Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Snow... Snowboarding... Blizzards! IT'S COLD!

Top: Kelsey and Michael- aren't that cute!
Middle: See Yeoung, Olivia and I on new year's eve
Bottom: Muju Mt. Skii Resort

Back to the beginning of last week, right before my vacation started…. it was a short week, only two days… thank god! A vacation was much needed because I was acting like a bit of a Scrooge. I don't know though, can ya blame me? One day before vacation started I was informed of my totally new schedule that would begin the day we come back from vacation in January. I am certainly not opposed to this new schedule… I am actually really excited. I will be teaching a pre-Kindergarten class that will be in session for only two months- winter immersion program (9 am to 12). It's very frustrating when your schedule is switched all around and the only time you have to prepare for new classes is when your supposed to be on your vacation or on the weekends. I couldn't very easily blow this off because I would be frazzled and stressed come Wednesday when I teach. I really didn't even have a choice, management told me I had to create a lesson plan for the first week. I teach ALL day long so I had to come in during my vacation… right after snowboarding and before my trip to Deagu. Luckily my liaison was around to unlock the very cold office. I got all my work done and I am comfortable and prepared to teach tomorrow. Management sat me down for a quick 5 minute meeting to inform me that this class was very important… "Emilie, if you do not do will with this class, no one will sign up for the post Kindergarten class and we will be very disappointed in you" … thanks you guys, maybe if you told me about this class before it was about to start then I would have time to mentally and physically prepare- I tell ya, where is the logic? I'm trying, I'm trying- gotta brush that small stuff off my shoulder. Anyway… now that I am prepared, I am really looking forward to tomorrow. I'm excited to tell you the details next week but I do know that since these students are so young, they do not speak a lick of English (unlike my other students). This is not like teaching typical Kindergarten or even pre school… it's going to be a whole different story. Let's just say, it's going to look great on the cameras because I will be using a lot of manipulatives and body language. Some of my students might not have English names, which means I will get to name them- that will be fun!

A new year, a new schedule- YAY! I am finally going to be normal again… not this going to bed at 4 am… sleeping till 12 pm bullshit.. NO MORE! Did I mention I was doing that a lot in the last couple months, it was awful. Now, i've got the morning schedule. Everyday I will go into work at 8:45 and teach at 9:10… have lunch at school at 12 with my little ones. I will still be teaching the majority of my older classes in the afternoon. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I will teach till 7:05 then I can go home. On Tuesday and Thursday, I will teach till 4:10 and I get to go home around 4:30. This schedule should continue throughout the rest of my time here… 7 more months. In March when the winter immersion program ends, I will start teaching the new Kindergarten class.

Alrighty then, enough about work….ahhhh time for vacation, let me reflect on it. Early Wednesday morning, 5:45 to be exact a rather large group of TN English folk hopped on a bus and headed for the snowy mountains of Muju. It was my first time snowboarding and boy was it an adventure. After gearing up… which took at least an hour and a half, a group of us headed up to the bunny slope where my boss showed us how to snowboard. What a hassle this sport is… fun, but a pain in the ass… literally. I can't tell you how many times I fell on my butt… it's still a little sore. I had a really good crash down the mountain- I wish I could have seen myself because it was quite a spill…. halfway down the bunny slope I got goin pretty fast and realized I had no idea how to slow down, when I attempted to turn (what was I thinking, I didn't know how to do that either) I tumbled twice over my board and pounded my face into the snow, hysterically laughing at myself I laid there with a mouth full of snow and a scaped up cheek. It probably took me at least 10 minutes to turn over and get myself goin again. Ah.. good times! Once more down the bunny slope and I was kinda surprised with myself because I quickly got the hang of it. In no time I went from the bunny slope to the tallest, most difficult slope in Muju. I'm certainly not a pro but I was just happy to stay up and glide down the mountain somewhat smoothly with… hmm… a little control. I definitely knocked over a few Koreas, woops! The "I'm a foreigner" excuse is getting old.. I think!

After a day full of snowboarding we all loaded back into the bus and went to my bosses condo which was about 30 minutes from the Muju Skii Resort (*a little fact: Michael Jackson loved the Muju Skii resort so much when he visited, he asked the Koreans if he could buy it… he was sadly refused- the resort is beautiful, it consists of several different hotels, spas, shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, etc.). We arrived at the condo and dinner was quickly served. We enjoyed some Korean barbecue; It was delicious as always but the meal was not complete without alcohol. Ohhhh man, you know Koreans and their alcohol. It's not a party unless everyone is plastered. My boss loves to see his American staff wasted so that's what happened. The snow continued to fall and the night just got colder and colder… we all got drunker and drunker! The pressure of drinking with your bosses is tough… it's like a sport and sometimes I can NOT keep up- i'm okay with that! Ya know…I often feel guilty when I rag on management because they are so generous… I know I vent and I complain about their finicky ways but it's work. I have to always remind myself that i'm not in America… they are doing things the Korean way… it's not necessarily to put us out personally, it's just their culture. I really do think they mean well… after all my boss is nice enough to invite his American staff to all sorts of events (skiing/staying in his condo, going to his "ham"/wedding… etc.). The night was so much fun.. but it ended rather quickly and early (for me that is)… I think a big group of the guys ended up going to sing karaoke at a bar. The sleeping situations were pretty interesting. The condo was like two apartments, each with about 4 rooms plus a living room/kitchen. There was no beds, just blankets and pillows… everyone grabbed what they needed and found a nice cozy spot on the hard wood floor. I was pretty stiff the next morning but it didn't matter, our time in Muju was so much fun…sleeping was hardly necessary!

We got home from Muju around 10 am, I ran to my bed and slept till 3!!! When I woke up I could not believe all the snow on the ground. I went into work to get my lesson plans done and then headed out into the blizzard for another snow adventure. The snow was so beautiful, perfectly white and soft… not wet like North Carolina's snow. By morning, it must have snowed at least a foot. It snowed all night and through the next morning and all the next day (New Years eve day). My wonderful Korean friend, Soo Yeoung, and I went shopping and shared a tasty Korean lunch. Have I mentioned Soo Yeoung yet? She dates one of my co-workers. Because she is often hanging out in the building, she and I have gotten really close lately. I am so thankful for her… she is so kind, patient and always willing to help me with anything (obviously, she speaks fantastic English). She has taught me so much about the Korean culture. It's really fun to have a close Korean girlfriend… not only do I have a buddy to hang out with but I have a friend who also teaches me so much about the culture I am living in. Later that evening a group of us headed downtown for a New Year's celebration. We enjoyed Papa John's pizza for dinner (brand new to Gwangju and even more delicious than American style Papa John's). You will be surprised to hear that I didn't stay out too late… the one night I decide to go in somewhat early (1:30 am)… it's impossible to find a cab. I had a wonderful New Year's Eve night but I wanted to start the next day without a hangover.

I got up early and hauled a cab to the bus station where I got a bus to Deagu. After arriving in Daegu I got a train to Waegwan (this is where my friend Kelsey and her family live). I was a little nervous to travel alone but it all worked out just fine. I sought out what looked like a Westerner here and there to ask for directions… everyone was so helpful, thankfully! So, let me explain Kelsey and I's relationship: we went to high school together, she was three grades ahead of me (I was a freshman when she was a senior) so we were really just acquaintances, not friends like we are now. Through Facebook, we saw that we were both in South Korea and that's what got us talking. She moved here with her husband and their beautiful 6 month old baby boy, 2 months ago. Her husband, Jason is an officer in the army which is what brought their family to Weagwan (military base). I can not even begin to tell you how wonderful it was to hang out with this family. Everything about their house and their mannerisms felt like home. They took me to the base where I throughly enjoyed some subway and taco bell (what carp… but man, I never loved it so much). Going onto the base was suddenly like being in America. Everything you bought had to be paid for with American money. Being there… In an odd way, was very comforting. The base has a big store, similar to a Walmart where I bought some butterfingers (haaa.. you know I wouldn't leave there without them) and some other American necessities. We enjoyed some of the weekend in Deagu (one of Korea's biggest, most popular cities)- we roamed around downtown and ate some fantastic Thia food. I hope I get the chance to go back and visit with Kelsey's family. They are a sensational bunch! Kels… if you're reading this- i've been dreaming about your breakfast burrito (it has real cheddar cheese ya'll). You were too kind to make me those :)

Korean Facts/Randomness:

-When I was in Deagu, I went to Costco with some friends... who knows about Costco? Well... it's like a Sam's Club or a BJ's. It is exactly the same as America's Costco. They even have the same lunch menu (hot dogs, pizza, etc.). They have the onion machine like they do in America... you turn the handle and it spits out onions for your hot dog. Well in Korea the Asians use the onion machine to make an onion salad. After filling their plate with a mound of minced onions, they squirt ketchup and mustard all over it and enjoy with a fork. When you walk into the food court section of Costco, your eyes immediately water because of the plethora of onions filling everyone's plates.
-In the world, Korea is in the top 5 for the worst/most dangerous/most accidents in driving
-when a woman has a baby, she has to stay in the hospital for a minimum or 2 weeks (my friend Soo Yeoung has a new niece and I was so confused at why she kept visiting the baby and the mom- her sister in the hospital... was something wrong.. no, thats just the Korean ways.
-Poor Soo Yeoung... her full name (Soo Yeoung Jang) translates into "swimming pool"- she said everyone made fun of her when she was little.
- While driving to Deagu… peering out the window at the lovely Korean county side… I noticed something that brought a tear to my eye. In America you typically see cows, goats, pigs, you know. Well, what I saw was rows and rows of cages. What do you think was in these cages? Dogs… all one breed and so adorable. They only eat one breed here- that's what I saw. Oh my gosh- that is one thing I will not taste.
-I love how Koreans are not picky when it comes to food (my kind of people), especially the children. Most of the Korean dishes are spicy or fishy and for them that is what they have grown up on. I think it's great when I see a three year old munching down on some dried squid, fish cake, seaweed and spicy kimchee… ugh, I am really going to miss Korean food when I leave this place.

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