Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

A Much Needed Update

August31

As my Grandma so aptly put it, I am no longer in Asia and this url is incorrect and needs to be updated. I’ve been out of Asia for almost a month now. After a hideous lead-up to a not-so-bad flight (problems with weather, problems with check-in, problems with immigration, delayed flight, missing my connection, taking a new flight — not so bad food, movies, lovely service, no one in my row) I made it to America at 2 in the morning on Wednesday, August 7th.

The days leading up to my flight were a veritable maelstrom of activity. I packed, I cried, I packed, I cried, I hauled my stuff across the country, I taught at a camp, and then two days of nothing. I hung out in Seoul, watched movies, got my hair cut, closed my phone account, then went to the airport.

Now I’m back and it’s strange. I went from the rigidity of a high school schedule, to the intense rigidity of camp, to this. I feel… like I’ve lost my purpose. I have no job, I have no apartment, and many of my friends are still in Korea or are scattered across the globe. Instead of having a year-long contract, I have… nothing. I could get a job and quit in three weeks, or I could get a job and keep it forever. I could live in Virginia forever, if I wanted to. I could move across the country. I could go back to Korea. There are so many possibilities, I feel choked by it all. In coming back to America, I feel like I’ve taken a few steps backwards, though I know that this is a necessary stage in my life. Who would’ve thought I would have stayed in Korea for so long – certainly I didn’t at the start of this all! Who knows what direction my life will take this year.

Though I’ve enjoyed keeping this blog, there’s no place for it anymore. This blog recounted my adventures in Korea, but more importantly my time at school and my time with my students. I don’t plan on deleting it, but I won’t write in it anymore. If you want to keep up with my adventures, you can follow me at http://emafterasia.tumblr.com/. Also, I’ll at UMW on Thursday, September 5th participating in the Life After Study Abroad Seminar hosted by the Center for International Education. It’ll be from 6 to 7 pm in Lee Hall.

Thank you for reading.

 

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“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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Final Friday: Part One

July12

Club class was cancelled yesterday. I was really sad because I actually really enjoy club class this semester, and all of the students in my club class. Those extra two hours were really beneficial, and with my co-teacher we sat down and figured out exactly which utilities we needed to called and one-by-one checked them off our list and made plans to go pay and cancel each of them on Tuesday. Yesterday the floodgates opened and a deluge of third grade students (8, actually. Hardly a deluge but considering how often they leave their hallway for “superfluous” things, it really was a deluge). In the last two periods, three of my former YDAC girls visited and gave me sweet letters and presents, and we chatted about the future and keeping in touch.

One of my favorite third grade boys who the others call “Gazelle” due to his big eyes and freckles has been visiting me during multiple free break periods, sitting down to chat for ten minutes at a time then running back up to his classroom, then repeating the same process. He started coming to me earlier this year for help with a project he was doing, and now that the project is completed he just enjoys talking to me. He told me that most foreign teachers do their job and do it well, but are not always kind and warm-hearted. The third grade students at CPHS love me because I teach well, but I also care about the students, help them by doing extra work, and always smile. I nearly lost it. At this point two other third grade boys (these students, actually) came in to shake my hand and say goodbye. They looked at Gazelle, shook their heads, and told him not to cry. He told me that he might anyway.

Today I met one of my club class girls – probably my favorite club class student. She’s the one who wrote me this note, and is one of the three second graders in the class. She came in and hovered over my desk and hesitantly asked me if I you knew 미숫가루. I didn’t, so we looked it up on naver dictionaries. 미숫가루 [misutgaru: powder made of mixed grains, roasted and ground grains]. Huh. She then told me to wait a minute, shuffled with something on the ground that I couldn’t see, then ran over to the water cooler. She then came back with a cup full of grain tea. She explained to me how she had made it (two spoonfuls of grain, a spoonful of sugar, water, and a little milk) and nervously watched me drink it. I exclaimed that it was good (because it was) and gave me a 40 gram bag of 미숫가루 that was 국내산 (a Korean-made product), and gave me a sweet letter.

It is not even 9 am. How am I gonna make it through this day?

Smoked Eel and Scandalous Gossip

July11

Yesterday I had my final English teacher 회식 (hweishik – dinner meeting). There were seventeen of us, fifteen Korean English teachers, the principal, and myself. We met at a restaurant and grilled delicious slices of eel while we chatted. I sat next to the principal, who had actually left his principal training in Chungcheongbukdo to come to my final dinner. We talked together as the other English teachers ogled (as they don’t normally hear me speak in Korean), and I told the principal that the faculty had tried very hard to make me feel at home at CPHS, and it was difficult for me to leave. He also expressed regret that I was leaving.

Fast forward to halfway through the meal. Due to the smoke from the eel and the poor circulation in the room, it looks like I’m constantly crying. An English teacher makes a joke about how the smoke is attracted to beauty, as the only teachers affected by it were the female teachers. The female teachers and I spent the next few minutes pretending to cry about how I was leaving.

Later on in the meal after one of my coworkers had yelled out that I was SO Korean for being able to answer simple questions in Korean, and how I should just stay in Korea forever, the principal looked at me and asked very directly  “Are there no handsome men in Korea?” I stuttered and stammered for a bit, and answered hesitantly “있어요 (there are).” All of the men chortled as the same coworker (Mr. K) loudly proclaimed “You should date one! How about Mr. C? He’s young and single! He’s the only single one! He’s very handsome, yes?”

Now apart from being super awkward, it is true. He is the only single teacher, and he’s not unattractive. The thing is, I’m actually dating someone right now – a Korean guy, not that the nationality matters to me – but there was no way I was telling my entire English faculty this. Only two of the teachers know that he exists, and only one (my rockstar co-teacher) has met him. So, I was stuck between the rock of telling all of the teachers that Mr. C was indeed attractive, and the hard place of telling them that I was dating a Korean guy, like they had recommended. I chose an awkward middle ground and made a noncommittal sound that vaguely sounded like I was agreeing

“Eurghhhhh.”

After a moment’s hesitation, probably due to my weird intelligible response, Mr. K continues.

“You can have a case like Rockstar Co-teacher!”

“What do you mean?”

“She is married to an American! You are American! You can marry a Korean guy!”

“… hahaha. eurghhhhhh.”

Thankfully after that they started ragging on someone else.

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Notes from CAPS LOCK KID

July11

Remember CAPS LOCK KID? He wrote me a very Caps locky note.

To. Emily

Hi Emily

I’m so sad. Because you will leave this high school. Umm. Very sad news ㅠㅠ.

I used to say “How are you” when I met you in school. Then you say to me “I’m very good and how about you” And I say “I’m fine.” But you hate this word Because this is very routine word.

Sorry. I’m still not perfect.

When I graduate this high school then I will be perfect.

Goodbye

CAPS LOCK KID

July10

Someone told all of the second grade girls that my last day was today. I’ve had hordes of second grade girls run up to me looking anguished while I stop them and explain that no, I will be teaching here until Friday. Goodness graciousness.

Also I received a really nice mini-booklet of notes written by each student that students in class 2.3 compiled for me with my face on it. Unlike 2.9′s cake, I get to savor this one.

rolling paper

 

 

Cake Fail

July10

Oh 2.9. My least favorite second grade class. I’m pretty sure they know it too, as they’re the only class I’ve had to scold pretty much every class. When they’re awake, class is good, but I teach them first period and they’re just so tired. It also probably doesn’t help that they have the scariest most intense homeroom teacher, and I teach them on Tuesdays, otherwise known as death days.

Yesterday I taught them for the last time, and when I walked in they presented me with a cake. A cake. These students for the most part can’t be bothered to wake up when I enter the classroom. And they got me a cake.

 A. Cake.

I promised them that while we would continue the class as per usual, I’d make sure we had enough time to share and eat the cake. They insisted that because the cake was so small I should eat it all myself. I told them that I couldn’t possibly eat  a whole cake by myself at 9 am, and that they should help me. We decided that as the cake was too small for the entire class, I would decide how many slices we could cut the cake into, and then we would use a computer program that generated random numbers to fairly choose which students would receive a slice.

I decided on 8 slices because that seemed reasonable, and so they decided that we would choose seven student numbers. The seconds in-between calling each number were fraught with tension, as each student waited with baited breath, and the seven students whose names were called jumped out of their seats, more awake and energetic than I have ever seen them in my class.

After class, I asked a student to come up and cut the cake for me, as I have cake-cutting anxiety (true fact. I never cut my own cakes. ever.) This student for some reason divided the cake into six slices. The students then realized that they had cut the cake into six instead of eight slices, and so then played rock-paper-scissors to lower the number of cake eaters from the lucky seven to six. After a pretty intense game of rock-paper-scissors, the lucky six grabbed their slices of cake and shoved them into their own mouths and into mouths of friends, like a wedding gone hideously wrong.

Here’s the thing, though – they forgot to give me a slice of cake.

July9

Not to be super down in the dumps (I promise I AM having good times interspersed here and there), but I finally understand the expression “eyes leaking” as I can’t stop crying. Well, it’s not even crying, really, as it is just water leaving my eyes in a continuous slow stream. Half the time I’m not even sad and my eyes start dripping like a broken faucet.

July9

Last week at school then onto Camp F*lbright madness. I’ve sent two big packages home, cleaned and sorted my apartment into different piles of give to friends, take home, donate, and trash, finished my Camp F*lbright lesson plans, and met with friends. I still have so much I need to do.

Hair

June28

“TEACHER. Your hair looks nice today.”
“Thank you! Your hair looks nice everyday.”
“I know. I’m a handsome guy.”

That’s a specific conversation that happened today, but it could be pretty much every conversation I have with my second grade boys.

June28

Today third grade student asked me if I thought he was strange.

I told him that I thought he was a little strange, but I think that most people are strange. They just try to wrap up their strangeness in a normal exterior. He laughed, and agreed with me.

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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.



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