Sunday, January 9, 2011

A New Face, A New Name

Top: pig faces... they taste great!! ha... just kidding...
Bottom: some friends enjoying the weekend: from the left: Laura, Wesley, Krish, Katie

Wow… I forgot how amazing it feels to be a normal person and go to bed and wake up at a decent hour! I'm actually eating three meals again.. yes! This week was definitely a lot, but it was great. Work started in the middle of the week; Wednesday and Friday were rather exhausting working from 8:45 to 7:30 but Thursday (my shorter day… 8:45 to 4:20- random times I know) was a nice change/break. I adore my pre-Kindergarten class that I teach early in the day (9:00-12:00). I only have two little girls, they are actually the sisters of some of the Kindergarten students. Jenny and Jenny… wow, thats a doozy- I had to change one of their names. Jenna, one of the Kindergarteners named her little sister and she did not want me to change it so we settled on Jen, haha! This class is a lot more difficult than I thought… I really tried not to go into to it having a lot of expectations because it's nothing like anything I've ever taught before. First of all, these little girls are 5 in Korean age, which means they are 3 or 4 in American age… young! This is their first school ever and a 3 hour day is not easy. The attention span of a 5 or 6 year old is 15 minutes… what is this 3 hour crap? I am constantly switching up and changing activities. For the most part, in these next 2 months my main goal is to get these little girls comfortable with me and school. I am hoping that I can ween the moms out of the room in the next week or so. It was a little intimidating having the moms sit in the room and watch me act like a fool- singing, dancing… you name it… anything to get a laugh or smile out of these nervous little girls. The hardest part about this class is that it's TOTAL immersion which means I can not speak a word of Korea (not that I know much). These little girls don't understand that I don't know Korean so when their moms try to leave the room for a few minutes it's really hard for me to comfort them and tell them it's going to be okay. They look up at me with tears in their eyes saying who knows what and all that I can comfort them with is my smile and the soothing tone of my voice. This week, Jen was blabbing on and on and on and I knew something was wrong but I didn't know what she was saying… "it's okay Jen, let's color and watch Elmo sing a song"… finally, she just ran out of the room, turns out she had to go "she she" (pee pee). Thank god she didn't wet herself ! When Jen and Jenny are content and attempting to follow my directions, I've seen that they are already very smart little girls. They can both say their ABCs and count to 10. Jenny has an excellent memory… I taught them fruit last week and by Friday, Jenny could name 7 out of the 10 fruit without any help. I am so excited to see how my Jens will progress throughout the next two months. Come March, they will be in my Kindergarten class with hopefully more students. Teaching is very rewarding and even more so with the little ones because their progress and growth is so extreme.

At 12:00 when our day ends, we all wash our hands and enjoy a traditional Korean lunch. Lunch is also a lovely benefit in having an early schedule. Emo, the cook is always making something tasty and interesting. For example, on Thursday we enjoyed fish cake and tofu soup, kimchee, rice and miniature salted fish (tiny little fish- marinated in something salty… you eat the entire fish… sprinkle them on your rice like a condiment- pretty tasty I must say). This meal might not sound good to you but ya know what, beggars can't be choosers! When it comes to food… I rarely complain! Luckily I have an hour break after lunch which is nice considering I have such a long day.

I got a new student added to my Leopard 4 class (2nd grade level). She came in without an English name so I got to name her. I thought she deserved a say in what her English name would be, but she had no preference. I asked what her favorite letter was… "K" and so we went from there. I made a list on the board: Katie, Kelly, Kendra, Khloe, Karen, Karla… she was not fond of any of those names. I told her I would brainstorm and come up with something perfect. Thanks to my buddy Luke, we came up with the name, "Kylie"… she LOVED the name and so do I! Thank god these kids have English names because I feel like a total idiot when I try to pronounce their Korean name. My friend Soo Young is the only Korean I know who does not have an English name… I like that about her. By the way… "Soo" is pronounced "Sue".

I joined a gym this week…. I gotta get my body looking fit since I'm hopefully going to be frolicking on the beaches of Taiwan next month for the lunar new year break. The gym is nothing fancy but it's got just what I need. I got a great deal too… about 130,000 won for 3 months, including gym attire (equal to about $110). This gym attire is not the cutest but I'm working out so who cares! Plus, less sweaty laundry… I mean, hell… I only packed 5 T-shirts anyway. When you go in, you can not wear the shoes you came in. Technically, the shoes you wear in the gym have to be indoor shoes… never worn outside (shhh… don't tell on me). The locker room is naked central- my god! There is a giant shower room attached to a locker room. Women don't bother to even put some panties while they are fixing their hair, putting on make-up… bla bla bla- everything! One of these days, I'll take a shower and see what it's like, it will only add to my experience. I've heard the Korean women are very interested in foreigners... eyeing you from head to toe (nothing least I hope not?)… it's not like I've got 3 boobs or anything so maybe the stares will be minimal.

This weekend my friends and I ventured out into town for a day of "let's see where the subway takes us". I am disappointed in myself for never taking the subway… as directionally challenged as I am, I could handle this. I will say, it's only one line and one of the stations is right next to my apartment. We took a subway to Yang Dong Market… WOW! When we got off we were amazed and it didn't stop there… wide eyed with curiosity and excitement, we wondered through this spectacular market taking pictures of everything. This is one of those fantastic Asian markets you would see in movies. It started off as a fabric market. There were rooms and rooms or beautiful, bold satin and silk and women ready to create any type of hanbok (traditional Korean dress)that your heart desires. The fabric rooms led into a covered outside where we saw everything from fresh fruit and veggies to giant manta rays to whole/fresh pig heads. We didn't buy anything that day but I am really looking forward to going back and purchasing a whole plethora of things. My friends and I finished off our day with some delicious margaritas and nachos at a Mexican restaurant near the college campus, Chonum University.

Korean Facts/Randomness:

-This week came with quite a lot of name changes. We got a new Korean staff member and he didn't have an English name. He came in with a smile, a sweater vest and, well… I don't know, there was just something regal about him- in a good way of course. He was just jolly and happy! Iian didn't even have to think twice when our boss said, what should we name him… right out of his mouth came, "Stuart". Just like that, he had a name! I love it!
-After a woman has given birth, she not only stays in the hospital for 2 plus weeks but she is treated like a princess. Koreans think that after a woman gives birth, she is extremely delicate. She shouldn't try to do anything for herself… this includes walking.
-Have I told you about a Korean grocery store experience? Well, I don't think I have so I must enlighten you… When you go into the store you can't just grab a cart, you've got to insert 100 won (10 cents) into a little slot on the top of the cart and stick in the attached key and then finally, your cart is freed. Ready to shop… if your going to get any produce, you must find someone who works there to weigh it and post a sticker on the item. Once you've gathered all your things, go through the checkout line where you put all your things right back into your cart unless your me… after the 15th time and decide to just buy a special "E-Mart" bag. Why don't they just bag your things? It's not that easy… you gotta get a box. Okay, so after your things are back in the cart you head over to the box center. Now, these boxes are flat so you've got to fight your way in (remember, you've still got your cart full of items, it's not just you) , grab some tape and quickly put your box together. Once you fill up your box, put it back in your cart… if it fits and go return the cart. Once again, stick the key in the slot and yay, out pops your 100 won. Here comes the hard part… hauling a cab with a giant box at hand while everyone else is trying to do the same thing. Do you see why I decided to buy myself a special GREEN, "E-Mart" bag?! I never plan to buy more than what will fit in that bag and I save myself some aggravation.

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