Latest Goings-on…

Last Saturday was my 28th birthday and I went out to dinner with some friends.   The Daejeon International Wine Festival was that weekend as well, so we hit that up before going to dinner.  It was a pretty nice day–nice and relaxed as I was hoping for.

This past weekend I participated in the 2nd Daejombie Charity 5K Run (Daejeon + Zombie).  It raises money for a local animal shelter that is run solely by one older Korean woman (and a lot of volunteers).  The charity is called Daejeon Paws.

Last year I helped organize the race and this year I wanted to be a participant.  Specifically, a zombie 😀

zombie

😀

It was pretty fun.  They had professional/student make-up artists there to help us out if we wanted it (yes) and then groups of zombies were sent to various parts (or “infected zones”) on the course.  The runners would come through and we’d try to get one of their three life belts (think flag football).

It’s weird because I’m not usually that big on Halloween, but I think being a teacher has gotten me more into it.  I like decorating my classroom and sharing the holiday with my students because it’s not really a thing here (maybe in the future though because the kids get really excited about it).
I’m bringing in some caramel and apples today so they can dip them and have that experience too.  I was snacking on some peanut butter and apples yesterday and they were all so shocked at the combination.  It was kinda funny actually 🙂  So, I’m going to bring in some extra apples and have them test both (caramel and PB) out.

Oh, and I decorated my door at home too, haha.

This is what I was going for:

This is mine:

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Maybe more paper? I dunno.  My neighbors probably think I’m nuts.
I’m actually torn a bit on whether or not decorating was a good idea.  I know they don’t celebrate it here and it’s fun for me…but I’m in a different country.  Anyway, I dunno.
That’s what I’ve been up to 🙂

Street Shoutouts

As an expat/foreigner in a country, especially one that’s as homogeneous as Korea, am I somehow obligated to responding to everyone when they shout “Hello!” to me?

This is me just thinking out loud, but I usually try and think of myself as an ambassador of sorts because foreigners definitely stick out here, but also because maybe I’m the one opportunity that a person will have with a foreigner or an American.
Sometimes people/strangers will shout or say “Hi” to me (about once a week) and I respond about 99.9% of the time.
They typically don’t have any intention of starting a conversation with you, just a “HELLO!” and then they giggle or talk about it with their buddy.
I’ve just been wondering where the line is drawn with this.  I usually walk with headphones in and it still happens and I know it’s something small because saying “hi” back is fairly simple.  But where does this “ambassador” line end and when do my rights as a person who just wants to walk peacefully down the street begin.
Did I forfeit this when I left the country?

Koreans don’t typically chat randomly with strangers at all, and if I were to do the same to them, or even start chatting away (assuming I could) with the lady at the grocery store, this would be seen as extremely weird.  So, it’s definitely only with foreigners.
Some people I know don’t say anything at all in response.
I also act differently if it’s a little kid as compared to an older man.

Also, if this happens in the US, I don’t respond at all.

Anyway, I’m not sure if there’s a real answer to this, but it’s been something that’s been on my mind.

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I also broke in my new gym membership today (feels sooooooooooo good to be back) and worked my arms.  It’s been like two hours and I’m already feeling the burn.  Should be good tomorrow when I can’t pick up cups or lift my fork to eat my birthday cake. Actually, that last one won’t be a problem.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  haha 🙂

Updates and Future Posts

Such a good day today.  My kiddos were pretty well-behaved and we were nice and productive…as compared to Wednesday when half of them seemed to have an overdose of crazy pills before class.

We got everything wrapped up from the week and I got to get some much-needed almost 1-1 time with two boys in my last class of the day who are having the most trouble. The other two boys (who are much more chatty and have better English) have been absent for two days and I’m getting quality time with the other two.  Good stuff (another bonus of working in the after-school/hagwon system versus at the school with 30+ kids.)

Anyway, I have a few posts that I’m working on at the moment.
1. The Korea Pet-Peeves/Dislikes–Part 2

2. A video of my kids (students) doing our song and dance to the song “Splish Splash“…which is addoooorable.
I choreographed the dance moves based on what I remembered from when I did the song in my elementary school music class and a few Youtube videos.
I didn’t focus on learning all of the words for this particular song, I just wanted them to have fun with English and get their butts out of their chairs.  Mission accomplished.  We didn’t have time for a video today so I’m going to try and get it done on Monday and uploaded shortly after.

3. The journal entries from my Harry Potter/Osaka trip.  I emailed the photos from my phone to my email account like 2 hours ago and they still haven’t come through.  But anyway, still working on that and hope to have some fun posts up soon.

In regards to #2–I’m also nearly finished with a new dance/song to The Loco-Motion by Little Eva (or this version by Kylie Minogue) and I’m super excited for it.  The last one was a big hit, so I’m hoping this one will be too.  It’s a bit slower as well, so hopefully I can get them to learn the lyrics as well (which we do with all of the other songs that I teach them.)

We’ll be having a Halloween Party at our school too and each teacher will have a group of students for 40 minutes and then we rotate the kids to the next room.  Each teacher has a different activity or game, and I was thinking it’d be fun to teach them a dance to Thriller by Michael Jackson.  A lot of them have no idea who Michael Jackson is and they love zombies…so that could be fun.
This whole post is turning into stuff about dance routines, but for the Halloween bit, I’ve done actual activities for the Halloween and Christmas parties last year because each group that you get can have a huge mix of kids…super low level to more advanced kids, and sometimes they bring their (non-English speaking) friends.  Having to cut/print/prepare enough scissors and glue etc is a bit of a pain when you don’t actually know who will be in your class.
The dance bit would let them get some energy out and have some fun at the same time.
I still have to get an OK from our director, but I think it should be fine.  I’d looooooove if we could get a blacklight or something and use that, but we’ll see.  I remember doing a special Halloween routine with this song when I was in dance class…er…in the 90s and our teacher let us use white gloves and we had a black light (and a strobe light, I believe?) and we did the Thriller dance in the dark.  It was super fun.  😀

Also, no work tomorrow/today (Friday) because of a public holiday annnnnd my 28th birthday on Saturday, which also happens to be payday!  Alllllso, I signed up at a gym today (with help from a friend) and I’m excited (but also a little not, because now I have no excuses and can’t be lazy anymore).  They have good hours, the price was reasonable AND it’s super close to my work, which is also fairly close to my apartment.
Hurrah!

Anyway, that’s a quick update.  Off to bed!   Have a great day/night/evening!

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.  😀  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.  😀
Hope you’re having a lovely week!