Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Concerning my view

That's right my trusty captive audience, it's the first mid-week post since...oh...September. You caught me in a writing mood, or well I caught you in my writing mood I suppose. I'm a little restless and can't sleep so I resorted to what has become a little habit of watching cars driving by in my dark apartment. I swear this is not the mad axe-murderer practice that it seems. I've mentioned before that my apartment is on the 10th floor, and it's almost on the corner of one of the behemoth Matrix-style-growing-field complexes. And, it's on the busiest street in Daejeon. So, it almost feels like I have my little isolated perch from which to keep tabs on the city. I frequently imagine that the road is a giant vein and I'm watching the pulse of cars passing through. If I get up at 4 AM for a drink of water, I kind of "check the city"- a little glimpse at what has, in my mind, become "my road" to check that everything's still running as it should and briefly speculate about what they're doing driving through the city at 4 AM.

I see this side of Daejeon every day and it has become a familiar face, so in many ways I'm surprised I haven't really mentioned it before. So, a portrait. Well, the most interesting thing is the road which I said before. It kind of became a game to me where I like to "catch it" unawares when it's empty but this is rare- even at those 4 AM checkups the pavement is never void for long. It's kind of this same silly satisfaction that you get when someone you're close to trusts you with an unflattering secret or something when there aren't any cars. And yes, I realize I just personified the road as a thing that I have a relationship with...maybe I've been living alone for a liiiitttle too long. Ahem. I will say in it's defense that it is a very well behaved road, though, I hear maybe 4 honks a week tops, I so love polite Korean drivers. (Although being in a taxi here feels unnervingly like the Indiana Jones ride in Disney World) Well, to continue the aerial tour, then there's the opposite apartment building because mine is one of a million cookie cutters that dot the entire country. I do a surprisingly little amount of people watching- mainly because the planners were smart and made the buildings face the same way so that my big window faces the opposite's little window side. I haven't really seen anything worthwhile whilst washing my dishes or anything so that's the unexpectedly boring right side to the view. The other huge part of it, on the left side, is the biggest church in Daejeon, complete with a dome, tower, and subtle fifty foot floodlit cross with another mini cross on top of it juuuuusst to be on the safe side. I will say that I very much appreciated the floodlights when it was snowing though, it lit the whole air up with flurries and it was totally magic. It has a delightful coffee shop that I go to now and again. And...beyond the church there's a crane that's been there the entire five months. They're constructing a new high rise building just up the road and luckily they haven't gotten very far because beyond that, I can see a tiny bit of Government Complex park and beyond that, more high rises. It is surprisingly non-Asian until I crane my neck to the very left and see the sparkling neon blue lights flashing the "POP" and "JAZZ" signs. I've always meant to check out that bar. There is also the S-Oil gas station with its own understated shade of blinding neon. This particular station has a hidden talent though. It's only a dinky, squat little station but it's light has managed to defy gravity, crane up ten floors and sneak inside my balcony windows, in through my double paned bedroom windows directly to my bed. We are not talking an aura or a corona, this is a yellow laser beam. It overturns the laws of physics. But, we've made our peace and I sleep fine now. Except when I stay up writing of course.

This whole thing is symptomatic of my whole time in Korea. I'm 10 levels up and similarly, I can't escape that I am always and irrevocably foreign. I am on the outside looking in or down or through the fishbowl. I'm not as frustrated by this as I was maybe two months ago because it does give me perspectives completely denied to Koreans. I have the luxury of comparison and distance and it's taken me quite a long time to see this as a potential tool and not a hindrance. In England, let's be honest, I was practically more English than the English so this is new like everything else here. But, it's not without merit. One more little cultural snippet I recently came upon was during a conversation with some of my Korean friends about cultural branding and how projecting a defined national identity is very much related to business prospects. These are like cultural buzz words developed as a particular national image is projected over time. For example, say US and people may think of burgers, movies, freedom, individuality, greed, any number of things. But, as I've said before, Korea has practically zero cultural branding. They have not had the resources or leisure to be entirely self-conscious. As Korea continues to economically develop which it most certainly will, this will both be a cause and effect of it's future trajectory. We talked a little bit about what that national brand identity may pan out to be- anything from K-Pop mega-stars to the boiling stew of emotion known as Korean dramas to kimchi. My favorite candidate is this concept known as "cheong". I just learned about it- or rather I knew about it but I learned the term to describe it. It's nearly impossible to translate into English but it encompasses concepts like solicitousness and hospitality and tact all into one. It really bottom-lines into this pervasive concern for others. I have really felt this during my time here- people calling taxis, paying for meals, polite and courteous texts. Everything and anything is done to maintain the exalted social fabric of Korea. This is one of my favorite things here and I am satisfied to have a better word than "nice" with which to elaborate.

So, that was my late(ish) might musing. I do hope, as I've said before, that people leave a comment or two. I've read this in other people's blogs and totally agree that writing on the internet feels completely one sided like I'm mainly writing to myself, so it's really validating to have that contradicted with replies. So, hit that button. You know you want to.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Concerning five months

Yep, folks, it's official- I am over the five month mark. Weird. Especially so considering that as of 3 days from now I will have been here longer than England. A large part of me still totally feels like I am cheating on Norwich but oh well, it will always be my first love, we'll always have London. Last week...hmmm....stories. Oh, Columbia has started to regale me with K-pop (the loving term applied to Korean pop which is basically US music rewind 15 years to all of its nineties choreographed boy band glory, translate it into Korean except keep a few nonsensical English words for good measure and there you go). Their favorite, which Noah in particular really loves to bust out, is "I wan nobudynobudy buuuuuchoo cho cho I wan nobudynobudy buuuuchOO" which immediately brightens any phonics lesson. I did have to deal with the aftermath of a spontaneous fight in one of my classes which was shocking as this one is docile as a puppy- go figure that it wasn't my late afternoon seething-boiling-rage-at-being-alive teen class next door but the chipper 11 year olds. Meh, no matter, I soon set them to rights and gave them a stern talking to worthy of my father. I consider that an accomplishment given the language barrier.

I had pretty good food this week, come to think of it- I busted out some lemon garlic salmon with couscous on Tuesday. I cooked dinner for a friend Wednesday night but that was a humbler omelet and hashbrown attempt that turned out to be friend congealed potatoes that still tasted really good with ketchup. Whatever. Thursday, another friend and I had dinner at this great local place with these delightfully crazy ahjimas making fun of the Korean TV next to us and badgering me about when I was coming back to them. I tried ramen (or lamyeon to be all local about it) which was very Koreanized. Having watched the cultural masterpiece of accuracy on all things Japanese, "Ramen Girl" with Brittany Murphy, I knew enough about ramen (or thought I did) to expect a thin slice of pork something and egg and savory goodness. Yeah, Todo, we're in SoKo and the ramen follows suit. This was spicy, red, and with pepper vegetables floating around with the barest hint of egg. Huh. We also had some chumchi kimbop which is the tuna varietal of the Korean answer to sushi except substitute raw fish for lots o' veggies with cookied fish or meat. It. Was. Delicious. Mmmmm. That was a definite hit. Happily full, I waddled over to the move theater where we saw Avatar. Yeah, everything you've heard about it is basically true. Terrible acting. Wooden dialogue. Luscious graphics. When I got over being slightly nauseated and clutching my seat rests for support in the more dizzying scenes I did marvel along with the global masses, this is definitely a film for the history books.

Anywho, Friday was Friday. Somehow it was the end of the week which I am increasingly disoriented by how quickly the weeks are passing by. Level Eks convo was normal level...this week about the generation gap. Interesting perspectives on the conservative culture here- both in business, how younger workers are really really expected to hold the company up and are less glad to do so, how women in particular shouldn't smoke because it's not feminine (bit my lip) and how kids these days in general just seem to have missed the mark a bit. I did rally some points for the young side in making a case for the value of being allowed to make mistakes and revitalized creativity. Afterwords was also the same- although I did learn some more about the word "oppa" which was interesting. I said last week that younger girls call any guy in their same generation who is older than them "oppa" which literally means older brother. However, in addition to meaning that, it is also friend, baby, lover and a combination of all three. On the one hand, a lot of my guy friends say that guys LOVE to hear it because it means that they are regarded in a really good light by a younger girl and they immediately feel protective and want to spoil them and stuff. On the other hand, it can be misread as an opportunity to become romantic and make wives reeeeeeally jealous. Tricky barrier. I thought that was really interesting and pertinent as I am definitely getting to be good friends with some Korean guys a few years older so this is pretty important to get down. Bah! I'll never navigate the complexities of Korean culture.

Next morning, I slept in which was delicious and caught up on all of my American shows. I am proud I've logged in a borderline sad amount of TV watching because it really is a lifeline to home and it makes me feel connected so I can rationalize it in my head. That night, we all met the Korean teachers from my school for dinner and I ate...wait for it...FAJITAS! This is big, kids. Really big. Like Niel Armstrong big. Decent, authentic tasting Mexican. Not only in Soko, in Daejeon. Mhmmm. Good find. The company was also really fantastic, I had such a fun time talking with the other women. Most of them are in their late 20s or early 30s and really sweet adorable people. After dinner, we went to a bar and I had the most scrumptious raspberry mojito ever and then we went to another bar where a friend attempted to teach me to play pool. Poor fool. Haha. Needless to say, this will be repeated in the future, not bad evening. Sunday I got groceries (and went fruit crazy- tangerines, strawberries and grapefruit) and mopped as my floor was probably dirtier than...somewhere really dirty. We then met some friends for bowling. 2nd game I got a 92. For anyone who knows me this is pretty unheard of so I broadcast it proudly...especially as I got this random bath soap for getting a strike. Oh, Korea. There were these two Korean women who were bowling for the first time. They both bowled better than I did. One of them in particular, this little waif of a woman, had this uncanny ability to totter towards the lane like a bird (and nervously retreat back in these little panicky steps if she didn't like her approach) and gently, awkwardly, and consistently hone the ball towards the pins with the precision of a Russian missile. Go. Figure. After we went for ja jeon myeong so that made for a happy Becky. Today was a goodish day- no catastrophes and some nice belly laughs with some of my classes. There was this new kindergartener who was wandering the halls of ECC willy nilly and reducing one of my Odyssey classes to hysterics.

Anyways, nothing in particular on the horizon- busy end of session week and session. But cheerful as always!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Concerning...yeah, basically same old.

Well here I am in my faithful end of week post, listening to "The Swell Season/Strict Joy" which is the follow up album to the movie "Once". It's really good by the way, if you like really organic and relaxed music. Last week (was it a week? I'm not convinced...) catapulted past my head with all the speed of a...catapulting machine...? Ahem. It was a fast succession of "busy nothings" (still one of my favorite Jane Austen phrases) what with intensives week number two and really getting into the thick of graduation prep. NYU and Columbia will rise admirably to the occasion and are already beginning to do so. Since NYU in particular is my responsibility, I feel more pressure than ever to ensure that they "perform" well for their parents, so we've been practicing every day and I've extracted a promise signed in blood that they'll do the same at home. I also feel a little more anxiety than normal because as 7 year 3rds, they've been learning English since they were 5 and are the best in the program so they'd better be pretty darn fluent. Hence the 1/2 page typed speech that they all wrote and are memorizing and perfectly busting out. This would take even me a good hour to get down much less THEM. They've got the choreography nearly perfect and almost all the words, so progress is good. I've now got about 5 weeks to polish, of which I intend to make good use. Part of me feels like I've missed my calling for Broadway as the end of almost every class goes something like "Smile! Turn, hand, turn, fingers, turn, and CIRCLE!" All this practice does raise little maggots of guilt in my conscience... especially when one of my favorite little 6 year olds kindly informed me in perfect English that, "Becky Teacher, if I sing 'We are the World' one more time I will die." Needless to say we took a break after that and played a rousing, conciliatory game of "find the hidden glue sticks" which for them is the best thing since sliced bread and the wheel...or kimchi, I guess, for Korea. A very large part of me thinks that this element of the school is a little ridiculous. These kids aren't even in elementary school yet for Pete's sake (who's Pete??), and yet we demand them to be little scholars. PARTICULARLY after I had that comment, I try really hard to keep classes fun and even treat graduation stuff like a treat where we get to sing and dance at the end of class. Columbia showed me the dance they are doing and are achingly endearing in their little moves- they have to fall down at one point and all crumble into this disheveled heap of child before popping up for the next verse. They also all have to introduce themselves with twelve separate greetings so I really had to stretch my English colloquialisms to think of them but I'm convinced it's for the better as I can not WAIT to see the most timid boy in class break out the gangsta fingers with "Yo! I'm Daniel!" or David's unwitting tribute to Friends, "How you doin'?" All my kids seem enjoy it most days so that helps...but then I see the hand picked 20 dollar a pop individualized princess and prince costumes that they'll be wearing and get freshly boggled, despite how freaking adorable they'll undoubtedly be. The parents want a show, they'll get one. One question though, WHERE AM I??

Graduation aside, the week passed. There's a cute new office worker at the school which is not a bad thing in the least. Friday night was time for Level Eks again (English Club) because I have no life haha. It was surprisingly fun actually. We talked about the internet and what it can do. It did make me think slightly twice about this blog but I figure I've really said nothing for which I'm ashamed and I haven't even mentioned that person I murdered so I figure I'm golden. There was a new Mongolian guy there and he was nice, but the only reason I mention him is that his appearance stuck out like a sore thumb to me and I immediately knew he wasn't Korean. Embarrassing confession...I've been guilty of lumping all Asians together in the past but I'm getting much better at distinguishing them. It was really obvious to me that this guy was completely different so now I can tell Mongolian from Chinese from Japanese from Korean. So, that's good.

The best part of the night was when we went out to our traditional hof afterwords though, I had a great conversation with "Mission," a very cheerful and very outgoing and very middle aged member of the club. I had a chance to talk about some of my impressions of Korea and have them explained or validated. I think one of the biggest things that continues to sink in is how incredibly vital age is to the Korean social fabric. One of my Korean friends was trying to teach me all of the different titles...unni (a girl's big sister), noona (a boy's big sister), oppa (a girl's big brother or boyfriend), appa (dad), ama (mom), ahjussi (grandpa), ahjima (grandma), hyung (boy's big brother) is rare for a Korean to ever address each other by name. If you are even one year younger, it colors an entire relationship and you're expected to be in the submissive role your entire interaction. Funnily enough, it is actually somewhat taboo to be friends with someone of a significantly different age BUT it is completely fine to date if it's the guy that's older. You can fall in love, just don't hang out with each other...haha. Obviously, this doesn't apply to Level Eks as there are so many foreigners and they know we aren't familiar with that. Also, I mentioned how the whole of Korean society is grouped off into couples. The entire country is built for twosomes- movie tickets, popcorn and soda deals, restaurant menus, matching outfits...EVERYTHING. You see people walking and holding hands everywhere...yet, you never see a Korean couple kissing. Many little nuances exist that I love to tease out because it makes me feel more connected to my surroundings. One more little detail that I learned that night is that there's a dried fish hanging above the door of the bar...I always thought it was decoration a la Minnesota style taxidermy but apparently, it's spirit food to ward off ghosts. Most Koreans apparently believe in some form of supernatural afterlife, including a nine tailed fox version of a vampire. Huh. Guess one tail wasn't scary enough.

Friday night became Saturday morning and Renee, our friend Nikki, and I made our way to Seoul's Disney-copyright-infringed Lotte World. For what it was, I had a good time. There was even one descent-ish roller coaster. There was a "Pharoah's Fury" ride that we got to after a reasonable 70 minute wait that was totally Indiana Jones 2.0 from Disney World and a balloon ride thing and the rocking ship and a Sindbad water ride. I wanted to go on the more serious rides (having lost my fear of amusement parks back in May with my Theta pledge class in Idaho in an attempt to flee finals...) but I had no takers, so alas, the cheese stood alone for that day. Speaking of food, I had the most delicious freshly made churro in the park, and the most disgusting mystery meat fast food. Basically canceled each other out.

We got home, I slept, I talked to a lot of people this morning which made me happy and had a particularly good chat about grad school with Schaffer, my brilliant sophomore roommate who is currently getting her MFA in London and setting up her first show in London's oldest department store. My qualms about UW are on the decline, I'm running out of reasons not to do this. It's a good school. I love literature and will always be a book nerd. I am thrilled at the prospect of research and getting published. This is a very viable future that I've constructed in my head...understandably, dad has been much more "You have castles in the sky. Good, that is where they should be, now make foundations under them" (OK that's more Thoreau than Endres) so I need to get a little more information about job prospects which does daunt me, but I like what I am finding out. After that, I watched TV, peeled myself off of my couch, did dishes, pilates, groceries and went to get Indian with Chad. Mmmmm curry, a worthy end to any day. Although, the Chai was a bad decision because even 4 hours out, I'm still typing like a fiend. Sleep prognosis could be better, but oh well. Love you all!!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Concerning WINTER

Today, it was about 40 degrees outside which was a total heat wave compared to the previous week. Last monday, we got a little snow dump which made the sidewalks lethal through today. Given my coordination, I'm pretty happy to have only fallen once so far (and that was in 5 inch boots so I had it coming). Despite the treacherous traction, the snow was kind of magical when it did fall down, I had a very Christmas-card moment with NYU watching it through the window. Speaking of, graduation preparations are well on their way for our kindie program. At the end of February, all of the classes move up and the 7 years move out to elementary school hopefully augmented by our afternoon program. Columbia is doing a little song called "These are my hands" that goes through all of the functions for each body part and is pretty cute. NYU is my territory and I've got them doing paragraph long speeches complete with a rendition of "We Are the World" choreographed with sign language. For kindergarten. Hold your applause, welcome though it is haha. IF we pull it off (and with 6 weeks to go there's hope) then it will be darn impressive for all of those parents so I think it will go well.

In other news, besides being done with the first week of our intensive month (extra classes), the week was fine. I forgot to mention an odd circumstance last week that new year is done, I am officially 24 here. I'm 22 at home. Hmmmm. The weird thing is that I will never again say 22 when someone asks me how old I am (even though I still have half that birth year to go) because by the time I get back home, I'll already be 23 in American years. The discrepency is for two reasons by the way: 1.) Koreans all turn one year older at the New Year, not their birthday. 2.) Koreans start counting age in the womb. So, either way, my young 20s are quickly running dry. As I am the youngest person here but one, there have been no crises yet but I make no promises, haha. Oh and I'm also SLOOOOOOOWLY learning more Korean. I now can say hello, hello on the phone, goodbye, thank you, understand?, big sister, big brother, mom, grandmother, grandfather, I'm American, go right, go left, I'd like, I'd like to go to, stop here please, and excuse me. Better! Well, going in the right direction at least. My new goal is to learn the characters so I can properly read. I actually feel slightly motivated which is a nice and welcome development.

Anyways, I tried a new food this week- Korean porridge. Yummy! I didn't try a terribly traditional version (it was chicken and cheese) but what I had was good, it is basically rice soup with fabulous salted beef as a side and spiced cold fruit tea for dessert. Friday night was English club yet again. During the discussion about New Year's resolutions, one of my Korean friends said that last year, he wanted to hug his mother for the first time, which he did end up doing. Let me preface this by saying that this friend is young, outgoing and playful. He said that she was absolutely shocked but also pleased. Because he's from the country, his village is incredibly conservative about physical expressions of affection. This absolutely floored me. I knew Korea had and has different customs, as well it should, but I think living in a city, it is all too easy for me to forget that I am not in the United States. I've had those realizations all throughout my months here but this was the first time that I had such an ingrained assumption completely overturned. I simply cannot imagine a society where people have NEVER hugged their family members. I know, of course, this in no way reflects the amount of love or intimacy in his family but just their completely different manners of displaying it. Speaking of family, at the bar afterwards, one of my Korean friends and I decided to be "little sister/big sister" which you do if you are close to someone here- you call people uncle, or older brother or sister or grandma or grandpa. It is very sweet though, so now I have an "unni". I also met another very nice Korean woman who said that my eyes sparkle when I talk about my kids and that I look exotic. I must say, I'll miss the steady diet of ego-boosts when I leave here.

Saturday, I woke up too early to go to Jeon-Ju with Renee. We walked all the way to the east side of government complex (which translates to really far for anyone who doesn't know Daejeon geography) and met one of her friends who works at another branch of my company. We walked around their really decent shopping area, scoped the blatant knock off designers in the store and I bought "Dracula" in the book store there. I swear books are to me what shoes are to most women, I am so hopeless in the face of a display of pretty colors. Oh well, I can justify it because it is somewhat educational and because that particular one is a classic...right? AND, at least my addiction is $7 a pop, not $100. I think I've just about rationalized it to myself. Afterwords, we went and got bibimbop which is basically spicy rice stir fried with egg and vegetable. Jeon-Ju in particular is famous for having invented it. To be honest, and this is a little embarrassing given how worldly and mature and cultured I like to seem, I kind of prefer our kindergarten's version. I think that amounts to a hanging sentence to admit that here so I'll confine my opinions to cyberspace. It wasn't bad as such, but it included some funky sides and had a ton of weird vegetables in it.

After lunch, we checked out a gate, an old Christian church where lots of people were martyred (most of Korea is actually Christian go figure) and then the famous Hanok Village. This is a pretty cool find as it is basically a whole neighborhood of surviving traditional houses that just bleeds out into the city. We wandered around and saw some paper making shops, some old royal quarters, an old wine museum (where I purchased some cheap mementos- it is kind of like runny port) and wandered around the alleyways. My favorite part was when we climbed this little hill smack dab in the middle of the city- not even a hill, more like a stubborn mound that juts up with no preparation. On the very top, there was an open air pavilion that was about 5 ft off of the ground. It was snowing and I was the only one to go in it and it was amazing- the hill fell off sharply to either side so it felt like I was floating above the town. Down below, I could see all of the gorgeous tiled roofs of the traditional huts and, along with the appropriately peeling paint and age worn wood (most of the shrines are new and garishly restored in neon colors), it made it really easy for me to get a glimpse into what Korea might have been like. The sharp wind came up through the pillars and it was an impressive moment. I feel like a huge reason for why it has taken me a lot more effort than I anticipated to connect to the culture here is that the culture itself is extremely elusive. Korea has been Asia's punching bag for about a thousand years, caught in a near constant tug of war between Japan and China, so it really has not had comparable opportunity to define or project its identity. This does make it all the more satisfying when I do recognize a glimpse upon seeing it.

After finishing with the Hanok Village, Renee's friend took us to the first authentic feeling coffee shop I've yet seen here in an old traditional house with all these nonsensical rooms and crannies and with messages and doodles covering every wall. I had some fantastic cheesecake, seriously NY quality, and then we caught the bus and came home. I was still in a mood to keep going so I treated myself to a movie and was slightly disappointed in "Nine"... I did like Fergie's song "Be Italian" but it was a flop. Nevertheless, my movie craving was appeased and I passed out when I got home. Today, I finished my second Korean drama and was literally cheering and clapping at the screen-- after a disastrous bout of amnesia (don't we all hate it when that happens??), all ends as it should. I also watched the first episode of "The Bachelor" which YES, I unabashedly love, and then did dishes, worked out, and got groceries. Chad came over for pizza and "Amelie" so another decent weekend to put in the books.

That's all for now. Love to all and again COMMENTS are the price for reading this blog!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Concerning New Years

Happy 2010 to one and all! Last week was head spinningly insane. We had a short, intense 3 days to close out the December session and wednesday was the big finale and my most demanding work day to date. It started with me arriving about 5 minutes later than I normally do to work (but still with 20 minutes to spare before we were due to leave for our field trip with the kindies...) and in the elevator, I was greeted by my kids going the opposite direction down to the bus without me and a flurry of teachers flying amongst them. I barely had time to cast my pashmina and purse to the winds (OK fine my desk) before sprinting down and catapulting on the first bus that would have me. Then, and only then, did my brain have the space to belatedly hope that all of my kids were in moving vehicles bound to a similar destination as I was. In a tardy Christmas miracle, all arrived in one piece to this law park dedicated to teaching kids about emergency services and safety. It started off with this pretty funny video that was instructing the kids on personal boundaries that was filled with these lecherous old grandpas trying to lure the happy rosy cartoon children over to their laps. All of the teachers were clustered in back trying not to lose it. As ever, I try and make an effort to be culturally sensitive but when it was followed up with a role playing demonstration....perhaps there are some insurmountable differences after all. After this video, the kids were all set loose to play on this huge, indoor, and incredibly instructive jungle gym that was very much related to the law. They went wild for it and for a good thirty minutes it was quite literally raining children. No broken bones to report, thank you very much, but that was more an act of god than any sort of efficient supervision.

After they had played themselves out (and that takes some doing, most of the kids were covered in sweat by the time they were done), we tottled back to school and had lunch. This is where my day really started to get crazy for several reasons. 1.) As the last day of the session, I had to finish all my evaluations for my kindies and afternoon students which means about 65 sets of individual comments. 2.) I had to update my curricula for my existing classes for the new session. 3.) This month, Korean kids have a break from school so we offer extra classes to take advantage of their free time. This means everyone's schedule is tweaked and meant that I also had to figure out what on earth I was supposed to teach in them on monday as they were brand new classes for me. 4.) Between this, I also had to grade 3 sets of tests and an assignment in time to enter in the scores online to complete their evaluation. Considering that I had literally no break that day and that this ALL was accomplished in the five minute increments stolen between every class, I was comatose by the time my last group rolled around. I could only muster enough energy to drug them with an extra strength word search and drink in the silence.

After I fled school for my blissful 4 day break, I met a friend for delicious galbi at our neighborhood BBQ place and watched part of "The Young Victoria" with her. New Year's Eve, I did absolutely nothing all day except sleep, read, and watch TV. I am not sure if I have mentioned the fact that my Korean drama interest has now spread to another show, "Boys Before Flowers" that has now abandoned any pretense of being a comedic drama and gone head first into the land of soap opera. And I love it. I managed to shower and get myself presentable in time to meet my friends at a bar downtown for New Years. We stayed there until about 12:30 and had streamers and music and sparklers for the moment. Then, we went and danced until about 3:30 at the nearby club we usually frequent, Cocoon. It is such a funny study of Korean culture I must say- there was a surprisingly good looking Korean guy who was dancing by me and with me a bit and who made the effort to shout a few conversational questions in broken English and was pretty obviously interested but then got embarrassed and ran away. This happens frequently (and not just to me I swear haha). Bizarre. Also, the current male club fashion is gaaaaaaaaaangsta. They took that particular subset of American culture and RAN with it to the point that one of the guys I danced with had a black pashmina completely wrapped around his face. Also, a good portion of the guys are in full coat and ski cap or a club that is so sticky that it's raining sweat. Korean aesthetics never cease to amaze and amuse. So, despite the fact that I emerged with my eye makeup located somewhere roughly half way down my cheeks and my hair in sexy sweaty strings, it was a really nice night. I somehow decided when I got home that a shower, pizza, and The Office were just the thing so I didn't end up in bed until about 5. So...slept in next day and did nothing. Renee came over that night to finish The Young Victoria and then the next day we had a nice galavant about Daejeon. First, we walked (through a cold mist that turned out to be strangely pleasant) to the National Science Museum which was really cute. I payed all of a dollar to get in, and we walked past sculptural robotic zodiac transformers (yeah work that one out in your head) and went to a little planetarium show and then checked out the exhibits. Nothing breath taking but worthy of an afternoon. I think it would have been more than superficially entertaining had I known how to read Korean. As I do not....well, we fiddled around with a lot of buttons and saw some model dinosaurs. Next, we took a loooooooooong walk east along the river to the lauded "Expo Bridge" that is lit at night with messages like "I Heart Daejeon" and "Expo" and is a favorite among Daejeon couples. After crossing, we continued south past the huge art center that houses the biggest theaters in the city and past government complex and the school and E-Mart (the main supermarket wallmart type of establishment) to Indy. I had a delicious dinner of ghost sal (lamb, spinach, and spices) with garlic nan. Mmmmmm. We rolled home and watched Jane Eyre (OK after a dessert of a really rich yummy chocolate brownie cake thing that I discovered at Paris Baguette which was quite the find as Korea does. not. do. baked goods) and had another nice recooperative evening. Sunday was a little more productive, thank god, as my apartment was in sad need of attention at that point. I did laundry, grocery shopping, got some chile simmering on the stove (in DAEJEON, I am disproportionately proud of this- it feels a little like rediscovering the wheel haha) and then swept and mopped. Woohoo! Chad came over for dinner and 17 Again (thanks mom and dad!). I really watched quite a lot of movies this weekend. After he left, I started thinking about life outside of Korea and specifically, my plans for the future. I actually took my first real peak at a graduate school application and promptly ex-ed back out of it and sat down on the couch. Information overload. Also, I seem to have come to a little impasse with regards to getting my PhD that can be summarized in two persistently divergent thoughts. 1.) After going further and further away every time from Seattle to Whitman, England, and South Korea, I really want to catch my breath and plunk down. I crave Seattle to the point that I can't really see myself moving from the area again for the foreseeable future and I think that I've earned the time to put down some roots. UW is the only decent program within those boundaries. 2.) If I decide to go for this, I logically know that it is not really the best decision to limit myself so severely. Typical Becky would thoroughly research and narrow down the best schools but the problem is the second I do that, it means that my location preferences kind of have to go out of the window. Hmmm.

All told, these are by no means insurmountable barriers. In a way, it is comforting because it forced me to the one firm conclusion that I've made: at the least, I know this is a passion of mine that I love. No matter the future of it or the logistics, I know that part enough to have solid faith that I should pursue it in some form. The rest will get figured out, and hey! I still have 8 months here to do just that.

Other than that, nothing much to report. Busy busy busy bee as always and happily plunking along here! Love!! And PS- comments have grown sparse and I really enjoy them. Responses that assure me that people are on the end of this are always welcome!