It’s really safe here, so nothing would likely happen, but I personally don’t enjoy walking around with a lot of cash in my pocket.  Also pretty nifty if they live in another city and you don’t know when you’ll see eachother next.  Or, if they sign you up for a race/festival/etc, it makes paying people back simple as well.

ATM

4. Travel
Traveling in Korea is extremely cheap and affordable.  Many Koreans think it’s expensive, but it’s really not when you have a few other places to compare it with.
Trains
There are 3 major train classes/companies (a few other smaller ones, but they don’t go to as many places) in Korea: the Saemaul, the Mugunghwa and the KTX.
The Mugunghwa is the slowest train (makes more stops at the smaller cities along the way), then comes the Saemaul and then the KTX.
The Mugunghwa (Moon-goong-hwa) is the “slow train” but it’s also the cheapest.  From Busan to Seoul (about a 5 hour journey–basically one end of Korea to the other.  Busan is in the Southeast and Seoul is up at the very top of the country, near North Korea), it’s about $28.  These trains are a bit smaller and you can also save even more money if you want to choose the “standing” ticket.
Standing is cheaper and good for shorter distances–if you get to the platform early enough, they usually have folding seats in between the cars that you can get. :D

Inside a Mugunghwa train

Mugunghwa Train

The Saemaul is next.  Not much difference between the Mungunghwa and the Saemaul, but the Saemaul doesn’t have the standing passengers and the seats are a bit bigger with more legroom.  Same trip: Seoul to Busan on the Saemaul (less than 5 hours–beginning of the line to the end of the line)–about $42 (these trains aren’t as frequent)

Saemaul

KTX
The KTX is Korea’s bullet train reaching speeds of 305km/h or 190mph.  It makes stops less frequently than the other trains and can get you from one place to the next in usually half the time of the other two trains.  These trains have more legroom and are generally nicer.  All of the trains in Korea are nice though.  Nothing really to complain about–there are bathrooms on board, a snackcar, no traffic and you get to see the lush, Korean countryside as you zoom through.  Or you can take a nap.  :D
Seoul–>Busan (Roughly 46,000won for standard class and 86 for first-class).  First class has even more space and is more for the business travelers or for people with money to burn.
I love taking the KTX, mainly because it’s faster and I also don’t live nearly as far from one place to the next because I live in Daejeon, which is in the middle of the country.

KTX

There are also buses (luxury coach style buses) that you can take, which are also a bit cheaper, but I like the trains because I see more of the country and because of the bathrooms on board.  Oh, and no traffic.  :D

Daejeon train prices:
Daejeon–>Seoul (about 2 hours+ in a car)
Mungunghwa: 1hr 50 min: 10,000won (about $10)
Saemaul: 1hr 45min: 15,000won (about $15)
KTX: 50 minutes (23,000won (standard class), 33,000won (first class))

Daejeon–>Busan (about 3 hours with minimal traffic)
Mungunghwa: 3 hours 15 min. (17,000won//$17)
Saemaul: 3 hours (26,000won)
KTX: 1 hour 20-1.5 hours (25-33,000won-standard/47,000-first class)
(The length of the journey and the price depend on when you buy and what time you’re traveling.  It can be cheaper if you buy earlier too.)

Ok, I’m going to make this a two-part post because this is getting pretty lengthy.  I haven’t felt like writing in awhile and now it’s like spilling out.
Anyway, to wrap up the travel bits, I also love that nearly every major city has a subway system that connects to their bus and train stations, so after you get off the bus/train you’re able to explore the city without ever needing a car.
And if you DO need a car, you can hop in a taxi for super cheap.
Example:  A 20 minute ride in a taxi is about $8-9.
Tons of taxis everywhere and trains are also incredibly frequent.  I can get a train out of Daejeon nearly every 10-15 minutes.

Part 2:
-Subway systems
-cheap food
-delivery/food at home/returning dishes
–buses/wrap up public transportation
-colored trash bag system
–city bikes

A Request

I’ve thought a bit about whether or not to say something, but I decided it was best that I should.

I really would like people to stop asking when I’m moving back to America. 
I think it’s really affecting my decision-making process and making it more difficult.  Yes, I know x person misses me and so does x person.  I MISS YOU TOO.  I am enjoying my life right now and I am trying to better my own future.
I think it looks like I’m off having party time and people seem to be waiting for me to come back and get a “real job”.  Maybe that’s not the case, but just know that I will come back when I can.  I’m happy here and I’m enjoying my life…and I’m not broke anymore.  For the first time in my life, I am not broke.  I have money and I don’t have to eat peanut butter sandwiches or spaghetti for days in a row.
Again, I am working toward creating a better future for myself…and getting to travel and do things that I love in the process…I don’t know why I should be running home so quickly after I’ve achieved this.
I deal almost on a daily basis with guilt or other similar feelings because everyone I know seems to be getting married or engaged or graduating or hitting some other life milestone and I’m on the other side of the planet and I’m missing it.  But, I also know that it’s a choice that I’ve made.  I’m trying my best to stay connected to people while I’m here, but it’s a bit difficult to fly home for every occasion because I have 8-10 days vacation for the year and they are pre-determined dates.  Also, if I fly home (and it isn’t for good…just for a trip back), it comes out of my pocket.  All $1300-1500 of that plane ticket.

Anyway, I’m sure I sound mean, but I’m just trying to express my situation and hopefully put an end to that question.

My current plans:
My newest contract with my current school ends in September/October.  I hope to continue on with this school for an additional year which would put my finish date to be September/October 2015.  I do not get a free flight home this year if I decide to re-sign. The free flights are only the first flight coming to Korea and the last one sending you home for good.  I do however plan on coming home for Christmas (!) this year.  Christmas is my favorite holiday and I want to be home for this one.  And I’ll have enough money this time for the flight.  I have one week’s vacation around Christmas (which is why I can come back–the other week of vacation is at the end of July.  Again, it is predetermined and inflexible.)  

Anyway, time for work!
~

Exhale

I can’t even begin to explain how nice it feels to finally NOT have to worry about sending money home/putting my paycheck directly into my bank account as quickly as possible.  Finally have some cushion and it feels fan-frikin-tastic.

//Sidenote:
I wanted to get this bit written down as well so in 5 or whatever years, I can look back and still be proud of myself for this.
I thought when I came to Korea that I’d be able to save so much money and be able to leave with loans nearly paid off and a giant wad of cash in my wallet.
However, it’ll still be nice when it’s time to go, but I’m not nearly where I thought I would be because:
*Keeping two bank accounts above water (Korean and American) is tough work
*Paying around $400 to my student loans each month
*Having pre-existing debt (and also paying that down)
*Oh, and you want to travel, that will cost money too.  So will getting yourself set up in a new country and you can’t escape buying groceries.

Saving money is A LOT easier than in the US, but not as easy to hold onto it as I was expecting.  Anyway, I just wanted to make sure I had that written down so I didn’t forget and later wonder why the heck I didn’t roll out of here debt-free.  (Which IS possible, but it would take longer than I’m expecting to stay.–Probably could be debt-free after 5-6 total years here)…tempting, but I think I’ll be ready to move on well before that.

Go team,ME!  Hoorah! Hoorah!

Stuff

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what I want to do post-Korea and when I’ll leave and all that.  I’ve also talked with a lot of my female friends here, and we got into the issue of women travelers.  Not about solo-travel, but about the woman that wants a career, a family and to travel.  We talked about how difficult it can be and how different it is for men and women.
Ok, before you dismiss the topic and think I’m about to go on a feminist rant (which may happen in another post, but not today), just hear me out.
We talked about how women (in general, and maybe men as well…I’m not a man, so I can’t speak for them)–women typically have a general idea of when they want to be married and start having kids and all that.
If you asked my teenage self when that would have been, I would have been married already with a kid either under my belt or on the way.  Instead, I went down a completely different road than even I couldn’t have predicted for myself…and I’m happy with it.  But, what we talked about is that how men are able to continue on as a traveler or a nomad for longer without having to also worry about wanting to start and plan for a family (or not as early as women, anyway).
As a woman, they say that you should be about finished having kids by age 35 to reduce risks of disorders and health complications.  Ok, great…I’m 27, so I have PLENTY of time (as people remind me).  “Carpe Diem” , they say.  “You’re living the dream!”
Yeah, I know, but I also want a family.  And factoring in time to actually date and try to find/meet this future husband (seriously though, where are you?), and get married and make sure I have my career situated before I start popping out kids….annnnd that window seems a whole lot smaller.

I have a few friends here that are closer to that 30 mark (or past it) than I am, and they’re definitely feeling the pressure.  They’re also “living the dream” and really enjoying life…but also wanting a family. It gets even more difficult if you want to find someone that doesn’t have children already and hasn’t been divorced, as you get older.  “But you’re so young!  You’re only 27!  Enjoy your life before you have kids!”…you might be thinking.  And that’s true…I want to travel and I have dreams of climbing mountains and going to all seven continents…but I also really, really want to get married and have kids of my own.  And that also takes time.
Trying to find a balance between the two seems to be the difficult part.

I came to Korea to get my life in order, and by the time that I do, I’ll feel very good about leaving and being ready to start the next stage in my life…but I think in the back of my mind, I had hoped that I could find a like-minded traveler over here.  But…alas, that hasn’t happened.  Oh well.
Anyway, I just needed to get that out.

Note: I would still love to travel when I find my person/fiance… (a honeymoon trip to the Himalayas (!!!) or Fiji or the MALDIVES!!!…*sigh*…the list is endless), but…as I said, I really want to be a mom.  :(

Other updates: 
*My goal is to be home for Christmas this year
*Making good progress on paying off my credit card (Yay!  Go me!)
*I’m on Chapter 11 in my Korean book (last update about that was from 12/29 and I was on chapter 6)–A New Year’s Resolution was to finish my Korean book (30 chapters…)
*My planned time to leave Korea is Fall 2015.  (next fall)  I’ll have enough money saved so I won’t be broke as soon as I try and get started back in the US and I’ll have a good chunk of my debt paid off.  (And a DSLR camera in hand.)  Happy Lady.  :D

Re-Grouping

So, I’ve been feeling kind of blah recently, and I think it’s because I haven’t really had anything going on (and I’ve got the winter blues) because I’ve been trying to save more money…which leaves me with less here to play around with.  It’s fine and I’m not starving or anything, I’ve just found how much I can actually live on here and been trying to cut out expenses.

With that being said, I was looking at gyms and dance studios but ended up deciding on Ultimate Frisbee.  Totally out of left field, and I’ve never played before, but I’m pretty excited. That doesn’t start til spring though, and I’ve still been working on my Korean when I have free time.  I’m teaching myself and going at a relatively slow pace, so I still feel pretty beginner, but I love when things start to click.

I ALSO decided that I want to get back into learning Spanish.
I have a lot of free time because I don’t really go out to bars and that sort of thing anymore, AND I’ve had a long-standing goal of being fluent in 5 languages before I die, so…why not start while I have some time on my hands.
I was looking at Spanish course books online and they’re only like $15-20 AND I still remember A LOT from when I took it in school…so that makes me pretty happy.

Anyway, that’s pretty much what’s happening around here.

4 day weekend next weekend for the Lunar New Year!  Wahooo!!!  (Next holiday isn’t til like March or April, so yeah…bah.)

//Also looking into grad school programs and teaching certifications…a weeee bit overwhelming to look at.