Friday, October 24, 2008

Exhausted.

It's been a LOOOOOONG week at work (and in life). Not anything terribly interesting, just busy and now tired.

Last weekend, Min Gi and I went hiking at 금오산 (Geumo Mountain) in the nearby city of Gumi.

The climb was really rocky and tough (about four hours if you're a super fast Korean hiker). We didn't make it all the way to the top (my knees kinda crapped out about halfway), but there were lots of cool things to see along the way.

An Ancient Fortress


The view from inside a cave. To climb up this cave, we had to use a chain attached to a very slippery rock and hoist ourselves up a steep clime. Min Gi got scared, poor baby.


A waterfall... well... sort of. Korea's been a little short on rain this season.


I'm so unbearably cute. And the view of the fall colors ain't bad, either.


And the best 버섯전 in the world. No lie.


It was nice just to spend the day with Min Gi. He's so much fun.

Check out the whole album. Lots of pretty colors:
Geumosan (Gumi)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Woes at Work.

Why do I always have to make everything more complicated than it needs to be? I really think (I've been told this before) that caring too deeply, too passionately, about too many things is a serious flaw of mine. Certainly it becomes troublesome when people hit a sore spot.

Case in point:
Today I (well, we) received the following e-mail from the English cultures teacher (now here's a rant for another day--why is someone who spent 6 months in the U.S. teaching culture when we have TWO Americans teaching at the school... *sigh*):

Dear William and Diana,

I am [name redacted], teaching American and English culture.
There is a section 'Expand your knowledge', in which we need to ask Americans the following questions and record their answers.
Could you please answer them?

1. Should there be prayer in public schools?
2. Should public school systems provide vouchers that could be used to pay tuition in private schools?
3. Should there be sex education in the schools? If so, what should be taught?
4. Are drugs and violence problems in the schools in your neighborhood? What is being done to protect children in public schools?
5. How important is a college education? What difference does it make in a person's life?


I'm sick of this. I'm sick of being the "representative" American. I have no problem if my students were to approach me and ask my opinions on these or other controversial issues, but to type them up for another teacher to teach them to MY students violates all kinds of student/teacher boundaries.

This school needs to decide if I'm a mascot or a teacher. Because I can't do both effectively.

I pulled the teacher aside and explained to her my concerns about answering these questions. I even suggested that if she wants to "teach" written examples of American opinions that she research some published ones on the internet (I even offered to help her find these).

It didn't help that William had no problem at all with this. *sigh*

So I took the rest of the day, composing my answers (in between, you know, TEACHING classes). Made a hellovalotta work for me I didn't need to do, and stressed myself out. This was the result (which, naturally, I am still dissatisfied with):

Note to students: Before reviewing my responses to these questions, please understand that I have taught in both American schools and Korean schools. Currently, I teach in Korea and you are Korean students and so my answers are probably more relevant to my opinions about what needs to happen in Korean schools, though my opinions are heavily informed by my experience as a student and teacher in America. If I was answering these questions in America, I might answer them differently, as they relate to culture. Please consult me with any further questions you might have.

1. Should there be prayer in public schools?
Public schools are government institutions. I believe that the government should be separate from churches; therefore schools should neither promote any particular religion nor interfere with anyone's right to practice a religion. Prayer that does not interfere with other students' studies or routines should be permitted. Prayer should never be mandatory (compulsory, obligatory) and school officials should not promote or foster any one religion by praying with students or asking students to pray.

2. Should public school systems provide vouchers that could be used to pay tuition in private schools?
I do not support a voucher system. Most of the time the money provided in vouchers by the state is only enough to afford tuition at private schools with a religious affiliation. Public schools should remain separate from church; I believe this includes public money. I also think schools should not interfere with a parents' right to enroll their child in alternate education forms, should they deem it suitable. However, supporting these choices with public funds is ludicrous.

3. Should there be sex education in the schools? If so, what should be taught?
I believe public schools have a responsibility to promote public health, and that includes teaching about practices (abstinence, condom use, monogamy) that would prevent communicable diseases, such as STDs, and to help students understand responsible choices regarding procreation (birth control, family planning). Therefore I believe that sex education should be taught in schools. However, since sex is often a moral issue in culture as much as it is a health issue, schools should be careful about appropriate curriculum and methods regarding sex education.

4. Are drugs and violence problems in the schools in your neighborhood? What is being done to protect children in public schools?
I don't like answering this question in Korea. It's true that America has more problems with drugs and violence in general than Korea does, but if you are not personally involved in gangs and take some basic precautions, it doesn't really affect your life very much, even if you live in one of these "bad neighborhoods." The issue is so complex and so foreign, even to other people in America who haven't been exposed to neighborhoods labeled "problems," that it is difficult to explain it effectively. Often it leaves the listener with stereotypes about race and class that are not true, and that I refuse to promote. I could tell you about the poverty, the time I witnessed a boy get thrown through a plate glass window by a boy from another gang, about the time(s) I called a mother because I was concerned about her daughter's grades and the mother was high, about my neighbors who fought with their children so loudly I considered calling child services more than once... but it would only make you think America is a dangerous place. For those children, maybe it can be, but for most people it isn't.

Schools in America often have counselors, police officers, peer support groups, gang violence and drug awareness education, and other programs in place to offer as much help and support as we can to students who come from families already involved in the activities I have described. It's usually only moderately effective. However, school tends to be the only place a lot of kids feel "safe" in America... and I think that says something good about how public schools are dealing with the problem.

5. How important is a college education? What difference does it make in a person's life?
Personally, I valued my college education because it was a time for me to think deeply about many subjects and try out different intellectual ideas in a comfortable environment, but few people view the "value" of college from an academic perspective. I think our societies (both Korean and American) have over-emphasized the importance of college education to the point that everybody really must go to college to get a good job. It has become a necessity for jobs simply because so many people have college degrees that it is one more way to weed out applicants for a job.

However, most jobs don't require the skills you learn at a university. I wish that both Korea and America could understand that college is for academia and stop believing it is necessary to have a good life. The snobbery associated with not only whether or not you obtain a degree, but even from which school you get it, has grown to the point of ridiculous elitism, especially in highly competitive Korea. Many college graduates I know have no worthwhile skills in businesses and have to learn how to do their jobs once they get hired. Meanwhile, many people who did not finish college are gifted in other areas and make a wonderful life for themselves as artists, entrepreneurs, technicians, writers, and other skill-based professions.

I gave up and sent it, still frustrated.

But I do feel a little better after talking to Leah, and receiving this response from the teacher:

Dear Diana,
Your long and elaborate answer really really amazes me. You thought a lot and made such an elaborate letter.

I appreciate you so much and promise to use it only for educational purposes. What makes me inspired is your professionalism and enthusiasm. Thank you again. I will read it in detail and ask you questions if any. Whatever you might say, I come to think you pursue perfection!


Perhaps, even with my problems, complaints, and frustrations with being an outsider and having been hired in name only to be a "teacher," this school is worth demonstrating some patience. At least I am valued as a human being, despite my foreign-ness.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Whoops...

I just died and came back to life. Sorry about that!

No, really. For the last few days I've been shaking the nastiest little cold I've had my whole time in Korea. I even took the day off Monday, which I rarely do here, and slept all day because I was too exhausted to do anything else. On top of which, work has been super busy because we were preparing for a special observation day that happens in about two weeks. (It's going to be awesome! My students are going to do a mock-trial based on "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe. They have to decide whether he should be executed or whether he is not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Rocking!)

Plus, Gong Bi is freaking out over my being president of the swing club because I haven't appointed the other leaders of the club (I have talked to some people I'd like to help me, and they are considering it, as it does require some work on their part). Gong Bi is a man who worries incessantly and unnecessarily. So he called me, panicked, on Tuesday, while I was teaching an evening class. I tried to call him back, but he didn't answer. When I finally got in touch with him on Wednesday, he sounded like he was going to have a heart attack (now that may have also been from attempting to speak English on the phone... even though he knows I can understand most of what he has to say in Korean), so I skipped taekwondo once again (Monday I was sick; Tuesday I was teaching) to reassure him that everything will be ok. He is reassured. Plus I got to meet up with my friend Lena for dinner. We used to live in the same neighborhood last year, but now I'm on the other side of town and she is in a fancy-schmancy posh 48-pyeong penthouse downtown.

Oh yeah... and she's married. She eloped (sort of) about two months ago with the American guy she's been dating for about three years. Her family was shocked, but the fancy apartment has helped assuage their fears that their eldest is marrying a foreigner (horror of horrors).

So Thursday, my failure to do any kind of physical activity for about five days in a row combined with my illness and stress from the job and personal stuff put me in a funk. I feel so guilty every time I miss taekwondo. I feel like I'm letting my studio down. But the time takes a HUGE bite out of my evenings (9 p.m. to 10 or 10:30 p.m.). Enough that I can't really do anything before it or after it. I was actually so down I was thinking about quitting altogether.

Enter Amanda and William to the rescue. They pointed out that I could just cut back to three days a week. The idea made me happy enough that this is something that must have been really bugging me because I felt an enormous release of pressure. I talked to Kwangjangnim and he said ok, especially because I promised to work out every day I don't go to taekwondo (yay gym membership!).

Finally--I can still do taekwondo, but have some time to spend doing other things at night AND I no longer feel guilty if I don't do it.

Awesome.

The workout last night KILLED. It was all jumping drills. Followed by jumproping (I had to do 500 times, most of the other boys did 1,000 in about the same time frame... god I'm slow). But afterwards, sore as my body was, I felt AMAZING.

So today, I am well. Finally. After about a week of fogginess. It feels pretty good.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yeongju, Bonding with co-workers.

Last Saturday, Ms. Suh, the head of the English department, invited me on a small "girls' outing" to a temple in the countryside. As the weather has been lovely, and I feel like I should get to know my co-workers a little better, I skipped Korean class and struck out for Yeongju and Buseoksa temple. I had fun wandering around, taking pictures, and practicing my Korean (two of the four Korean teachers we went with didn't speak much English at all).

Flowers and Berries


Teachers walking.


All in all, Yeongju was pretty, but the tourist sites were much too touristy for my tastes compared to some others I've visited in Korea. I don't think I'd go back on my own, but it was a pleasant day. View the complete album of our trip for more pretty countryside photos:

Yeongju and Buseoksa


Then on Tuesday, the students began their midterm exams, so the staff all took a bus to Changnyeong for a little bit of hiking and bonding. It was like a field trip for teachers! This trip was a lot more fun because it had more people to talk to and the mountain was much more exciting for climbing, even if the temple grounds were less impressive than Buseoksa's.

I elected not to go on the big climb with about half of the teachers because the pace that the vice principal set was INSANE. However, the climb I did to the "Dragon Place" (I was just too tempted by that name), was awesome fun and I'd totally come back to climb this mountain for real with someone who's willing to slow down a bit!

The temple interiors were some of the most elaborate I've seen. Totally unexpected, since the temple itself was tiny.


Ms. Koh at the top of a rock scramble I just came down. She is my classroom co-teacher (meaning we teach together) and she's awesome. She reminds me of a slightly older Se Jin.


And the views? Breathtaking.


Check out the entire album:

Dragon Place (용선대)


All in all, over the past few weeks, I'd say my country girl self is a bit more satisfied than she usually can be in the very-city-centric Korea (like even small towns feature high-rise style apartments... sheesh!) and I've gotten to know my fellow teachers a bit better, so I'm feeling much more relaxed in my new situation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Korean Gym Confusions.

Now that I've nicely settled into my new routine, I thought about my fitness goals that had been waylaid by my unexpected, but enjoyable, trip to America and all of the insane business in my life the past few months. If you will recall, I wanted to start running regularly (maybe even train for a race) and to lose the last 20 lbs (10kgs) or so that are between me and having the body I'd really like to have. There is a really nice gym facility across the street from my taekwondo studio that advertised yoga and dance classes and also had an indoor pool (a little difficult to find in Korea), so on Monday, William and I checked the place out.

It took awhile to decode the pricing scheme and swimming pool schedule. See... in America when a gym also has a pool, while there are some classes, there are nearly always lanes available for free swimming for exercise. Not so in class-dominated Korea. The pool is only open for free-swimming Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and on weekends and holidays. Also, membership at the gym does not include the free swimming during the week, just on the weekends, so if I wanted to swim on Tuesday or Thursday, I'd need to pay about $3 each time (which is not terribly unreasonable, it just seems strange that it's not included).

Also, the yoga and dance classes are run separately from the health club, so again, I'd need to pay extra to take one. This is a pity, indeed.

But in the end, the gym price struck me as reasonable for Korea, 46,000 won ($42ish) for equipment use (and they have fairly nice new-looking equipment), assistance from trainers, a half hour stretching/strength training class at 8pm (right around the time I'd usually be there because it's just before TKD), and free use of the pool on weekends and holidays. So I decided to try it for a month and see if I liked it. Plus I could check out the classes while I'm there and see which one I'd like to take in the future (as I love gym dance classes and yoga).

William didn't want to join, but he found some of the outdoor (and free) facilities near the club to be worthwhile (they have a jogging course around a soccer field that looked nice), so that's good. I joined and headed upstairs to the trainer room for my "body assessment."

I need to give some background here.

Koreans have a strange understanding of fat and thin in my opinion. Se Jin's nickname in her family, for example, is "fatty." And if you've been following my blog and looked at pictures of her, you'd know she is about as far from "fat" as you can get. I think that maybe because she is tall and has bigger shoulders than most Korean girls, she is "fat." While it is true that there is a narrower range of body types in Korea than in America (because of the whole homogeneity vs. diversity thing), both women and men have many different natural shapes and muscle tone.

The predominant (and preferred) body, for women, seems to be the "stick" figure, meaning thin everywhere, narrow shoulders, hips, and just a little bit of chest. If you don't have this shape, it is difficult to purchase clothes in stores here. You are also thought of as unattractive. Another Korean girl I worked with at Oedae, Jenny, had one of the nicest bodies I'd ever seen (by Western standards) because she had curves. But she always hid it under baggy clothes because in Korea she thought she was fat.

Also, Korean girls seem to be terrified of muscle tone. So I often think even the skinny girls look flabby to me. In America, most skinny girls have some tone, unless they're anorexic or something. When the "dancing girls" on Korean TV show off their midriffs and it's like, "ok there is some flesh," whereas when the Dallas Cowboys reveal midriffs, you're like, "damn, I think I just went a little gay."

Strangely enough, they apply this "everyone from the same country looks the same" mentality to foreigners. So even though I'm OBVIOUSLY fatter than Se Jin or Jenny, they insist I'm not fat because I have an "S-line" meaning an hourglass figure. (Why this is attractive for me and not for them, I have yet to understand). I've been turned away from stores yelling that they don't have my size, but so have my girlfriends who have the same build as Koreans. They look at white skin and think, that person won't fit into Korean clothes. They don't even look at the actual body shape most of the time. It's weird.

Anyhow, I present you with these observations because it helps to understand the strange advice the trainer gave me. He asked me what my goals were. I said I wanted to get stronger for taekwondo. Then he weighed me and took my height and told me that first I needed to lose 20 kgs (yes, seriously... that's 44lbs for the metrically challenged). I just smiled. They hadn't given me a range of healthy weight, they just gave me a number. Because everyone of that height should weigh EXACTLY the same amount...

Then they had their machine scan for fat and muscle composition (I question the accuracy of such a machine, but whatever). So according to the machine, I'm 30% "overweight," but I'm 45% over-muscled and only 12% over-fat... So to lose as much as he wanted me to lose, I'd have to lose 10 kgs of fat (which I want to) and 10 kgs of muscle (which I don't want to). He looked at my results and was really confused for about two minutes and then showed them to me and said that maybe I should just lose 10 kgs. I said ok. Because that's what I was planning to do anyhow.

He made a plan for me this month, which was not as focused on weight training as I wanted it to be, but he said that this month we'll do 80% cardio, 20% weights and then next month I can do 60% cardio, 40% weights. So I guess this month I'll focus on the running.

He had a female trainer show me how to do warm ups and proper form for the back extensions and squats he wants me to do and then set me on the treadmill for 40 minutes and the bike for 10. I surprised myself with how well I can run now. I spent about half of the time actually jogging (I still take "walking" breaks, but they are getting shorter and the jogging intensity is increasing). Then the female trainer had me join the stretching/strength training class. Then it was time for taekwondo.

I was tired the next day, but felt pretty good. I skipped both the gym and taekwondo on Tuesday because we went hiking with the other teachers at school for staff bonding (pictures to come), but then yesterday--even though I was really, really sore--I went back. It was great! I've seen other teachers there both times.

I think I'm going to enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My brief American adventure...

Well... a little over a month ago at this point, I went home for four days. I hadn't blogged much about it because it was a very busy time and very emotional and I think I've only now just begun to recover from the odd sort of depressed feelings it induced in me. But I just uploaded the pictures from the trip to facebook, where you can view the album (click here), so I think I'm about as ready as I'll ever be to talk about it.

Day One

The flight over was awful... two major delays got me stranded overnight in Detroit, but the airline gave me a hotel and meal voucher and it turned out ok as I was still able to make it to RennFest on Sunday as I had planned.

Becca and I drove out there through the beautiful Maryland countryside and my friends Janet and Mike met us there later that afternoon.

Attention Korea: Couple Gear has officially made it to the States, via RennFest weirdos... I love RennFest.


I kept trying to speak Korean to shopkeepers and random people I bumped into. I must have looked like an idiot, opening my mouth to say "감사합니디" and then closed it again and managing to mutter, "Thank you" instead.

After a pleasant afternoon with only one minor freakout at the Fest, being overwhelmed by the non-Asian-ness of it all, I headed down to Shady Grove to pick up Amanda and Good Man for dinner at my folks' house. This was a very nice evening. We got to talk about Korea vs. America to our hearts' content and my dad got to meet Amanda (he's been an "Afanda" for a long time).

Family Matters

The (almost) first words out of my mom's mouth when she saw me at the airport:

"You can't get married and stay in Korea. You can't have my grandchildren there."

Sigh. I know. I miss you, too, Mom. I understand your fears and worries, but let's chill out about this for right now, ok?

It was wonderful seeing my parents. They really are amazing people. And they've been so supportive of me here. But it was hard. After a year of being away, I really could see how unhealthy they are. And I'm terrified. They've both had some major health issues this past year (especially my dad... and, well, I don't want to think about that... I'm not ready to blog about that...). I feel guilty for being so far away, but what difference would it make if I was there? I don't know. It's just so hard to explain this. Especially when I know they read this blog, and I don't want to make them feel bad.

And Brian didn't show up until the last night I was there. I was so disappointed. Especially after my parents had been talking all year about how much better he is and all that.

Two weeks later, he got fired (his job downsized). Maybe he was depressed because he saw it coming, I don't know... but I just... I miss my little brother. I've missed him for a hell of a lot longer than the one year I've been in another country. Again, a whole other bag of worms I'm not ready to blog about (possibly ever).

I wish I'd had more time with all of them.

Day Two

I woke up realizing that I'd lost my wallet--which was horrible since it had my passport in it. I located it in Becca's mom's car and it was recovered later that day.

I went shopping with Mom and Sarah. It was lots of fun. I am wearing size 10 jeans RIGHT NOW. And they're even a little loose. I'm getting in such good shape these days!

Then I crashed. I fell asleep at around 7 p.m. and slept until 7 a.m.

Day Three

Anne came back from her trip abroad and we kidnapped my "brother" Sam to go play tourists in DC. We went to the spy museum. There are lots of silly pictures from this day in the album.

Can you spy Anne spying on the Spy Museum?


Sarah met up with us for coffee, where we spied on Greenpeace volunteers.

Then I safely returned Sam to his home and Anne and I met Becca at Pizzeria Uno's for a deliciously nostalgic meal and lovely conversation.

Friendly Thoughts

I'm lucky to have so many friends with whom I can just pick up with exactly wherever we left off in being able to talk and laugh and have fun with each other. Although I haven't seen many of these people in a year or more, they are my heart. Many of them helped me through significant difficulties at previous points in my life. It is hard to be away from them... but they are all off on their own adventures and there isn't really a geographically restricted area for my friendships.

Friends are friends, the world over. I have some here who will be probably be lifelong buds as well... I feel extremely blessed.

My time was short. There were so many friends I didn't get to see this time around. I wish I could have had more time for them.

Day Four

This was the day I'd been looking forward to the most--sailing with Dad and Sarah! Nothing relaxes me like water. And the Chesapeake Bay is almost a part of my soul...

Dad as captain. This is how I like to think about/picture him.


Again, tons of pictures in the album. You really should look at it. It's here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=55281&l=9a5be&id=671852306

There are even some captions AND if you're a facebook member you can make comments on them.

Final Thoughts...

I'm glad I went. It wasn't enough time, and it definitely contributed to my wishy-washy feelings the last few weeks, and even though the plane ticket was paid for, it was a little expensive, but even so every moment was precious.

I wish I could have written this post better... but it's both too near and too far as a subject matter to do much justice.

My apologies...

I wish I'd had more time.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Gayasan; Melodrama.

Fall weather always makes me want to go hiking. A few weeks ago, over Chuseok weekend Min Gi and I tackled 동봉 (Dongbong, or East Peak) at 팔공산 (Palgongsan). I have been to Palgongsan, the largest and most popular mountain in Daegu, several times. Donghwasa is a famous temple there that I visited last fall and winter. I also hiked to Gatbawi with Se Jin in early spring of this year. I hadn't tried Dongbong before. It turned out to be a bit of a rocky, tough climb (2+ hours pretty much straight up), which we followed up by hiking along Skyline (another 2 hours, with rocky climbs straight up and down, in some places requiring the assistance of ropes) to the cable car area of the mountain. I was exhausted, so we ate and took the cable car back down to the base of the mountain.

This happened when I was still anti-camera, so the only pics I took are on my cellphone. However, we had so much fun, we resolved to go hiking at least 2-3 more times this fall.

Friday was a holiday (the last one before Christmas--eek!), so we woke up at 6 a.m. to head out to 가야산 (Gaya Mountain) for the day. Gayasan has Haeinsa, the temple I visited with Kelly in spring, but it also has several peaks with excellent hikes. We ended up tackling the South Peak, which began in an opposite direction from the trek through the temple. We were early enough that we barely saw anyone else on the 2 hour climb up. It was amazing.

At the top Min Gi made friends with guys from his uncle's hometown who know his aunt, a local politician. They offered to take our picture.


He just looks so darn proud! The metal stairs were one of the cooler parts of the climb. You could see all the rocks below you and it was a little disorienting and scary.


The picture of loveliness, of course, dripping with sweat. Min Gi always tells me I'm beautiful when I'm all sweaty and gross. He's so weird.


Some of the views of the other peaks were just breathtaking. The leaves were even just starting to turn, hinting at future brilliant foliage.


After we finished, we found a place nearby to eat 파전 (pajeon, a green onion savory pancake of sorts--way more delicious than it sounds), 버섯 (mushrooms), and 동동주 (yes drinking after hiking is a bit of a tradition...). I got a little tittled and started pretending I was in Korean dramas. This lead to some silliness...

Oh, why? Why?!?


It was a really great day. We headed back to Daegu, exhausted and slept on the bus. Poor Min Gi had to work, but I got to meet Joey and Leah for Indian food and talking about Swing Club leadership stuff. It was amazing. Check out the whole album:

Gayasan

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Andong, Hahoe, and Thinking

Last Sunday, Min Gi and I went out to Andong for the Mask Festival. I went last year with Samantha and had a great time, especially at the traditional village, Hahoe. Since I enjoyed Hahoe so much last year, that's where we headed almost as soon as we got to the festival.

I had been in a picture taking funk since returning to Korea, but the festivities seem to have awakened the wannabe photographer in me again.

Min Gi with scarecrows. This intense light green color (I think it is growing rice) is the main color of the countryside this time of year. It is beautiful.


A dance company from Buryatia, a former USSR country near Lake Baikal.


The traditional mask dance of Hahoe. The masks are so impressively expressive when combined with the dance movements. It's kind of unbelievable.


As one of the representative white people in the audience, I was pulled on stage to participate this time. Min Gi stole my camera and captured my humiliation.


Traditional Village Upgrade: SkyLife television.


I took lots of great pictures, especially of the dancers. You should look at the whole album:


Andong Mask Festival 2008


After the dance performances, Min Gi and I drank 동동주 (dongdongju), a traditional Korean rice wine that I was first introduced to by Sa Beom Nim, but has grown on me quite a bit since then. I have been in a funk. A really bad one. On the Friday night before this trip I started crying uncontrollably when I got home from taekwondo and didn't stop for over an hour. I didn't know what was wrong. Kelly, Leah, and Min Gi all talked me through it and then I headed out with Kelly to meet people for Rick's goodbye party, and I felt better, but had been in a HUGE funk the whole weekend because of this breakdown and other issues.

So we talked about it. What's on our minds lately. Min Gi asked when I was going to leave Korea.

I said I didn't know (I honestly don't). When I took this job, I had a feeling I would really like it--enough to do it more than the one-year contract I signed for. And I think that feeling has been more than confirmed in the past few weeks. The kids, the co-workers, and the atmosphere really suit me. I also like my new studio and neighborhood a lot.

But I told him about what my plans had been after that--teaching in other countries and things like that. And he asked me if I'd think about staying. Or take him with me to those other countries.

So now I'm thinking. I have a lot of time to think, fortunately. And in the meantime, I intend to have a blast.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Since when...?

... is modelling part of a teacher's job description???

Yesterday, Mr. Jo (a higher-up English teacher at my school) informed me that I would be photographed today for the school brochures and other publicity materials. Although I'm not thrilled with being photographed because I think I look like a moron in most pictures, I understand that as a foreign teacher and the only white person working at my school, such publicity is, in fact, part of my job. I'm not happy about it, but that is how it works here. Part teacher, part crazy-haired, blue-eyed ambassador of the west. Also, in Korea, they usually don't give you the advance warning or ask permission to use your images, so I agreed.

Then Ms. Suh (my co-teacher and the head of the English department at our school) asked if I was going to wear makeup (I usually don't). I said of course, photos turn out better with a little makeup. Then the whole staff room got super excited, as if my wearing makeup to school were an event worthy of great anticipation and speculation. Many people asked me why I don't wear it and took the opportunity to remark that I'm young and my coloring and skin are still good, so I don't need it as much. Sigh.

I really hate that kind of attention.

I've become very tolerant of this attention to my appearance here. Generally, it's not intended to make me feel bad or anything, I just tend to be rather uncomfortable with getting my picture taken or having people comment on my body, style, and use of cosmetics.

But also, being so far from my family has forced me to be a little less camera shy so that my parents (and you, my blog readers) can follow my adventures from across the globe.

However, this summer I've been slacking a LOT with both blogging and photography. Many things have happened that are very worthy of blogging, and I will be updating you about some of them, but I think for the most part I'll just pick up here, in the middle of my new adventures at Taegu Foreign Language High School, on the new side of town, in my new TKD studio, as the newly elected president of the Swing and People Club in Daegu, and fill you in as I go.

To assist with the updating process, I loaded a few random photos from this summer's various adventures for you to peruse at your leisure. Mostly, they are for Mom who requested more pictures of me and of Min Gi.

Here are the highlights of summer about which I have not updated you and will not turn into their own post:

Here is right after Tricia, Leah, and I tackled GongBi for Ben's goodbye swing performance, tore off his shirt, and forced him into a dress. Doesn't he look pretty? The show itself was awesome. I miss Ben and Tricia tons...

Speaking of modelling, here I am at Haeundae Beach in Busan on a weekend trip I took there with Min Gi. I love the ocean, it always makes me so relaxed... even when it is this insanely crowded.

The week before I went to America, we had a rooftop grillout at An Il Taekwondo with Sa Beom Nim, his family, Samantha and her boyfriend Fraser, Min Gi, and May's Mom (the woman we trained with for a month about a year ago). Here is Sa Beom Nim grilling the meat after we'd already devoured amazing shellfish.

Saying goodbye to my adorable students at Oedae was really hard. Although I prefer teaching high school students and LOVE my new job, I miss these little guys and their general insanity. This is Liam and Cody.

After I moved into my new apartment, Min Gi took to torturing Princess more regularly. She is very tolerant of anything he does to her because she loves him so much. More than she loves me, I think.

To see more, check out the whole album, which includes a few photos from the coffee shop in Jeju island... It's really sad I didn't take more pics there. Blame jet lag:

Random Images from Korean Summer 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Synchronicity...

Today has been strange. I woke up and saw William on the way to work and noted that he was looking rather dapper in his sweater vest and tie.

Then my returned-to-America friend Tricia sent me a picture of one Cass Hite, a Utah prospector who named the pass he found in the Colorado River the "Dandy Crossing." Cass and Hite are the top two beers available in Korea. While I'm no fan of the 맥주 (maekju, or beer in Korean), I am told by those that are that their taste resembles the urine of a well-hydrated high school boy who has just come off the soccer field. I believe this from the smell. Needless to say, they are quite the joke amongst the English speakers here, especially those hailing from Ireland who even scoff at Guinness as wimpy.

The existence of a man named Cass Hite is just improbable. I would have said impossible, but there he was. Putzing about in Utah before it was all Mormon. Naming stuff "Dandy Crossing."

When I repeated that William was "dapper" at work, my co-teacher immediately asked what that word means. I explained it using the word "dandy" as a synonym.

"But doesn't that have a little bit of a negative connotation?" She asked, shocked.

I suppose calling William a bit of a girly-man would be far from the worst thing I've called him, so I simply explained that I just use a lot of 옛날말 (sort of meaning "old language") in English because of swing dance and a general preference for anything written before 1900. I have explained my "Neato Torpedo" t-shirt in much the same way.

The meaning of words changes over time. Sometimes I feel like my humor related to this truth is forever lost on Koreans who barely understand connotations of words, let alone how they might change over time. Like my "happy" friends and their rainbow car stickers. I'm so glad the rainbow is free to all in Korea, not just those who wish to identify their sexual preference for the same gender openly. I love rainbows... and everything that's over them.

Sometimes Korea is a bit like Oz--mystical and populated mostly by the short. Often in technicolor. I wonder if Mr. Hite would enjoy Korea as much as I do...

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