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.


Day 73-- Daily Routine, Non-Teaching School Time, Cham-Cham-Cham Game(?)

It's been a while. Ten days, to be exact. It's not that I don't have anything to write, it's just that the internet at school blocks Blogger and most my internet time at home is spent on Skype.

It's been long enough now that I've settled into a routine at school and home. It looks something like this:

Or if you want to be VERY specific, it looks like this:

You can tell that during the school day, I have quite a bit of free time. Usually I spend this time:
(a) on the internet, catching up on Facebook and webcomics.
(b) prepping for lessons.
(c) planning lessons.
(d) observing other classes.

However, this week I managed to find a torrent of last Saturday's Penn State v. Syracuse football game, so I watched that on the giant 60" screen in the English room. The lunch ladies, cleaning up from the day's meal, stopped by the glass door to see why I was alternating between clapping, cheering, and swearing by myself in the classroom. Cultural exchange!

As a peace offering for not updating in a long time, here is a video of my 3-2 boys playing a very common game(?) here in Korea. You will first see Rock-Paper-Scissors, then the real fun begins. I guess it's called the "Cham-Cham-Cham Game"?


Day 63 -- Making Kimbab

Kimbab is Korean-style sushi: vegetables and meat wrapped in rice and seaweed. It's ubiquitous because it's cheap and easy to make. For the most part. If you don't make the rice with the right texture, your kimbab will fall apart when you try to cut the rolls. I did pretty well with my tuna kimbab. Also, pictures.

In the foreground, all the vegetables, meat, seasame leaves, and egg-omelette-thing ready to be rolled up. In the background, host mom and Min Kyeong checking the texture of the rice.

Moment of truth--host mom cutting up one of my kimbab rolls. yayy it didn't fall apart!


Day 59 -- Wildly Inappropriate Students, Eels, and Dog Soup

The students have gotten much more comfortable with me, leading to some cute situations and some not-so-cute situations. Example of a Cute Situation: three of my junior boys (including Swastika Boy*) giving me a little stuffed rabbit as a for-no-reason present out of the blue yesterday. But with the sweet comes the "wtf". Examples of Not-So-Cute WTF How Do I Respond To This Situations: my TOEFL boys letting me in on the reason why they always talk about hitting the DDR, TOEFL Student Maybe Cousin** unbuttoning his unform shirt to show his "sick pack" and rub a piece of paper on his chest (?), and TOEFL Wise Guy showing the split in his uniform pants from him playing soccer earlier that day.

So there's the weird classroom situations that happened to me. Now let's talk about the weird food I ate this week.

Seriously, how gross does this look? PRETTY GROSS.

Yesterday, I had another school dinner meeting with all the teachers, this time to welcome the new vice principal. On the menu: Jang-eoh. As we walked into the restaurant, I got a good feeling because we would be sitting in chairs for this meal instead of on the floor--score! But then we passed by large tanks. Oh noooo. That meant seafood. I'm not a huge fan of fish, but it turns out that's okay because we didn't eat fish. We ate eel. HINT: there is no way to make eel sound or look appetizing. NO WAY. ZERO METHODS. The picture is literally what I ate. That is what was swimming around in the tanks and then swimming around in my stomach acid. Later it was accompanied by the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I made myself as a small "Good Job on Choking Down That Eel Tonight For The Sake Of School-Jeong, Lindsay" reward.

Jang-eoh (Eel): C+

Today, I went out with the principal, my coteacher, and another random teacher to eat dog for lunch. When in Korea, right? I was concerned that I would have to look at a bunch of dogs in cages as I walked in to the restaurant, but luckily I didn't have to see the live-version of what was in my soup. The meal itself was pretty anticlimatic. The soup was really spicy and I found the dog meat to taste mostly like tough, low-quality beef. The pieces were small though and the soup flavors pretty much overwhelmed the taste, so I ate it all without complaint.

Dog Soup: B-

Needless to say, when I go to Seoul this weekend to visit my friend from college, I will be gorging myself on less adventurous foods, such as tacos and pasta. yeeesssss

*Swastika Boy is actually Buddha Boy. What I thought was a swastika on his wrist is actually a symbol from Buddhism. In my defense, that symbol is like the mirror image of the swastika.

**TOEFL Student Maybe Cousin is, in fact, a cousin. At least, my assumption grows stronger because his family name is the same as my host family and his name (Sae Kyoon) is so close to my host brother's (Sae Yeob). So I guess by "in fact" I actually mean "slightly stronger maybe".