Day 170 -- Coffee Friends

I really like doing work in coffee shops. I don't know if it's the caffeine or the soft artsy-music or the we're-too-good-for-you patrons, but I feel like I'm more productive in that environment. Unfortunately, Nonsan has a grand total of three coffee shops. Two of these lack that environment and serve their drinks in super-classy plastic cups, which leaves me with Coffee Flower, conveniently located just a few minutes' walk from my apartment.

I've been there a handful times, but this was the first in a few months. It was empty besides the barista and me--just the way I like it. I order my caffe latte (because I love the cute designs they make with the milk, today I got a heart), spread out my Daegu University application, and settle in.

A few minutes later, a boy walks in. He's clearly friends with the barista and they chat for a while. I keep my head down because I've totally procrastinated this application... it's due tomorrow. Oops? Then suddenly there's a piece of cheesecake in front of me and I look up to see the guy sitting on the other side of my table. "It's for you," he says by way of explanation. We chat for a while. He's a hotel management major (read: needs to know English) and wants to practice English with me.

It's pretty common to be bribed with things in exchange for a chance to English practice with a native speaker. We traded numbers--hey, the barista is his brother and having an "in" with the ONLY coffee shop in Nonsan is not a bad idea--and we'll probably meet up at Coffee Flower again in the future.

In a related topic, this is EXACTLY why I have to go to the gym every day and run. This morning, I woke up planning to cook myself some egg whites and oatmeal for a nice, healthy breakfast. Instead, host mom swoops in and gives me pizza. Then I get unnecessary cheesecake bribes which I must accept because you *don't* refuse food gifts in Korea. ...good excuse to eat cheesecake, right? ㅠㅠ (sad face in Korean)


Day 168 -- Daejeon Double Date and Class Contest Pizza Party


Sunday (yesterday) I met up with Sarah and her (Korean) boyfriend, YH, in Daejeon. The original plan was to have DH meet me there so we could all go out for dinner and a movie, but he was being whiny about the inclement weather. Note that it snowed MAYBE 1cm. (holla atcha New England--my province wouldn't know WHAT to do with that much snow)

I put Sarah on the phone after a bit and she convinced him to come and join us. It was nice to go on a real, traditional-American-style date, and it was even better to have another couple there. We did get a few curious looks, but I'd like to think that it's just because Sarah and I are foreigners, not because we were being judged as "global couples", as Koreans call interracial couples.

Before the movie, we had some time to kill and DH brought his Polaroid camera. He gave me the photo and told me to hang it by my desk at school. I think you could guess what all my students were obsessed with today.


Speaking of students! This semester, I held a stamp contest with all my classes. Each class had the opportunity to win stamps based on effort and behavior. Considering my favorite classes were the ones that participated the most enthusiastically but stayed respectful of me and their classmates, it's easy to guess who won...

Yes, you have seen these kids a lot. It's baby-bunny-Taeyang-look-alike's class, filled with the goofballs who stored their numbers as Husband, Soulmate, and Prince in my phone.

Me, "Soulmate", and "Prince" (aka baby-buny-Taeyang). So much love! and sugar cookies. Can we just pause to talk about Prince's hair? It was totally shaved as of a few months ago, but now it's growing back and it is SO FUZZY OMG.

These two kids are in one of my lowest level 1st year classes. They gave me so much trouble at the beginning of the year, but along the way I must've won them over. Now, they stop by in the afternoons (when they're not in detention) to fog up the glass and write love notes on my door. That's what the one boy is doing now--writing in a fogged-up part of the glass.

It's really sad I won't see them again until March... today, after the pizza party, Prince, Soulmate, and Husband were hanging out in the hallway while I blasted music and cleaned up the place. They walked in after a little pushing and shoving.

"Um... Lindsay... today, last class. Finishy. We meet in March. So long! Um... good-bye hug...?"

Awww, OF COURSE I will hug you! C'mere, you guys... d'aww...


Day 166 -- Short Shorts, Sleeveless Tee, and Other Guy REVEALED!

Yesterday at the gym, I was standing on a treadmill stretching while I tried to untangle my headphones. Sleeveless Tee came up to the machine next to mine and clears his throat to get my attention. I turn, and he's standing there with Short Shorts and Other Guy, forming a sort of half-circle around my treadmill.


I am totally shocked because they have NEVER actually approached me. Other Guy says hello a lot. Sleeveless Tee volunteered advice on my side bends the other day, but I'd never even heard a word from Short Shorts. We talk for a few minutes, then they start falling apart and tell me to go ahead and run.

So I run for maybe 20 minutes, then something moves quickly next me. I lose my stride and fumble a little but it's just Sleeveless Tee. "So, after you work out, do you want to go get some chicken and beer?" The expression on my face must've given it away, because he quickly adds, "With them! All of us. Four people." Okay, that sounds safe and not-date-y enough.

He comes up a few more times during my workout to remind me--11:30pm, outside the gym. Aparently the guys work for the place, that's why they're always there later in the day. They help close the gym down.

So we head over to a bar across the street and hang out for a few hours. It was so weird to finally meet them... you know, as opposed to staring at them in the reflection of a dark window...

Sleeveless Tee is Seong Yoong (I think?). He's a 21 year old hair stylist and was very interested in my "golden hair".

Other Guy is Jun. He's an architecture student at Konyang University and the youngest of the group at 20.

Short Shorts is Hoon. He's a 25 year old Nonsan townie, graduated from Konyang with a degree in economics. Surprisingly, despite looking and acting super masculine while he's working out, he is the biggest goofball of the group.

They told me that I should work out with them, so that's good. I've been wanting to get back into weight training, but I've been too intimidated since that area is ONLY DUDES and I already get enough looks for being foreign. They said they wanted to work out together and then go out after the gym sometimes, so hurray for having more friends in Nonsan!

p.s. -- thank goodness I deleted that creeper-cam shot of Short Shorts from my phone, because they were looking through the pictures on there to see my students, host fam, etc. CLOSE CALL.


Day 165 -- Making a Boyfriend, the Kdrama

It's Friday and it's cold and I have no plans, between the Nonsan best friend leaving for America and the boyfriend having night work. Also, dad joked with me today that, with all my free time, I could write a book. Therefore, I will cuddle up under a blanket with my HP mini and pound out an epic saga describing the soap opera (K-drama?) of how the boyfriend became the boyfriend. Buckle up and brace for a ridiculously over-dramatic, mushy, high school style story of love triangles, texting, and too-cute dates.

I. can anybody find me somebody to love?
II. you belong with me
III. can't fight this feeling
IV. hate that I love you
V. with you
VI. taking chances
VII. because of you

~ can anybody find me somebody to love? ~

*around two months ago*

I don't usually hang out with the foreigners in Nonsan. It's not that they're bad people, and it's not that I don't enjoy hanging out with them, it's just that I have a homestay so a lot of my time is spent with the family instead of with friends. When Jane* said the foreigners were going to meet up at a bar one Friday night when I was free, I took the chance to see everyone. I wasn't drinking--dieting to lose the rice weight--but I hung out with them, met some new faces, and enjoyed myself. We closed down the bar and then came the fateful decision: do we head home, or do we go down to another bar? We decided to stay out late, taking cabs down to a place I'd never heard of but would soon become The Hangout for Nonsan's foreigners.

설탕 수박. Seol-su. Melanie argued that it was a dance club, so it would be fun. Sure, why not? Except we get there and besides two boys sitting in the back and one kid dressed like a gangster, we're the only ones. Foreigner invasion begins. We drink (well, they drink, I didn't), we dance, it's a good time because there's basically no Koreans there to remind us that we're being obnoxious foreigners. I'm not as trashed as everyone else, so I sit down for a bit, texting a friend.

The night goes on, a group of Koreans come in and we're all dancing like fools together. I look in the back where the few tables are and Jane's making out with one of the boys from when we first got there. Strange for Korea, but not unusual for her.

Dory, another foreigner, approaches me while I'm dancing and says that he told that dude's friend he (the friend) could dance with any girl in the bar if he had the confidence to just ask. I roll my eyes at basically being pimped out--as one of the only single girls in the group--and flat out refuse without even a look in the corner.

And that was the first time we met.

*two days later*

Jane got the makeout boy's phone number and they texted all weekend. They decided to meet up a second time and bring friends. Jane brought me, JP brought two boys, DY and SC. As we're talking, I'm definitely feeling attracted to DY. He's bright, graduated with dual majors from the university not far from my apartment. He's ambitious, a career soldier co-piloting helicopters with the ROK Army. He's also attractive and has the best English of the group. I'm starting to think this pseudo double date has worked out pretty well for me.

Until Jane whispers that she has a thing for DY. Respectfully, I back out of the game. Besides, I dated a Korean boy about a year and a half ago and it ended pretty badly, so I'm in no rush to jump into another Korean relationship.

*two weeks later*

I'm in Daejeon and texting DY, telling him about the Christmas decorations hung around all the shops. I tell him how I'm starting to miss my family back home and hint that I wish I had a boyfriend for this time of year.

"Think of me as your boyfriend and your family," he replies. My heart skips a beat.

"Really?" I send back. Then there's a long pause.

"Haha" is all he replies. How non-committal is that.

JP texts soon after, saying "So, you and DY? Couple?"

"I don't know," is my honest answer.

"You should seriously consider it."

In the end, after a lot of round-about questioning, DY says he was just kidding and it was all a joke. Jerk.

A few months go by and we hang out with the crew several times a week. DY brings his Army friends to our meetings, the social circle grows to basically his entire office. We all text and call each other daily. Things are feeling pretty good for me. Except that it seems things with Jane and DY are working out. I never tell either about how I feel--I don't want things to get dramatic. Besides, it seems like DY honestly likes her. He gives her wake up calls, hangs out with her alone one-on-one. It's not my place to get between that. As a result, I end up hanging out with JP more and more, since we're the third wheels.

~ you belong with me ~

*29 november*

One day, Jane tells me that DY promised to kiss her the next time the two meet. In Korea, a kiss basically means you're dating. The next day, JP calls me up to hang out and go get something to eat. He picks me up, brings me to a bar. We're talking, and then DY walks in with another Army friend. Not particularly the person I want to see since I'm still trying to get over him, both for my sake and for Jane's sake.

I immediately start joking with him, asking him where Jane was and why wasn't she there with us. He starts pounding beers. I call Jane up and tell her where we are. We all have a few drinks, then head over to his apartment for a few more.

While we're there, JP, his Army friend, and I all start taunting him, telling him to kiss Jane. We refuse to leave until he's made good on his promise. He finally goes with her behind the corner and kisses her.

*02 december*

I decide that I'm close enough with the the boys to start calling him 오빠, "oppa", literally "big brother" but more loosely a term that girls use for males older than themselves who look out for them. DH and Jane have been hanging out a lot, but DY and I still text regularly enough that I decide I'll ask if I can use the less formal, more friendly Korean verb conjugation that I had been using with JP for a few weeks and the term "oppa".

"Sure, that's fine," he responds, "beautiful (little sister) Lindsay."

I'm not sure I understood the Korean, so I text back to ask if that word really is "beautiful".

"Yes, you're beautiful."

Ah, awkward. "Oh, I'm not beautiful! haha, I'm so short!"

"No, you're perfect."

"Um, thanks."

"What about me?" he says after a pause. Now things are really uncomfortable and the feelings I had buried start bubbling to the surface. You're smart and funny and caring and adorable--

"I can't say."

~ can't fight this feeling ~

*03 december*

I forgot about the previous day's conversation, and go about my daily business. Christmastime in Korea is pretty brutal to a single girl not going home for the holidays. In America, Christmas is all about family. In Korea, it's all about couples. It's practically Valentine's Day, but with more evergreens.

I get a text from DY. "What are you doing?"

"At the gym because there's cute boys. I need a boyfriend!"

"Boyfriend? Me me me me!"

Okay, we've been this route before. "You cannot trick me twice."

"No no, you don't understand me..." (he switches to English--oh man, now we're serious)

"Don't understand what?"

"[edited for grammar] I liked you from the first time we met, but you didn't like me, so I'm sad."

"Well, to be honest, I did like you."

"No, I don't think you do because you told me to kiss Jane."

"I thought you liked her."

"... So now?"

"I guess we'll see."

"Okay, I'm happy now. This is a secret. Thank you. This is really, really good."

*04 december*

He must've spent all day editing and re-editing, but I get an epic text message.

"Minji [my Korean name] ~ I wasn't joking yesterday. Because my English isn't as great as I'd like it to be, it's always hard looking through the dictionary creating phrases that I want but still not getting my thoughts delivered the exact way I want them to be understood. In this sense, Jane is only an English mentor and friend who helps me. But you're different."

He must've spent hours writing that. I reply, telling him that although I like him, I think it would be hard to have a relationship because I'm American, he's Korean, and there's too many cultural and languistic barriers, despite his decent English and my slowly improving Korean.

"But does that make any difference as long as we like each other? We may be American and Korean, but before that we're just human. And we share emotions."

~ hate that I love you ~

*07 december*

I decide to tell Jane about how things are progressing with DY. I find out that they kissed AGAIN on Saturday night, at the same time I was getting texts and calls from him that definitely did not make it seem as though he would be kissing other girls.

I tell him I'm extremely upset, that it turns out he's just like all the other Korean boys: just in it because he likes the exotic look of foreign women. I am so done.

Over the next few days, he contacts me like mad but I don't answer. He begs and begs that I just talk to him once, so he can try to at least be friends and correct the "misunderstanding". I cave and agree.

He calls me a few hours later but when I answer the phone, it's not his voice. It's... somebody speaking perfect English, no accent or anything. He formally introduces himself to me, explains that he's one of DY's soldiers, and that DY has asked him to try to clear up what DY couldn't himself due to language barriers. This soldier tells me how DY is caught in a difficult situation with Jane, especially since his English isn't good enough to tactfully maneuver this kind of social situation. He tells me how, for the past few days, DY has done nothing but stare out the window at the sky, not eating or sleeping well, drinking every night. He says that DY desperately wants a second chance to prove that he's not actually how I think he is, that he's different.

I ask this random guy if he, personally, thinks I should give DY a second chance, and he fervently agrees. Fine, he gets a second chance. But he's starting back at square one.

~ with you ~

The next few days, DY takes me out on date after date, dinner, drinks, the works. We hang out at his apartment, watching TV but mostly chatting. I could tell he'd be studying, judging the phrasing and vocabulary he was using and how he tried to only use English, despite the fact that I'm able to handle a reasonable amount of social Korean. One night, he struggles through explaining what had happened with Jane. How he felt trapped because she liked him, how he felt pressured by me and his friends to kiss her, how English was difficult when he was drunk and/or tired, which was when he was usually with her--late at night at a bar with the group. How he had misunderstood what she meant and how that misunderstanding turned into her thinking he wanted to kiss her. I don't think he was lying. Honestly, he seemed almost to the point of tears, between the frustration of trying to explain in English and thinking about the situation he was put in.

He drives me home that night and I try to distract him. We're talking about the music that's playing, the suddenly bitter cold temperatures in Nonsan, the beautiful Christmas decorations that've gone up recently. I realize that I really do like him.

*13 december*

We meet up after I spend the weekend in Gumi. We're talking more and he mentions a Korean word I don't understand. He tries to explain the meaning since neither of us have it in our dictionary. It's something like boyfriend and girlfriend, but it's not. I don't understand and I don't want to get myself into something I'll regret so I just say we'll talk about it later. "So... just friends?" he says. "For now, just friends."

He keeps asking me all night if I'm hungry. I'm not, so I tell him so. He keeps asking keeps asking keeps asking... at the end of the night, he lets me know that he's disappointed. Apparently, it's Korean custom to just say "yes, I'm hungry" after the second or third time the question is asked because it meant that he was hungry. Whatever, I'm not Korean, how am I supposed to know? I'm a little ticked at him.

~ taking chances ~

*14 december*

DY calls me numerous times during the day to confirm that we would be meeting that night after I'm done with school and he's home from work. Yes, yes, we're meeting. I just need to go to the gym first and run, so how's 8:45?. No, he says, it's not good manners to make him wait, I must meet him at 7. Absolutely not, I have to run and shower, 8:45. 7. 8:45. 7.

Fine, 8pm. He'll meet me outside the gym at 8pm.

7:55, he calls and asks if I can take a cab to his place at 8:10.

Omg, I am going to kill this kid. Whatever. whatever.

When I get to his place, I'm pretty ticked. I'm walking down the hallway and, for the first time, his apartment door is closed. He's down on the end so he usually just leaves it cracked when he knows he's having friends over. I knock. He doesn't answer right away. I am not in a mood for that.

Then he opens the door. He's not... okay, he's pretty fashion challenged. He makes strange wardrobe choices. He opens the door wearing a white tee shirt, black PT shorts, and a red apron. A red apron. Oh that's right, he was cooking me dinner.

I have never had anybody cook me surprise dinner.

He finished up the dokkbokki, transfers it to a bowl, and ushers me towards his bedroom. [[**NOTE FOR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS READING THIS: No, nothing hanky panky happens--Korean apartments are just really small, so the bedroom triples as a place to sleep, a living area, and a dining area. Especially since in his case, he just eats off of a little Korean-style table, no dining table or anything.]]

Through the frosted glass sliding door, I can see the outline of colored lights in the dark bedroom. He didn't...

Oh yes, he did.

He pushes open the door. "Surprise."

He decorated his apartment for me, remembering on the drive home the other day I had mentioned how pretty all the Christmas decorations were. So that day, he got off of work half an hour early so that he could come home, decorate, and cook me dinner. That's why he wanted me over at 7pm. I feel kind of bad at this point.

He set out the little table with a bunch of things he'd already prepared, wine glasses, and a slice of cheesecake with three candles in it. "One for me, one for you, and one for our first Christmas." I've been told that boys from Seoul tend to be the hopeless romantic types, and it has been sooooo true in my experiences thus far. DY goes nuts for painfully sweet things like this.

"Oh! I forgot. Christmas present." He pulls out a small white bag, inside which is a red scarf. I pull it out and immediately the air is scented with...

"My... how do I say it..."

"Your cologne."

"Yes, so you won't forget me when you wear this."

We have dinner by Christmas tree light, and maybe it's not the same as ham dinner with family, maybe it's not even Christmas, but I felt pretty loved.

He walks me out to a taxi--no driving after drinking--being sure first to wrap his matching scarf around his neck and tells the cabbie my apartment. It's almost snowing, not even really flurrying, and before I leave he says, "When it first snow, we must meet. Korean tradition. Lovers must meet on first snow." Oh, the Konglish.

As I'm on my way home, the cabbie chuckles. "Your boyfriend?" He asks me.

"I hope," I respond.

About half an hour after I get home, as I'm lying in bed, he calls. "So... you're happy?"

"Yes, I'm happy."

"Good, I'm happy that you're happy. Do you know me better now?"

"Yes, I think so."



"Good... So... maybe... we are a couple now? Do you want me to be your boyfriend? Do we start counting now?" (Referring to the Korean dating custom of counting the days you're dating, because day 22, day 100, and day 200 are celebrated the way Americans celebrate 1 month, 6 month, etc)

So, yeah.

*16 december*

It snowed. Just a little bit. I didn't know because I was at Jane's holiday party, but on his way to her apartment, DY texted me to let me know it was snowing. Good thing we were meeting anyway. I checked and it was only really flurrying, not really snowing, so it didn't count to me. I left the party early because I had class the next day and the party was turning pretty wild. DY left with me to walk me home, despite SC and JP's complaints. As we were leaving, standing in the doorway, there comes a chorus of "Kiss! Kiss!"

We had accidentally stood underneath the as-yet-unused mistletoe. There's an awkward moment where our eyes meet, we both look away, and the crowd boo's us. We leave in a hurry.

Standing outside the apartment complex, there's another awkward moment. We make eye contact for a few seconds, then we both stutter good night and turn to walk away. I pause outside the door, thinking if I should go back and kiss him goodnight. I mean, he IS my boyfriend afterall. But I'm too shy.

He mentions later that he wishes we had kissed. I apologize for being too shy. He asks if I had wanted to kiss him. I say yes. He says to meet him outside his apartment complex. We awkwardly procrastinate for a while, but in the end, I got up the courage to do it. So, in uber-mushy-Korean-dating-tradition, our first kiss coincided with the first real snow of the season.

~because of you~

I don't know where things are going, but he's a really sweet guy and he's perfect for this moment. Being away from family for holidays and with so many friends going back to the States, it's perfect to have a guy who thinks the world of me. Despite that, he's realistic. He already talks about me returning to America, saying that he wants me to think back on Korea fondly and have wonderful memories of my time here. His new favorite English proverb that I've taught him is "Don't cross that bridge until you come to it" and that's kind of the philosophy we're dating under.

As for specifics--
His name is 도엽, "Doyup", pronounced like "do'yeob". Maybe you remember him being mentioned before. He's four years older than me, but he's self-confessed to being 19 mentally. He's really into Korea's "cute couple" culture and constantly complains that I limited him to only three pieces of couple wear. He's a gentleman, always making sure my every need is taken care of and he treats me very, very well.

I hope to get pictures, but our schedules are both really busy. I can promise you that the pictures will be painfully cute though.

don't know much about your life
don't know much about your world
but don't want to be alone tonight
on this planet they call earth

you don't know about my past
and I don't have a future figured out
and maybe this is going too fast
and maybe it's not meant to last

but what do you say to taking chances?


Day 161 -- The Boy

There is a boy. Specifically, a boyfriend.

It is official as of about 5 minutes ago. Maybe three weeks ago he confessed he liked me, and that began a lot of drama. Most of it ended last week and we have since been dating--not official boyfriend/girlfriend, but just going on dates--all of which lasted hours longer than originally planned and have been strictly

I am writing this now before changing into pajamas and getting ready for bed.

So yeah. I'll write a big long post tomorrow of the drama and "misunderstandings" and the cute things he did to make up for it. In the meantime, I will say that I have my first piece of couple wear. Matching scarves. He spritzed mine with his cologne so that I would think of him.

I think this deserves it's own tag, because "recreation" just doesn't really fit.


Day 149 -- Thanksgiving in Celsius, Pictorial Introductions


Thanksgiving. Korea doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving (duh) but I kind of really like the holiday, so when I found out my Thursday classes were all just watching movies upstairs (i.e. I had no class), I immediately rushed to the teachers' room to ask for the day off. I went grocery shopping less than an hour later, but later realized I had no idea how to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Oh man, where to start...
Sae Yeob offers to help after dropping the bomb that some of his friends were coming over, so the dinner list was +3 unexpecteds. Oh, the straight perm.

I somehow managed to pull it off in the end: turkey (albeit deli turkey...), mashed potatoes, corn, and sweet potato casserole with marshmellows. Maybe a little unconventional, but those high school boys did so love the casserole. Mashed potatoes... not so much.
I also had a Thanksgiving in Seoul at the US Ambassador's residence (yeah, my program is pretty awesome). I actually sat right next to her--on the right hand side, no less--so that was cool.
Then we all kept it classy by hitting HongDae, the university club/bar scene in Seoul!

I talk about a lot of people on here but there's no pictures for most of them, so I will try to remedy that in the upcoming weeks.
THE Monday Class. I think I mentioned how they entered their own names into my cell phone, and now I receive texts from "husband", "soulmate", and "prince". If not, well, it happened. I think I've figured out who's who, but I'm not positive, so this is open to change.

Oh yessss, I definitely went creeper-cam here. I felt like everybody needed to meet Short Shorts, who ironically isn't wearing short shorts on this day. He's cute in a blurry, stalker-photo kind of way, right?


Day 140 -- To Seocheon... 일박이일!

The host fam took me on a weekend vacation to Seocheon, which is a little vacation town on the west coast. Yes, the beach. Yes, it is freezing cold.

It was a pretty good time. I like family bonding and there was quite a bit of that going on. I'm really lucky to have such a relaxed, fun-loving homestay. We didn't really do much--spent about 20 minutes taking pictures on the beach, then eating, and then the adults were all drinking and playing Go Stop while I hung out with the kids watching Twilight and the MNET Asian Music Awards (equivalent of the MTV Awards, except with 300% more Taeyang performances YES).
We also went to a little fish market, where the host family found it hilarious to see my reaction when they picked out a live fish, had a dude hit it on the head with a hammer, then fillet it while it's still futilely flapping around and bleeding everywhere. That was gross.

*also, 일박이일 = One Night, Two Days, a popular TV program where a group of celebrities are taking to various locations and given "challenges" to determine everything from what meal you eat to where you sleep.

The hotel we stayed at was shaped like a clump of mushrooms. lol wat?

Min Kyeong is my little buddy. She's always linking arms with me and holding my hand when we go places. AAAAA-dorable.

Sae Yeob, who's leaving in a little over a month for college in America. He speaks the most English so we end up sharing a lot more than other two. (Note: he's wearing a hat because he got a straight perm and he's all super freaked out about his hair now. Oh, Korean boys.)


Day 135 -- New Friends, Spontaneous Haircut, and Random Student Pictures

Uggggh so not a lot has been going on. Teaching in Nonsan, relaxing in Daejeon, the usual. The only thing that's really happened is that I've met a number of boys? So I guess pointless post will introduce you to the new cast of characters in my life, you know, for future reference.

Rosa: an Australian of Korean ethnicity--i.e. she speaks Korean fluenty--who I met through Hallie and the TaLK program
Cheong Pil: 26(?) year old from Seoul, job is repairing motorcycles, comes to Nonsan to visit his friends in the military
Seong Jeol: 27(?) year old living here in Nonsan, air traffic controller in the Korean Army
Do Hyeob: 27(?) year old also living in Nonsan, helicopter pilot in the Korean Army
Min Tae: 23(?) year old in Nonsan, some kind of soldier in the Korean Army

Cute Trainer: a trainer at the gym who is cute. duh.
Short Shorts: a wicked hot dude at the gym who used to wear short shorts all the time, but now wears beaters and sweats...the name stuck
Sleeveless Tee: another hot, but very short, dude at the gym who usually wears sleeveless tees
The Other Guy: hangs out with Cute Trainer, Short Shorts, and Sleeveless Tee, says hello to me every day, but isn't particularly attractive

Sae Yeob has decided to join the gym as well to get a six pack and lose his butt (?) before he goes to America. Y'all upcoming freshmen ladies can thank me later. A fun exchange at the gym yesterday while Sae Yeob was grabbing some things from his locker:

Cute Trainer: (having observed Sae Yeob and I joking around with each other) "So, is that boy one of your students?"
Me: "Yeah, he's one of my students. He's also my homestay brother."
Cute Trainer: "Homestay?"
Me: "Yeah, homestay. I live with him, together."
Sae Yeob: "I'm ready! let's go!"
Cute Trainer: (expression somewhere between confusion and horror)

So I think Cute Trainer doesn't understand that I live with THE WHOLE FAMILY, not just alone with a Korean boy. Losing critical details in translation--HILARIOUS! While we're on a vignette streak:

Sae Yeob: "My breasts hurt."
Me: "What? Oh. Your chest. Your chest is sore."
Sae Yeob: "Yes?"
Me: "Your pecs. Pectoral muscle."
Sae Yeob: "Ah, factorial! Like math."
Me: "Nnnope."
Sae Yeob: "My hips!" (slaps his butt)
Me: "That's Konglish! That is your butt, THESE are hips."
Sae Yeob: "Ah. I want to detach my butt. Like the cute trainer."

Apparently, it's the Korean ideal for men to be completely flat in the back, from shoulders to heels. Sae Yeob knows about Cute Trainer, apparently checked him out, and noted that he does not have a butt. In other news, that kid is going to KILL with the ladies, between how ripped I'm going to get him, the adorable Engrish, and the random noises he makes. (see previous video on making animal noises--today, he made the noise "boogle boogle" which is apparently Korean for "gurgle gurgle")


Student 1: "How do you spell Lindsay?"
Student 2: "ah, I don't know..."
Student 3: (super confidently) "L-I-N-G..."
Me: "Noooo try again!"
Student 3: "L-I-N-Z..."

And here are some random pictures

The class pretty boy, he didn't know I was taking this and demanded I retake and delete this one. His posed one was stupid so I deleted that instead and didn't tell him.

The funny guys in the class. They posed like this but I'm not sure why?

The class captain. She is a total B.A.M.F. and whips those boys into shape whenever they step out of line for me.

The best doodler in the class. He is, apparently, in love with my sister, Katie. And wants her to wear bling bling. (who the hell taught these kids the word "bling bling"??)

Tae Yang look-alike makes his second blog appearance, again being too adorable. This time, he finds this class on Giving Thanks PARTICULARLY interesting. I guess he's not into it if there's no baby bunnies involved.


Day 118 -- Cheongju Craft Festival and Meeting Konyang University Students

A few days ago, I got a call from Bora. Bora is an English professor at Konyang University, down the street from my apartment, and her nephew is one of my students at the Internet high school. She came to visit me at the school festival last week and was shocked to see me wearing jeans, sneakers, a ratty Penn State sweatshirt, and a baseball hat. She was so surprised to see me singing and dancing along to KPop songs with the students that she commented about me looking like a college student.

Well, duh. I only graduated in May.

After noticing that I do not, in fact, look, feel, or act like a member of the "professional" adult world, she told me that I should meet some of her students. SCORE. She called a few days later to ask if I'd be free on Saturday (i.e. Halloween) because her students wanted to take me to an exhibition. Regrettably, I had to tell her I already had plans. She said she'd call back another time.

Ten minutes later, she called again and we were set for Sunday at 1pm. Since I was in Gwangju for Halloween, I got about 2 hours of sleep from the time I left the bars/nightclubs and then had to wake up in order to start the 4 hour journey back to Nonsan for this meeting. Not even complaining though.

I wasn't sure what to expect because all she said was that I would go to an exhibition and I would like her students because they're "cute and smart". Now, since this is Korea, I didn't know if this meant I'd be meeting some nice girls, or if I was being set up with a boy because blind dates in Korea are called "meetings".

I met Bora across from my apartment after she ran to the grocery for some snacks(?). She was with a female student.

Okay, so I guess we're just going to the university to talk and hang out.

Then we got to Konyang and there were two male students waiting in the parking lot.

Okay, so it's a double date where we'll talk and hang out.

Then we got into a car and started driving away, picking up two more girls along the way.

Okay, now WTF is going on?

After two hours of driving, we finally arrived... somewhere I didn't recognize. It turns out we were in Cheongju, east of Nonsan on the other side of Daejeon, for a craft festival. Well, as long as everything makes sense, right?

In all honesty, though, I ended up having a great time. Things were awkward at first, with the students being way too shy to use English with me and my Korean being painfully limited. I bonded with two girls, Yae Ji and Chi Su, as we wandered around the exhibits.

Yae Ji was super cute--my first impression of her was that I thought she looked so Western: relaxed-fit jeans with sneakers, a sweatshirt, and puffy vest. Compared to the other girls, who wore designer-style suits, she seemed the most laid back. As we walked around, she kept linking her arm with mine. Adorable.

Chi Su was the most talkative. She was thrilled, it seemed, to discover I'm just like any other girl, despite being foreign. That is, when she commented on how cute a particular guy was and I agreed by pointing out another cute one, she almost died of shock. We spent the rest of the day picking out hot guys from the crowd and fawning over the artists showing little kids how to make wheel-thrown pottery.

Next to that booth was a tent offering edible house-building kits. In other words, the Korean almost-right equivalent of a gingerbread house. Never mind the fact that it was the day after Halloween, or that instead of gingerbread and candy it included saltine crackers and Ritz, it was great constructing a hideous monstrosity of carbohydrates and sugar. I'd say that was the turning point, when we went from slightly-awkward-and-unsure to this-is-weird-but-mutually-enjoyed.

At the end of the night, the others had opened up a bit, too. At dinner, one of the boys admitted he had a lot more fun than he thought he would and that we should do this type of get-together again another weekend.

I really should text Yae Ji or Chi Su to maintain contact, because this kind of interaction is EXACTLY what I've been craving out here in Nonsan. I haven't had that much fun since Chuncheon and I know the reason why: I need friends my age here in Nonsan. This may very well be a huge milestone and an emotional turning point in my grant year, if I play my cards right.


Day 117 -- Halloween in Gwangju and Holiday Hopes

I'd never made the journey southwest of Nonsan until Saturday. I always go north and/or east--Seoul and Daejeon, most commonly. So Saturday was a bit of an adventure. Getting to Gwangju--about an equal distance from Nonsan as Seoul, but in the opposite direction--was a total pain. In total, ignoring the gory details, it took me four hours and a bus transfer. However, I made it, grabbed the last materials for my costume, and met up with a bunch of ETAs spending Halloween in the city.
I'll admit, I had high expectations, thinking that Halloween with a group of foreigners in a big city would be ROUGHLY similar to Halloween in America, but alas, there are some things that--no matter how hard you try to--just won't translate into Korean life. It was still a good time though, and being able to see almost ALL the ETAs (seriously, we have homing instincts, I think, considering how many separate groups of us came into this city with little to no intercommunication) was really, really great.

Walking around in costumes was hilarious. Where ever we went, Koreans would stare silently until we passed, then rather loud whispering of "asldkfjs Halloween asdkjflsa" in our wake. Especially when Cornelius, the other Penn State ETA, went walking around in a combo costume--his original Korean grandma outfit with a Batman cape + face mask. That one got a lot of stares, as I'm sure did Adam's amazing Ursula costume, complete with purple body paint.

Foreign girls' translation of Big Bang's outfits in "Gara Gara Go!!" (which is actually a Japanese song)

I wish I had been able to do more Halloween things with my host family, but it's so much more difficult to translate holidays that I thought it would. I started Halloween a few weeks early, but failed to really plan things, so this time I'm starting NOW with Thanksgiving, hoping it turns out more like what I'm imagining it will: a whole throng of host family and friends gathering for a giant spread of hand-made American foods. Wish me luck!


Day 116 -- Physical Fitness Testing = 3 Day Weekend

**backdated, 11/2**

Thursday night, I got a call from my co-co-teacher that the next day would be physical fitness testing for the students. Running, sit ups, sit-and-reach flexibility... same as America's test. But most importantly, this meant that I didn't have to come to school. YES.

Instead, I slept in... well, as much as I could, since my ride called me at 7:50am, asking why I wasn't coming to school. I ended up going to Daejeon to see Sarah, study in coffee shops, and look for components for my KPop Boy Band group costume.

Sarah and I have decided to take the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency In Korean) in the spring as an incentive to study Korean during our spare time. You would think living in the country and thus being required to use Korean daily would be incentive enough but, no, no, you are wrong.


Day 114 -- Chungnam Province ETA Conference

All the ETAs (by all, note that this means 8 people) and their co-teachers were invited to Cheonan for a province ETA conference with the district's education director. This meant I got to leave school early to go on an hour-long drive with my co-co-teacher, hurray! The conference itself was really lame--just some random people lecturing on the pecking order of the education office and giving us some ridiculously common sense "tips" on teaching. The Gyeongju conference was much, MUCH more informative and inspiring, but at least I got to have a Western-style buffet for free in Cheonan, and see my friends during the work week. Win?


Day 111 -- Trapped in Seoul

**backdated, 11/2**

Saturday, I decided to go to Seoul for some shopping and Mexican food. I was relaxing at a Starbucks in Itaewon before looking for shoes when Hallie called me, asking if she could join me. I had two hours to kill while she bus'sed it up to Seoul, so I wandered from coffee shop to coffee shop, studying my Korean vocabulary to pass the time. Once she arrived, we went shopping--her for Christmas presents to bring back to the States, and me for cold-weather teaching tops and shoes. We got so wrapped up in what we were doing that we ended up running late to the Mexican restaurant.

After getting lost trying to find the place and having to backtrack for several reasons, we finally made it to On The Border... as the kitchen was closing. ANNOYING.
We get on the subway to head to the bus station and left the subway to transfer lines... as the subway was shutting down, leaving us stranded a good distance from the station. FRUSTRATING.
After a long (and expensive) taxi ride, we finally made it to the bus station... as the last bus was leaving. ASLDKFJASLDFKJSDF.

We really didn't have any other choice but to stay in Seoul for the night, but where? Actual hotels are too expensive for poor English teachers and love motels are really hit-and-miss--sometimes you get a surprisingly nice one, and sometimes you get a painfully sketchy one. That only left one option.

Jimjilbang--public bath.

We asked some random taxi drivres if there were any in the area and luckily for our heavy-shopping-bag-laden arms, there was one just 50m from the station. I will admit that, at this point, I was a VERY crabby, unhappy camper, but after a shower and a few rounds of hot-room/cold-room sauna, I felt much better.

Even though I didn't get much sleep on the hard, stone floor of the jimjilbang, when we woke up the next morning we were able to get bagels for breakfast and Mexican for lunch, so in the end everything worked out okay. Hurray!


Day 109 -- School Festival Day 2

On Friday before the festival started again, I had a conversation with the principal that went something like this.

Principal: "Today askdfjaskd run?"
Lindsay: "Yes, today I will participate and run at the festival with the students!"
Principal: "Today alskfjasdlkj run."
Lindsay: "Um... yes?"
Principal: "Alkajgdslkfjsd soccer?"
Lindsay: "Oh, um, no, I can't play soccer well."
Principal: "Aasldkfjsadlk soccer."
Lindsay: "... yes?"

There, uh, there's a lot of Korean I don't understand, but I usually just say yes so that they stop repeating themselves needlessly. Really, no matter how many times you say that word I don't know, I still won't understand it.

Anyway, apparently this exchange was the principal setting me up to travel to Daejeon with two busloads of students. We were the away team cheering section as our school's girls' soccer team played in a championship tournament.

Our kids all sit patiently under the school's banner. Note the drums and balloon beaters. And bromance. Especially note the bromance.

In America, typical sports event snacks include hot dogs, popcorn, and cotton candy. In Korea, acceptable snacks for sports events include periwinkles--the snails you find in tidepool rocks--and bug pupae. This charming young class captain thought my reaction to boon-dae-ggi (bug pupae) was hilarious, and chewed me up some see-food pupae. Thanks.

These kids asked for a picture with me. About 75% of Koreans are total photo-hos. Note: that is not my hand around his waist, there's a third student kind of hiding behind us all.

Back at the school festival after the game, the teams were playing games to win points for their class. Here's the 2nd year internet commerce (?) students trying to get the most turns of the rope.

Overall, the festival was a whole lot of fun and I'm so happy I got the opportunity to get closer to my students. Being able to see them outside the classroom has really strengthened the bond I wanted to have with them. It's too hard to reach that closeness when you're restricted to a classroom, try as I might to make my lessons interactive and interesting, so the time I was able to spend just hanging out with them meant a lot to me. I'm so pumped for the spring semester festival!


Day 108 -- Halloween Lesson, School Festival Day 1, and Student Pictures

Halloween Lesson, Part I

Girl Student: "Ahhhh! 거미!" (spider)
Me: "Haha, yes, today we will study Halloween! I drew a spi--OH GOD, REAL SPIDER"
BFKASB*: "SPIDERMAN!!" (swats at spider) "You, me, hand phone same-same. So we love."

Later, a student cuddled my blow-up jack-o-lantern while we watched Nightmare Before Christmas. I teased him that it was his new girlfriend, so when it came time to end class, he kissed it goodbye and said he would miss it. We perhaps missed the point of Halloween, but it's hilarious so whatever.

Chapter Two ~ TOEFL class

TOEFL students caught on film in their natural habitat while constructing their zombie attack plans. Yes, creating zombie attack plans was a lesson.

Chapter Three ~ School Festival, Day 1

The school festival started today, where the students get a rare chance to relax and be kids. There's lots of mini-games between the classes for the kids to compete in, but it's mostly just down time to chat with friends and have a good time.

Tomorrow is the second and last day, including athletic competitions and a talent show. More pictures!!

Don't complain, you know you wanted pictures.

I went wild documenting all the instances of bromance, but this was perhaps one of my favorites. Mass bromancing!

And this is my Taeyang look-alike. He appears as though he would be a terrible troublemaker, but he's actually one of my sweetest students. CLEARLY, since he's playing with a baby bunny.

Chicken-fighting. You hop around on one leg and try to knock the others over.


Day 103 -- Sae Yeob's Big News

Last week, Sae Yeob received his first college acceptance letter!! He was accepted to Pittsburg State University in Kansas.

Yeah, me either.

But his TOEFL results came in this week and he got a high enough score to start classes in January. Two of our school's other TOEFL students received acceptance letters as well, so three kids are going to America for college. Hurray!

The picture above is a banner the school made and hung outside announcing that one of their students was accepted to an American school, Pittsburg State University. I thought it was funny they made a banner for this, but Sae Yeob explained that it's so that middle school students will see it and want to go to high school there.


Day 100 -- Hurray!

Today marks my 100th day in Korea. I can't believe my grant is 25% completed--there's still so much more I need to see and do before my time runs out. Looking back, I feel like I've done a lot in the last few months, so I hope I'll keep up the momentum and continue to find something to be awed by every day. Even on the days when it seems like all of Korea is out to get me.

In the last 100 days, I:

--Met amazing friends with KEY Club in Chuncheon
--Completed a 6 week, 4-hour-a-day intensive Korean class
--Settled into a teacher-role at the school
--Grown close with a host family that calls me their daughter and sister
--Started behaving less like a "strange foreigner" and more like a "community member"

In the next 100 days, I want to:

--Study Korean more diligently and meet a language partner from Konyang University
--Forge closer bonds with my students by memorizing all their names
--Organize the TOEFL class so the kids learn more
--Continue making gains (and losses) in the gym
--Start volunteering at the orphanages

Speaking of seeing and doing things, this past weekend was a whirlwind of friendly faces and historical places. It was fantastic to see all my ETA friends again and I managed to knock off 4 of the things on my To Do List that I created before leaving for Korea. Feels good, man.

I'll make a whole post about it very soon, but for now I'm exhausted and just wanted to make a momento that it's the 100th day!


Day 98 -- Gyeongju Fall Conference


I haven't been posting many pictures lately, so buckle up because this is gonna be almost all pictures. My apologies to those with slow computers.

So the fall F*bright conference was held in Gyeongju, which was once the capitol during the Silla dynasty. It's the location of many historical sites in Korea, but much of the ancient city was destroyed by Japanese colonists. Above is a reconstruction of what the city once looked like, but now almost everything has been destroyed.

I left early on Friday morning from Nonsan. My itinerary was a bit ridiculous--I had to catch a 9:30am train from Daejeon, which meant getting a 8:15am bus from Nonsan. This is the bridge I have to cross every morning on my way to school, and it's a really good representation of Nonsan--rice paddies and mountains with great big open skies.

Gyeongju was beautiful. One night, a few girls and I decided to go take the swan boats out on the lake right before sunset. It was mostly couples and young families, so the three boats filled with loud, giggling American girls really stood out.

After the swan boats, we met up with a bunch of other ETAs and found a place that rented mini RVs and motorcycles. Obviously we couldn't pass that up, even if Cait and I were in skirts. When in Korea, ride swan boats and mini RVs, right?

Saturday night, after a long day of discussion groups and presentations about teaching and daily life in Korea, fate brought three separate groups of ETAs to the same bar. Despite no communication between the groups about where we were, about 40 of us ended up at the same place and basically took it over. The poor barstaff seemed so nervous at first--this was probably the biggest group of Americans they'd ever served--but eventually felt comfortable enough with us to show off their ridiculous b-boying skills.

On Sunday was the big Traditional Korea cultural tour where buses took us to see a handful of the most famous places in Gyeongju. In Korea, buses are Serious Business, and this is a pretty tyical set up.
First stop on the tour was Seokguram Grotto. We were dropped off at a bell tower (pictured) that marks the top of the mountain (Mt Tohamsan) and the beginning of the trail to the Grotto.
We couldn't actually take pictures inside the grotto, but this is it. The mound is the man-made grotto, inside which is a statue of Buddha. I could write all about it, but I'm lazy so if you want to read more, go to this Wikipedia article about Seokguram Grotto.
The next stop was Bulguksa Temple. We were dropped off at the beginning of the gardens and ponds surrounding the temple. It was so incredibly pretty! Both Bulguksa and Seokguram were on my list of things to do in Korea, so I was pretty pumped to see them.

After Bulguksa was a museum on the Shilla dynasty. It was mostly a lot of pots and jewelry, but it was interesting.

After the museum was Anapji Pond, a gorgeous place built for royalty to relax. It was probably my favorite stop of the day and I'm disappointed I didn't get to really enjoy the scenery, since we were a bit rushed to finish up the tour on time.

We left Anapji to go to the Cheomseongdae Observatory, the oldest observatory in East Asia. It was a quick trip, because we still had two more things to see.

One of the things to see were the tombs. In Korea, they don't dig to bury their dead, but they construct burial mounds. The dead are placed in a wooden chamber with a chest of helpful things for the After Life, then the wooden chamber is covered with boulders, then clay is placed on top of the boulders, and finally all of that is covered in soil and grass. The particular tomb we saw was Cheonmachong, another site on my list of things to do in Korea. YES.

Last, we went to Poseokjeong, which is... well, I'm still not entirely sure what it was or why it was on the tour. It was like a small moat? I guess?
So that was the weekend. I didn't really do a good job explaining it, but there's a lot of pictures so that's almost as good I guess?


Day 93 -- Midterm Week

So I haven't updated because there's not much going on. My "vacation" is decent despite being called in to the school far more often than I think I should be. Yesterday, I had to go in to discuss travel expenses for my conference. The school should have been responsible for settling this and letting me know, but since I don't have a co-teacher, a lot of these things fall on me now. I was ticked about that, especially when a 10 minute discussion got stretched into me staying at the school for a full work day. I got a call today from two of the English teachers saying that the principal wants to talk with me before the conference, which means yet again I am going into school during a week off. This time, I'm sure he'll just give me a 5 minute pep talk--which he thinks he is fantastic at--and then I'll be left totally ticked that I had to make the 20 minute journey to get there only to turn around and start the 45 minute journey home. alasldkfja

Friday is the Gyeongju conference though and I'm just going to hold onto that. He can't call me back to school from Gyeongju (or can he?)

In other news, I got a gym membership finally. It took me a long time to communicate to my host family that I wanted to do weight lifting, which is impossible at the public track. My host father finally understood, pointed to the 2.5lb weights his wife uses, and annouced "You can use these!" When I said thank you, but I need something heavier the look on his face explained instantly why so many Koreans have stick-thin limbs.

Apparently, gyms in Korea are called "health clubs". My health club membership cost me 60,000W/month, which is ridiculous to me considering how much less useful the place is compared to my gym back in America. But it's better than the public track, I guess.


In Korea, showering with same-sex is totally acceptable. And I don't mean like camp-style, I mean a big room with a bunch of shower heads, no dividers or anything. When I walk into the locker room to drop off my things before working out, I am always confronted with full-frontal ajumma nudity. They're not just on their way in/out of the shower, they just mill around the room totally naked. It's taking some getting used to but... ugh... man...


Day 87 -- iPod FOUND!, Chuseok Gifts, and Host Brother Bonding Time


Yesterday, I was told that the search for my iPod was ending because it was impossible to FORCE the theif to return it. Fair enough, and it was partially my fault anyway for leaving it behind in the English room. Not an hour after this was told to me, though, the teacher who gives me a ride to school every morning came rushing into the room. "Is it black? A black case?"

They found it! The kid took the 10,000W note that I'd tucked into the case, but it felt so good to have it back!

The vice principal thinks that the student's conscience got the better of him. I think they just got tired of trying to guess my password and didn't think to look up how easy it is to crack it. Oh well, OLLEH!


It's the Chuseok holiday now. Almost everybody has Friday off from work/school and the stores are absolutely packed with the Korean equivalent of last-minute Thanksgiving shopping. Although the ETAs were all told to originally get a gift for the Koreans close in our lives, there's some controversy over where the line is between gift-giving and bribery. I ended up not getting anything because nobody in my school had done any gift-giving, so I thought it might've been one of those older-generation traditions.

Until my principal called me up to his office and gave me a very pretty jewelry box.

So now I feel bad, I didn't get anything for anybody :[
Yeah, I did complain a lot in the last entry about the host family situation being not perfect, but I really am lucky that I have a fun family. Yesterday, for example, after host dad went to bed, the rest of us stayed up to chat and be silly together. The following video is an example of this.

After this was taken, Min Kyeong and host mom went to bed while Sae Yeob and I stayed up until 3:30am chatting. It was nice for him to finally realize that I'm not, in fact, an old teacher lady. For the first time, he realized that I'm actually not that much older than he is--he could have been one of my residents, for example, when I was an RA in the dorms! We talked about how his upcoming culture shock will be the same as my culture shock coming to Korea, we exchanged slang and swears, talked about our personal lives and our most honest hopes for our futures. It was maybe the most I've ever disclosed to a Korean so far and it makes me sad that I'll be losing my little brother in just two months.

He applied to Penn State, so I'm hopeful he's accepted there. That way, I can help him out and keep an eye on him with all my contacts back on campus.

The weekend is gonna be slow and Nonsan will be like a ghost town I'm sure, so I might take the opportunity to photograph some of the stranger things like the women's versus the men's gyms at the public track. But, uh, don't hold your breath.


Day 85 -- Weekend Report, Stolen iPod, Pizza From Scratch

This weekend, the host family went away to visit relatives and pick up Sae Yeob from his English prison. He took (another) TOEFL exam on Saturday and that marked the end of his month-long intensive English camp thing.

Meanwhile, back at the home base, I spent the weekend enjoying my independence. Saturday afternoon after the family left, I went to Daejeon for the afternoon. I didn't have any specific plans, I just wanted to get another taste of the Big City (sarcasm, because Daejeon isn't really a big city at all, but it's at least a gazillion times bigger than Nonsan. I ended up meeting Sarah at Homeplus, where I had lunch with her host family.

((TANGENTIAL THOUGHTS! It's interesting how different everybody's experiences are the same, yet different. I mean, Sarah and I both came into Korea with the same kind of background--large public university, wanting to come here for cultural interest, taking formal Korean classes. We both have a homestay and are first time teachers. However, she's in a big city environment with a host family that mostly uses English in the house and I have the exact antithesis of that. Our experiences have completely different pros and cons, so it'll be interesting how we look back on our homestays.))

Later Saturday night I met up with Hallie. Per usual, we went around checking out bars in Nonsan and chatting. Once we had finished a pitcher or two, we decided it was a good idea to get kimbap, mandu, nangmyeon, and booze and spend the rest of the night drinking and watching TV. So we did. We chilled in the living room of my apartment, watching weird Korean music videos with questionable content. See below.

This wasn't even the most disturbing.
Sunday morning I woke up early and frantically searched for a way to watch the Penn State vs Iowa State. Turns out I shouldn't have bothered (they blew the game) but I did get to enjoy a bagel and muffin I'd brought back from Daejeon SO WHO IS THE REAL WINNER NOW, IOWA? Me. That's who.
In other news, a student stole my iPod Touch out of the English room on Friday. I'm really bummed about this, but I only got more disappointed when I found that they'd narrowed the suspects down to the TOEFL students. Really, boys? Really? (son i am disappoint.) I really hope whoever did it just leaves it on my desk or something, so that I can conveniently find it when I come in.
Yesterday, Sae Yeob and I went to the market in search of yeast so that we could make pizza from scratch. Well, I could make it and he could eat it, of course. I was nervous--I'd never made dough from scratch even in America, so I was worried about how it would come out. Things went really well and I was pumped to have pizza that didn't have corn and mayonnaise on it (both staples on Korean pizza for some reason). Then my host mom jumped in, sprinkling Spam and raw chestnuts (?) into the sauce.
Also, I hurt my leg while I was running some time last week. Running was my vent for any daily frustrations that got me down, so I need to find a gym STAT before I become not-myself with these little disappointments. You know, besides staying up late on a Saturday, drinking in my living room with Hallie and watching ABSURD Korean music videos?


Day 79 -- English Inspiration Breakthrough

First thing's first, check out my backdated Day 75 for pictures of Daejeon, including an example of how ridiculously NOT politically correct Korea is.

Now then. There is actually nothing particularly noteworthy about today, but whatever. I warned you.

In school, most of my classes are full of sweet kids that either respect me or admire me, depending on the gender. Lessons with them are always full of enthusiasm so it's easy to enjoy my job and get that feeling of fulfillment. However, three classes are just hell. They have a lower level of English, so you can use that as an excuse (class is harder for them, no motivation, etc) but instead of just struggling in the class, they always act up. It makes it harder on them to enjoy the class if they refuse to pay attention but I guess they haven't made that connection yet. Lessons that go over amazingly well are complete bombs with these three classes.


Today, I brought in my spare webcam (my new laptop has one built-in) and I set up Skype. A few of my classes were able to "meet" my sister and my brother, including one of the three hellish classes. I don't know if it was that interaction where English wasn't a tedious subject but rather a means of communication or if the planets just happened to be aligned correctly, but this terrible class--previously tied for WORST BEHAVED EVER--ate up this week's lesson. So much energy, so much enthusiasm, it was fantastic.

Maybe I just need to figure out what will motivate my other two sluggish classes and that'll finally get them engaged, but for now I'm incredibly pleased that I managed to inspire a group of students to realize English isn't just something they should study for school. It's a global language that will help them succeed OUTSIDE of the classroom and professional setting.

Aww, feel-good moment! Group hug!


Day 77 -- Making Friends, Students' Travel Advice, Pimp-My-Laptop, and Bad News :[


The bad news first because I'm one of those types: my family asked today if I would be okay cooking for myself for a few weekends. Yes, that means I am apparently not invited to (1) pick-up Sae Yeob from his TOEFL prison, (2) the host uncle's wedding, nor (3) Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving). I'm pretty bummed about the wedding and Chuseok, but I understand. There may be other weddings, but Chuseok is only once a year so I'm disappointed that I'll be missing it. I guess, instead, I'll have to take a trip around the peninsula or something with my week of vacation to make up for it. Maybe Japan if anybody's up for it?


On to the good news! I've been hanging out with one of the other foreigners here, Hallie, and she's great. She's here for the same cultural-curiosity that I am, so we're on the same page with interests and goals for our year in Nonsan. We got together a few times over the weekend, and--as I was sure would happen--once I had somebody to be brave with, we mustered up the courage to go out to the college hangouts. There, we met a lot of people who were curious to talk to a foreigner, but a handful of them wanted to actually become friends, so we've all been talking to one another since then. I'm totally pumped about this and even if the friendships don't last, I think that it'll be easier to build a network now that I've gotten over that initial hurdle and made a few contacts. Hurray! There are pictures, but Hallie hasn't put them up yet?


With my week long vacation coming up, I wanted to know if there was anything quintessential to do in Korea during the fall. For example, in America, we have apple picking, hay rides with bonfires, and watching football. Essential autumn activities. In Korea... well, it appears they lack these things, judging by the brainstorm I asked my students to do for our Advice Giving lesson today.


For a while now I've been looking for the perfect Hangul letter stickers to put on my keyboard. I finally found them when I went to Daejeon this weekend and they are pretty sweet. Now, my right-hand shift key has a little white dog saying "Hi" and the words "mung mung" (Korean "woof woof") and my other shift is a panda saying "Keep smile", for example. PERFECT.

was a pretty good day. My last-minute oh-man-what-will-I-do lesson plan went over really well, probably because any lesson that uses 6 commercials is usually not so bad. Next week will be review because the week after that is midterm exam week (that's where that week-long vacation comes in). Teaching has become not-so-scary now and the students are getting more comfortable with me, stopping by to say hello, bringing me a flute and asking me to play in between their classeswaitwhat.
Yes, today a student stopped by with his flute and a book of music. He looked at me very earnestly, waving his arms a bit at me. "Teacher, you, flute." (Many of the conversations with my students involve only verbs. Also, most my students just call me "Lindsay" so this was clearly Serious Business.) I took this to mean "I will play my flute for you" but then two girls walked in and, between all three, I understood that they wanted me to play. It's... it's been a while. I managed to find a piece in his tattered collection that I had played for a competition back in the day, so muscle memory helped out a lot.
I, uh, I think that I'm signed up for the school festival now without ever wanting to be an act. So that's... gonna be interesting. I don't even own a flute in Korea, but things like that are minor details here.


Day 75 -- Pictures from Daejeon

[[written on 23 Sept 09 but backdated, clearly, to Saturday]]

I had been totally putting off a visit to Daejeon because I was scared of trying to figure out the public transportation. "But, Lindsay," you are perhaps thinking, "Lindsay, you went to Seoul using public transportation, so surely Daejeon--only 20 minutes away by car--is a less daunting journey!"


Nonsan has three bus terminals. One is for places like Seoul and Busan (big cities that are far away) and one is for smaller cities that are much closer. There is a third but I don't really undersatnd what the deal is with it. I had successfully navigated the terminal for Seoul/Busan/etc but I had never ventured to (nor even knew the name of) this other closer-city terminal.

Anyway, I made it to Daejeon and visited my buddy Sarah! Here are pictures.

Sarah! And some chipmunks at a pet store?

Hurray, I finally found laptop stickers that I really liked! Hollaaaa

A bakery in Daejeon's Galleria shopping center. Please note the bakery's slogan (the name of the bakery itself was Black Uncle) and the statue in the lower left corner. Um... yeah, Korea is not very politically correct. My reaction was captured on film. Not literally, because it was a digital camera, but you know. Captured.