Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My favorite day in Korea, so far...

The last few weeks in Korea have been absolutely amazing.  Some of the reasons I'm about to tell you about on here, and others I'll have to save for when we're catching up over a beer someday.  I feel like I'm really in a bit of a groove lately.  I've been meeting a lot of new, awesome friends, learning a lot about the culture and history of Korea, and even made a trip to the Korean 'countryside' to catch up with my Irish friends.

It's now been over 3 months since I first got to Korea, and I'm as happy with my decision now as I've been to date.  Teaching is going really, really well for me.  I feel like my classes respond well to me and that I'm able to build good rapport with all of my students.  I've been hanging out with a new group of Korean friends the last month, and they are all crazy fun to spend time with.  Maybe even one in particular, haha.

A few weeks ago I headed out with my new-found friends for a day of Korean culture and history.  We started by visiting Bukchon Hanok Village.  A hanok (한옥) is a traditional Korean-style house, dating to before the Korean War.  There simply aren't many of these left since nearly all of Seoul was destroyed in the War.  So I really felt like I was stepping back in time a bit.

An interesting contrast with Seoul in the background

After we spent a good chunk of the day walking through the neighborhood and exploring old-style Korea, we moved on to Gyeonbok Palace (경복궁) which is located very close to Bukchon.  I'd been to this palace before, actually my second day in Korea, but it was quite a bit different seeing all of the foliage filled out since the first time was during winter.  I got really lucky because they were having a reenactment of a royal ceremony while we were there.  I was with four Korean friends, none of which had ever seen this special performance before.  

My awesome tour guides for the day!

After the palace we went to an area called Insadong (인사동), which is another traditional Korean area filled with shops and restaurants.  We ate some traditional Korean food and drank a traditional Korean drink called makgeolli (막걸리).  It's a delicious wheat/rice based wine.  Micah and Michelle were in the area and decided to join us around the time the makgeolli was ordered, which I find to be suspicious and terrific timing.  

Overall, this was probably my favorite day since I've been in Korea.  I got a chance to see and experience a lot of culture, and best of all I had great company all day.  This same group is getting together this weekend, and we'll do our best to recreate the experience.  I hope we can manage to pull it off.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A few quick, and very random, thoughts...

-Texting, or any written, non-verbal communication for that matter, can sometimes be very  hard.  We don't get the luxury of someone's tone of voice, facial expressions or gestures.  We have to do our best not to read into things too much.

It's even more difficult when you are texting with someone who speaks another language. It's taken to another level when you are trying to figure out if the Korean girl you are texting with is flirting with you.  Or not...

-We sometimes choose music just for the sound of it.  The lyrics and the artist aren't as important.  This, to me, is the definition of 99% of pop-music.  Get a good producer, make the song sound catchy, and you've got something people will listen to.

This is true even in Korea.  I have heard some of the dirtiest, most hardcore rap I've ever heard in my life while walking past a ladies' clothing store on the way to work.  If any of their customers could understand the lyrics to these songs, there might be a riot.  But hey, at least the beat is good...

-Being that I'm in a new country and don't know a lot of people, I think it's understandable to look for a common bond I might have with someone and try to use that as a way to make a connection.  Considering how many MLB hats I see while walking around, I thought for sure I could always just strike up a conversation about baseball.

Turns out, close to all of the people walking around this country with a MLB hat on have no clue who the team is.  Or that they're wearing the hat of a baseball team at all.  If they are wearing a Rangers hat, you can bet their name starts with a T.  Wearing a Red Sox hat, name starts with a B.  Braves hat, you get the idea...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My first term is in the bag

Last week I finished my first term teaching English in Korea!  My school does two-month long terms, and one of the awesome things about the end of each term is that we get a TERM BREAK!!!!  That was maybe one too many exclamation points, but it was a much needed 5-day weekend.  I had all these grand ideas of jetting off to some country for my first term break, but due to lack of scheduling ahead, hot and rainy weather in Thailand, and a strong desire to save money, I decided to just hang around Seoul and get some rest.

So now that I'm two months into this whole teaching thing, I feel like I have a better idea of whether or not I am going to enjoy it.  And I can honestly tell you, I freaking love it.  I don't know if there's anything else I'd rather be doing at this time in my life than teaching.  (Not true-I'd rather be a PGA player making stacks on stacks, but you get the idea) My students have been awesome.

My level 2 class celebrating at the coffee shop

Level 1 demanded individual pictures, ha!

My all-day club (These four study English 7hrs/day!)

Level 3 students (Gina looking gangsta on the far left)

My attempt to get my junior students to pose for a picture

This one sums up my juniors!

They are so kind to me, and have studied very hard.  It's very rewarding to see their improvement in just a two month span of time.  I'm really enjoying teaching my adult classes a bit more than my junior classes, but I'm glad I have the opportunity to do both.  Last Friday was our last day of the term, and some of my students gave me awesome gifts.  Yay for perks of being a teacher!

Traditional Korean Cakes

A sketch one of my students did of me!

Another insanely talented student did this of Gracie and I!

We're two days into our next term now, and I feel just as excited about it as I did two months ago.  Only now I have some idea of what I'm doing.  I'm teaching a little bit higher level classes, which is going to challenge my own grammar skills, but I'm excited about the level of conversation we'll now be having.  I think I'll stick with this teaching thing for a while!