Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

Language Exchange and How it Leads to Acupuncture and a Career in Rapping

April8

That may be the longest blog post title I have ever written, but it’s fairly accurate.

Let’s start with the acupuncture, shall we?

In Korea oriental medicine is fairly popular, especially in the countryside and among older people, but many people outside of that demographic use it. Everytime I get sick my host mother suggests I visit the 한의사 (의사 is doctor, and 한 comes from 한국 which means Korea… so basically the Korean, or oriental medicine, doctor) because she knows I dislike hospitals, and oriental medicine is a lot cheaper. I’ve never really felt the need to go because I am incredibly stubborn when it comes to disease in general and have always been of the mindset that rest and water cures everything, and also because I am fairly skeptical about the efficacy of oriental medicine. The main thing that would prompt me to go to an oriental medicine doctor would be curiosity.

During CLEA I had hurt my wrist and while it is much better (I can move it!) it is still not completely healed. I found this out the hard way while attempting to do push-ups at hapkido which, in hindsight, was rather stupid. It’s very frustrating that 2 1/2 months after I hurt my wrist it still isn’t completely healed, so when a fellow hapkido-goer (an adult who’s relatively new to the academy and loves to practice her English with me) exclaimed that she was a nurse and her husband was an oriental medicine doctor and they could look at my wrist for me, I said sure why not. I didn’t realize it’d be immediately after my 8 – 9 pm hapkido class.

So there I am, in a car with a woman I don’t know very well, about to go to an oriental medicine doctor. Also, what do oriental medicine doctors normally do to hurt body-parts? Stick them through with needles. That’s right, I had unexpected acupuncture.

Acupuncture in itself is surprisingly painless. The doctor explained to me (mind you it was in Korean, so I only got the basic gist) that the idea of acupuncture is that your “chi” (energy flow, life force, however you want to paraphrase it) is blocked, and so to release the pressure and to create a road for the chi to smoothly flow you strategically place needles both in the blockage and where you want the chi to go. He put four needles right where my wrist meets the base of my hand on the side opposite to my palm, and one in the crook of my elbow. The only painful part of acupuncture is that you have to sit still for ten or fifteen minutes, which means that every time you reflexively move (like when the doctor’s adorable 18 month-old daughter decides to throw a book at you), the needles move. Ouch.

I couldn’t help thinking as I sat in this strange apartment at 9:30 with needles in my arm that this wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t an English teacher with some knowledge of Korean. Life as a Native English Teacher can be very strange sometime. I’m apparently going again tonight and I’ll try to get pictures this time.

So I have tried to make my advanced students rap, and I have officially decided to call this lesson a failure. Hey it’s a learning experience for me too, right? I had taught my most advanced class how to rhyme, and taught them how to make couplets (my personal favorite: “there is a snake in this cake”) which they proclaimed was “teacher! easy!” so I decided that next week they could handle rapping, especially as we had successfully rapped with a pronunciation lesson last semester. So the next week (2 weeks ago) we listened to Eminem, practiced rapping, then I told them they were going to create their own raps, by writing four couplets in groups of four on a subject I assigned, and then battle. They freaked out. We worked all period on the raps (I let them use electronic dictionaries and an online rhyme dictionary) and then I told them they could have more time the next week.

The next week I wasn’t there because of the Jeju conference.

So the next next week, which would be today, they brought their raps and I told them that I would give them more time, however I had a surprise prepared for them that would hopefully raise morale. First, I reminded them of my class rules:
1) Respect the teacher and other students
2) Do not be afraid to make mistakes
3) Do your best
4) Have fun!

and stated that numbers 1 and 2 were the most important of the rules. I then told them that I knew last week’s lesson was difficult (cue groans of agreement) and keeping that in mind, I also wrote a rap following the same rhyme scheme I made them use. In Korean. I then told them that it was really bad and not to make fun of me… and here it goes:

저는 영어 선생님인데
한국 말 조금 밖에 못해
그렇지만
2 학년
1 반 공부를 잘하고
재미있는 학급이에요 요 요!
이 학생들 대박!
매일  반짝 반짝!

Well, I think that my rap got the point across that I wasn’t expecting them to be 2Pac. However, they really enjoyed it, and though “rapping in Korean” isn’t in my job description and was something I never even imagined I’d do… I think it showed them it was okay to be silly. We did some of the raps today, and will finish the rest next week.

No but really who am I kidding, I’m obviously meant to quit my job and pursue my dream of rapping. Sign me up with JYP as I am obviously a Korean rap legend-in-the-making.

Peace out homies,
Em Teach-izzle

Realizing that some of my readers can’t read Korean, I just plugged my rap into Google Translate (which would be my first instict upon seeing a foreign-language rap) and got a very… um… interesting translation, so I’ll provide the translation here so you can see how incredibly basic my rap is. I promise for those of you that can’t read hangul that in Korean it rhymes:

I am an English teacher
I can only speak a little Korean
However
Grade 2
Class 1 are good at studying and
They are a fun class yo yo [Note: 요 is a very common verb ending, and it actually sounds like “yo” so I had fun with that]
These students are awesome!
Everyday they are bling bling.

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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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