Day 512 - Yeonpyeong-do From An Ex-Pat's Perspective

If you don't know what's going on, or if you do know what's going on but want the full story, please read:

Honestly, I'm more peeved than scared. I was just about to transfer a bunch of cash to the States, but the exchange rate is trash now. THANKS A LOT DPRK.


Day 502 - Soo-neung / Korean SAT

My 500th day in Korea came and went with no ceremony. Oooh well.

Yesterday, however, was the national Korean SAT, the soo-neung. This is nothing like the American SAT. The soo-neung is only given once a year, so if a high school senior wants to go to college, they've got to study their entire life for this one day. College admissions here are pretty much entirely based on the outcome of this test, so if you feel sick on test day you've got to just get through it anyway. For a top Korean college, you'd better get a perfect score. Students feel the pressure of this exam long before they even start high school.

The entire country shuts down on test day. Most middle and high schools have classes canceled (middle schools must take a high school entrance exam too). Businesses open late and employees start work later so that the students have clear streets to get to their testing sites. It's a massive affair, with celebrities recording messages of encouragement and songs to give mental strength to students.

I've even heard of some crazy parents sending their kids to Japan for some kind of immune-boosting series of injections (remember, if you're sick, there's no alternate test day, you've just got to deal with it and take the test while you slowly die).

Anyway, all this is really just a build up to the observation Doyup made earlier this week.

We were at HomePlus, the Korean Walmart, and as we left the store we saw one of my third year students working his part time job: pushing carts. (Remember, this is the week of the massively important soo-neung. Most students are buried in a study room or a library.) The student and I went through the awkward acknowledgement of each other and that was that. Doyup, driving me home, asks me,

"When we go to the dalkgalbi restaurant, we see your students. When we go to the movie theatre, we see your students. When we go to HomePlus we see your students. But we never see your students when we go to the library."



Day 493 - Things Are Not Too Bad

This week is pretty normal for me.

I wake up at 6:45am, get ready for school and go out to meet my carpool. I teach a short class of TOEFL students how to do research for a project, then do 4 regular classes spread throughout the day. When I'm not teaching, I'm planning and prepping the remaining lessons for the semester, chatting with students, or watching downloaded TV shows.

Around 4 or 5 o'clock I head to Daejeon, either by bus or with my co-teacher. I hang out around Chungdae for an hour or two, studying in coffee shops or having dinner with friends. Then it's off to class for two hours. Class finishes up at 9 o'clock and I ride the bus for an hour to the train station, then hop on a train home. By the time I get back and ready for bed, it's around midnight. Sleep for six or seven hours, then repeat.

Despite being normal in routine, Monday made it a great week already. DY had some time off from dinner meetings and night duty so we had dinner together (dokkbokki, from our favorite street food ajjuma, of course). I picked up my dry cleaning and my now-hemmed jeans (damn short legs), we called up my landlady about my bathroom, DY set my thermostat to turn on an hour before I wake up so that the floors are nice and toasty.



Day 486 - More Halloween

More Halloween~

Showing the students how to make a Jack-o-Lantern

Hands on scooping!

Keep it up, boys

Face designer and carver shows off her finished product.

The students all thought it was wicked cool (no pun intended, I'm just from New England)


Day 484 - Halloween

For Halloween this year, I bought my school's skirt, vest, and blouse uniform. That's right, I dressed as a student!

The students thought it was really funny/cute/Hermione-esque, especially the school captain, who did a double-take before totally freaking out. It was definitely worth the 100,000W, especially since my school's kind of not prestigious so I'm able to wear the blouse with work casual and the skirt for many occasions. Win!

Totally recommend doing this for other EFL teachers in Korea/Asia -- the reactions were priceless.

"Teacher, so cutie!"

making an entrance in the cafe for lunch -- "OMG TEACHER!!!"

...the school captain is really tall.