Archive for September 2006

Real Life

So, you’re probably wondering why I write nothing for a few weeks and then overwhelm you in one night. The sad thing is that real life finally kicked in. I suddenly realized that I have a job here and that I actually have to work. Now, I do have to add that I am writing this while drinking wine with Lindy and Leah who are pouring glitter and sequins all over some cheap clothes we bought last night. This is actually a part of SIS real life here and don’t worry – you will hear all about it next week once I recover from the reason for all the glitter.

Anyway, back to school. As most of you know, I teach ESL in First grade. There are 4 classes in this grade and all but 2 are considered ESL since they all speak Korean as their first language. This doesn’t mean though, that they are all low or need extra help. Most of these students speak perfect English and despite being in only first grade, they can read fluently and write a full page of complete sentences on a chosen topic. There are however, some very needy students. I won’t mention favorites but I have chosen my pictures carefully!! The best thing is that in a few weeks, I will be able to post our Chusok pictures when all the little kids come in their traditional Korean dress. I know I’m a bit biased but these students are adorable already so I can’t wait.


These next few photos were meant to look natural and part of my teaching day however I can’t lie and have to admit to staging them while all my students were at lunch. At least you get to see the classroom a little and laugh at me!

from-leahs-camera-092.JPGBy the way, this has a purpose – teaching that Tony tiger and Harry horse don’t like each other so when they get together they always stick their tongues out and say ‘th’. Clever huh?

from-leahs-camera-091.JPGfrom-leahs-camera-090.JPGMy very cluttered desk. Sorry! My school day is actually pretty hectic now. While I at least have the same Monday schedule and same Tuesday schedule etc., each day of the week is different. And, since I do full inclusion, I am usually running around trying to come up with items and materials to support the lesson. The teachers that I work with are really fun. They are a really young team and are flexible and energetic. A few problems professionally but nothing major yet….

Now for the school itself. I love our campus. Not only is it a 3 minute walk from home (think of how much extra time I get in bed), but it is pleasant and relaxing to be in. The whole school is full of student art work, which is amazing, and the grounds are green and lush.

from-leahs-camera-111.JPGThis is the Kindergarten playground on the left of the main entrance. Yes, there are separate playgrounds for the different grades.

from-leahs-camera-112.JPGWhen I am walking from the elementary school to the high school, or the cafeteria, I walk under this awning with playgrounds on each side.

from-leahs-camera-114.JPGAfter school, I walk down this short hill to the road and home. The stairs are spaced specifically so that flooding can’t happen. The problem is that they are built precisely the wrong width for my legs. They are too narrow to take 2 steps per step, but too wide for one. I usually stumble down somehow. Seriously, if that’s my biggest problem at work, I think I can survive!

These next shots are all just the grounds and playgrounds.



1 comment September 22, 2006

Just pictures

No story to go with these but just fun photos from the other night. Mum, I thought you would appreciate some photos of your favourite daughter….

Prizes for the best captions!



Add comment September 22, 2006

You can pick your nose, you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your friends’ noses.

There are many great people here in Korea but I hardly know any of them. So, in the meantime I tend to hang out with these people:

from-leahs-camera-027.JPGThis is Jon, Marshall, Denise and Jeff. In other words- Kindergarten, 5th grade, 1st grade and P.E. They are all climbers too which means we spend a lot of time hanging out (literally). All of them have been in Korea for a while so they are great to go out for dinner with. Jon especially loves to go eat meat so I am planning a few dinners with him as opposed to Leah (vegetarian) and Lindy (“I hate pork more than I hate war”).

from-leahs-camera-028.JPGThis is Jeff. If you ever want to try some adventurous eating then Jeff is the one. He has made it a point to try the spiciest foods around, as well as most of the live ones.

Of course, we have tried to make some friends outside of school too.

from-leahs-camera-069.JPGRecently, we went out with a friend of Lindy’s who has been living in Seoul teaching English, for about one year. He is a really nice guy and we would definitely be willing to hang out again if it weren’t for his friends….

from-leahs-camera-078.JPGDon’t you think the one on the left looks like Bailey from Party of Five? Unfortunately, the cute looks didn’t save him from being a dick. Their sole aim in Korea, apart from complaining about all things Korean, is to hook up with as many women as possible. Needless to say, they were unlucky that night.

We did also hang out with J. He is an army friend of my cousin Adam’s who is stationed here in Seoul. He is Korean but grew up in LA so he is a great person to hang out with.  I had lunch with him the other day and then this past weekend we all went out and had a blast.


Add comment September 22, 2006

So, who are these guys anyway?

Now for your introduction to the two people that I spend the most time with – Lindy and Leah. Cue the cheesy pageant music…….

from-leahs-camera-009.JPGNow this lovely young lady is Leah. As a laid back vegetarian from Michigan, Leah enjoys snowboarding, reggae music, peanut butter, illicit substances in Thailand, and international travel. SIS is her first international posting but her 3rd year of teaching. She currently teaches Kindergarten. She loves the cheesy, and slightly tacky aspect of Korean dollar store shopping (see above) and her one wish for her life is World Peace. (She has a very strong hippie-ish sense of community and ‘just getting along’). Recently, she has been branching out from her vegetarian background and was last seen eating fried chicken off the street stall. As well as meat, she has also recently taken up rock climbing and is immensely proud of her new found bruises (as evidenced below). Leah has a strong tie to her past, as shown by the 6 week old eggs and milk in her fridge. On a recent night out, she was recently heard to say “I didn’t realise I had to give a rim job to get my shot” (the shot in question being a blow job).


from-leahs-camera-127.JPGOur second participant is young Lindy from Winona, Minnesota who was lucky enough to meet Lizzie at the job fair in Iowa in February. Lindy enjoys good wine, good food, naming random items in her house, and watching countless reruns of Anchorman and Zoolander. When she’s not teaching Reading to middle schoolers (which in fact can be quite a bit of her day), she can be found brushing her teeth, napping or chatting on the phone to her beloved beau from back home, Noel. Despite this relatively quiet sounding existence, many wild things are known to happen around her (please see photo below). Her one wish in life is to look back on her life and feel she has accomplished all she could. That, and eat cheese. Recently, she has shown herself to be a huge 80’s music fan and was last seen dancing naked to Blondie.


And now for some beautiful shots of the both of them:


1 comment September 22, 2006

He is so wonderful!

It’s hard being away from family and friends and especially hard being away from your new fiance. This last week was our dating anniversary and so it was a bit of a hard day. But, in the middle of my afternoon, I get called out of class by a teacher and there is a delivery man holding a huge basket of roses for me. I don’t even know how to order pizza here and Brian figured out how to order flowers! Thank you so much Brian!!!


Add comment September 22, 2006

Random thoughts from the Land of the Morning Calm

1) the bugs here are cool! They are huge and terrifying and make me scream every time I find one on my balcony unexpectedly but, they are still really interesting. There are praying mantis (manti?) everywhere. They are really big and are never moving but that only makes them good at photo opportunities. Now, if I can only find my photo…..

2) little things surprise you. You think you know about ramen noodles – the packs look the same, it should be easy to figure out. Then you open it……and find clams. You also find lots of little packets. Sometimes these packets are dried vegetables and spices, other times it is straight hot pepper powder. It really becomes a gamble as to which one you get. Not many people are lucky enough to have each dinner be a complete surprise!


3) The lights of New York are nothing compared to this. The city here glows! For every building that has a shop front, there are usually 4 floors above that have shops or restaurants and 3 floors below ground with shops and restaurants. And all of these are going to advertise in bright neon on the front of the buildings.


4) They can’t actually speak English! Despite the many people who speak konglish, when it comes to signs and t-shirt slogans, noone has a clue. This store is called “Ringerie” (sorry the pole is in front of the sign) Can you figure out what type of store that is? Answer: email me with your guess and I’ll tell you if you’re right. Ha ha ha!    The best store though is right opposite. It is basically a  beauty product store called “Make yourself fucking lovely” aahh! Priceless! As for T-shirts, here are our top choices:

“I feel happiness when I eat a him”                 “I’m and ass man”

5) We went to a pub in Itaewon. I know they were attempting the whole English pub idea but with this poster, I’m really not sure if they got it spot on or really off base. What do you think?


6)Koreans love dogs. And no, not just to eat. Normally when you walk through the streets, no one looks at you or pays you any attention. You are pretty much invisible. But, get a dog……suddenly you are a super star. I was dog sitting for a dog called Caddie and we went for a walk. Kids were stopping to say hi, adults were stopping to comment and everyone smiled at me. I loved it! I wish I had Minnie here. Although, look at these photos of Caddie and you will see just why I love babysitting him so much.

from-leahs-camera-159.JPGfrom-leahs-camera-160.JPGLook like anyone we know???

7) The mountains here are beautiful. This is the land of the morning calm but the sunsets are stunning. Now, granted I haven’t been awake early enough to compare the sunrises but if the sunsets are anything to go by, they have to be amazing. Everywhere you look there are trees. Despite being in this major metropolis, there is green everywhere. Little parks, tree lined streets and the forests on the mountains overshadowing everything. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo I like enough yet to post. I’ll keep trying.

Add comment September 22, 2006

Camping in Korea

Last weekend I got to enjoy my first ever camping trip in Korea. It was really fun! Even without any of my stuff (which is all still sitting in Busan by the way because they refuse to take it up here to me!!!). There were 16 of us who headed off to Geohyeon on Friday afternoon. The drive was about 2 hours north east so we rented two vans from school plus two motorcycles and a car – plenty of room! Of course, this was meant to be a climbing trip and I was pretty worried about my back so I brought no climbing gear (far too dangerous) and my huge yo from my bed. Lindy, Leah and I had borrowed a tent from school and Leah assured us that we didn’t need any special instructions or help in getting it set up. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. The tent was certainly big enough for all of us to share but it took 45 minutes and 5 of us to finally get it up. It had the wierdest configuration of poles ever!

Anyway, as we headed off, Marshall was driving our van – me, lindy, leah, sophia and Shevin. Funny how he worked that one out eh? We decided to get an early start on the evening as we weren’t climbing and were worried that we didn’t have enough warm clothes for the cool night.

from-leahs-camera-038.jpgSee? this is clearly a far better way to keep warm.

Our campsite turned out to be beautiful. Big mountains, lots of trees and a river!


Here is our tent finally up (just don’t ask about the rain tarp)from-leahs-camera-058.jpg

And here was the view when we sat in the tentfrom-leahs-camera-046.jpgfrom-leahs-camera-046.jpgBy the way, I realize that this is the same photo twice, I just have no idea how to delete the second one.

That evening some people did manage to get climbing in although it was only about an hour because the angle of the mountain was such that it got dark very quickly. The best part about climbing is the hammock which is always packed with the gear. THis is Jason Coleman enjoying his earned break.from-leahs-camera-052.jpg

And here is Lindy, Shevin and Sophia (I teach with Sophia in first grade)from-leahs-camera-048.jpg

In order to procure myself a sleeping bag for the night, I had made a deal with Marshall……I would provide his food for the weekend, if I got his spare bag. These were very rare and sought after commodities so I did well!! Of course that was before I realized that cooking dinner here was different. There are no campfires allowed in Korea and no one had a stove so…..I spent Thursday night cooking up rice with chicken, carrots, zucchini, mayo and spices. It turned out great and I even included chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  That night we all stayed up really late playing campfire games without the campfire. Remind me to play “psychiatrist” with you all one day – it’s an hilarious game. Jason thought it would be a great idea to go skinny dipping in the river and thank god we convinced him not to because the river turned out to be only about 2 feet deep. Skinny wading is not nearly as cool!

This was the disaster of our site the next morning.from-leahs-camera-014.jpg

The next morning we were woken up by rain. and more rain. and more rain. and … get the idea. We all huddled together under a tree, ate cold hard boiled eggs, packed up and left. The journey back seemed to go much faster because we were all asleep and when I woke up we were at Chilli’s restaurant. Someone had decided they wanted a cheeseburger and this was apparently the best place. I ordered a chicken burger and a sprite which turned out to be just okay and definitely NOT worth the $19.80 that I was charged. Note to self – never eat at Western restaurants!!!

1 comment September 18, 2006

Our culture day

I decided finally that I’d had enough drinking and hangovers in Korea so Lindy and I headed to get some culture in. We had heard that every Saturday or Sunday there were free performances at the Korean National Center of Performing Arts. This particular Sunday, they had flown (probably driven actually) in some famous shamans from the East coast to perform a traditional ritual. The ritual was for young women who die before they are married. As we all know, a woman’s purpose on earth is to get married. Therefore when these young women die, their souls cannot rest. The shamans call the spirits down to earth and put their souls inside handmade dolls. They then perform a marriage ceremony between these dolls and male dolls. The ceremony is performed just as it would be if they were alive but there is a hand maid there to manipulate the doll (apparently the dolls have a little trouble picking up the soju and drinking it). They then wrap the dolls together and send them on their honeymoon which involves placing them underneath a table while they perform another chant. Finally, they set fire to the dolls and release their spirits back up to heaven where they can rest. It was a pretty cool ceremony to watch in parts but apparently the entire process normally takes 3 days and they had condensed it for us to only 5 hours.  baseball-game-august-092.jpg

This was my first big venture out since slipping my disc and we had already gotten lost getting to the performance (ended up halfway up a mountain which wasn’t at all good for my back) and now were sitting on slabs of concrete in the sun. We stayed for the marriage ceremony, had the person next to us explain the rest of the ritual, and left. I’m all for culture, but they really need to make it more tourist friendly!! Luckily, we did get some rather lovely hats to wear to keep the sun off. I don’t have the picture here yet, but I promise to put it on soon.


I was also lucky enough to meet a girl called Jen who has lived here for 10 years. She works at another international school. I got her phone number but so far haven’t managed to get hold of her.

Add comment September 17, 2006


yet another interesting weekend (chemul in Korean – aren’t I smart?). We had our open house at school on Thursday. This is a really formal affair – dress and heels, where we meet all the parents and give presentations about our job at the school and how we will be helping their children this year. This is the first time that the school has not charged thousands of dollars extra for a child to be designated ESL so I was really pushing that I am here to help all the students because after all the entire first grade, with the exception of 2 students, is learning English as a second language. It went well and I had a ton of parents interested in my background and the plan for the year. I am pretty excited and they are all reallly friendly. Following this stressful evening, we needed to unwind and went out drinking! Leah drank beer and ate chicken. Pretty good for a teetotalling vegetarian! No one was too crazy though – work the next day.

The best part was that on Friday the high school had their Open house. In order to make them feel really good about this, all the elementary teachers met in the basement of the Elementary school and had a wine and cheese party and played silly drinking games. Come on mum, you know this would have made you feel good! Unfortunately, (or fortunately) the games continued on into the apartment complex and lasted till about 3am. The funniest game was called Superlatives. Everyone picks 10 of the same item to represtent them and hands them out leaving one in front to help everyone remember. THen a question is asked – nice questions from Denise like “who is most likely to win the next teacher award?” and nasty questions from Jan (55year old reading specialist who is hilarious) like “who is most likely to be seen having sex through the window?” and much, much worse. You then choose the piece that represents the person you are voting for and place it in a mug that is passed around. Then the mug is tipped out and you find out what the group thinks. Turns out I’m most likely to go skinny dipping!

Anyway, Saturday morning was not the most fun, especially since dad woke me up at 8am. On a saturday morning !!!! and then at ten I was woken up by the sound of lots of trucks and lots of men outside. Our furniture had arrived! Through the haze of the headache, I was able to see that 4 trucks had arrived laden down and I had some quick moving to get done. About 10 men were carrying furniture on their backs up to each apartment. They even had this elevator truck rigged up to take things in through the balconies. so I eagerly waited, and waited…….and waited……..and waited. Finally, 2 hours later I realized there was no more noise outside. So I peeked through and there were 4 pieces left by the front gate. Mine.

Luckily, after storming downstairs, I found that they were all taking a break. They obviously just couldn’t manage the last four pieces. Needless to say, I got them all finally.

All the furnitureThe totally safe elevator truck

Add comment September 4, 2006

Tay han min guk!!!!!

Ba ji sung, Ba ji sung, Ba ji sung! Come on you reds!!

We went to a soccer, sorry – football, game on Saturday night. It was so much fun. We went to see Korea v Iran in the Asian cup. It was the first home game since the world cup and the crowds were definitely out. It’s a wierd feeling to hear the football songs that you are familiar with, sung in Korean. I joined in as much as I could – mainly just yelling out “aaa ooo aaa eee ju” or something of the sort. I did learn the one phrase “Tay han min guk” which is basically “go korea”. I also found out that 3 of the players on the Korean team play for british teams. Ba ji sung, who is the Korean favorite plays for Man United!!

It was a really fun game that unfortunately ended in a draw – Iran scored in the last 5 seconds. 5 seconds!!! It was gutting.

 Hanguk!!Guess what color our team is

Add comment September 4, 2006

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