Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Concerning Victorian beauty and Hangol

Hangol is the written Korean language, thought I should get that out of the way right off the bat. Victorian beauty is basically exactly what it seems but specifically means the conception that aesthetics and artistry were undeniably connected with morality. So, now I've covered my definition bases, time to get the post on its way. I mention Victorian beauty because I had some really interesting conversations lately and have been learning about Korean standards and customs of beauty and found them startlingly close to Victorian England. You're never that far away from something you love, even if nooooot quite in the expected form. I mentioned awhile back that Level Eks talked about plastic surgery and I ended up continuing that topic with some friends of mine this week. Korea has one of the highest percentages of plastic surgery in the world, to the point that it is even developing cosmetic tourism as a fledgling industry big enough to compete with that of northern Europe. It's extremely common here- especially the surgery to thread a hooked needle through the eyelid to make the western crease. One of our kids, before I came, was out of school for a month because his parents took him to get the procedure. He was 7. I have gotten glimpses of this cultural quirk before, like perming your children or the endless reliance on fashion accessories and embellishment, but it didn't really click until recently. Korea is absolutely, head over heals, hands down, appearance obsessed. Men make no secret of the fact that women (still) exist to barter beauty for bank and that people almost have a responsibility to look as best as physically (and medically) possible.

Now, despite my obvious reservations about this, I don't want to come off as too judgy-judgy. It is a natural impulse to want to feel admired and realize your potential. And I suppose I'd be naive to say that looks don't count- why else do we lint-roller that shirt the fifth time before an interview or put on that extra coat of nail-polish for a date? On some level, I get it, and I'd be really hypocritical to not admit that I've gotten advantages from this side of Korean culture. Because I have western features like white skin, creased eyelids, a more pronounced nose and an oval face, most Koreans seem to find me attractive (which in my mind is still totally separate from how I see myself or how I'd expect to be received at home...just putting that huge disclaimer out there...) and I suspect they're nicer to me for it. I'd say one out of every three pleasant interactions with Koreans stem from them thinking I'm pretty. So, I feel like it would be wrong of me to completely condemn this as primitive or alien to modern culture or terrible because a.) it exists in the states and b.) I've reaped the benefits.

Where does this leave me? I can't shake the bad taste from my staunchly feminist mouth that here, femininity is soooo inseparable from physical beauty and that physical beauty is so limited to an arbitrary western viewpoint. What happened to confidence? What happened to the kind of back-bone straightening assurance of feeling good in your own skin? I think if anything, that's beauty. So I can't agree with a culture that teaches their children from a young age that they must live up to a western standard that's been put above their own and that they will always be most valued for a random genetic roll of the dice. Now I know that not everyone here thinks this and it is possible that I've talked to an outlying subset of Koreans but no matter the severity, this aspect exists here. No matter what, I can't fully condone it- the idea that beauty is what makes a good person hasn't been taken seriously since Dickens and as much as I love Vic lit, the notion is rightly gathering dust on its historical shelf of disuse. That is, except here.

Oddly enough this doesn't make me like Korea any less, I actually enjoyed fleshing out one more part of its tricky culture- even if just to debate with it. Bottom line, it's all friendly, and as I've said multiple times, I'm still having a great time here and have sung a multitude of praises about the country I'm in. Soko, it's nothing personal. On the other side, I've also started connecting with another part of Korean culture- hangol. All of the sudden a light went on in my head about two weeks ago that it was time for me to start learning how to read. And so I did. I am getting better and have now progressed from a slug's pace, to sloth's and am hoping to conquer turtle's by the end of the week. Some characters are still eluding me but I wrote my first Korean sentence today (I love you, in case anyone was wondering) and it was cool! Note: this doesn't mean that I can in any way understand what I am reading or writing but I am slowly tackling the repertoire of noises. It just feels like one more tie to my surroundings and if nothing else, it's made the walk to work way more fun. Now it feels like one big giant game of sudoku, the city is a moving puzzle and I am sure people think I am totally crazy muttering signs to myself "Sah...lang...heh..." but no worries. I am unexpectedly proud of it so that's that.

Not that much has happened in the last 3 days...I went to the gym two more times which continues my miraculously faithful streak I've been on...went to was the last day of the session which means the new girl officially starts tomorrow. Oh one cute (mmm maybe wrong word....funny? still weird...) note, Irene was trying to explain to me why "Robbie apsoyo" (absent) and she just looks at me and said, "Robbie grandmother go to sky." Now my condolences to Robbie's family and his grandmother and I don't want to seem insensitive but I thought that was adorable and hilarious all in one. Who needs poets when you have 5 year old non-native speakers?

Anyways that's it folks. Not quite so angsty as my last mid-week post (remember the "vein" street fiasco that happened in the wee hours of one sad wednesday night? hopefully moving forward from that...) and I'd imagine everything should continue to get a lot more cheerful as the rents get closer to touchdown. Next up: this weekend, I am grabbing dinner with Ella, hiking with two of my Korean co-teachers and grabbing coffee with another Korean friend and getting my hair cut. And then, you know, next Thursday is when mom and dad come...juuust in case I hadn't mentioned it enough. Love!!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Concerning the count down

This week signals the final approach of mom and dad...the last 10 days...and clearly I'm not keeping track of the hours at all. Not excited in any way. Could really take the visit or leave it. Yup. So besides keeping up a pestering barrage of emails with them specifying exactly WHAT type of mac and cheese to bring and which red wedges to remember, this week was spent getting somewhat ecstatic.

Memorable moments at work...well, we had a field trip on Thursday to this playroo
m area in a nearby mall. The kids went absolutely mad for it, the whole thing was kid heaven. I wished to be 6 again more than once and even did kind of climb in the complex a bit, teacher be darned. Actually, it was pretty uneventful- not too much stress came out of that so good. Later that day, we all met Nakeesa which is the teacher replacing Teresa next week. She seems great, very relaxed and cheerful girl from Texas. We took her out for the obligatory sausage, fries and beer at Weisenhaus (becoming a newbie tradition) and that was that. Friday was English Club which was actually somewhat of a train wreck this week. It was my turn to preside and I stupidly chose an article about the death penalty because news was a bit scanty this week. It was way too philosophical and difficult to discuss, so to make it easier, I tried to sort of sum up what people had said after they said it to both make sure I understood and to connect it back to the questions. Apparently it came off that I was correcting everyone which left me feeling mortified, guilty, and alienated. I left early because I was just not up for social nicety after that. Saturday, I met Nakeesa again for lunch (yummy shrimp and pineapple fried rice), stationary shopping, a failed attempt at nails, and coffee. It was really nice, we talked a lot.

That night, I met my friend Kurt from English club for this international festival happening in Daejeon. It was cute, we tried some Indonesian food (chickpea curry and turmeric rice) and some fried bananas for dessert. I also got my name in traditional Korean, which is actually from the Chinese characters "beg" and "hee". They both have a looot of meanings but beg means white and hundred, amon
g others, and hee sometimes means happiness. Random and arbitrary, yes, but I still liked finding little Asian nuances to my name. They decorated the little plaque with cherry blossoms, very pretty. Then, we got tea. Then, we listened to a band. Then, we got beer and fried chicken. It was nice just to hang out with him and have it be in no way romantic, just relaxed friends. He's a sweetheart. Today I talked to the parents, had a great go at the gym, lapped up the sunshine on my walk to the grocery store, got food, cooked, cleaned, watched TV, did some laundry, painted my toe nails...the usual Sunday assortment.

As I said before, the name of the game now is just running out the clock until mom and dad come on over. I've been going through a tiny lonely spell so they are even more welcome than they'd normally be which would still be quite the reception. Bye for now!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Concerning... First Sight.

" 'Spring, spring, spring,' said the frog! 'Spring,' said the ground hog!" That is a little treat dredged from the memory of one of my favorite childhood books. My mother has tried to make me remember the rest of it many a time but that one line is all that sticks. Ah, la primavera. I really like the etymology of that word because it is so forgiving; no matter who, what, when, or where, spring offers an egalitarian chance to be born anew. This is not a mere face-lift, a new coat of paint, but a rejuvenation, a first sight.

Not a moment too soon, Daejeon reluctantly opened the curtain on Spring with the coming of March 21st. Four days ago, we had snow on the ground and I made hand prints on a railing on my way to work. Today, the whole sky was awash with blue, my skin actually felt the sun, and a chilly wind all marked the equinox. The birds were out, soccer and baseball teams jostled through their games by the river and the sun set at the very reasonable hour of 7.

Before I finish telling you about today, I'd better close the door on winter. Rewind a week. I'm bonding more and more with my new kids which is as expected, but none the less welcome for that. UCLA in particular gets really cute. There is this one little boy named Chris with little glasses who is sneaking up on me as a new favorite. He's really smart, even if he has the worst handwriting in the class, and always cheerfully babbles on to me in English. His favorite way to open EEEEEEVERY single morning as I sit down for our first class at 10 AM is, "Becky Teacher, what and lunchie?" The kid is the size of a pea and lives through his stomach. And. he can't say the word lunch for his life, but we're working on both pronunciation and the correct grammatical structure of a question. We're getting there. The other funny thing is that, no matter that I give the same answer every morning "We have three classes before lunch and two after lunch and then you go home," his curiosity is engaged anew with each passing day, like the time of lunch is a mystical practice shrouded in secrecy and deception.

As cute as this is, however, the moment when he well and truly stole my heart is when I was sitting in the teacher chair at the front of class, correcting some papers, and the kids were all working on an assignment. Chris got up, ambled over, and without a word, just kind of decided that he wanted to be in someone's lap so casually hopped up in mine with no preparation whatsoever. He leaned his head back against me and just kind of quietly settled in for a cuddle session. ADORABLE. Unfortunately, I didn't really deem it feasible to conduct an entire class with a child in my lap so he only got an affectionate minute out of it but it was so endearing nonetheless. He's done it twice again in the days since then, I must have a comfy lap.

Brown's fine, we're mostly working on penmanship and getting some critical base words down. Beyond that, it's just a matter of getting 5 year olds used to being in a school environment which is the real education of kindergarten, in my opinion. Anna still seems allergic to her chair and prefers to aimlessly wander about the class singing ABBA to herself and K-Pop choreography but we're being patient with her. She doesn't quite get the idea of authority as of yet but she's young and been in school for less than a month. I hope she clicks in with the routine by and by as she gets more time under her belt. My favorite times are just coloring with them though. Two of the kids had a month or two of reaaally basic English before this so they can jabber a tiny tiny tiny bit in English. I really like listening to them and just seeing what phrases come out of their mouth and how they use the little English they've learned. For instance, the kids all took some crayons out and decided that it was ice-cream and then wandered around pretending to lick it. One girl, Irene, took them to me and said "Becky Teacher, this princess ice cream, you!" so I was very honored to receive the elite, much sought after upgrade of princess crayon ice-cream.

Afternoon classes are good. My really beginning classes are starting to fall into rhythm and the one with 12 students doesn't give me quite so many heart palpitations- down to maybe 5 a class from 20 so that's good haha. I've found that as a teacher who cannot really communicate at all with the students yet beyond a few words, routine and rewards are the biggest help. I finally feel like I'm building up a report. My other beginning class just got a new student with some sort of disease that makes clotting difficult so we were all stringently warned to essentially treat him as a bubble boy. The first day of class, I found him smart and engaged and was really pleased. I stepped out at the end of class and peaked back in during break time to check in...only to find him wrestling on the floor in friendly combat with the other boy in the class. I nearly had an aneurysm and broke them apart in smiling incredulity. I have a hunch that it would give a bad impression to break him on the very first day of school. We do try to save that until the second.

I've been doing pretty well in the gym lately...veeeery slowly (as I am NOT a natural runner by any means, as it is only for health and in no way competitive, and as it is my least favorite form of exercise) building up my running ability. Don't laugh but I can do 20 mins straight now, obviously supplemented by the deified Korean pastime of speed walking on either end to make it a more legit cardio workout. It's getting better, combined with free weights, and the fact that my clothes are even baggier than 7 months without a dryer would account for, makes me feel good about that. I kind of lost track of the fact that 7 months here means 7 fairly loyal months of going to the gym. So yay me! I'm proud of that and my body feels better and healthier which is the biggest benefit and my biggest goal.

Friday English Club talked about plastic surgery. Fascinating. The article went into all the gruesome detail of a very popular procedure here in Asia of threading a hooked needle through the eyelid to make a western crease. They view western features- high noses, small faces, hooded, large, eyes and big lips- as the new standard of beauty. Sad, I wish they'd stick to their guns and keep their own aesthetic. Either way I'm pretty darn against plastic surgery as I think there are a lot healthier ways to transform yourself if you want to commit- the vast majority of the time, I think it's the easy way out for insecure people looking for self confidence from all of the wrong places. I feel that I can say that as a non-super model looking woman who had to fight long and hard throughout her formative years for a backbone and personal satisfaction. Anyways, it was an interesting convo as most Koreans seem pretty OK with it. I think it goes along with the elaborately embellished clothes and accessories- here, appearance is king. I do, however, firmly draw the line when some Koreans perm their kid's hair and even have them get the eye procedure. We've had one or two students miss class in my school while this happens and I'm sorry, this is probably a cultural difference that I should be more sensitive to, but I think it's sick. All that child will think about is how vital their looks are instead of focusing on other traits, a surgery that young would be really influential. ANYways, there are many things that Korean parents do extremely well so I don't want that to be mistaken for a blanket criticism. Just one peaceful difference of opinion.

Saturday, Chad and I went to Sah-ool (Seoul) for some training. Though way too long and repetitive, I learned some necessary info that I was lacking regarding some new programs that were implemented for the new year. I feel more confident about them now so it was a success in that regard. After, we got a quick dinner at Bennigan's. I had quesadillas with guacamole (!!) and was really adventurous with desert. I chose the cheapest thing, "vanilla ice cream with black sesame sauce" and was in for quite a surprise. When it came out, it looked like ice cream with runny black caviar all over it. In no way could
it have looked less appetizing. However, it was delicious, it tasted like a yummy, sweet, nutty sauce. Go figure. When we went out of the restaurant, the air was yellow. Seriously. Yellow. It was disgusting- our best guess is that sometimes Mongolia has severe dust storms that blow over China, collect pollution, and land in Soko. Isn't it crazy that I live somewhere that gets dust storms from Mongolia?? Anyway, I had a hand firmly over my mouth in the dash to the train station because you could literally taste it when you breathed the air in. Thankfully, Daejeon is an hour south so our air is a LOT better.

Today started with a weird surprise. I emailed some profs at the UW English program about Vic Lit and they all directed me to this one guy, who, a month and a half later, got back to me. He basically said that there was no Vic Lit department there. They had romantic lit, they had modern lit, they just didn't have the 100 years in between. This has thrown me for a giant loop, maaaany considerations immediately vying for attention. 1.) I love books. Like, I really love books, and it is enough of a passion that I'd really like my career to involve them in some way. 2.) I love the idea of more education, it's something I'm extremely willing and interested to do. The rush of actually using my brain is unbeatable. 3.) If I do a PhD, I want to learn from someone. I need an effective dissertation adviser who knows about my research. 4.) If I do a PhD, I need to be able to take classes in my discipline. 5.) If I do a PhD, the Victorian era is my absolute favorite. Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Elizabeth Gaskell are why I love books. I have a healthy academic respect for modernism, it's just never going to be more than a friendship haha. 6.) Now with 3 well and truly habitated continents (yes, continents) under my belt, I want a breather. I can't see myself leaving Seattle for quite some time and UW is the only reputable English grad program around. 6.) Having looked into publishing, the cut throat competition and the New York centered industry are not things I'm interested in. 7.) Though I'm having fun here, I don't find teaching kids mentally stimulating in the way that I crave and though high school might give that, it's too hard to get a job for too scanty of a salary. (Not that it's all about money but if I have to invest in more education I need more compensation.)

So that's where my mental threads have stopped twisting at the moment. I kind of feel back at square one career wise and thank goodness I still have some months here but I want to start seriously investigating the job market come August and sending resumes. I'm going on a month long cruise with mom and dad when I get back so I'm starting work (whatever that might be...) mid October so it's key to land a job quickly before the holiday dead zone. All of this means it's pretty important that I get a foothold on these issues tout suite. I don't know, maybe I'll try Amazon. Anyway, one thing I do have figured out for next year is that I'd like an office job. I really want predictable week day hours. And that's that.

After learning about that, I talked to mom and dad a bit which was nice and went for a run along the river. I think a guy on the way back might have thought I was a prostitute (I distinctly heard "How much?" before be brokenly settled into a conversation determined to get my number) so that was funny but all in all, gorgeous day. I even discovered this little islandy thing in the middle of the river that has a pagoda and a stage. Very nice. I've been a little stuffy the last few days because of pollen or pollution or whatever which hasn't made for the most consistent sleep, so I absolutely passed out for an hour and a half this afternoon. Good choice. I woke up so sluggish with that pressure in my sinuses that signals the end of a desperately needed rest. Then, I got some groceries and spicy chicken pizza and caught up on my shows.

All in all, this week was juuuust fine. I am absolutely ecstatic for spring, I am itching for heat and sun, so things can only get better here on out. That and Mom and Dad come in 2 and a half weeks. YAAAAAYYY!



Sunday, March 14, 2010's the freakin weekend baby I'm about to have me some fun!

Wild and crazy weekend? No, but a good one. Last week was business as usual. I did find out that Father's Day (like the open class we had in November except for daddies) is in April while Mom and Dad are here which is one less Saturday. Disappointing to be sure but it's really forced me to internalize the concept that this trip is for us to see each other, and we'll do as much of that as possible and beyond that is beyond control.

NYU (in their afternoon class) has kind of changed personality from tractable little kindies to afternoon students with a mind of their own. Luckily, I still have enough report to guilt trip them into oblivion, so I have hope that their behavior balances back out, as they're still great kids underneath the ill directed energy. Friday I had another Mom-ish moment when I comforted 3 crying children in the space of 10 minutes. First up was Brian who was crying "because Noah punched me" and then when I asked if anyone else hit someone he nodded and with ruthless honesty, added "Brian" to the list. The two boys held hands and made a solemn vow of peace before scampering off and clobbering each other on the heads again. Next was my favorite student of UCLA, Leo, who was also crying from some tragic playroom drive by punching. We found the culprit and extracted the apology and that was that. Last, UCLA (formerly of Columbia) Natalie had a serious skinned finger incident following a falling toy so she was upset enough I had to just hold her a bit before going off in search of a band aid. Productive 10 minutes, cue Super-Teacher to the rescue and the kindergarten world is restored to rights.

Friday night....yep, Level Eks. It was nice to see everyone, I had some nice conversations with members of the club that I hadn't interacted with very much. We went to the mandu place and I still managed a few pork dumplings despite being full. Saturday was also fun, I hung out with a friend in the morning and defied the neeeeearly spring weather by wearing a dress. My legs are sick of pants and tights, they crave freedom, haha. That night, co-Whittie Reese came over for dinner and I force fed him chile and Phantom of the Opera and had some nonsensical but endearing conversation. As always, it was lovely and fun to spend time with someone from the same background. Great time.

Today was unexpectedly fabulous. I went to "brunch" with my Korean friend Helen from English club. She has a great accent from going to boarding school in Cambridge and uni in London and we drove for about an hour to find this random restaurant. It was the perfect Sunday afternoon drive- slightly rainy, heated seats, and countryside. Korea had a great hair day this afternoon, it looked stunning. There were all of these mountains with nary a Matrix-style apartment complex to be seen. The restaurant was on Taechun River (I think I spelled that somewhat correctly...) and it was absolutely gorgeous. We sat in an enclosed and heated patio and the view just opened up in front of us in all of these shades of gray and green, especially the water. I loved seeing the undeveloped side of the country which is not easily accessible when your transportation is limited to trains and taxis. We had an interesting lunch of salad bar type sides and like 6 kinds of Brazilian style BBQ- we had several cuts of beef, sausage, duck, and pork. Random but I appreciated the protein. During the meal a band played a set of English classics and I especially enjoyed "I Will Be Here"-- yeah Theta! After, we got some coffee from the restaurant and sat by an obliging campfire. The smoke turned out to be not so obliging so we did a quick circuit of the grounds and hopped back in the car. More driving driving driving (God I miss cars...) and we went to another traditional Korean restaurant that was very ornately landscaped with kimchi pots and had another patio with campfires. The conversation was lovely, I felt like for one of the first times since I've been here, I met a Korean with whom I can be a bit sarcastic and caustic without fear of offense. This is nothing against Koreans- I love how warm-hearted they are and I don't want to violate that with an insensitive remark but that barrier was able to come down a bit today. We sat there for a bit before winding our way back home, a leisurely 5 hours after we departed. It was so so nice to elude the clutches of civilization for a bit. I feel rejuvenated.

This week is classes as normal, next weekend I'm heading to Seoul (which I finally learned how to pronounce by the way- not "soul" like Americans say but more "sah-ool" said quickly) for a teacher refresher course. So that's that, love to all!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Concerning... the shape of things

And now that brings me to now. I'm writing from the other side of the new school year. It was kind of devastating to lose my kids. When they announced the new classes, even though I'd already told Columbia who their teachers were, when it got to Kevin's class and they were drum rolling and saying "aaaaaand your teacher ISSS....." he looked up and said "Becky teacher...?" and when they announced another his face fell. I melted. And that same day downstairs, Noah looked at me, took my hand, and asked "Becky teacher teach NYU now?" and it absolutely broke my heart to tell him no. I swear these kids are giving me abandonment issues, I feel so guilty. Even today, a week in, it happened again twice that two of my old kids asked when I will teach them. Ugh! So sad! I still teach NYU (thank God) 5 days a week, though they're big and mature and worldly afternoon kids now, as they daily remind me. It's really comforting to see them, after graduation they had a week vacation to settle into elementary school and I felt so excited to see them again. Kindie-wise, things have changed a bit. I miss my old routine and my old more NYU and Columbia for me (though I do also teach 4 kids of the former 12 in last year's Columbia). This year, I have Brown and UCLA. Brown has just 4 kids, all 6 and all very new to English. So far I have taught them these words: colors, "good morning," "how are you?," "moving," "freight train," "lunch box," "back pack," "pencil," and the obligatory, "sit down!" They're really little and really cute. I named one after my sister Kelsey. I also named the boss' daughter after my sister Caitlin so they both have little namesakes running around the school. It was really funny today actually, one of the Brown students is a quirky girl who hasn't really deigned to listen to me much. I get the impression she really doesn't know English well but during class, she randomly got up out of her chair and regaled me with the song and dance of Mamma Mia's "Super Trooper" and "Dancing Queen" complete with disco arms and shimmies. So she can sing English, just not speak it. I died laughing.

UCLA is great. As I said, I have 4 of my old kids-- Natalie, Daniel, Emily and Jaden-- and 4 new ones from last year's Brown class-- Chris, Leo, Hannah, and Benny. They're fabulous, they are already so much more advanced than when I began teaching them in September. They understand moooost of what I say and finish their lessons easily. They still don't quite have the maturity to sit quietly for a whole lesson but we're getting there and I have a good group. They seem to really like me which is adorable.

Afternoon wise, it's a bit of a change. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I teach a LOT of remedial classes. Oh my gosh are those ever draining. Those classes are more like acting then teaching because I have to keep my energy up enough to entertain them into listening and learning even though they can't really understand any of what I'm saying. I feel like Harold Zidler from Moulin Rouge though obviously the school doesn't quite compare to a brothel. I do have a fantastic new afternoon class that has decided that they love me. They have so much enthusiasm and focus and maturity so yay! That one will be a breeze. I still have another afternoon class of mine that I've taught since I arrived so it is nice to retain some continuity. Those kids constantly crack me up- one girl told me my necklace looked like meat. I am currently reading them an abridged version of Frankenstein and they are SO into it. Book nerd as I am, I am all for the classics. Speaking of, I also have a tutor class which is only focused on reading so I get to teach him Harry Potter 4 and get paid for it. Love it. So, even though I have some challenges in store, there is a lot to be excited about in the coming months.
Not to be too melodramatic or self-indulgent but I feel like I have weathered my share of stuff here and I will have heartily earned any self-improvement or enlightened perspectives that drift my way through this year.

I had a busy weekend as well. After English club, I saw Alice in Wonderland 3D and was kind of disappointed. Yes, I love Johnny Depp and yes, I loved finding the nonsensical Victorian literature references but I thought the graphics and the plotline were a little clumsy. Saturday, I made my way to Seoul and met a coworker and a friend. We did some window shopping and then had a much needed burger for dinner. We were exhausted so we turned in early at our hostel and then got up at the oh so reasonable hour of 5 AM the next morning to make our tour pick up. After a 3 hour bus ride, we arrived at Chungmuro Lake and took a little ferry around. There were some moderately pretty rocks and wildernessish things and I enjoyed it for what it was. The water was also a pretty green color. After that, we went to Gosu cave which was kind of disorienting in its twisting up and down safari passage of walkways. There were some nice rock formations. Then, a peak at a famous trio of rocks in a nearby lake. Apparently, a man and his wife couldn't get pregnant so he took a mistress to father a child. But, everyone started fighting so the gods turned them all to stone. Two of the rocks are angled towards each other and one is apart, not sure which is the odd man (or woman, more likely) out. We clambered up this hill to a nice vista and then to a natural rock loop. Our reckless guide took us out on top of the stone loop and while it look was not roomy. I got my picture and got right back down. A long bus ride back turned into a long train ride back which turned into a much needed bed.

So that's where I am now, you'll better understand why it took me so long to update this. I promise to be more faithful now that everything's in order.

Next up: a busy month of continuing to transition my kids, a couple of different dates with friends and MOM AND DAD coming in one month!



Concerning...death served on a silver platter over a four day weekend

...until I got home. I was absolutely exhausted and thought that graduation had just worn me down so I ate a little and went to bed, but my stomach had an entirely different agenda set out for me. I spent the next 24 hours violently banishing anything and everything I had ever eaten in my entire life. I was absolutely miserable and obviously did not go to work that day. Through a skype convo with Nurse Mother, I found out it wasn't food poisoning, just the stomach bug from hell. As I had precisely no sleep Thursday night, Friday was spent crawling from the couch to my bed whenever my stomach allowed me a break. Friday night, after a grand finale of viral acrobatics, I slept for 18 hours. The next day I stayed stationary in one place and managed 3 crackers before heading to bed. The problem with that, however, was that those innocuous 3 crackers somehow managed to completely wake up my stomach to the fact that it hadn't eaten anything in over 48 hours. So, cue massive massive stomach cramps that were belatedly identified as hunger through a very miserable and very pitiful skype consultation with Mom. I had a very low moment trying to scramble myself some eggs at 2:30 in the morning to tame the cramps. It worked and I finally slept but by that point, I was thoroughly fed up with feeling ill. That weekend was seriously the sickest I have ever been in my life and the fact that it was half way around the world....well, let's say that my mom was my nurse and therapist all rolled into one that weekend. Sunday I felt a little better so I woke up and actually took a shower, big development. I went to E-mart for some groceries but unfortunately not eating for so long completely re-calibrated my senses. I felt like a pregnant woman but my smell was so ridiculously sensitive I had to run from the seafood section. I also was really overwhelmed by all of the people after what felt like my ages of hermitude. After getting home, I managed precisely 2 chicken nuggets and a yogurt before going back to bed. Monday, the notable development was that I actually ate 3 meals which was a big triumph. It was not a moment too soon as Tuesday, work started again. We had two light-ish days as the oldest kindies had graduated and the newest kindies weren't there yet.

Despite the light work load, Tuesday was interesting. That weekend reeeeeally weakened me. For someone who is usually pretty stable, it completely knocked me off my feet and made getting through the first workday back interesting. I had to sit down a few times but I did it, and the days after it were physically easier. I got my strength back pretty quickly. However, it did take me longer to bounce back emotionally. Obviously I was intensely homesick during the four days, as to be expected when you feel rotten, but it didn't subside as quickly as I thought. I had a pretty bad few days settling back into work because I was dealing with several downers at once. 1.) Being sick. Vulnerability like that really made me feel pretty darn alone here. I know I have friends and this is no reflection on them, but no one can replace the time tempered people who prop up your life. 2.) Changing of the guard. I wasn't really expecting this one as much, but I really really grieved losing my kids. More on this in the next blog post. 3.) Everyone was stressed out figuring out new books and classes and students. Almost my entire schedule changed. 4.) Half way point. This seems like it would be positive but up until now, I've been working towards the 6 month mark and charting my progress with pleasure- oh only 3 more months, 2, 1, yay we're here. But, now that it's over, my next big thing is going home and all of the sudden...I have 6 more months unfurled out in front of me. It should be fine, I can't say that I am not able to do 6 months here because I already have. But, the task of repeating the experiences I've already had here is daunting to say the least. Mainly, this all rolled into some pretty nasty culture shock. I had a little temper tantrum with Korea and was mainly frustrated with its foreignness all anew.

Thankfully, I had a better few days which has helped the whole thing. But that's the next blog...


OK, well rewind about three weeks. Graduation. I taught one class and then went straight to the kid's theater where we were holding the grand event. It was really really adorable, I walked backstage and was LITERALLY brought to the ground by a mob of sequined children screaming "BECKY TEEEEEEACHER." The entire 6 hours there was spent with a child hanging off of some portion of my body, I was their own personal jungle gym for the day. But, it was so so much fun. Columbia had these gold sparkly numbers on complete with a matching sequin boater hat. Wow. Just, wow. NYU looked fantastic in their individual prince and princess outfits going along with the "If I ruled the world" theme. I got there at 2 and the hours until 6 were spent riding the tide of mayhem and coercing some rehearsal out of the kids. The actual performances turned out so well. Columbia and Brown (all of the 6 year olds) did their pom pom dance in all of their golden glory, of which see the video below. Columbia also knocked out their introductions and song to great effect. NYU all remembered their speeches like champs. The one hilarious hiccup that happened was that mid sentence, Wendy all of the sudden crouched down and said "Toooooilet!!" in Korean...and promptly ran off the stage. Everyone cracked up and we just sort of kept on going and bless her heart, she made it back in time for the song. Leo ended up tunelessly shouting his way through the whole thing but it was a great, perfect cute kid moment. They were fabulous, I was beaming with pride. I got a rehearsal of the song on video as well and TOTALLY didn't realize that the camera had also gotten me singing until after the you all get a treat of my wonderful voice nudging them on. And as it was a rehearsal, the peanut gallery was quite active so sorry about that. (Actually just enjoy the videos in general...the first one I say oh my god about 15 times and the second you can here me giving instructions and singing the whole second half...not ideal haha...). At the end, the teachers all went on stage to bow and Kamila and I got a ton of cheers hehe! Guess we're popular. It was a really nice day, mountains of affection from the kids and just playing around and celebrating what they've managed to learn. One of my kid's moms made me a hand made pecan tart and another got me some face wash. Very thoughtful. The school took us out to dinner afterword which was also very nice. Until....