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Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I am happy to announce that I now have a Korean family. I have a mom, a dad, three sisters, plus one more (my amazing coworker Jenn).

It all started last week when one of my students, Molly (also the daughter of our van driver at Kid's College), invited me to her home on Sunday to bake muffins. It sounded fun so I agreed, as did Jenn - she teaches Molly's younger sister.

12 p.m. on Sunday rolls around and Jenn and I are both a bit grumbly. We had both been out the night before and weren't our usual chipper selves... But we had made promises and we kept them. So Kelly (we named Molly's mom Kelly, after Kelly Kapowski from Saved By the Bell) picked us up and we went to their home.

First of all, apartments for Korean families ROCK. It's a full house, only compact. And a heck of a lot bigger than my... room... that I live in. It was awesome. We get there and lunch is prepared for us. It's FABULOUS. Kelly is a great cook! Definitely one of the best meals I've had in Korea, hands down. And after we finally convince her we're full (we were full 10 minutes prior but Kelly insisted we keep eating), she made fresh carrot juice with her juicer. Carrot juice is surprisingly delicious.

Then we made muffins, adorned with almonds, raisins and chocolate chips. After that I played Wii with Yuna, the youngest sister. Here are some pictures...

Jenn didn't feel well so she went home, but I was having a good time so I stayed. After Wii, Kelly played the piano for me. She's a great pianist. And THEN we took a nap. Yes, I was the guest at someone's home and I took a nap. A two hour nap in fact. With Kelly! Haha. She turned off the TV, turned off the lights, laid down on the floor (me on the couch) and said "Sleep." So I slept. And it was an amazing nap.

After we woke up, the dad and oldest sister came home so I got to meet them. Then we (me, Kelly, Molly, Yuna and Lisa - oldest sister) went out for dinner. I spent the whole day with them and had a fabulous time! I told Kelly she is my new Korean mom and they are my new Korean family. She feels the same way!

In fact, she has fed me dinner three out of the last three days. Monday she brought me some fried rice (and drove me to hot yoga!) and Tuesday she invited Jenn and I out for dinner with the whole family, including Dad. Mom is a Samgyopsal (Korean BBQ) Guru. But beware: if mom is cooking at your table, she will feed you massive amounts of food and occasionally say "Ahhh" (that means you are to open your mouth so she can feed you bites.)

It feels so great to be a part of a family!

My beautiful Korean mother.

Jenn and Yuna being silly.

Mom, Yuna and Molly.

Acupuncture and Hot Yoga

At the age of 22 I basically have chronic lower back pain. That's not good. So I've finally decided to do something about it. Last week I started acupuncture and yoga. Here are some comments on my experiences...

Acupuncture: My Korean supervisor made an appointment for me a week ago but when I walked in, the Korean nurses seemed surprised and clueless as to why a Waygookin was in their office. They laughed at me when I wrote my address in English... Oh well... We communicated enough in Konglish.

A friend of mine referred me to this place and said the doctor spoke such good English. I mean he speaks decent English/Konglish but he's certainly not fluent... My back is "depressed" so I should to twice a week for needles, suction cups and tape therapy.

The needles you don't really feel, only when they first go in. The suctions cups, you can feel. But they only stay on for a few minutes. I went last Saturday and took a few pictures with my phone but they aren't very good. Tuesday when I go I hope to get some good pictures during my "treatments." I get a few in my back, a few in my toes/feet, in my knees and in my fingers...

Hot Yoga: It's yoga in a sauna. (aka yoga in a room that's 105 degrees). I never knew my body could sweat in so many places. It's a wonderful class and I now go twice a week. It does wonders for the body. Only downside, after class in the locker room there are always herds of naked Korean women...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thanksgiving: Korean style

Greetings: Family, Friends and other Followers.

It's holiday season at home and therefore, it's holiday season in Korea too! At home, Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday because it means I probably haven't seen all my family in a while or had the amazing food for twelve months. I'm a bigger fan of turkey than ham so Thanksgiving's where it's at for me.

This year was... different. One year my mom and I went to Florida for Thanksgiving and I remember eating chicken fingers from TGI Friday's for the holiday meal. But still, mom and I had each other. This year I had the company and comfort of amazing friends.

On Turkey Thursday we had Kid's College open house. The babies sang songs and did a play for their parents then the public was invited to learn about Kid's College and what we're about, etc. Then after work I ate at Outback Steakhouse with three very good friends (before hitting the bars and celebrating the night, American style.) Black Friday was a fun day at school. Both Jenn and I had "Activity day" with pretty much all of our classes. So we made puppy chow ALL day. That plus we had "Kid's College Thanksgiving" at lunch. All the kiddies brought a dish from home. Our meal consisted of buffalo wings, salad, chicken nuggets, fried rice, rice cakes, curry and several other dishes.

Then on Sunday, we had a big Thanksgiving dinner at the Marine base in Pohang. We didn't have turkey (the commissary was sold out) but we baked a few chickens and had a bunch of potluck sides. After the meal, we all sat around and watched Christmas movies! It was a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit! 

My family's Thanksgiving celebration time didn't exactly allow me to talk to everyone (sucks being 15 hours ahead sometimes...) but I talked to my parents and grandparents on both sides. 

Since then I've been settling into my "winter routine" and Christmas shopping and card writing. The shopping always includes some gifts for myself too so it's a win win situation! Some Christmas plans have been made - including a tacky sweater party with a paper snowflake making contest... My iPod is set for Christmas music -- I'm in full Holiday Spirit mode.

So Happy Holidays from Korea!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Koren photographers and hospital experiences

Over the weekend I took a day trip with a group of friends to a city called Andong. It was a two hour windy bus ride that anyone with a slightly temperamental stomach would have vomited their breakfast...

There is a Korean folk village where the people still participate in the ancient Korean customs. First we went to the museum to learn about the customs then we went to the village. At the museum there was an old man doing calligraphy and he made scrolls for us for free. Mine says "May all your dreams come true." (Or something like that...)

Outside the museum we decided to stop for some group photos. There were two Korean men who wanted to take pictures with us. Then take pictures of us... All Koreans think they are photographers. They buy big fancy cameras and bring their tripod with at all times. How else can they take self portraits...?

It was a good weekend.

Last night my coworker, Jenn, thought she was dying (slight exaggeration). She had abdominal pains and other symptoms associated with appendicitis so it really wasn't something to put off for a few days. I went to the ER with her and... WOW. That is all I can say.

When we first got there there were two old people that appear to be on their death beds. Then some kids came in. Then a gurney with someone on life support came in. They started blood transfusions, plugged in a defibrillator and who knows what else.

In American emergency rooms you wait for hours and hours, but in the comfort of your own personal room with a TV. In Korea, the ER is basically an open triage center with gurneys lined up along the walls. They line patients up in order of severity. And use stainless steel chopsticks to handle medical supplies.

If you need to, for example, give a urine sample, you can do so in that personal room. In Korea you have a gurney with a curtain around it. And for urine samples, the bathroom is down the hall and around the corner. You even have to retrieve your own IV cart to be mobile. (Oh...they started an IV right away for abdominal pain...??)

So nurses and doctors are working on the patient that is dying (their head is all bandaged up, tube coming of of the mouth and there's crusted blood all over their face - yes I could see all this just walking by...) so I walk around the other way to get back to Jenn. There was a random puddle of dried blood on the floor. Completely normal and sanitary in Korea...

Let's just say my immune system is in overdrive today...

Friday, October 29, 2010

'Tis the Korean Seasons

I saw Korean Crossroads had a post on seasons so I decided to follow the bandwagon and give my observations...

When I arrived it was definitely SUMMER back home in the Midwest. End of June is certainly full swing Summer. Well not in Korea. For at least two weeks the weather was very pleasant. Cool breezes. You could walk outside without sweating.

After the nice two weeks until... the end of September probably, it was HOT. There wasn't even any relief at night once the sun went down. And my school was always stingy with air con. They would wait five minutes after class had started to turn it on, then turn it off five minutes before class ended. Poor kids, when I would ask, "How are you," would always respond, "VERY VERY VERY VERY hot."

Then once October came it was fall. No in between. No changing seasons. FALL. From shorts and tanks to jeans and jackets. Thats when I got  a stupid sinus infection because the weather changed so suddenly.

We enjoyed fall for a nice month. Well almost a month. Winter will be here next week. It's already announcing its arrival. I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for the cold. I mean it gets cold at home, but it's only cold (for me anyways) when I walk from my warm home to my warm car and from my warm car to a warm building. My apartment isn't COLD but certainly isn't central heat warm. And my school is just cold. I already wear my fleece pretty much all day.

I'm going to be such a big baby when Winter really comes. Ugh. Wish me luck! The only upside to cold weather is the cute hats, scarves and gloves you get to buy!!

Korean children get carsick too.

Hello followers... Here is an update from the past two weeks.

Last week we had a field trip with our babies. We went to a place called Homigot. It's the Eastern most part of South Korea. It's marked by a giant hand in the ocean facing another hand on land. It was so beautiful. There was a nice park for the kids to run around and play at. And there was a lighthouse museum that they ran around in.

The drive TO Homigot was... not pleasant. It was fine - a little hilly and windy but I'm fine in the back of cars. I look over and my little guy Hans looks tired and hot. I ask if he's ok. He says he is. I tell him we'll be there soon.  Next time I look over, he has vomit running down his shirt and more on its way up. I don't know what else to do besides put my hands up to his mouth. Ugh. Should have just let it go all over the van. I yell for the driver to pull over and they get Hans out for fresh air and hand me wet wipes to clean up the seat. And don't let me out. They almost had a sick teacher too...

All in all, the day was fun.

PS: The picture on my blog homepage is Homigot. BEAUTIFUL!!

Friends and Fish

I'm wrapping up a pretty good weekend here in the 'Hang. Saturday I had to work (since I was off last Friday after the Chusok holiday, I had to work Saturday this week). Not a fan of working on Saturdays but it honestly wasn't that bad...

Then I headed out for a night out on the town. And I mean OUT on the town. Had some drinks with some great friends and met some new ones (and met some creepy people too...). Once all the bars closed (at 6 am...) we (me, my friend Annie and a new friend we had met) decided it was a good idea to go to noraebang (Kroean karaoke). So we ventured out into the daylight and sang our hearts out for two hours.

And since we were already up, why not check out the largest outdoor market on Korea's east coast? I've been told it's best to go there early in the morning. And since I will never actually wake up early to check it out, it seemed fitting to experience it before going to bed.

Good night with Fist Fights...

A quick update. [Note: The next two posts actually precede this one. Somehow they were saved as drafts and never posted...woops]

Last we talked, there was a field trip. The weather was still nice.. So since the last post I've been having (more) fun like a freshman in college. Just to give you an idea, 2:00 a.m. last Saturday night was the earliest I had gotten in a cab headed for home in at least a month. If it's still dark outside, that's early...

School has been really great actually. I have seen such an improvement in (almost) all of my students! It's amazing. Soon after I got here (I think I was with the students for one month) I had to write progress reports... WHAT?!?! I made up stuff to write for basically every student. Next month is progress report time again. And I really feel like I'll have a lot to comment on for most students. (Still not looking forward to progress reports though...)

I've gotten back into working out. I joined a gym with my coworker and every Tuesday evening a group of girlfriends get together at the beach (I love how I can say that so casual... at the beach) and one friend organizes and plans a circuit workout. And then we stick around and have girl talk afterwards. BUT, two weeks ago I hurt my knee :(

In 2005 I tore my ACL, MCL and meniscus and had (I would say grueling) surgery to repair the former. I was doing mountain climbers and afterwards I got this awful pain in the same place as my MCL tear... A German... well not sure if he was a doctor or what... man insisted he look at my knee (at a bar, no less) and insisted it was my meniscus and a quick surgery would repair it. NO. Even though it would be super cheap, I refuse to have surgery in Korea. I've rested my knee and taken it easy for two weeks. Now I'm ready to try again.

Now I'll address the title of this post. Living in a town with a Marine base and small Navy base, you'd think there would be tension between the two branches and just the guys themselves. I mean when too much testosterone is mixed with alcohol, the reaction often is restricted to the upper body and results in swinging of the limbs, etc.

Surprisingly, I have yet to see a fight started by a military man. Instead, fights are started by Koreans, which now I know also have a lot of testosterone brewing that reacts with alcohol. The first fight was on a Thursday night at a popular bar. It's pretty big and everyone was spread out in their groups... All of a sudden, back in a corner where pool tables are, a fight breaks out. A (surprisingly large) Korean was causing a ruckus and pushing and shoving other Koreans (which I found out were his friends). The bartender (male) and owner (female) go over to break it up. He then pushes and shoves them!

That's when the American marines get heated. No one pushes a woman. So they try to get a piece of him (and ultimately stop him) and they're pulled back by their counterparts. So the guy is still pushing and shoving, throwing punches and neck-holding people. They finally get him to the door. And he still has outbursts and lunges at individuals. I stayed back but was still scared. What if he made eye contact and lunged at me?!?! A mug was thrown and broken, a Korean was punched in the face. The cops were called.

Now to note the "duty" of Korean cops... After literately 40 minutes, the guy is taken outside and the cops are asking several people what happened. He's still trying to fight. Ok in America, if someone was still trying to fight even with the cops arrived, he would get arrested, tazered, hit with the light stick or all of the above. The cop takes one guy's hand, then the other and forces them to hold hands. And they walk off together. End of story. (And ps, the guy was STILL trying to fight people an hour later while getting into the cab.)

The next night (I wasn't there but heard eye-witness stories) there was another fight, started by a Korean university student. Apparently the guy was looking for a fight with anyone and everyone. He swings at one foreign teacher. A friend of the teacher (also a teacher) sees it so punches the Korean. Then the Korean's African friend punches the teacher. Breaks his jaw in a couple places. The teacher had his jaw wired shut and surgery to put plates in his face.

I'm glad I have only small doses of testosterone in my bloodstream. Oh no! What happens when I reach menopause and no longer produce female reproductive hormones? Will I want to pick fights too?!?! Haha.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Happy Chusok

Chusok is a Korea holiday equivalent to our Thanksgiving. Only it's three days instead of one. This year it happened to fall during the middle of the week. So I had to work Monday but had the rest of the week of! I've been planning and looking forward to going bunjee jumping for Chusok for a while. So I thought I'd venture to Seoul to see my friend Gina again (even though the last trip was pretty awful - nothing went as planned).

This trip was (almost) completely the opposite! I was a little worried at first. Gina doesn't have a cell phone right now. My internet wasn't working before I left. Luckily I told her when my bus was leaving and she told me her new apartment number. My stomach was in knots the whole ride up there (what would I do if I couldn't find her place...? Wander around in Ilsan?) 

My arrival was flawless (for the most part). Didn't even go the wrong direction on the subway! The only downer was the awful rain and the traffic. It was bumper to bumper basically the entire way to Seoul. America has no idea what holiday traffic is... And there were flash floods on the interstate going into the city. I got DRENCHED even with an umbrella. But, I made it safely.

Wednesday Gina got up at a decent hour to go shopping. I got my shop on like it was going out of style. Found some Winter clothes (I obviously don't have the typical Asian physique so that can pose a problem when looking for any type of apparel) and some shoes. Bought some books and some face stuff! Great shopping all around. Then we decided to go to Namsan tower (a needle point structure). You can take a cable car up to it (it's on a mountain).

We didn't know exactly how to get there but life is an adventure, right? Some Ajumma (Korean for older lady) told us which subway line to take. We get to the stop and a Korean couple is looking at the area map with us. They point at the same place we need to go. Same Same! (A new, commonly used phrase in my life.) So we decide to follow them. After all, they're Korean, we're not. They head up through these neighborhoods. I kind of questioned their route but they must be going the right way, right... Oh my gosh. Those people took us over a river, through the woods, up some hills, around corners and still, we were not  even close to the cable car place. They finally shoo us away and we come to the conclusion that maybe they are hiking, not going to the same place we are... Ugh. We found another Korean couple that got lost with us and together we all found the cable cars... Got some great views/pictures of the skyline just before my camera went dead. Then for dinner we ate delicious American food in Itaewon (the foreigner district of Seoul).

Next day (Thursday) we got up early-ish again and went to Costco (always a highlight of Ilsan trips!) where I bought REAL cheese, lunch meat, salsa, Heinz ketchup and American mascara! Lunch was Taco Bell! It's pretty sad when Taco Bell counts as Mexican food... Then we set off for the Seoul Zoo. It was decent for a zoo (although I don't think any zoo will ever be better than my beloved St. Louis Zoo...) and it was really fun to see all the Korean families and little kids everywhere. Success. Dinner was delicious Thai food (again in Itaewon) then met up with a couple friends.

Friday was bunjee day!! Gina had to work and everyone (in Pohang and Ilsan) flaked so it was just me and Nick. 9:00 am departure turned into, "Let's wake up at 9," turned into sleeping until 11, leaving around noon. Even if there was a big crowd and we had to wait, we really didn't have anything else to do... It took a two hour subway ride and ten minute taxi to get to the park. It didn't look crowded... Hmmm... No one was jumping. Or getting ready to jump. Hmmmm... The lake underneath was really low. Hmmm... You guessed it. They were closed. Now I did my research. The website specifically said open all days including holidays, rain or shine. I even tried to call at one point but got no answer. The site didn't mention that if the lake was too full or they were cleaning it (neither Nick nor I understand Korean but we tried our best to make up what we thought the Korean guy sleeping at the ticket counter said), no one could jump. It was a sad afternoon, two hour subway ride back and wasted day... That called for some soju...

After a short nap, we (I went out with Gina's friends because she had to work until 10 p.m.) ate some delicious Korean dinner, went to noraebang, and ended the night at a club. It was so much fun and I met some great people... Don't tell anyone but I secretly REALLY want to move there when my contract in Pohang is over! Shhhhh!

The next day (Saturday) I packed my stuff up for the journey back home to Pohang. Got home around 11 p.m. Met a friend for some drinks and called in a relatively early night. Today (Sunday) is just a relaxing day at a coffee shop (don't feel like looking at my mess of an apartment and mounds of dirty clothes to be washed) blogging, book and letters to family.

How many days until Christmas vacation?!?!?

 The Seoul skyline.
 Skyline from the top of the mountain.

 Cute giraffe headband. Small children were also wearing these accessories.
 Yay bungee jumping!!
Sad waygooks :(

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Only in Korea #1

I've decided that some blog posts will be devoted to Korea/Koreans in all their glory. I'm in a different country - there's a different culture. I know this. But sometimes the cultural differences just AMAZE me... For example:

When we (me and my bosses) leave the bank, we quickly discover that my director's car is blocked in by a different car. Because this Korean "parking lot" consisted of a rectangular grid painted on cement. No space to get out.

Now Koreans put their phone numbers in the front of their cars just in case a situation like this one. So my director could have called the owner of the vehicle blocking him in, then the owner would come out and move the vehicle. No.

He checks to see if the driver door is unlocked.
It is.
He gets in the car to see if the keys are in it.
They are.

He starts the car (that isn't his...), backs it up, then tells my supervisor (who does NOT have her driver's license) to get in his car and move it out - so he can put the car back in the same spot.

Remember, she doesn't have her driver's license. She is going to driving school but she drives forward. In a truck... So after about five minutes of waiting for her to reverse, he just parks the car that isn't his in a new spot and we drive away in the car that is his.

And this is completely normal. Only in Korea.

Also, look forward to the "Only in Korea" facebook photo album.

Pre-Chusok life

It's been a while since my last post... The past few weeks I've mostly been just looking forward to vacation. I did have "adventures" trying to set up online banking so I could transfer money home.

There was a lot lost in translation when I had originally gone to set up my bank account. And in America it doesn't take much to set up online banking. Social security number, bank account number, pin, etc... Not in Korea. Let me take a quite break and say Koreans are the most inefficient people EVER. They have zero organizational skills...(that means zero multi-tasking skills as well...)

I think I had it set up on my own without having to go to the bank. But still couldn't do what I needed to do. So I called the bank's English line from Skype. Naturally, a Korean answered. I tried to explain what I needed. She needed my Alien Registration Number. Fine. She asks a question I didn't really understand. I said yes (that's always my answer to questions I don't understand). Then I hear music and Korean jabber... I hung up. Because I obviously don't know Korean. I mean that's why I called the English line... So the next day I insist to my employer that I need to go to the bank branch with a Korean.

The lady taps at her computer for a while. Needed my registration card, passport, bank books. Fine. She gives me a new card thing and said I'm ready for online banking. (Not true...) I spent the rest of the day (an hour lunch break and five 10 minute breaks) trying to give the damn online system what it wanted. FINALLY I was able to send money home...

And I have a wonderful "Only in Korea" story...

Last Letter

Last Monday was the last day for my favorite student. Sad day. She had a chocolate bar and a letter for me and said I have to wait until after class to read it. And I would like to share it with my friends... Written verbatim.

[FRONT]: Dear Heather,
                 From Mary

You Are My Sun Shine ~

[Snow White sticker]  <---- It's you!

My last letter


See you Some times!

Dear, my teacher Heather.
Teacher. today will be my last day. I enjoyed in your class. [Heart] When you came first day sometimes I hate you but not anymore. ^-^ Don't forget me! and I miss you so much ~<3 I have one secret that is why always I was bad. When Lily came to Level 4, I think you always good to Lily. I was bad and always angry, but not anymore ^-^ People's lifes are sad, bad, happy and good, like that

(My stickers give to Lily)

[PAGE 2]

I enjoy, happy, sad in your class. People is birth and die. That is look like start to finsh. Today is last in kid's college. Always we have end like me. So I was fun, enjoyed your class, and I can't easy decision. Don't forget and miss me!
I'm So Sorry But I Love You! 
I plentifully Sorry.      
See you some time.
Thank you for teaching me!
I'm crying~ ^=^ 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Shopping Blunders

I'll start out by saying I'm an indecisive shopper even in the States. I dwell and get chooey about which product to pick. Which flavor/color? Which brand? Which is cheaper? Which is the better value? Oh I forgot I needed [insert item located on the other side of the store]...

I come to Korea and instantly, even if I plan to be in and out, the excursion takes forever... Because obviously, I can't read the labels. Now some products will have a little English on them but for other things, you just have to guess.

So here are some "shopping blunders" I've made in the two months I've been here:

1.     Laundry detergent and fabric softener. Not the same. And most of those packages do NOT have English on them. So for the first...three weeks or so I washed my clothes with fabric softener. And even worse, it took me two weeks to discover the mistake. I just thought Korean laundry detergent was really liquid and smelled really good...

2.     Produce... You know how in America if produce is nice and packaged, there is a set price for it. So you can just take it up to the checkout and they can scan it, etc etc...? Well in Korea they do have pre-packaged produce. But is the price on the package? Nope. Found this out the hard way when I was checking out. Several customers behind me of course. And the lady yells some Korean to another lady who dashes off towards the produce section. With my unmarked produce.

You have to weigh the package on this fancy scale and push a bunch of fancy Korean buttons and it prints you a nice label to put on your fruit. Easy enough. For Koreans... Last time I bought fruit there was a nice worker who "manned" the scale. Not tonight. After standing in front of it like a clueless waygook for a few minutes I decided to try myself. Put my fruit on. Punched in some numbers. Then some other buttons. Then the machine made a loud noise at me. Clearly not the right combination... So I waited a few more minutes before someone finally helped me. (She pushed two buttons)

3.     It's usually better to pay a little extra for the English on the label. I found out the hard way with salt. For $1 less, I could get the salt in the bag and just refill my old bottle. Easy enough. Until I realized what I got is NOT salt... For a few weeks I just didn't use salt because I was pretty sure I bought MSG. Remember, I can't read Korean. The only characters I recognized on the back was "MSG" and "Warning"...

I did find out tonight, though that it actually wasn't MSG. It's meat tenderizer.

126,000 wan later, I have groceries for the next two months. Yes, Koreans, I am white and I only go grocery shopping every two months. And ride the bus with my heavy backpack and full hands. Don't judge.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Birthday, Elvis and 157 planets

My 22nd birthday came and went. It was really good. It was on a Thursday night and I did have to work the next day....BUT still went out with a bunch of girl friends and had way too much fun. Next day: not fun. You can fill in the details...

I got really homesick at the end of the night. I've spent minor holidays away from home and major holidays away from home (but with family with me) but I've never spent my birthday completely away from family and my close friends. Hopefully the holidays coming up will be a little easier.

I've been in Korea for two months already! It seems like I just got here yesterday! I finally feel like a real teacher and I can see how my students are improving! I also got a new class this week. It is a beginner class. So I teach kindergarten in the morning and elementary in the afternoon. Most of my elementary classes are the older kids. Well now I have beginners - who don't know much English at all. It will be fun to see how they progress.

And one of the boys' English name is ELVIS. I was really excited to meet Elvis and he definitely lives up to his name! If you haven't see the "asian boy popstar" video you should check it out. This isn't Elvis but my Elvis stands up, shakes his hips and caresses himself in a similar way - every time he gets an answer correct. This class is going to be fun...

Oh and here's a link to the video. You only need to watch like 15 seconds to get a good impression...
Future Asian popstar/Elvis

And my "Korean kids say the darnest things" for this week:

A bonus question for a science test was "How many planets are there?" I wasn't sure how easy or hard this would be so I asked the kids at the beginning of class. One boy knew. He raised his hand confidently. And said, "Teacher, one hundred fifty-seven?" Hmmmm... (by the way that was the "Have you seen the pizza menu?" kid!)

Leave comments. Tell me what you think. Tell me you miss me! lol

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Conversation of the Day

At the beginning of class I ask them random questions about the date, the weather, how they are, etc. So I ask Molly how her day has been. And here's the conversation:

Molly: Teacher, my grandpa died yesterday.
Me: Oh Molly I'm so sorry. Do you need a hug?
Molly: No.
Me: So he... died? He is not living anymore?
Molly: Yes. He had a headache.
Me: He had a headache?
Molly: Yes.
Me: And then he died? Because he had a headache?
Molly: Yes, teacher.
Me: Oh... I'm so sorry. Are you sad?
Molly: No. I am happy. My grandpa was bad.
Me: He was mean?
Molly: Yes. He is very scary.

Oh Koreans.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Language Barrier

The most popular question I got when I told people that I decided to move to South Korea to teach English was, "Do you know Korean?" I would then explain that I don't need to know Korean, only be able to teach English. That is true. I do get around quite well not knowing Korean. There are times, however, when messages get lost in translation. These are a few humorous examples...

#1: Whose baby? - My co-worker Jenn has had a particular student in her class for a while. One day the former supervisor teacher from my school came in with the little girl and another little girl. Quick background info: The woman is the sister of our director. She was... I guess let go... just before I came because of some chick fight with my supervisor at school... So she comes in with these two kids. Jenn mentioned that she wasn't aware that she had kids. Or was married. (In Korea it's very shameful to have a child out of wedlock). So she asks Elly, my supervisor if Ruby is the girl's mom. Elly replied yes. Hmm. So Ruby gave birth to the little girl? Yes. The little girl lives with Ruby? No. Hmm... But at the end of the conversation it was understood that Ruby is, in fact, a mother to both little girls.

Today the girl's parents came in. Her other parents... After today's conversation it's now understood that the girl has two sets of parents?

#2: Bank Business - I'm at the bank with my supervisor opening an account. I went to this specific bank because it's easy to transfer money home online. So the bank lady is talking to Elly in Korean. (I made up dialogue in my head) and Elly would talk back, etc. My interpretation of facial expressions flagged a conflict. Whatever the bank lady told Elly didn't sit well... So I continue watching back and forth like a tennis match. Hmmm.

Elly eventually translated for me. She explained what she understood. Luckily there was a brochure in English. (Not the same...)

So as an American, I have a given name, a middle name and a family name - in that order. It's the same order on my alien card and passport and the way I write it. Well somehow at the bank today my middle name ended up first, and first name second. I pointed this out to my supervisor who translated and confirmed that it's correct on the bank account. I was assured that it was alright. Hmm... Koreans. Incredibly laid back and inefficient. In all situations.

#3: Have you seen the pizza menu? - We're getting ready to take a vocab quiz and I always say "Numero uno" instead of number one. And every day, my students are confused. So I explain "Numero uno" is "Number one" in Spanish... So today after I explain it again one of my kids gets really excited. Like you KNOW  light bulb just went off in his head. I figured he remembered it from a song or a movie or something. Then he shouts (in perfect English) "HAVE YOU SEEN THE PIZZA MENU?" The random comment would be funny coming from a  kid who speaks fluent English but it's slightly more hilarious coming from a kid who only puts together sentences that make sense 40% of the time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dragons = Domination

Friday was summer camp for kids at Kid's College. We "hosted" an overnight camp for the kiddies at this "inn" (my supervisor called it an inn but they basically rented out some cabins and an open yard about 40 minutes from school).

Not gonna lie... when I found out about the even I wasn't thrilled. It meant I had to go to work a little earlier and even though we (American teachers) didn't have to spend the night with the children, we still stayed relatively late. After the fact, however, I'm really glad we had to go. It was a lot of fun!

The kids were already there by the time I got there. The boys played soccer, the girls played on the teeter-totter and chatted. Then all the kids split up into teams. The teams were a mix of all the students so it gave me the opportunity to get to know kids I see every day but didn't know.

First thing was first - we needed a team name. The kids shouted out ideas. The girls came up with names like "Kittens" and "Purple" (to which the boys shouted "TEACH-UH, NOOOOOOO") and the boys wanted "Soccer" and "Moon"... I made the executive decision when I heard the word "dragon". So we were the dragons.

Kickball kicked off the first of the competitions. Dragons dominated. Then a mission race. Kind of like a relay race. They had to run to the other side of the field, pick up a piece of paper, read it and then do what the paper said. For example, if the clue said "find a girl wearing glasses" they had to find a girl with classes (duh) and run with her back to the other side. Jenn Teacher and I went head to head for the last round. I won! (Unfortunately the individual she had to seek out ran from her!) Dragon domination!! (Kid's got a sticker when we won.)

The rest of the evening included eating Korean BBQ, killing bugs, a slapping game with girls (it was a weird game they taught us), charades, a speech contest and other fun games. So all in all, it was a very positive experience. But not something I want to do on a regular basis. Have I mentioned that Korea summers are super hot? Very comparable to St. Louis summers...

Then on Saturday I went to Daegu (1.5 hour bus ride) to watch a baseball game. Like a traditional summer baseball game, it was disgustingly hot. The Samsung Lions didn't have nearly as many fans attending (their biggest section was like a fraction of Busch Stadium at home). They were no Cardinals but at least they won 8-2. Meanwhile, the Cards were playing the Cubs so I supported in my Cardinals attire. AND I sang "Take me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch (there wasn't one so I made one...) and definitely replaced "root root root for the home team" with "root root root for the Cardinals." (Good thing I did, too. We beat the Cubbies 6-3!)

Thursday is my birthday. Plans are in the makings for BBQ and girls night! It will be different not seeing my friends and family. But that's the good thing about birthdays... there will always be more, as long as the good Lord allows it!

Above: Kid's College Summer Camp Kiddies! Below: Final score for the Samsung Lions game, Dragon team huddle and the massive amounts of Korean fans who show up for pro-ball games.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Life, as I know it..

Once a new and exciting adventure, Pohang has now become... life. An exciting and adventurous life! I like my job. Even though I'm completely exhausted by the end of the day, hearing, "Heather Teacher, you're beautiful," (sounds like "beeeoooteeeful") then "No! Heather Teacher, you are VERY beautiful," "VERY VERY beautiful," (etc...) from 3 year olds makes it all worth it. And today one of my babies fell asleep in my arms. Good to know Kindergarten wears them out too!

But I definitely live for the weekend. Pohang has good cultural stuff to do (hiking, temples and waterfalls etc), some good beaches, and good night life. There is a base in Pohang so there are usually a lot of military at the bars I frequent. Sometimes military guys are... well d-bags... but others are interesting to get to know.

And by adventurous let me just explain my Saturday. First, three friends and I ventured to a beach that was a good 20 minute cab ride away. Great sun, great water and for a few, an even greater sunburn. I am proud to note that I am a bronze beauty this summer. (Side note: my students always comment that I'm browner. One student called me "black". Understand that not-pasty-white skin is considered unattractive in Korea. So it is common to see Koreans at the beach with long sleeves, long pants and under an umbrella fanning themselves... The best Korean moment at the beach was seeing a girl in full Sunday church clothes, complete with denim vest, long skirt, etc in the ocean with a parasol and her grandma in tow.)

"Long sleeves? Check. Pants? Check. Hood? Check. So glad the sun will not touch me at all while I'm at the beach."

Anyways... beach Saturday. Then it's decided that after beach-ee (story for later on Koreans and extra syllables) we'll go to Burger King for food. The Burger King is on the campus of a university. None of the Pohang vets I was with have been there. We get on the bus to head to the campus (we don't know which bus to take so Chad tries his best Kanglish - a little Korean + English and the Korean he asked responds in perfect English, "Take this bus.") We're on the bus and see a Pizza Hut sign. We rush off the bus, not wanting to miss the stop. I mean Burger King MUST be by Pizza Hut, right? Wrong. So we take a cab to the campus. Cab driver drops us off in the middle of nowhere. He didn't understand our Kanglish ("Hamburger. American Hamburger. Way-gook hamburger" ). We walk around aimlessly - no Koreans are in sight to try to ask. We contemplate just going back to Pizza Hut but flame grilled Whoppers loom in our American memories... Finally find a security guard who shows us a map. And we make it! Adventure. To find a fast food restaurant. Typical American... (the Whopper was DELICIOUS by the way)

Sooo to wrap up, I love my life and my new home. And krazy Koreans.

PS If you read this you HAVE to leave a comment. Even if it's "Hey, I read it." PLEEEEEEASE!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

One Month Down

Wow I've been in South Korea for over a month already! It really seems like just a few days ago I came in on the big plane! So I'll start around week 3 or 4 and go from there...


Work got a little stressful because there was so much to do and just not enough time to do it. The last week in July would begin the summer vacation. Teachers (well me and Jenn, my American colleague) would be on vacation but the kiddies still had to go Monday and Tuesday. My supervisor would "teach" them. And by teach I mean give them tests. Every afternoon class (5) had a test both days. No bid deal, right? Wrong. I had to search and find all 10 tests, make sure they were correct and make copies. It actually doesn't seem like THAT big of a deal but it was really challenging because a lot of stuff was very unorganized. And I couldn't stay organized either... But now it's over and done with (I'll just have to grade all of those tests when I get in on Monday...).


Before I left for vacation, Pohang hosted the "International Fireworks Festival." They had soo much to do on the beach and at the river. People apparently came from all over to see the fireworks. And three countries (Japan, Canada and Poland - I think) competed for the best pyrotechnic show. The festivities began on Saturday though. Went to the beach and it was amazing. They had (FREE) speed boat rides, wind surfing, tubing, jet skis, row boating, kayaking, blow up water slides and probably more. It was so much fun. And even though the water is quite polluted (sticking out from the beach on the peninsula is the 4th largest steel mill in the world, POSCO) but I didn't care the whole weekend. It was hot and sunny. So I was in the water. And I enjoyed it. I just didn't put my head under.

Then Saturday night was the big fireworks! First I had dinner with a friend - traditional Korean BBQ. They bring out a bunch of side dishes to munch on, first. And then bring out the meat, that you grill on your table. When the meat is done, you make a taco-like thing with lettuce and other fillers (marinated onions, garlic, bean sprouts, bean paste, etc). It's delicious. We ate beef but really traditional Korean BBQ uses pork. It's called samgyopsal (sahm-gip-saw). It appears to be thick bacon that isn't cured but it's definitely one of my top favorite Korean foods. Ok so THEN the fireworks!! It was a challenge getting there. ALL of the taxis were full and heading to the river so we had to walk (not a big deal. It wasn't far, just super hot!) There were just fields and fields of Koreans and they basically had a mini carnival set up. Only where the funnel cake stand should be, there's a raw seafood stand and a bowl full of bugs to eat (silk worm larvae. I refuse to try it.). The fireworks show was literately an entire hour of finale fireworks. I have a lot of video footage actually. I'll post some. You would see a "finale" and think that was it. Some people would leave. Then more fireworks would start. It was really exciting.

Then on Sunday I hung out at the beach again. Rented a tube and floated in the water for hours! I saw one of my students. I think I see a little girl I know then she starts waving madly and yelling "Heather Teacher! Heather Teacher!" (only it sounds like He-tha Tee-cha). Then later I see her swimming up to my tube with something in her hand. Her grandma bought me a popsicle! So sweet. I love treats!

Then Sunday evening I left to go to Seoul for a week to visit my friend Gina from Missouri (we both went to SEMO and have a mutual friend. We technically only met once before I went to stay with her for a week but she's great and I had a blast!)


My bus left at 8 p.m. I think. Maybe 9... But the ride was pretty uneventful. I slept. And since I got into Seoul so late (like 1:30 or so...) I had to take a taxi to Ilsan, about 30 minutes north of the city. I walk out of the bus terminal and no one is around. I can kind of see the street but don't exactly know how to get to it. A taxi driver approaches me and asks if I need a ride. Well, I do... So I get in and show him the text from Gina saying where I need to be dropped off. Halfway through the ride he tells me it will be $40. I didn't know if that was normal or not. Finally gets me to my destination, with Gina's help and her Korean boyfriend tries to talk to him and get me a better price. No luck. The guy's a D-bag and says he's a "special kind of taxi." So I fork over $40 for a 30 minute ride. (Completely outrageous. He probably took advantage of me because I'm white. No, I guarantee it.)

The next day we (eventually) leave for Muuido Island, off Incheon. [Seoul is the capitol of Korea. Incheon is an island north of Seoul and that's where the major airport is - The main way in and out of South Korea. Then there are smaller islands off of Incheon with beaches and stuff.] Takes us forever to get there because we have to catch this bus and go here then get on this buss and go there. Then a bus driver said I didn't pay my $8 fare when I really had already paid twice. So we tried to find out how I can get that money back, unsuccessfully... Then we wait 45 minutes for the bus that's supposed to take us to the ferry to take us to the island. Bus ride is long. We get off. It's the wrong ferry. We traveled the length of the island when actually, Muuido ferry is really close to where we started. So we take a taxi BACK up the island to our ferry.

Things are good until we go to rent our beach hut with a bathroom. They're under construction. Cool. But we could rent a pension with a bathroom, bed, AC for $15/night. GREAT! Not great... we misunderstood. $150/night. AND the $30 beach huts (that Gina's friend stayed in) are now $50/night because it's vacation season. A rip off but what else could we do...? So we get to our beach hut and quickly see that it's a metal shed with a window, on stilts. Still, it was a place to sleep and had pillows and blankets.

The water is too cold to swim in at this point (6 p.m.) and the sun is going down. So we just hang out on the beach and walk out with the tide as it's going out. This didn't seem strange at all because it makes sense that the tide would leave when it gets dark because of gravity and stuff... So then we eat a delicious and make some friends at the little beach restaurant. Gina's friend John is Korean (and speaks fluent English) so he was deemed our translator pretty quickly.

Next day we wake up early, thanks to the sound of waves and this huge tractor thing. We eat ice cream for breakfast because they didn't have American-type breakfast food. And at the beach the tide was semi-in but appeared to be going out again. Weird... And it keeps going out and out and out... Hmmmm? We go to the little store to have John ask and he finds a calendar that shows the tides. We came during low tide season. Therefore, the tide is low ALL the time except for a 2 or 3 hour period starting at 4 p.m. every day. Great! So we walk 3 miles several times to reach water up to our ankles. It was kind of cool to see the marine life come out of the ocean floor. But we were at the beach. We wanted water. We end up waiting 9 hours for the tide to come in. Then once it's high tide, we leave because the water is too cold to swim in! We quickly find out that everyone got BURNT, in spite of the sunscreen we put on like every hour... Oh well...

The next day (Wednesday) we go to Seoul to hang out. Ate some good food that day. Discovered Kimbop (kind of like a sushi roll basically), my new favorite Korean food. And ate a Doner (a Turkish gyro-type wrap thing. I ate them all the time in Germany. They're DELICOUS!) in Itaewon. Itaewon is the main "foreigner district" in Seoul. There are a lot of military and teachers that live and go there.

I found out that Koreans in Itaewon are REALLY prejudice. We're walking down the street and a police officer comes up to me and introduces himself and asks to see my purse. Then John catches up and translates for me. The officer wants to search my purse because a Korean man left a folder on a bench that we walked by and he thinks I put it in my purse (which actually isn't big enough to hide a folder with documents I wouldn't be interested in.). At first I didn't understand what was going on but then I realized they're discriminating against me because I'm white! Gina is furious and asks the officer if he checked her purse and her purse and her purse (pointing to Korean women). That gets me mad and I refuse and tell the officer he can take me to the US Embassy and they can search my purse. (Afterall, I am an American citizen and am still entitled to my American rights, even in South Korea). I finally walk across the street to cross somewhere else and I see the accuser man look at me and give me a head nod. I give him the finger in return.

Once my blood pressure went back down we had some beer and fries at a pub and I won at darts! We made a pretty early night because the next day we had to get up and travel East to where John's grandpa lives. We didn't get going as early as we would have liked but we got to Kangwon-do (Eastern state) before dinner.

John's grandpa owns a (Korean-famous) fish restaurant that serves raw and cooked trout. Twenty years ago he built the restaurant and HUGE holding tanks that use water from the mountains. He breeds and raises the trout (there are about 20,000 living trout at any given moment) and then serves them up to guests! It was really cool and the area was beautiful. It was a little town in the country/mountains. The food was just DELICIOUS and everyone at the restaurant (and the area in general) was so sweet and welcoming (unlike Seoul!). Gina and I stayed at a hotel in the town (a really nice room for $40 by the way. Cheaper than a shed and had amenities...) and went back for breakfast the next morning where we were served a ton more food. (Oh and John's grandpa gave us "allowance" while we were there. To take a taxi back in the morning, which didn't use even a quarter of the stipend he donated!) Everyone was just SUPER sweet and I decided I need to marry into a Korean family. That's my new goal! Haha!

We got back to Seoul and did some shopping. I bought some books and stationary. I decided I'm going learn Korean and got a self-teach listening workbook. Haven't started yet but I'm really excited. I think that if I can semi-understand and communicate in their language, I'd be less likely to be taken advantage of because I'm a waygook (Korean word for "foreigner" and often used as a racial slur when you hear Koreans say it mixed in with a bunch of Korean you don't understand and looking and pointing...).


Now I'm back in my Pohang and I decided it's where I belong. Gina (who is actually going home to Missouri in a week but has decided to find a new job in Korea and come back!) told me to come to Seoul. That it's better. But I decided I'm just not cut out for a big city like that. It takes FOREVER to get anywhere and you have to constantly be surrounded by thousands of people. [Note: 40% of the Korean population lives IN Seoul, and 10% or 20% lives in it's "suburbs" - which are quickly just being considered SEOUL, thanks to urban expansion. This means that over half of the entire Korean population lives in Seoul. That's A LOT OF people. We're talking like 25 million people. New York City has 8.5 million residents.

Today (Sunday) is just a lazy, cleaning day. I need to mentally prepare myself for the next week/month/year! My birthday is in a few weeks! Pretty excited. If I were in America I would use my 22nd birthday as a 21 + 1 and as an excuse to binge drink but I am officially the youngest teacher in Pohang so I'll just say I'm 22 (and I can't make any guarantees against the binge drinking part).

Oh and if you feel so inclined, you can totally get my address and send me stuff! I have pretty stationary now so I promise I'll write you back. Maybe send you pictures. I love getting stickers, American gum, spice packets and mac and cheese. (Spice packets like taco seasoning, fajita seasoning, enchilada sauce mix and the instant noodle packs!) Email me or facebook message me to get my address!


I want to take a moment to address the safety of Korea. Most of you know before I left, there was concern about, well, another war between North and South Korea. I won't deny that it's ALWAYS a threat. The Korean war did not end with a peace treaty, just a truce, so there are still hard feelings and tension. But first of all, I'm registered with the US Embassy. If there is an emergency evacuation for some reason, I will be found and accounted for and shipped home immediately. From what I've heard from Koreans in Pohang, the conflict wasn't THAT big of a deal. In Seoul, the threat was a little higher just because it's so close to North Korea and it's the capital. Actually, the town where Gina lives (Ilsan) was built as a blockade of sorts between the north and Seoul. So if they attack, they can take Ilsan while Seoul has time to prepare.

But all violence aside, Korea is a VERY safe place. Especially where I live. I have NEVER felt threatened to walk by myself (even at night). You can set your purse at a table at a bar and walk around all night and not be concerned that someone's going to steal it. After going out at night in America, I always make sure I'm with my friends. There's always the concern that a friend will get drugged and... well killed. You just can't trust anyone in America. That's totally not the case here. I can talk to strangers at the bar leave alone at 3 am (or sometimes 5 or 6!) and catch a taxi to go home. After work in the evenings I like to walk to the beach (about 6 miles round trip probably) and it's dark halfway there. I never feel unsafe. There are always other people out walking about.

Going home is going to be strange, having to watch out for strange people at all times. Here I AM the strange person! And in Pohang, by the way, I am not discriminated against. More like treated like a celebrity. Little kids and high schoolers point and smile and say "Hello!! Nice to meet you!!"

And that's about it for now. Sorry this was so long. I'll try to blog more often rather than longer posts.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Being Heather Teacher...

I officially love teaching! I'm probably not very good at it (yet) but I'll get there. It's so rewarding when you can tell that they understand you and are learning. I love all my students but I especially love the babies. Their love is... unconditional. Here are pictures of a few of my kiddies!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Quick Update...

I slept through both World Cup games (Korea played at 11 pm, America played at 3:30 am, I woke up at 5 am because of foreign noises coming from outside...)

BUT the real news is I took my first hot shower in Korea (the previous two have been cold...) With creative problem-solving and the desire for, in this case a hot shower, I know I will be able to figure out EVERYTHING. And when I can't, I'll ask Jenn...!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Not in Kansas Anymore...

I am officially in Pohang, South Korea! I'll start at the beginning...

The weekend before I left was really hard. My grandma had a little family going away party and I got to see family from out of town etc. Said goodbye to my other grandparents/family. And then saying goodbye to Chris and Mom was the hardest. Even harder than packing!

I thought both suitcases were under 50 lbs. Then Chris (who turned around from on his way back to Cape to spend the rest of my time in America with me!) pointed out that I only had part of the suitcase on the scale. Actual weight: 60 lbs... Long story short, I had to take 5 lbs total out of both suitcases to be at capacity. And I had the maximum carry on bags.

I went from St. Louis to Denver. Then Denver to San Fransisco. I was supposed to go to Seoul from San Fran but plans changed... Left Denver super late and missed my international flight sooooo I went to Tokyo instead and then to Seoul from there. Flights Took multiple doses of dramamine to make sure I slept plenty. Then took a bus from Seoul to Pohang, finally arriving over 30 hours later at 3:00 am Korea time.

The next morning I got up and got ready for school. I'm staying with my supervisor for a few days until my apartment is ready for me to move in. She went to school early so she was gone by the time I woke up. The night before she told me how to turn on the heater "if I wanted to take a bath" but I didn't understand. It's summer, who would want the heat on to take a hot shower! After my cold shower, I realized what that meant... You turn it on for hot water! I'm gonna see if that works pretty soon...

I picked a perfect day to start. It was an open house for the Kindergarten classes. So all the parents were at school. I watched classes and plays and songs, introduced myself and then observed the rest of the classes I'll have. My youngest student will be 3 years old (American) and oldest probably 11 I think. In Korea, you're 1 year old when you're born. Then on Jan. 1 you turn two. So it's tricky to find out how old the kids really are...

Then in the evening I went to the going away party for the two teachers from my school who are leaving next week. I tried to have as much fun and stay up as late as I possibly could but jet lag got the best of me. I went home at 1 am. Haha. Early...

I'm quite proud of what I've learned during the whole 36 hours I've been her. I know how to get to school on my own. And GS mart to buy food and soju (Korean liquor kind of like vodka). I also learned how to say hello and goodbye, catch a cab and get the waitress. Maybe I'll post a "Korean lesson" when I learn more. I haven't tried it yet, but if I were someplace else in the city, I think I could catch a cab AND find my way back to my neighborhood and apartment. We'll see... I might wait 48 hours to try that.

I've spent all day (Saturday) trying to get over jet lag but I just can't seem to sleep until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. I'm tired but just can't nap... Now I'm going to get ready and go downtown Pohang with Jenn (American teacher at my school) and later watch the Korea v. Paraguay World Cup game! DAE HAN MIN GUK! (I think this means Go Korea or something... not entirely sure...)

More later...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Funny story...

My mom comes home from work and tells me that she talked to a long time family friend and told them that I'm moving to Korea, etc. I thought her response was pretty hilarious and I should share it...

Their response: "Oh my gosh! Will she be working in a commune behind closed walls?"

It's quite possible that I should now give a 60 year history lesson to every person I tell. Make some pamphlets maybe. The front would say "North Korea is communist. South is the good country."

Almost There!

I've made some progress since my last post! My interview in Chicago went well, my visa was approved and my flight has been booked! I leave eight days from today and although I have a list of stuff to pack, I have yet to actually pack. This is how I spend my time I could use to pack...!

Chicago trip started out a little rocky. We missed our train - the one that had previously de-railed. Quite possibly a blessing in disguise. We took the bus instead. You see some interesting characters riding the bus...

My interview was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Actual interview time: 11:15 a.m.

Tip of the Day: Time is relative for Koreans. ASAP = month and a half, "Come when you get your visa" = June 23 and 10:30 = 11:15. This is actually perfect for me, as I am late more often than I'm on time or early.

Mr. Li was my interviewer (not sure what his title was). He asked me questions about myself, why I want to go to Korea, why I want to be a teacher, etc. He had already asked about my parents and what they do but towards what I thought was the end of my interview he asked if I came to Chicago alone. No. And if my parents were in the waiting room. My mom was. So he insisted I bring her back. This would have been easy if the waiting room was next door, but no, it was down a hallway, through another room and two locked doors. Mom thought it was time to go but I informed her that she will now be interviewed too. Haha not really... Mr. Li just asked her about me, told her that I'm spunky and that she should come teach in Korea too! THEN he told me that I passed and I will be a good fit for Korea!

Then mom, John and I toured Chicago via double decker buses and trolleys. There were like 15 stops all around the city. We ended up taking the full tour probably five times because we would stop here and there, get off, get on, take it back to our hotel, etc. Learned a lot about the city though! On Thursday we hung out at Navy Pier where we took an extreme boat ride. I enjoyed it but mom freaked out a little. We got to the train station super early so we wouldn't miss the train again and ventured home (after sitting on the track for an hour and a half late because there were "line issues").

Friday was Styx/Foreigner/Kansas. One word: AMAZING. Almost lost my camera... I thought I left it in the cup holder but luckily about four days later it was found in the car I didn't ride in. I'm pretty sure mom was taking pictures since it was in her purse and dropped it on the floor. That will teach my "alter-ego" to keep track of her belongings when she comes around.

A couple days later I spent a few days with my other grandparents and visited extended family before I leave. My Aunt Hilda asked me if I'm sure this is what I want to do. I thought, "Well, given I leave in about ten days, yes I'm sure." Aunt Mary on the other hand asked if I'm going to China. No, Korea. And mid-conversation she was still making references to China...? Friday we (me, Chris, mom, John, and my two younger cousins) went to Six Flags from open to close! At dinner afterward the Mexican waiter asked Chris if he wanted the big size margarita or "more bigger".

Tip #2: More bigger is always more better.

Now I'm making 60 cupcakes to take to my great Uncle's work for his birthday. (He's mentally challenged) Mom and I are taking them tomorrow and taking Uncle Pete to McDonalds for lunch - his favorite! Uncle Pete doesn't understand that I'm leaving. I tried to explain that I'm moving far away, on the other side of the ocean, for a year. The next day he asked how long it takes to drive there. So not sure if he understands or not, but he'll probably ask where I am at every family gathering for the next year.

Saturday is my going away party, Sunday am doing more visiting, Monday picking up pictures, Tuesday FOR SURE packing and leaving Wednesday, June 23 at 6:00 a.m.! I think I figured I'll be flying/in airports for 18-20 hours.

Here are some pictures from Chicago and the concert...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Beer: At least it's not crack...

This post is dedicated to the beautiful city of St. Louis and the interesting individuals who reside there.

I've had a very fun weekend with people I love in the city I love! Chris (boyfriend) came up late Friday night. Saturday morning we went to my grandma's in Illinois to do some work on her bathroom. Chris did the construction stuff and I played gopher. (I had to "GO FER" all the stuff. Probably made about 60 trips up and down the flight of stairs.) Got all that done and later went to Lumier Place casino downtown.

I may have lost all the money I put in and even money my grandpa gave me to put in but the characters I saw there made up for it. We'll start with the guy at the entrance, wearing head to toe bright yellow with a thick red stripe down each side. (Stylin'!) Had shoes to match too. Yellow alligator with a red strip in the middle. Cool. Got even better when a guy with a not-as-cool getup went over and asked the guy where he got is outfit!

Then I saw a little Asian lady wearing this weird funfetti outfit head to toe. She dressed it up to with a tiger print jacket. It gets cold in there!

THENNNNN I found the new IN thing for sure. Just picture this: Oversized fanny pack, low slung on your hips (like it's gonna fall off), but it doesn't... because it's hooked through your belt loops! It's paired best with stained blue spaghetti strap tan top, sans bra of course, and titties that touch your knees!

That was fun... The next evening Chris and I decided to venture over to Rib America to check things out. Collective Soul played. Great band! (I'm sure they won't compare to Styx, Foreigner and Kansas coming up though!!) I got some cool new shoes and saw some cool characters.

Start with the semi-hippie looking lady who consistently jumped up and down (no one else in the crowd felt the need to jump but her) even when the band wasn't playing. She was feeling the music even when there was none. Then I saw a big old man who looked like Santa wearing a t-shirt that said "BEER - At least it's not crack". I thought it was funny but wasn't fast enough to snap a picture. Darn. In Korea, though, I will be ready to take pictures. From what I've heard Koreans like to take pictures of foreigners so I'm going to take pictures of locals. And act like a tourist.

Update: My interview at the Korean Consulate in Chicago is Wednesday! Taking Amtrak - the same one that derailed yesterday. Wish me luck!

The lead singer of Collective Soul with his cool hippie hair!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Front page story: Burglar slayed in home of Korea-bound female

The move went (almost) seamlessly...except for the part where there wasn't enough room for all my stuff and underestimating the amount of stuff I had. Barely fit all the boxes and other junk into the asbestos-filled storage unit (btw...I spelled asbestos correctly on the first try). I call it junk but it's not. In my eyes, it is less I will have to buy when I journey back to America and (quickly) get my own place. I love home, I really do. But I have to remind myself that I haven't lived with parents since I was 17 years old, nor have they lived with me for that long. It takes adjusting...

Spent a couple days visiting my grandparents. I have great ones! I once again encountered car trouble. I can't wait to be in Korea where I don't have to drive a car or worry about it working. My vehicle isn't that old ('06) but is always breaking! My battery went dead. Luckily it was parked in my grandma's driveway so didn't have to pay $300 to tow it from Gerald, Missouri. Took an hour to FIND the battery...but long story short, it got fixed.

Rushed home yesterday because I got a call from Cindi in Manitoba, Canada telling me my visa number was issued! Got my visa app finished and over-night-ed it to Chicago. Called the Consulate at noon when my schtuff was set to arrive. Their automated system reminded me of Charter + AT&T. If you don't press the right prompt you get hung up on or in my case it just rings and rings and rings (Charter) and you have to listen to multiple languages (AT&T). Finally got someone after four attempts. Didn't get her name. She said "I check your paperwork call you back." Hour later, nothing. Hmmmm...

Just getting that number (well letters and numbers...) puts me one step closer to being in Pohang. I was secretly really really scared that they would deny me because of the conflict going on. If I thought about it too long I'd start thinking too much...What would I do for employment? Where would I live? Could I teach in a different country?... One more step and I will be a registered alien. (My Mexican cousin commented on my Facebook status, "Every Mexican's dream." I got a kick out of that)

Went to the Elephant Bar with an old friend last night. Pretty cool place. Also pretty expensive - especially for an unemployed budget. Then on the way home there was an awful accident on 270. A PT cruiser flipped upside down and across the far left lane. It had just happened too because the firetruck was the first to arrive on the scene and it was behind me at one point. Then I was behind it until traffic came to a stand still. They were using the jaws of live and preparing a stretcher as I drove by. One more reason I can't wait to leave the country and go to another where I won't drive.

Then last night I had to stay at home alone overnight. Not a big deal, right? Wrong. It was so scary. I slept very lightly, on the couch in the basement with butcher knives by my side, with all the lights on. Rewind a few hours... I'm in the basement watching TV and I think I hear a door open and footsteps upstairs. I mute the TV to listen. Nothing. I venture upstairs to investigate (with a glass Bud Light bottle as my weapon). I discover I had left the front door unlocked after I checked the mail. OMG! Just in case, I ditch the bottle and get two butcher knives to arm myself with. And go back downstairs. A little later I hear the floor squeak upstairs and a sound like a shower door closing. OMG! I go upstairs with my butcher knives and turn on all the lights, but still to scared to go into the bedrooms or bathrooms. I was convinced that a burglar/murderer was hiding in a shower, waiting for me to fall asleep. But I was armed. I would hack that burglar to death if he came downstairs.

I didn't have to use my knives.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Go Cardinals!

Moving back home in three days! Encountered a little hurdle today because I need to pack in two days but have zero boxes... The store I had arranged to get boxes from apparently has no record of my request but I can try again Friday... No help so I'll try plans B, C and D until I get enough to pack my apartment!

Last night I went to the St. Louis Cardinals game with my friend Kim and a few other ladies. It was a lot of fun! AND they won, 3-1 against the Washington Nationals.

Tomorrow is my last day of work! (I thought this day would NEVER come!) And my month at home is pretty much planned already with a concert, wedding and family stuff. Then will have to pack for an entire year before I leave for Korea. Not sure of my exact departure date yet. My trip will be booked by Kid's College once I get my visa approved by the consulate in Chicago and have an interview (not sure yet if it will have to be a personal interview or a phone interview). I'll keep you posted!

Meanwhile, here are some pictures from the game:

The beautiful Busch Stadium

Kim and me!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Learning Experience...

First, thank you to my followers! All four of them - Jessica, Quintin, Chelsea, and Sara. Plus thank you to Casey! And once I get there I promise it will get more exciting.

So after the awkward interview and being offered a contract, I created a mental timeline:
  • Check on my criminal record check. It had to go to the State Police Department then the Secretary of State's Office in Jefferson City and then make its way back to me. I had already sent it off but hadn't heard anything about it. So at the end of the week I planned to even go to Jeff City to retrieve it.
  • The next week FedEx my documents to Korea.
  • Wait for my E2 visa number. (2-3 weeks)
  • Send my visa application to the Korean Consulate in Chicago.
  • Make a trip to Chicago for an interview.
  • THEN go...
Sunday when I get back to my apartment and checked the mail, my criminal record check was waiting for me! (Minus 1 week) And an email from Cindi, my visa helper, said in some asap situations like mine, you can get your E2 number in as little as 7-10 days rather than 2-3 weeks. (Minus 1 week) Also, the consulate may make an exception and let me do a phone interview because I don't live close. (Minus 1 week)

So I'll wait while you get your calculator so you can do the math.... My estimated (my mental predicting anyways...) departure went from 5-6 weeks to 2-3!

[Enter mental breakdown]

I mean after all, it's not often that you make a decision to move literately around the world and do it in like a month!

Then I did more corresponding with Cindi and did mucho planning on the home-front. I put in my 10-day notice at work. Made plans to start packing my apartment and move back home next weekend. And I sent the $70 package with the next year of my life in it to Korea.

Then the email I got this morning taught me my first Korean lesson.

TIP: Korean meaning for "ASAP" (as soon as possible for those of us who speak American) does not directly translate the same. It really means "In like a month or so. Maybe a little longer."

Found out my school would like me to arrive on June 23 for training. Cool. One month of unemployment and inability to collect unemployment. Hmmm... We'll see what happens. Stay tuned.

Oh and feel free to comment on my posts!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Good news Heather is hired after interview

I got the job! That means soon I am Korea bound. Very soon after my interview (less than 24 hours) I received an email telling me I was chosen for the job and an attachment with the contract. I read the contract in detail with my mom and have some questions but no major concerns or red flags.

After discussing everything with mom, I have decided it will be best to move home at the end of the month, and hopefully move to Korea the first or second week of June, pending my visa. That way I will have time to see my family/friends, pack and learn how to be a teacher! (Not to mention that means I will get to put in my two weeks notice at work this Thursday! Pretty sure that's what I'm most excited for at this point!)

I am still waiting on my background check. I will call Jefferson City on Monday to check the progress. (Neither of my checks have been cashed for the check or to have it apostilled...) If need-be, I will make the four hour trip next week on my days off. Mom has offered to go with me. Then I will have to arrange for my consulate interview. I still have questions about this but I will likely go to Chicago the next week. Mom is great and offered to take me there too. I'll miss her the most! I even miss her when we're only 90 miles apart.

On a happier note, I did get to spend a few days with her even though I'll miss Mother's Day. We went to Grant's Farm yesterday. Perfect mix between the Zoo and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour. Animals and free beer! The elephant show was the best I've ever seen. Today we just took it easy and hung out.

Goal for this week: pack up my entertainment center and find out where my background check is!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

(000) 012-3456...

... That's the number that called me at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday evening. I answered, thinking it was a solicitor or Sprint calling me. No. It was Scott, a Korean English-teacher recruiter to set up an interview with Pohang Academy! The school is 30 minutes away from downtown Pohang. The position needs to be filled ASAP and the pay is 2.2 million! (Won!) That calculates to $1,949.499/month.

Pohang is a port city in the southeastern part of South Korea. It is known for its beautiful scenery, fresh fish market and Internation Fireworks Festival in late July!

I hadn't heard anything about the Korean front in a few weeks so the call was surprising. Scott and I arranged for my interview at 9:30 p.m. the next evening - a Thursday. (It was actually 11:30 a.m. Friday in Korea!) During my breaks at work I made sure I researched more interview tips and read other blogs to see what kind of questions they asked.

The interviewer called on time. The first thing she asked was for me to introduce myself. I told my name, age and where I am from. She mentioned that I am young so I explained that I graduated college early and she asked how my grades were. Then she asked just about four other questions: Why do I want to teach English? (In general and in Korea specifically rather than Japan or China..) Do I like children? What do I hope to gain from the experience? And my email address. That was about it. It was very quick but I didn't get alarmed. From what I've read, an interview comes basically after the have made their decision - just for confirmation that they like your voice and you speak slowly and clearly enough. So that's what I'm banking on! Hopefully a contract will come in the next few days! More updates to come!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Follow the Process...

  • June 8, 2009 : Start work at a job I HATE at NARS in Cape Girardea. I will never ever enjoy talking on the phone again as long as I live. BUT... at least I had a job (ya ya...)
  • December 19, 2009 : Graduate college from Southeast Missouri State University! One of the proudest moments of my life! And it was so wonderful to have all of my parents and grandparents there to watch! Next step: Master's in Higher Education Administration (or so I thought...)
  • January - April 2010 : Still working the job I still hate. Applied to several graduate programs and for several GA positions. Had an interview at Ball State University. Heard nothing. Didn't even receive a form turn-down letter in the mail. Then had an interview at SEMO. Was super excited - it was with a department I had worked for all through undergrad. Waited a few weeks and finally emailed the interviewer about the position. This time at least I got a response telling me I didn't get it. I was crushed. I still had a few possibilities but when I was rejected again, I could only think about the worst scenarios : I'm doomed. I'm stuck. I can't go to grad school. I can't afford it without a grad assistantship. I'm back to square 1. I'm always at square 1! I'll be stuck at NARS as a billing specialist for Charter Communications forever! Well, not if I get fired... Then I'll be stuck flipping burgers at McDonalds. No, Wendy's would definitely be the healthier choice. Or mabe Subway. I'm doomed. I'm stuck.
    Talked to my friend Mike during lunch at stupid NARS about my disappointment. He's going to SEMO for grad school right now, too and has applied for several GA positions last year and this year. Didn't get any interviews last year but didn't keep him down. I admire his optimism so much. He has a ton of it! (Especially with his "love life." I love passing him in the hall and hearing, "I met someone!" His new "woman interest" stories always excite me!) Anyways... we're talking about random stuff at lunch and at some point he tells me he was going to teach English in Japan before he decided to get his master's. And the organization he was going with also sends teachers to Korea. His degree is in Education but you don't have to be a certified teacher to do it. He said the pay is good and all you need is a four-year degree. Hmmm... might be something I'd be interested in. I do have a friend who lives in Korea - Jihyun Kim from High School. It would be great to meet up with her! So he wrote down a website on a piece of paper. The webiste didn't work (he gave me the wrong site). So I googled "teach english in Korea" and found Spent an afternoon reading all the information.
  • April 14, 2009 : Apply to teach English in Korea for a year with Teach ESL Korea.
The next few days were really exciting. I had already started exchanging emails with my rep, Shawna. She has been so helpful in answering all of my questions. You'd think all questions could be answered by referring to the website since it's packed full of info but I still had more and continue to think of more. Shawna always has an answer for me! At first I just applied to see if I had a chance... (I do!) The more I thought about the idea the more I fell in love with it. I mean I'm young, have no responsibilities or commitments. Why not travel the world and go on an adventure. It's probably one of the last major adventures I'll be able to have in my life...

So I talked to mom a little about it. She was 100% for it! (Still pessimistic like she always is. "Now just because you think you want to do this doesn't mean you should put all your eggs in one basket." But supportive) So then I decided. I AM GOING TO KOREA. FINAL ANSWER. I told Chris, my boyfriend, about it. It's not something he would ever want or desire but he supports me because he knows it's what I really want to do. Then I told my Grandma Dean. She told me no I can't go even before I was done telling her. She said, "I'll just miss you so much." I told her she'll have to come see me! (Another no before I was done). At the end of our conversation she told me she supports me if it's what I really want and please don't meet a Korean man, marry him and stay over there. I told her we have a deal.

Basically, I'm ready to go at any point to any school who needs a wonderful teacher like myself. (Actually I don't exactly know that I'll even be a good teacher or not yet... But I've learned German. So I feel like if I can learn a language, surely I can teach my own. I remember the tools and exercises Frau Burgess used in German I and II. Speak and repeat, questions and answers around the room, etc... Should be simple, right? lol) I figure I need about two to three weeks to collect all the required documentation, then four to five weeks to complete the visa process. So my earliest start date is June 14. Once I get a contract with a school, when they need me will determine when I leave/start.

Even without a contract yet, I decided to start getting all of the required documents. I decided the criminal record check is what will take the longest. I need a (US) State national criminal record check (a little contradictory don't you think...?) that is notarized and apostilled. After dozens of emails and several calls to Jefferson City, MO I finally found out exactly what I need. Will send my form, letter and two checks for $10 tomorrow. The criminal records keeper place will send my notarized CRC (hopefully they don't find any infractions I'm not aware of - well I'm not aware of any!) to the Secretary of State's office to then apostille it and send it back to me!

And now it's a waiting game. Those are my least favorite kind! Reminds me of when I waited to find out about the internship at Hughes. And the GA position at Ball State. And SEMO. I HATE WAITING! Impatience should really be my middle name. Shawna tells me I should check my email once a day to get updates. I check about 15 times a day...

So that's where everything stands right now. Keep reading for my updates along the way and wish me luck!