Valentine’s Day Approaches

As a single lady, I don’t really have any reasons to be super excited that Valentine’s Day is coming, but I do love it because holidays are always a fun thing to celebrate in a classroom.

I’m planning on turning Friday into a mini-party–still working out logistics–but I’m going to bake Funfetti cupcakes with pink icing and I want to make these cookies:

Yummy!  😀

And maybe some of these too–I could put together some cookie bags like I did for Christmas.  😀  We’ll see.

I also want to have them make Valentine’s cards for each other as it’s a cultural experience and it’s not something that’s done here.

Valentine’s Day in Korea is when the girls give chocolates/candy to the boys and a month later on March 14, White Day, the guys return the favor.  Apparently there’s also Black Day the following month (April 14) and that’s for the single people.

You’re supposed to go to the restaurants and order jjajjangmyeong, which is a cold, black bean and noodle dish.  You’re then essentially upping your chances to meet other single people in hopes that you won’t be single the next time it rolls around.

My goal with the treats and Valentine’s party is to make a fun party out of it.  I want them to be able to enjoy the holiday in another way.  I like opening their eyes to different things.
For example, a girl was reading a book about apple picking and there were yellow apples in the book and she thought it was funny.  In Korea, we have one type of red apples and SOMETIMES green apples (and the world goes crazy when they are here), but there aren’t any yellow apples.  I explained to the girl that there are yellow apples too and she thought I was joking, but I pulled up an American grocery store on Google and she was amazed by all the apples.  Not just one kind of red…but a lot of red, green and yes, yellow apples.
I try to also include other countries into the mix also.  I don’t want it to be all about America, but also about other places that I’ve experienced.  I like to pass on as many cultural things as possible to open their minds a bit.

With Valentine’s Day, I want them to know that it can be celebrated any way you want, but especially including your firends and family into the mixture.  It’s not only for boyfriends/girlfriends.  I hear so much about being “lonely”/”don’t want to be lonely”/”Aren’t you lonely” from the older people (my age) that it’d be nice to diffuse some of that before it gets going.

Let’s see…oh!  We watched Matilda the past two movie days (Only about 30 minutes each time)–and usually I don’t do two movies in a row because there are so many out there, but they LOVED Matilda, so we continued on a bit more with it.  (One of my girls in the class found the book in our library and I encouraged her to take it home and try it out.  It’s well above her reading level but she loved the movie and she seemed excited to have it, especially knowing that there wasn’t a rush and she wouldn’t have a test over it.
Ah yes, the point…if you’ve seen the movie or read the book you know there’s a horrible principal called Miss Trunchbull, and later in the movie it lets on that she’s superstitious and afraid of spooky/ghosty things.
This lead to a segway about superstition. A massive word for them, but I talked about it anyway.  We talked about good luck and bad luck and what things people are superstitious about in Korea.  They didn’t know the word superstitious in Korean (I translated it, but they don’t know it yet in their language, but they knew bad luck).  We also talked about how superstitions (or things that are bad luck) can be different in each country.
For example, in Korea, the number 4 is considered to be bad luck, as is writing someone’s name in red ink (symbolizes death),  I talked about some that we have in the US (walking under ladders, #13, black cats) and helped them understand why Miss Trunchbull was freaking out when there was a black cat near her in the movie.

Whew.  A bit long-winded tonight.
We had the movie day on Friday, but I made a note to talk with them about it because they seemed confused as to why this big strong lady was afraid of cats.  One boy just thought she didn’t like cats…but it was a good learning experience.

_________________________________________
More on Korean superstitions herehere and here!!
The first link is a good one and talks about ‘fan death’.  😛

_________________________________________
Anyway, I’m eagerly awaiting for a package from my mom with the two Titanic books that I ordered off Amazon for my Titanic-obsessed student.  I want to see his face when he gets them so bad.  It’s going to be beautiful.

Valentine’s Day is going to be snack-time (cupcakes and cookies–bagged candy can be pricey and I love baking, so baked goods it is!) and they’re going to make Valentine’s for each other and their parents.
We have two hours…so that should be enough time…right?

Life So Far in 2015 (and bits about my trip home)

I’m back in Korea and settling back into daily life here.  I’m actually pretty happy because I’m doing a nice job of kicking jet lag in the teeth.  Thankfully in most part due to work, heh.  The first night I slept about 4 hours even though I was exhausted…(1 car trip to the airport in LA, 3 flights, an overnight sleep in the airport, a 2.5 hour bus ride from the airport and a taxi ride to my house). Yeahhhh…that makes for a very sleepy me.
Work has also been keeping me busy, especially that first day.  The first day I not only was on 4 hours of sleep, but we started our new term (new students, updating the classroom, clearing out stuff from any old students) and catching myself up from what the sub did while I was away.  We also just got our student rosters on the first day of classes (typical hagwon-style).  Then my classes, which are back-to-back.  So, by the end, I was completely wiped out.  I finish now around 8:30, but I stayed til 9:30 entering grades from the tests they took while I was away and updating my classroom for the new classes/students.

Yesterday was much better. I don’t mind staying late if it’s going to help make things run more smoothly for the following days.  Also, I bought two maps off Amazon while I was in the US–one world map and one map of the US.  They’re actually pretty big, which I was expecting to an extent, but I was still a bit shocked at the size when I opened them up.  I’m really happy with them now that they have a place in the room though.  I also took down our Christmas decorations yesterday.
Combined with doing laundry, unpacking, making meals and meeting a friend for brunch…my past two days have been crazy.  It’s also rough with new students because you begin again with everything, so I realized I took for granted how much my kids had learned and I’m working on teaching our routine to my newest bunch in my beginner class.  It’s a good opportunity to tweak things, but also exhausting when you need to explain everything again. My last bunch were (are–just in my next level class) fairly self-sufficient and now I’m going to be working on those skills with the new kiddos.

I’ve heard that jet lag goes away more quickly when you travel in one direction rather than the other, and it looks like it might be east–>west.  🙂  I was kept pretty busy at home too and I didn’t adjust any faster, I was just exhausted.  I know you’re supposed to ease yourself back into the time change–keep active and adjust your lifestyle to the new one–but go slowly at first…but life doesn’t always allow for that.  I’m just keeping an eye out for signs of illness now.

Anyway, so home was great…maybe a bit *too* great because coming back was a bit rough.  My mom took off work for most of my time at home and she helped me a ton by taking me to and from various places and treating me to meals at my favorite places.  I ate tons of great food, went shopping (and spent too much money…oops…), reunited with friends and got to spend my first Christmas at home since my last in 2011.
I bought my second cousin (we need a better term for that–this one sounds awkward) Jordan a personalized book from iseeme.com.  They have so many cute books there and the prices are reasonable.  Since I’ve ordered two (another for my friend’s nephew here in Korea) I get all sorts of discount codes in my email too.  My Korean friend said that she could tell it was a “Western-style” book because it encouraged kids to be whatever they wanted, and not only a doctor or scientist.

This one here.
The books are super cute and great quality.  If you’re poking around the site and debating ordering, I’m 100% satisfied with the books and will use them again if the need arises.  🙂

Next I went to Los Angeles to visit some friends and be a tourist 🙂  I’ve never been to the west coast, so that was pretty cool too.  I had a day flight, so I got to see some of the scenery from down below and the deserts were pretty awesome…Nevada, I’m guessing.  Maybe I’ll have to look at that giant map in my classroom, heh.
I spent 5 days there and saw most of the main touristy things there…and maybe fell a bit in love with California…
  
Walk of Fame                                                       Hollywood Sign!

Cool shopping center in Hollywood–This is one of the best locations to view the Hollywood sign (at least from where I saw anyway).  They have a hiking trail sort of by it, but you can’t get to the actual sign itself (saves it from vandalism etc.)

Venice Beach–It was a rainy and oddly chilly day in December, so there weren’t many people out.  The beach has a bike trail which I thought was awesome.  It’d be nice to be able to run/bike etc on the beach without having the sand flying in your face (and minus all the extra effort of running on sand).

Introduced to the gloriousness of deep-fried Oreos…


Venice Beach

Santa Monica Pier

I also went to In-and-Out, which everyone recommended I do while on the West Coast.  Overall another great (and delicious) trip.  For New Years, I went to my host-friend’s friend’s place and we had a party there.  It was basically a big bbq.  Anyway, that was cool too.

I thiiiink I’m all updated…I still need to upload those journal pics from my Japan trip, but my journal is at the gym and I don’t start up again there until Monday (wanted to get re-acclimated here and not need to worry about missing gym time on top of everything else).
I’ll take updated classroom pics when I get there today now that everything is all caught up.

Random Junk on My Mind:
**I got a new laptop battery and my laptop now lasts hours instead of 30 minutes when unplugged from the wall (hurrah!)
**Wishing my brain would stop with the decorating ideas for my apartment–trying to save for post-Korea (and maybe Budapest…)
**Signed up for ultimate frisbee again in the spring
**Munch-a-Saurus is back in my life (my hamster)
**PENPAL LETTERS made it to the US…finally…after like a month, sheesh.  That’s longer than a care package.  Such a huge relief though.  I think I’m still waiting on one more envelope (1 of 4), but all the letters are pretty much finished by the sounds of it and headed back this way.  We just changed classes around, so it could get interesting, but still relieved that they’ve made it over.

**Also must finish report cards by Friday…already ready for the weekend, but thankfully it’s Wednesday…
**I brought back a ton of stuff for my students too–Pixie Stix, Warheads (sour candy), maps, Mr. Sketch scented markers (which they’re amazed by… 🙂 ), Crayola crayons and colored pencils (Crayola wax crayons are about $10/box here) and a Magnetic Poetry kit.  I got my kit when it was on sale for Christmas though 🙂  We just put it out yesterday and it might be a bit hard, but better than the ABC letters that were up previously.  I’ll give them a few months and report back 🙂

*BREAKFAST IDEAS?–Any chefs out there?  We have like 4 kinds of cereal here and I’m getting burnt out with my oatmeal.  Help 😦  I’ve been doing combinations of fruit, yogurt and oatmeal, but looking for something else.  I was thinking of doing more eggs but they’re always too brown and dry and that puts me off making them.  (Plus, more mess to clean up.)  Fruit is expensive here btw.
Thinking about these breakfast cups...easy, healthy, quick and minimal mess.

Another doozy of a post.

Holiday Time + Hanukkah!

I did a short Powerpoint presentation on Hanukkah today with all 3 classes and then they made their own menorahs 🙂

They had never heard of Hanukkah, so I was really happy with my decision to teach them about 3 of the major winter holidays.  They learned about latke, menorahs, dreidles and gelt.  I feel more knowledgeable too, haha.  I did quite a bit of research putting the powerpoint together.

I’m looking for a fun Hanukkah-related movie for our movie day on Friday to help wrap up the week so it’s not just today, but there don’t seem to be that many.

hanukkah

I also decorated the rest of the classroom today 😀

holiday1
Classroom–the garland has white twinkle lights in it (super fun when we have the lights off for a video clip)
holiday2
O
ur classroom door

Back to Hanukkah, I was also toying with the idea of trying to make latke (fried potato pancakes), but I have no idea how those would keep throughout the day…probably not well.  Might just stick with the movie.

I also had a super religious 5-year old in my first class and I was a bit nervous talking about Hanukkah with him there because I didn’t want him to run and tell his mom that we were learning about different religions.  Anyway, he seemed to enjoy it when the Dreidle song started up in the presentation, and I still think it’s good for them to learn about the different holidays.  I had some students in my second class who were shocked when I said Christmas isn’t the only holiday in winter.
Anyway, so far so good!  I’m also loving how the menorahs turned out 😀  Lots of creativity in those pictures 🙂

Also, I learned that our front desk girl that has been there since before I was there is being let go because she wants to go to the US for a week for her friend’s wedding.  (Keep in mind that we work all through the year with only 10 days of vacation).  Head Front Desk lady said that Korean people don’t need vacation..soo…yeah.
She’s always been super nice and great with the kids and parents, so it’s a bit of a shock.  She’s being replaced by another Korean girl who doesn’t speak any English… :-/
Should be…interesting…
Trying to keep positive though.  At least she gets to go to her friend’s wedding?  And she’ll still be in our city…so…that’s good.  *sigh*
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

But, to end on a positive note–I sent out all the penpal letters today! (and yesterday–stragglers…)  Wahoo!  I love projects and I love this one, but it’s also really nice to have it all finished and out of my hair and thoughts.  I was going to include some Korea presents/candy, but I’m also hesitant about sending candy and such because I don’t want the other teachers in the US to feel obligated or anything to send stuff, especially because sending stuff from the US to Korea seems to be more expensive.

Anyway, goodnight!  Hope it’s warmer where you are 😀

More Excitement :D

This is a tiny post but I can’t contain my excitement to combine it with something else, so here we are.

I have been toying with the idea of organizing a penpal project for my students for awhile (just brewing in the back of my mind) and I mentioned it to my boss today and got it approved!
I wrote out a message to all of my teacher friends in the US and UK asking if they would like to write to my kids and participate and I just got someone who was as excited as I am.  Less than 3 hours later.  😀 😀 😀

I did a mini-penpal thing a few months back where my kids wrote to “a book character” (me) and I wrote a custom letter back to each of them.  It was a ton of work though (20+ custom letters).  We did it back and forth twice and they got excited about the letters, but I think this will be more exciting.  They’ll have real kids their own age and they can practice writing in a real sense…not just in a workbook or for a test.
Maybe even form some long-term friendships??

Anyway, I had long day Friday and was ready to leave, but now with this new little project, I’m excited for Monday to get here 😀

The Sooneung Exam

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/24642646″>ExamiNation: a short documentary</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/judysuh”>Judy Suh</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

http://vimeo.com/24642646

This was a short documentary on the Sooneung Exam, or college entrance exam here in Korea.

—-
For a long while, I would hear about these exams and just think to myself “Well, if you’re so stressed, then just take a few days off and go do something else.”
I still feel that way to an extent because I don’t think life should be about memorizing facts for one exam and that one person simply can’t retain information after studying for days and days, or years and years at a time.  You need rest, proper exercise and good food.

BUT…I do understand where they are coming from.  If you’re the one friend that is off playing or wandering around, I think you’d soon be labeled as lazy and that you didn’t care about your future.  If everyone you know is studying like this, then it starts to become the norm.  “You get used to it” as she said in the video.  It makes me incredibly glad for the type of high school I attended, where both social and academics were important.  A balance between the two.

I hope that the Korean government and the schools are able to come up with a new sort of exam, or one that isn’t so stressful.  One exam to dictate the path of one’s future.  I definitely don’t envy them, but videos like this help to educate those who are not living in Korea as to what it’s like as a student here.
I’ve heard that elementary school is more relaxed here but typically once middle school begins, then the preparation for this exam also begins.
The scores on this exam dictate what kind of schools they’re able to get into and what sorts of jobs they’ll be able to apply for.  The types of schools and jobs then create a path for the type of person they’re likely to meet and marry.
Just a tad bit stressful.
However, they’re over now for this year’s seniors, so they’re finally free.  🙂

Racism and Developing A Multi-Cultural Mindset

I’ve seen a classroom activity floating around the internet where kids start with a blank,fresh sheet of paper and they are told it is their heart/mind.  The teacher/facilitator instructs the students to crumple up the paper and smash it.  To make it as wrinkly and broken looking as possible.  The students do this and then the teacher explains that this is now their heart (or the heart of another) after something mean is said to them.
The teacher instructs the students to say sorry to the heart and to try and make it flat and as it was before.
The students do this as best as they are able and the teacher explains that the heart is no longer able to go back to the way it was.
Moral of the lesson: be careful with your words because often once you say them, the damage has been done and the words are there forever.

Anyway, not sure if I got all the fine details of that lesson spot on as I’m doing it from memory, but you get the idea.

I’m writing about this mainly out of frustration because it’s just so…odd to me that this behavior is still happening.  I mean this in a general sense, not necessarily only with my students (back to that in a moment).  I mean, that people can still be so hateful toward another human being just because they look differently.

In my classes, I try and incorporate as many races as I can to increase their level of exposure.  I know you might be saying, especially if you’re a teacher in a bigger city like Seoul, that “Oh that can’t possibly still be happening!  You’re exaggerating!”…and yada yada yada.
Sorry, no.  I wish that was the case, and I’m happy for you that you get to experience life without that added hurdle.

More specifically, most of my students don’t bat an eyelash when I put up things that have people from other races because it’s such a part of our class, but I’m working to break their habits of joining in when others are laughing.
I had another girl come back from a few month long break and we watched a little video clip of a guy zip-lining (vocab word, along with “harness” and “clip”).  The guy was from Nepal.  The girl started laughing and said “Teacher, dirty!”  Then a few other kids started laughing and then several more were shouting about how “dirty” he was.
Cue immediate pause of the video and explanation about not being mean and that there are many people in the world and some people look different, and how that’s OK.  etc.  I turned the situation on them and asked how they would feel and the whole time they were very quiet.
Anyway, we continued the video and not another word was said.

I just get so tired of this.  Tired of explaining that it’s not OK to talk about people like that.  Not in the way that I’ll stop talking about it, but more that this still needs to be addressed.  I think I’m going to find an activity to do with them so I can get it to sink in a bit more.
Granted, it’s not all of the classes and it’s not all of the students.  That’s usually never the case.  I just need to find a way to have this get a bit further into their heads.  It’s just weird because even our reading books have people off all different colors and sizes in them.

Ugh.  Anyway.

This was the video in case you’re curious:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsOzAbUt8n8

In better news, all the lyric booklets are put together and the CDs are all burnt.  I just need to get bags, stuff them and then distribute them.

I’m also thinking about making some scones tonight for my older class because that was a spelling word for them and I think it’d be fun to eat scones while learning about them.  🙂
And because they’re delicious.  🙂

Edit:
I was browsing the interwebs and found this gem:
http://www.teacherplanet.com/resource/tolerance.php

There are a bunch of lessons plans for teaching tolerance just in case someone else is having the same issue.

It’s a bit rough since my weeks are already basically planned for me, but I’m going to try and squeeze something in there.

Busy Busy

Oi vey.  What a busy few days (and days to come!)

Granted, I’ve brought it on myself, well, most of it and thankfully, I actually don’t mind too much.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Let’s see–oh I’d say that this will probably be a short post because it’s late and yada yada, but let’s be honest here.  That’s rarely ever how it turns out, haha.

I think it started with last weekend, so let’s start there.

Saturday/Sunday–Ultimate Frisbee Halloween Hat Tournament
-Individual players sign up and are put onto teams (doesn’t matter about your skill level–these are for fun)
-3 games Saturday
-2 on Sunday, but we advanced to the semi-finals and eventually to the finals (2014 Champs! Woot! Out of 20 teams as well), so that was a total of 7 games that weekend.
They weren’t necessarily in a row, but spread out throughout the day on Sat and Sunday.  Each game is roughly 50min to an hour.
-I got a Wonder Woman shirt (+cape) off Amazon and that was my costume.  It fits really nicely annnnd I can wear it to our Halloween party at work on Friday!  Hoorah!

Monday
-I had ordered some stuff from Fabletics (who are amazing btw) and it arrived!  Oh happy day!  Granted, they don’t ship here so my mom shipped it over (along with some mac and cheese and some Italian Seasoning)
-workity work
-went to the gym and I tried a new machine that killed my arms (yay!)

Tuesday
-workity work
-So, I have asked my bosses at work twice if I could make CDs for the students that I teach because we’ve done quite a few English songs in the year that I’ve taught the class.  The first time I asked they said no pretty quickly because I want to charge 2,000won ($2) per CD.  I needed to buy quite a few songs from iTunes and I was going to make a lyric booklet so they could follow along if they don’t remember it from class.  So, purchasing the songs plus labor, I thought that was a steal of a price.
However, they said no at first because they didn’t want to charge the parents, even though the CDs are optional (and I did a sample survey before I asked to get an idea on how many kids were interested and I had over half my kids interested).

Anyway, we got the new lady to help with organization/parent contact/seamlessness, etc (I’m fairly sure that I’ve mentioned her?).  She had asked us about two (three?) weeks ago to tell her if we had any questions or suggestions to make the school better, so I brought up the CD again with her and it got approved.  She wanted me to make them for free as well, but I stood firm on my 2,000won and she said it was ok.
She had me write up an email to the parents (to be translated into Korean) to explain what we were doing and she gave it to a few other classes that are roughly the same level as my classes.  40+ cds later…I think it was a hit.
So…that’s going to be my weekend, haha.
I’m still excited about the CDs, but the number of them is a bit daunting.  Apparently we have some blank CDs around the school somewhere that they said I can use, so I plan to do that if they’re available.  I bought a set of 10 tonight anyway because I wanted to make sure everything downloaded properly and also to get a bit of a head-start on the madness.

Oh, also with the cost, I think that the kids will be more appreciative if they have to pay for it rather than just get it for free.

Anyway, so last night I started working on the lyric book that I’ll be printing and putting together at some point in the next few days.  It’s nearly finished now, but I just need to add the last few songs and format it a bit differently.  On the final CD, I have 24 songs.  😀  We’ve done about 85-90% of them in our classes and I put a few extra ones on there.
I’m also going to get some bags and make the packaging really cute so it looks nice when I give them out.

Wednesday (today)
*put laundry in
*made a batch of brownies (stage 1 of the Halloween treats)
*cleaned/put away dishes
*hung laundry to dry
*workity work
*grocery store–bought those CDs I mentioned and some misc food
*made a second batch of brownies
*decorated the first batch into a Graveyard Cake/brownies
*put away laundry and started another load
*cleaned more dishes and decorated the second batch of graveyard brownies
*worked on the lyric book for the CD
*cleaned the kitchen and the floors

Graveyard Brownies

One of the graves is empty because I couldn’t keep my hands away from the chocolate-y goodness.
Oops 😀  Good thing is goes with the theme…right?  Right.

Tomorrow
-put away laundry away
-grade tests
-workity work
-trivia night–These are held monthly and I went to my first last month and our team came in last, haha.  We were then able to choose a category for this month’s.  We chose Harry Potter because we wanted to go with something at least one person in the group is very solid on (er…me.)  Another girl wanted to do a vampires in movies category, but we figured it might be too broad of a topic.
Now that it’s tomorrow I’m a weeeeeee bit nervous.  I mean, no pressure or anything, right?  haha.  Maybe I’ll try and look up more trivia questions online before work.  I looked some up a few weeks ago and it really could go either way.  It depends on how obscure the questions are.  If they start asking dates or about that one character who sneezed in book 3, it’s gonna be bad.  If it’s general knowledge, I should be alright, haha.

I also need to make up some sort of routine for my classroom’s activity/dance to Thriller for the party on Friday

Friday
-make sure I have a routine set up for the party today
-bring Graveyard brownies to work
Halloween Party (which could be a hot mess)–The past parties have been pretty structured and organized, but the new lady, whom I normally think has a lot of good ideas changed the plan this time and it’s a bit chaotic.
Normally, all the students come at their normal classtimes (2-4/4-6/6-8) and we split the kids up and rotate activities every 20 or so minutes.  Each teacher has a different activity and the kids experience everything.  After the last one, we gathered everyone into the largest classroom to have food and drink.  Then dismissal and repeat with the next group of kids.

This time, the new lady said the kids can arrive anytime between 2:30-7pm.  They’re allowed to bring friends, which is normal, and their parents, which is new.  We had a meeting today but we never got an exact amount of time that the kids will be in each room.  Anywhere from 10-30 minutes.  Also, she was saying she was going to have the food at the front desk (with the computers)…so not sure how that’s going to work.
Anyway,we shall seeee.  Should be interesting.

Then she wants all of us to go out for dinner together afterward, so that’s the plan.  Finish the party then head out to eat.

Saturday/Sunday–out of town–A good friend of mine is leaving Korea and is having a get-together at her place.  She’s from South Africa but she ended up meeting someone here, getting married and now they’re moving to the US together (he’s American.)

Anyway, it’s late and my laptop battery is dying.  So, on that note.  Goodnight!

11 Things I Dislike About Korea–Part 2 of 2

I’ve written about my favorite things (here, here and here) about Korea and this is part 2 of 2 in the things that irk, frustrate and really rub me the wrong way about life in South Korea.

Ka-Ja! (Let’s Go!)

7. THERE ARE SO MANY SMOKERS!! (*waves goodbye to her beautiful lungs*)
Self-explanatory, no?
Ok, fine, fine!  A wee bit of an explanation just in case I want one in 50 years when I read through this again.

This plays into #1 and 6 as well.
This is likely also due to the group-think mentality and peer pressure (see #11) that exists here.  I guess they haven’t had the D.A.R.E. program here and “Just Say No!”
Anyway, cigarette butts litter the street (I’m so punny, ha. haha.) and the smell of smoke is in most bars and restaurants.  I think they are working on banning it in public places, but uh…good luck with that.

I wonder if it’d be excessive to hang up one of those dirty lungs posters with “Don’t Smoke” written on it in my classroom.  They’re a bit young, but it’s never to early to start talking about it.  Anyway, that’s enough of an explanation.

Oh, and here.  (My teachers and university professors would kill me for using a Wikipedia as a source, but there you have it.)

Smoking in South Korea is similar to other developed countries in the OECD, with a daily smoking rate of 22.90% in 2012 compared to the OECD average of 21.13%. However, male smoking is among the highest at 40.80% while female smoking among the lowest at 5.20%.[1]

This also plays into #1 and #6 a bit.

8. Racism and Sexism
I believe this is mostly due to Korea being taken over by other countries so many times and a lack of exposure to different people and cultures.

Russian?”
If you come over and someone asks you “Ruh-she-an?”–They’re not asking if you’re from the country of Russia.  They’re asking if you’re a prostitute.  Yes, really.  And yes, I’ve been asked.  You’ll get it more if you have a lighter hair color and a lighter eye color.

*Black/African-American People
Can I admit this here?  But I honestly don’t know what the preferred term is anymore.  I don’t want to offend anyone by saying the wrong thing.

Oi.  Whew.  I hope someone is with me on this because I feel like some stereotypical white girl or some naive person.  Anyway, I just don’t normally run around classifying people by their color, so it can get a bit confusing when I actually have to do it.  (*runs and hides her head in shame*)

So, anyway, racism is still a really big problem here and is fueled in part by their media/TV shows/K-Pop singers.
I work to correct is when I see/hear about it in my classroom and so far, they seem to be catching on that I have a zero-tolerance “hate” policy.
Anyway, there is a particular TV show here called “Running Man” which is a slapstick humor style show and they’ve been criticized a few times for their usage of “black-face” in some of their sketches.  The shows will get a sort of slap on the wrist, but it’ll happen again later and no one seems to make that big of a deal of it except the foreign community.  Anyway, we’re getting there.
Also, I can’t speak for anyone besides myself obviously, but I’ve heard of issues with getting jobs (jobs asking for only white people and turning others away if they are darker than what they expected during the original interview, etc), BUT not everyone is like this.
It’s like this anywhere though…it’s NOT everyone.  I just want to stress that.  It DOES exist, sometimes more blatantly than others, but it’s there.

Just the other day, I was reading a book with my students and one of the characters appeared a bit darker in this particular version (more brown to my eyes) of the book and one of the kids said “Teacher, MONKEY!!”.   The whole class started laughing.  I let them have a short laugh then reeled it in and we had a liiiiiittle chat about it.
We read the same book the next day and not a  word was said and no one laughed at the picture again.

Anyway, I also try and show lots of videos with lots of different sorts of people so they have more exposure, and usually they’re pretty good about it, but it was that particular page that did them in.  I dunno…I guess more talking about different people and as much exposure to different people as I can try and give them.

9. Difficulty to get a decent haircut/Lack of English after so many years of learning it in school (hoooowwww?!?!!)

I’m just confused as to how English can be mandatory in schools from elementary school up through high school WITH major exams in high school that test on English, and yet, no one understands anything.  My main gripe is trying to get a haircut.  Everything else I can be pretty much left alone.
Oh, and I’m trying to get a gym membership and that…just….yeah, doesn’t happen. I’m actually going with a team of friends this weekend and we’re all going to try and push through the language barrier together.  haha.  It’s one of those things that you laugh about after but is incredibly frustrating while it’s happening.

It just reminds me of that ^^, haha  😀

10. ALCOHOLISM/Public drunkenness
Being drunk (or passed out) isn’t illegal here and you can see drunk (and beyond drunk) people (usually old men) stumbling around on most nights of the week.  These ajosshis (middle-aged men) go out for drinks with their bosses and co-workers after work and drink as a form of bonding.

The main issue (or one of many issues) I have with this is that people drink way past their limits because it’s part of the work culture.  It’s seen as incredibly rude to decline a drink (foreigners can get away with breaking this rule), but if your boss offers you a drink…you take it.  The seniors/bosses typically call the shots…and if you have an alcoholic boss…well, I hope you like the taste of your own vomit, or that you learn how to quickly hold your alcohol.

Anyway, again, drinking here is seen as a form of bonding and it’s done like this in social groups as well.   Not just with your co-workers.  (Yes, co-workers go out and get drunk together.  Yes, really.)

This also means that on a Sunday morning (or any morning if you’re up early enough), definitely watch your step.  Seeing vomit on the street is not unheard of.
Maybe that’s the *real* reason that people take off their shoes before entering a Korean (or Japanese) home.

I’m not against drinking or having a good time, I just don’t agree with pressuring people into drinking past their limits.  I also think that people should know their limits and respect them.  Basically, know when to call it a night.
If that makes me a party pooper, then so be it.

Here are a few videos for your viewing pleasure:
http://www.eatyourkimchi.com/how-to-drink-in-korea-in-seven-easy-steps/

Korean Drinking Games:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f7d5VRhLls

Blacked Out Dudes and Dudettes:
Black Out Korea

11. Peer Pressure/Group-think/Hierarchies in the Workplace

I honestly don’t feel like going too much into this, sorry.  It just seems like something that comes up enough in the news as is, but I just wanted to point out its affects on the public drunkenness, smoking, lack of family time/work stress, etc.

I don’t deal with this personally, I just have seen it in action, so I also don’t feel qualified to talk too much about it.  If you’re working for a larger corporation, you’ll get t experience it, but since I don’t, I’m just going to leave it at that.

12. Toilet paper/Soap/Dryers/Paper Towels in the Trashcans in the Restrooms!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQAsZaDYJs0

This goes along with the “messy/dirty” categories from earlier.  Watch the video first and then come back.

Ok, so that’s a pretty standard bathroom in Korea, except the toilet paper in the trashcans can get piled pretty high and sometimes even onto the floor.  Not sure who cleans it or WHEN, but it’s definitely one of my least favorite parts of Korea.  Leaky toilets plus tissue everywhere is not a pretty picture.   And yes, I also put mine in the toilet.  2+ years later and I have yet to have any sort of toilet issues, even in my own apartment.

Toilets in public places are often in the hallways between the different shops, so a floor of businesses can share one set of restrooms.  They often have some sort of key or doorcode combination that you’d get from the coffee shop/restaurant/etc that you’re visiting.

Most bigger restaurants will have their own restroom, which is usually cleaner.

ALSO, soap is usually bar soap on a stick or it’s sitting in a little dish…that is if it’s in the bathroom at all.  Combined with the fact that the majority of restrooms DO NOT have dryers of any sort nor do they have warm water.  Granted, some coffee shops and chain restaurants will have their own bathrooms that are modern, but most other bathrooms do not.
Example: my last school (hagwon) only had a cold water tap, with no soap or paper towels.  My current school has a cold water tap (also functions as a tall mop sink–mens bathroom has a regular sink but also only cold water).  We sometimes have soap on hand and never have paper towels.

So…picture this, you’re in a building (lacking insulation as well, per the norm) and ready to wash your hands in the frigid water without soap or any sort of warm dryer (or towels). Do you or do you not wash your hands?  Not judging, just posing a question.

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:

CAM03640

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.

—-
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 🙂