"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." - Saint Augustine

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kimbap and no TV...

Care Package

Today I finally received my first piece of mail/package from the U.S.! My parents sent me a box on September 17th and it was here within 10 days! My mentor teacher didn't realize that she forgot to put "South Korea" on the address she gave me so I had friends and family back at home send me letters/packages that were recently returned to them since they were missing that bit. I went from laughing to tears when looking at the contents of the box from my parents. It's funny how the little things can get you!

My favorite things that were sent to me: A pen from The Bob In (our favorite ice cream place in Northern Michigan), Von Maur mints (me and my mom's favorite store to shop at), a bunch of articles (I love to read these kind of short articles at home all the time and my mom always saves good ones for me!), and a cute Halloween notepad. :)

Everything I got! My mom is so Polish. I love how she double bagged all the honey!

I’ve been going to Taekwondo for almost a month now and though it’s not like the typical amazing cardio, endurance, strength training, etc. activities that I'm used to doing I enjoy going to this class because of all the children (ages 8-14) that are in the class with me! From the very first day they were very curious about me and I have enjoyed this time to get to know them and their culture a little bit more.
Some of my Taekwondo friends. :)

So I’ve decided I’m going to go without TV for the five months that I’m here. A lot of people are shocked by this, but really I don’t watch that much TV back in America since I’m constantly busy working, attending school, and spending time doing things for the organizations I’m involved in! If I do have free time (not an often occurrence for me) I would rather exercise or read anyways! No worries, I’m not going to be totally disconnected from the current events in America and the rest of the world since I’ll be staying updated through the internet.

I’m a very reflective person, but I’m doing it far more here in Korea than at home. Everytime I’m walking somewhere or after having an interaction, teaching….I’m thinking about something and usually end up with a smile and happy thought. There are lots of challenges and differences but these are the things that are making me learn so much about Korea, myself, and life in general. :)

Kimbap, anyone?
Last week Katie and I stumbled upon a restaurant right outside of my apartment building where we can get delicious kimbap, kimchi, and soup for 1,000 won (about $1). The whole experience was kind of funny because we sat down at a table for five minutes before we realized we had to go up to the lady when we knew what we wanted. We of course couldn't read the menu but saw kimbap on the table. "Dul Kimbap Juseyo" (2 Kimbap please). That was that.


Our second trip to the restaurant!

Korea's Kids Just Like Ours, 100 Years Ago
Mitch Albom wrote a very interesting article on his recent trip to Korea where he compares modern day Korean children with children in America 100 years ago. His article says:

"It is not uncommon to see children in school uniforms walking home late at night. It is not uncommon to see them studying through weekends. There is private English education on top of the public education. Families split apart to improve a child's training. You hear stories about schooling that runs from sunrise past sunset, with breakfast, lunch and dinner being served in the building."

I have definitely seen this in action around my city, Cheongdo. I leave my Taekwondo building at 8pm and see students leaving the high school right across the street. My mentor teacher Eunhye told me that a lot of high schoolers stay at school until 11pm and then (most students) willingly do an additional study group until 2am! She says they do this in their Junior year when preparing to take their college entrance exams, but it sounded like these practices occured at other times as well. I also know of many students that have school on Saturday. Hogwans (private schools that are attended after school) are very popular, and actually my Elementary School is trying to bridge the gap between the "haves" (families that can afford Hogwans) and the "have nots" (families that cannot afford Hogwans) by offering 28 after school classes (like my English class) for 5,000 won (about $1) per class/month. Many families are choosing to keep their child at school attending the after school classes because it is much easier than transferring their child to another location. This way you have more children on the same page and getting educated much more similarly. At first I was surprised how many (nearly all) children attend the after school program, but then I found out that their school day ends much earlier than ours does in America. 1st and 2nd grade finishes at 1pm, 3rd and 4th finishes at 2pm, and 5th and 6th finishes at 3pm. Of course you need to add 3 or 4 hours onto each of these times and you will then see what time the children are really going home or off to more classes, lessons, private tutoring, etc. I usually leave school around 6pm and find a somewhat decent amount of children still in the halls and on the playground.

Some children walking home from school.

Many children stop at convenience stores to buy candy, ice cream or little toys on their way home.

Here are some of my 5th grade students on their way home.
It's quite fun to walk home and talk with them.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Week Teaching

Monday (September 13th) started my first day teaching in my school’s after school English program. Previous to this I had taught English my first week in 5th grade and second week in 6th grade during the school day. I had such a positive experience with the 5th and 6th graders and found it very easily to relate to them and their sense of humor. We were laughing a lot and it kept them all focused and interested in what we were doing. Since I taught each grade for only a week I was focusing on introducing myself, letting them choose their English names, playing some name games, and finding out more about them. All of the activities I planned served as a great assessment tool in finding out where my students were at and what interests them.

If I had to choose a few words to describe my first week teaching I think I'd choose whirlwind, reflective, frustrating,  and exciting. I learned a lot about being a "Reflective Practitioner" (I wrote a huge paper on it too!) while taking my Social Foundations class at Eastern, but now I know what this feels like while actually teaching! This first week was exciting during all the activities and experiences that the students and I were enjoying and learning from. 

I had one day in particular that was frustrating and that was the day that I started out with the class full of  first graders that were climbing all over the bookcases and desks when I got into the classroom. They couldn't understand a lot of what I was saying and I managed to only get through attendance and a short name game since all their names were written in Hanguel and I had to go around one by one comparing their name tag to the class roster. I honestly felt strange telling them what their English name was since they didn't understand what was going on. With my other classes I would write a long list of names on the board and see if they had any names to contribute to the list. 

While teaching my second graders a couple kids gave me the middle finger and used some curse words at me. I looked at my own middle finger with a confused expression and then looked back at them and said, "Mollayoh" which means "I don't know". They looked at me confused, put their hands down, and then walked away. They clearly had no idea what this meant and I'm thinking they wanted to see how I would react to these gestures. I think I responded in the right way because I didn't make a big deal out of it and soon enough if people continue to not react to those gestures they will get bored with it and stop. If it becomes too big of a deal I will have to talk to them about it. 

Everyone’s teaching experiences are so diverse here in Korea. I find myself fortunate in being in contact with so many different scholars, and similar to America, there is so much diversity among school resources and student populations. I keep thinking about how I wish I had certain things such as more trade books in English that I could read to my students everyday. I’d love to teach through books so I’m planning on borrowing some books from Katie’s school. She was blessed with a plethora of resources! As for student population I have the largest number of students in my school out of all the scholars I’ve talked to. My school has just under 700 students ranging from Kindergarten through 6th grade. I know many scholars who have just 50-100 students at their school. Of course there are many pros and cons when comparing the larger and smaller schools. It sure would be nice to have only 5-10 students per English class instead of my 20-30! Oh well, bring on the challenge!

I’m not surprised that this first week of teaching all 6 grades  (1st through 6th) has kept me at school much later than the first two weeks did. I have daily and monthly lesson plan forms that I’m required to fill out and I spent quite some time tweaking these since there was a lot of unnecessary information and now they actually made sense for me. My mentor teacher just asked me to do a monthly plan as well, which is not something the previous scholar at my school had to do. Since my English class is now one of the 28 after school classes offered at my school I am required to turn in forms for each grade planning out what I have to teach for the next month. I found out though that this doesn’t have to be a set in stone plan- thankfully. I’m not about to assume what my students do/do not know and attempt to plan what I’m going to teach them in a month from now! Talk about inappropriate! 

Being introduced as the new English teacher at my school's Opening Ceremony.

Bowing heads during Korea's song.

With some of my 6th grade girls during my second week teaching.

Yep, these are the girls that were so amazed with my hair that they were picking
hairs off my cardigan and saying "Gold hair!" It was funny!

School election posters.

Outside of the school with a few 1st graders.
An example of what I eat for lunch everyday!
During the "What do you like?" game this boy said , "I like bel tee."
After some questioning and little demonstrating I found out this means "ding dong ditch".  
The kids are so creative when they make their name tags!
Some even put their name in Korean/Hanguel as well. :)
With the 6th grade boys.

The second day of class I asked the 5th graders, "What do you remember about me?"  
Pretty impressive list! This girl was looking at her shirt to help her spell "America". :)

Weekend in Daegu and Gyeongju

As I’m sitting here in my bed (since I have no table or chairs!) I have my fan and music on in an attempt to drown out the sound of dogs barking outside my window. Back at home this noise wouldn’t bother me so much, but knowing that these are dogs barking outside of a restaurant around the corner from my apartment that will serve them for dinner sickens me. I’ve done a lot of persuasive speeches against animal testing and I know there are a lot of animals treated poorly in America as well so I’m not trying to point any fingers. I’m not closed-minded and I understand that some Koreans eat dog meat without any thought of this being inhumane. Koreans breed dogs for more than one purpose, but I only know dogs as pets so it’s not my cup of tea…at all. On a more pleasant note I enjoy hearing the roosters outside my window early in the morning and afternoon. J

Last weekend Katie and I met Debbie in Daegu on Saturday for a day of shopping. I had my first meal at Paris Baguette and it was delicious! We shared some Pot Bing Su which is a delicious dessert with shaved ice, condensed milk, beans that are sweetened, fruit, and ice cream. We then made our way out to Gyeongju for the Gyeongsan Regional Meet Up that Tom and I planned (we are the Regional Representatives). We first started out at some restaurant where we ordered two large dishes to share that they cooked right in front of us. One dish was duck and some other meats  and the other dish was Samgyupsal which is pork fat. We then met up with some other people at Grazie's for their unlimited pizza and drinks for 15,000 KRW. Not a bad deal! We ended the night going to Boss Nightclub. Gyeongju has quite the night life and it's very different than the city that I live in. Gyeongju has a lot of history and even has the Shilla Millenium Park (see link below).

A book that will teach you "Ehglish" that I saw in Daegu. 

Delicious Pot Bing Su from Paris Baguette.

A few of us outside of the restaurant for our Regional dinner.

This is the duck, sausage, and meat variety dish before being cooked.

At Grazie's.

                     Katie and I outside of the club.

 Sunday we went to the Hallyu Dream Concert, which was free since we are foreigners. There were a lot of interesting traditional stands set up outside before the concert started that we were able to check out. I got some neat pottery and Lauren and I tried on some traditional Korean clothing. The concert itself was amazing! We had great seats and despite it getting pretty cold as the night went on we were able to stay warm by dancing around. Interestingly (maybe not so much of a surprise), concert goers here are not nearly as loud as in America. Everybody stayed in their seats and if they sang along to the music it was fairly quiet. I enjoyed seeing 2PM, Super Junior, Beast, Kara, 2NE1, FT Island, T-ara, Miss A. and Secret. The concert was 4 hours long and we were very tired and cold when we went back to Sarah's for the night. We left early the next morning (Monday) and all took trains back to our cities to teach that afternoon! I showed my older students some pictures from the concert and engaged them in English conversations. They were very eager to see the pictures that I had! See below for information on the concert. 
This is the artist that I bought some pottery from.

A lady showing what a Queen in the Shilla Dynasty would wear.

Debbie and I waiting for the concert to begin.

One of my favorite K Pop groups, 2PM, performing "Without You" at the concert.

Close up of one of the girl groups.
Debbie, Sarah, Lauren, Myself, and Katie walking through the market.

A truck full of pigs at the Gyeongju Market.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I actually wrote this on August 29th, 2010 describing my first month in Korea...

I'm all moved into my apartment and will be spending awhile cleaning since it was really dusty and a little messy when I moved in! My apartment complex is only a year old and is really nice! The TaLK (Teach and Learn in Korea) program gives us a mentor teacher and a co-teacher (an English speaking Korean University student) My mentor teacher, Hwang So Youn lives in my building just down the hall from me (I'm really lucky!) so she helped me get settled in and has been taking me to the supermarket and around town. I live in Cheongdo in the province of Gyeongsangbuk-do...see the link below:


First, I had a 2 week orientation in Jochiwon with all 350 TaLK scholars from english speaking countries all around the world. Then I spent a week at English Camp at the National Youth Center of Korea. Yesterday (Wednesday) was the last day of the Gyeongbuk Province week-long orientation in Gyeongju (at the Kolon Hotel) and time to leave the 70 other TaLK scholars and head to our cities. Yesterday, I visited my school and today I went back to meet the principal. Everyone is so nice and helpful and (as many Koreans say to Americans) everyone keeps telling me how pretty I am! I am the only American around here so I definitely stand out! I went to a Japanese Restaurant with the principal, vice principal, my mentor teacher, and a few other teachers. They were all very friendly and enjoyed teaching me how to hold chopsticks and taught me some common Korean phrases! Since we were eating fish they taught me that "Sang Sun" means fish and "Sun Sang Niem" means teacher. How cool! Monday is the opening ceremony at school, but I'm not sure when I start teaching yet. All I know is that I will be teaching grades 1-6, I'll be teaching 15 hours a week, and plan on taking Tae Kwon Do everyday after school (for free!!) because one of the teachers at my school teaches Tae Kwon Do at the center down the street. 

8/2/2010- Here I am at the Chicago O'Hare Airport ready for my 14 hour plane ride to Seoul, South Korea!

Korea University in Jochiwon for my 3 week TaLK Orientation with 350 other
English speaking scholars from around the world. Bunny ears compliments of Debbie.

Marshall and I eating a meal during orientation.

My first trip to a Noraebang- a Korean karaoke room that you rent by the hour with a group of friends.

Slowly counting money (Won) from my first cab ride with Debbie and Katie.
The group of 28 students that came to Korea from Eastern Michigan University.
Our signs were thanking our Professor, Dr. Koh, who put in so much time and effort to help us prepare
for our experience teaching in Korea.

Scenic waterfall at the top of Mt. Gyeryong at the Buddhist Temple stay.

A typical shoe stand in Seoul. Too bad I wear a size 9 which is considered
to be pretty big and hard to find in Korea!

A rainy day in Seoul.

Clothes are so inexpensive. These items would cost about $4 in America!

Jin and I outside of the famous Myeong Dong Theater.

Jam-packed buses!

My first experience eating food from a street vendor. Yummy squid!

More street vendor food. Most food costs anywhere from 1,000-3,000 KRW.
This is about $1-$3 American Dollars.

Welcome to Korea...we use squatters!
In Korea there are Western toilets and Eastern toilets.

In front of the King Sejon Statue in Seoul.
King Sejon created Hanguel which is the Korean alphabet.

With Hye Jin the student that I worked with during English Camp.
At the end of camp she wrote me a sweet letter in Korean telling me how thankful that she was
that I taught her how to love to speak English. :)

The rooms 9 girls slept in during English Camp. Oh yeah, there was one shower  for all of us.
Last night of orientation in Jochiwon...WOW we're in Korea!

Korea University-Jochiwon campus on the last day when everyone was
packing up and heading off to their Provinces throughout Korea.

The lovely Kolon Hotel where I stayed for 5 days during my Gyeongbuk Province Orientation.

At the Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant.

Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju with Debbie.

Here we had lots of different fish to wrap in lettuce to eat with our side dishes.

You share side dishes during a typical Korean meal.
Our main dish was Samgyupsal which is pork.

Trying on traditional Korean clothing called Hanbok.

My co-teacher Eunhye and I at the East Sea
with the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu the Great in the background.

This is when I received the Excellency Award during Orientation.
Our orientation leaders nominated someone who served as a Team Leader
 and  displayed leadership skills. :)

Mt. Gyeryong Buddhist Temple Stay.

A monk helping me make my bracelet out of prayer beads at the Mt. Gyeryong Buddhist Temple Stay.

I loved how this looked at the Buddhist Temple!

My first meal in Cheongdo with my Mentor Teacher,  So Youn Hwang.

At a Japanese Restaurant having my first Heshi (meal with teachers). Starting with me going clockwise there is one teacher, a school worker, Jung Ick Ho (Vice Principal), Kim Im Sun (Principal), Kim Yeon Ock (1st grade teachers), Hwang So Youn (my mentor teacher & she teaches 5th grade).
Outside of the school I will be teaching English at, Cheongdo Elementary School.

The English area of my school.

That's my apartment building- it's called Happy Garden.