Sunday, June 27, 2010

Concerning... Monsoon Season

Hello monsoon season, nice to meet you. Well folks, I'm not in a temperate Seattle faux summer, that's for sure. This last week, the air gained all the weight of a wrecking ball and it hasn't really gotten below the 80s in my recent memory. Mostly I've transitioned pretty well, the heat isn't really something new (I haven't even thought of a jacket for 2 months) and the humidity hasn't done much save poofing my hair something fierce. So far, still alive and kicking with the help of a fan and my AC. This week fuh-LEW by, being the dreaded last of session, so I was happily occupied in a flurry of standard evaluations, syllabi, and test taking, ever mindful I only have to go through those little motions two more times. Thursday, we had a field trip to a potato farm and the kids hoed and pulled and rummaged to their heart's content. I also snagged a few por moi and made some pretty fabulous home-made hash-browns to accompany a veggie scramble. Mmmm-mmm. Man, I love cooking when it actually yields something good.

Friday night was chill, I went and watched the Brazil (or Bradjil in the local dialect) vs. Portugal world cup game...and was kind of bored to tears by the 0-0 outcome. Oh well, the Becks beer was nice. Saturday, I talked to the parents and met my friend Ella downtown. We shopped and then grabbed some dinner at an "Italian" restaurant that served everything from pasta to pilaf to fried chicken salad...all with a side of kimchi and pickles. Of course. It was tasty enough though, if in a rag tag kind of way, and we walked around some more dodging the sporadic (yet somehow still torrential) rain. To dry off, we headed into a cute coffee shop where we had a little room to ourselves, in the typical Korean style so often found in bars, karaoke rooms, and...well, coffee shops. I had a tasty strawberry smoothie. That night, I did some laundry and watched the Korea vs. Uruguay game which was fun while it was a tie but alas, ultimately dashed all of Soko's aspirations to glory. When they did score, I heard an ambient rumble pass through my apartment building. Sometimes, like that one weird blog post I did about the "artery road" outside my window, it seems like the country is sort of alive around me, a many headed organism. I think that feeling of hyper connectedness just comes from everyone living in suuuuuch close quarters. And a shared passion for soccer. Today was also low key- I slept AMAAAAZINGLY last night, worked out this morning, read my book for hours, and then met a friend for Indian. Not too shabby at all.

Time update: 2 more months come tomorrow or 9 more weeks as of yesterday aaaaand ...home. Yes I'll be distraught with leaving my kids (they've already begun to mob me with cries of "Becky Teacher NOT go!") and my friends and even my little apartment but yes I'll also be somewhat manic to set foot on my home soil. And to have that Red Robin whiskey river BBQ chicken wrap with steak fries and ranch sauce. And a peach milkshake....

Monday, June 21, 2010

Concerning...goodbye 22, hello... something.

As I've explained before, age ra-heeeally becomes just a number because of the weird Korean counting systems so numerically, my birthday wasn't that big of a milestone. When I left the US, I was 22 and immediately upon entering Korea, I added a year to reflect the Korean consideration of the time in the womb, deeming any newborn automatically one year old. Then, January 1st, I added another year along with the rest of Korea. So in four months I went from 22 to 24. Given that, going from 22 to 23 to 24 somewhere back to 22 in my mind and now firmly landing on 23 didn't give the extra year much punch.

Age loop-di-loops aside, I did have a pretty nice birthday. Despite this, the build up was not entirely pleasant and in fact I was somewhat dreading the day but my kids started the weekend off on a good note. UCLA gave me all sorts of great gifts, including hello kitty pens, a 5 inch barbie cell phone charm, a hand painted fan and other assorted nick-nacks. Brown wasn't as in tune to the day which made it all the more endearing when Irene came up behind me, put her little arms around my waist (I was sitting down) and said "Becky Teacher, happy birthday to you." ALL KINDS OF ADORABLE, I'm telling you. After lunch, another one of my kids gave me a card wishing me a "Happy Bathday" but the real icing on the cake was my 4:00 remedial class. I'm not that close with them because their English is at a super low level, like I've taught them almost everything they know, and so I can't communicate very freely with them. And, there's only 4 kids. However, they quite literally rendered me speechless when I walked into the room and the lights were out, a candle-bedecked cake waiting at my place on the desk, with cute little presents around. They popped out from under the desk and exploded confetti at me while yelling "Happy Birthday" and I had to fight not to cry. They got me this huge, violently pink, ribbon and bow festooned rose, another cell phone charm, and a little chair tea light candle holder. Beyond words. Then, my last class, one of my favorite 11 year olds threw me a paper airplane note that exactly read:

From Becky Theacher
Theacher, Becky teacher, Happy birthday! Today is your school birthday. Today anything is yours. I not have your gift. I'm sorry. But I am very like you. Happ birthday!
(Really big heart)
To Chris

Oh my god. These kids have melted me down to levels of my soul that I didn't know existed. Right now, through the steadily growing excitement of going home eventually, I am slowly realizing it's bittersweet. It was obvious in England that I'd leave a part of my heart there but my attachments to my students here have been slower and more subtle in their development. I didn't know they were under my skin until they were there to stay. That will be a definite tug when I do leave.

That night, we went to Level Eks for the first time in a month and it ended up just being me and 5 Koreans going out to fried chicken. They found out it was going to be my birthday and also surprised me with a cake, and sang happy birthday. It was so sweet and it totally reminded me of that scene in "A Christmas Story" when the waiters are trying to sing Jingle Bells on Christmas. Hilarious and so heart warming, despite the indecipherable lyrics.

Then to the actual day. Knowing me, and how my homesick heart refuses to deny one moment of nostalgic twangs, it of course had to start with the teary phone calls back home but once those were over and kleenex firmly thrown away, the fun could begin. Well, after cleaning my apartment, mopping, fixing a light-bulb, getting groceries, and a shower. That done, I went to a BBQ for my friend Chad whose birthday is two days after mine and had a little too much fun with some water-guns from his roof. That, and yummy sangria. After dinner there, a friend and I went back to my place for some wine and Sex and the City to get ready for our night.

We went out to a local foreigner bar which was so much fun, we had about 3 tables combined for Chad and myself. Another friend got me a cake (4 and counting- work also got one for me) which was so sweet. That, combined with the flaming unidentified shot that I drank out of some kind of citrus-y fruit equaled a haaaaappy Becky who was well into the festivities. We went out dancing at a club nearby and it was so so so much fun, everyone kind of let loose and popped a move. There were also an inordinate amount of attractive Koreans, or maybe that was the screwdrivers. In any event, much fun was had. I made it back to my apartment in time to see the sun rise and plop in bed.

Sunday was mostly spent sleeping, after which I went out to dinner with another friend and had an early-ish night. Work is good, winding up the June session and as I said last post, no matter how much I try to live in the moment, my mind will not release its grip on the countdown. We're almost at 2 months now, in case anyone was wondering. Love!!

Becky the Birthday Girl

PS- Sorry for the lack of pics, I'll try and remedy that one of these days.
PPS- Thanks to all who sent along birthday messages, they were so appreciated and did a lot to get me in a festive mood!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Concerning freak outs

Ooooh my but this was a dicey week, but let me retrospectively assure all of my readers that all is well. Work-wise we have started bi-weekly outdoor gym days for the summer, which means for the first three periods after lunch we go to Hanbat Park and frolic around. Half of the teachers go each time which means every month, I go once and one morning I have completely off which is lovely. The first time I was up, however, so we trecked out into the crystal blue morning on our meandering and geographically nonsensical way to a grassy patch in the park. We played a ton of games including red rover, duck duck goose (the runaway hit of the kindergarten world), and freeze tag (IMPOSSIBLE to teach to non-native 5 year old English speakers). I got a welcome bit of color and was pleasantly tired after we got back.

Last weekend was a bit on the relaxed side. Friday night I went out to a baseball game with my friends from work, Daejeon Haenwa (I think) against some Seoul team. It was an adorable little stadium, a quarter the capacity of Safeco, and we got some chicken from outside the door, grabbed some beers, and strapped in. Sports wise it was humiliating, we got beat 8 to 2, but it was fun to compare cultures. I would definitely say that Americans can be more raucous, booing and shouting to their hearts content. However, Koreans are way more coordinated and attuned to the game. They all had the plastic, blow up bangers and the two cheerleaders (in tanks, white gloves, and jean skirts) would lead them in elaborate chants and routines that everyone knew. Maybe I underestimate how many English nothings I can roll out at a ball park but they had a really impressive repetoire that incorporated different and personalized beats for each player. Wow. There was also a couple who got engaged, he fully bowed to the ground in front of her, she said yes, and got a tepid pat-on-the-back hug until the crowd made them kiss. Once. Like a peck. All I can say is that will not be me, haha. Food-wise, fried chicken and pizza could be brought in from outside, but you could by any convenience store style snack along the perimeter, along with coal grilled squid, fries, and dok bokki (thick rice pasta) which I have come to like. My taste buds have finally submitted to the garlicy spice.

Saturday began my unfortunate streak of days. Mom and I missed our morning phone call which got me in a bad mood and then there was a lot of confusion surrounding the summer vacation. Basically, southeast Asia is not a good option for a 6 day jaunt in a time when I can't even politically go to Thailand, so that's out. I was going to find somewhere else with my coworkers (hence my 4 hour jaunt around Daejeon with said friends in search of a travel agent who turned out to be absolutely useless) but both of them had admittedly legitimate things come up which bound them elsewhere. So, it's looking like it's me. What did briefly cheer me was the discovery of an Adventure Korea trip to Jeju that leaves during my break and hits all the major places with beach time to spare so that would be a perfect way to have fun as a solo. It's a big milestone though- first trip my myself, eek!

Anyways, the thought did attempt to lift my mood before my computer went belly up. It wouldn't start and safe mode did absolutely nothing, always stalling on the same screen. So, I basically had a level 5 meltdown because it has skype and so is essentially my means of communication back home, my entire entertainment (for two reasons- 1.) even I cannot solely live off of books for two and a half months and 2.) I desperately plugged in the old TV in my closet to discover all of 5 channels, all in Korean), and my sanity. So, there were a few dark days in the middle where everything was a bit up in the air, compounded by the lack of contact with my family and this did not make for a composed, sedate Becky. Frazzled doesn't even begin to describe it.

Anyways, thank God for Korean copyright laws, because I finally gave in and dropped my computer off at this little stall in a nearby techie mall, and for 20 bucks, a day later they installed windows 7 and barely 15 minutes of formatting gave me a fully functional and personalized computer! My baby lives again! So that was resolved and I am making it a definite goal to try and incorporate the zen principles of Buddhism into my thought processes against future freak outs. I am even planning a temple stay, haha.

Anyways, much much better now. Looking forward to a nice, packed weekend, and then my birthday in a week!