Tuesday, May 22, 2012

" Stray away from the direct path.
Take risks.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes,
because it's from the mistakes that we learn
and it's from the mistakes that the really interesting things happen.
We may not always create or invent but we always learn when we try."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Teacher Stresses

I just need to exhale and get this off my chest. I feel really disappointed today. In the US, I pride myself in being a good teacher, but not just based on what I teach or how I teach, but because I also sincerely enjoy building relationships with my students. Here, the language barrier does not limit my abilities with teaching, but rather limits my ability to communicate with my students in order to build significant relationships with them.  I can see saddness on my students' faces often. I ask them, "are you okay?" or "sad?... why?.. SMILE!" I can use simple terms but they are unable to express to me what is bothering them.  It really bothers me because I feel like I am letting them slip through my fingers if I can not be there to pick them up when they need it. I have heard some stories about some of my students having bad home lives. I want to be there for them, and I want them to know that they can talk to me and I will comfort them... but with the language barrier, it's very difficult for them to express themselves to me.  It breaks my heart when I see them cry or if they are upset and I cannot talk to them about it.  I usually just bend down near their desk and ask if they are okay, rub their back and tell them to smile... but I want to be able to do more.  I wish I could figure out a way.

                                                                I love them.

Almost 3 months: new friends, new food, new heights.

I have now been in Korea for almost three months.  I cannot believe how fast time is going by.  I often think back to a year gone by in high school or college and I hope that this year does not pass me by as quickly.  I can say I am sincerely enjoying my time here.  I am taking advantage of all of the opportunities that lay in front of me.  I have been spending more time trying to learn Korean.  So far I have successfully taught myself how to read and write Hangul and as time passes, I find myself having the ability to read it more quickly.  Sang Won has been really good about teaching me some Korean phrase when we have free time during or after school.  We try to do language exchange together on occasion.  I can see his English improving slightly but I am not so sure about my Korean.  He is a good friend to me.

The past month I have made it a point to break away from just spending time with my foreigner friends and have made many Korean friends.  I spend a lot of time with Ga Ji Young, Unhee, and Sang Won.  The past two weeks we have had dinner together three or four times, and have seen two movies together.  I have also made friends with the music teacher.  Her name is Jung Hyo Young.  She is 29 Korean age and lives very near to me.  She speaks English very well, although I was not aware until recently, as many Koreans are shy to speak English with me.  We went for sushi together, shopping, and for coffee. I introduced her to Forever 21 for the first time (Yes, they have it in Korea and it’s 5 floors… way better than the US!). She told me that my English is very easy for her to understand and I make her feel comfortable, so I feel good about my communication with her.  Three weeks ago, I joined a boxing gym with my friend James.  There are two trainers, Kim Ji Young and Metin.  I have been getting to know them both very well. I talk to them every day and we have recently started going out and doing things together.  This Thursday they have a festival at their University and invited James and I to go with them. I think it will be a really fun night!  I really enjoy my time with them and look forward to seeing them three times a week at boxing.  I have also made a Korean friend named Bok Jun.  I really enjoy spending time with him.  We have seen each other many times the past week.  He is a Korea University student and is the same age as me. He speaks English very well and has many foreign friends.  One night we went on a hunt to find and a roof top to sit on at night… after about 5 attempts, we found an open one.  We sat there contently talking, listening to music, and cracked a beer together. It was a really great night.  We can talk easily and he understands western humor which is a plus! I think we understand each other very well and I am looking forward to spending more time with him.  I have to say, this has been the highlight of my past month. I have made so many new Korean friends.  It is nice because I get more exposure to Korean culture and language this way.  One of my new year’s resolutions for 2012 was to get to know someone completely different from myself so I think I’m getting close to checking that off the list.
 Ji Young and I, my coteacher, and Korean mother.<3 I love her.

                                         Sang Won and I at dinner.

I have had so many new experiences this past month.  I think this is due, in part, to many of my new and wonderful friends.  I saw my first Korean film, took a trip to Busan, and have experienced many strange Korean foods.  Ji Young, Unhee, and Sang Won took me to see my first Korean film. It was called 간죽학개론 and it was a love story.  This was such an interesting experience just due to the fact that there were no English subtitles so I had to pay attention and use the picture to determine what was going on. I actually ended-up loving the movie.  I think my coworkers were surprised by how well I really understood the story line.   The only problem was that I did not understand the funny parts when people laughed at the dialog, but it was still a great experience.   The past week I have tried many strange Korean foods that I actually thought I would never have the courage to try.  I have surprise myself in many ways! I ate 낙지 twice now (moving octopus) and 번데기 (silkworm pupa) as well as these small dried up fish… complete with eyeballs and scales.  I actually somewhat enjoyed the moving octopus just because the experience was insane.  We got to pick the octopus we wanted from a fish tank, Cameron held it and we got a picture, then, they cut it up and you dip it in a sauce and eat it while it’s still moving. It is quite a strange sensation.  You can feel it suction to your mouth and move while you eat it.  The silkworm pupa was quite disgusting.  The small fish are not terrible, but just not quite my thing.  Lastly, I took a trip to Busan with Aileen and Cameron. It was a short little getaway from the city, but well worth the trip. Busan is a beautiful beach city in South Korea (I believe the second or third largest city).  We didn’t do anything too extravagant while there… just explored the area, tried some new foods, and visited the beach. When it hits you that you are dipping your feet in the ocean on the other side of the world… it is quite exhilarating.  It was a great time with good friends. All in all, it has been a really eventful month.

                                             번데기 - silkworm pupa
                                      my first Korean film!<3

                                   Busan Pictures!

                                  Incredibly beautiful Busan!

                                          Cameron with the octopus that we ate!
                          On the beach with Cam and Aileen in Busan!
                             Incredible roof top view of Busan.

If I think back on this month and I had to pick out one special moment it would be this: a self revelation.   I had a moment of pure happiness while venturing home from Busan.  It happens often here that I find myself smiling for no reason and just breathing in deep to the feeling of pure and utter happiness due to my newly found self dependence.  I have always been the type that needs to know when and where, how long, what time, etc… but, I believe Korea is making me more flexible and open.  I went to Busan last minute, and with no return ticket home.  Although I went with my friends, I decided to leave early on Sunday morning and they returned to Seoul later.  In the morning I packed up and set out on an adventure to find the bus station.  As I walked out of the building alone, I felt a surge or energy and bliss. There I stood with my mini rolling suitcase. I had no idea exactly how to get where I was going… no clue of the names of the places on the subway or their location. I could so easily get lost.  However, something about this journey felt so incredible to me.  I made my way, of course, and got to the bus station just fine.  As I sat there, waiting for my bus, I thought about how I was feeling.  Could it really be that I was experiencing a change in myself right at that moment?  I used to be the girl that didn’t like unfamiliar places, and being alone scared me.  Yet, there I was, waiting to get on a bus back to Seoul for a 4 hour bus ride home ALONE, in a different country, and where I don’t speak the language.  Instead of feeling anxiety, nervousness, or fear… I simply felt liberated.  And so I continue to have these life- changing moments and I have Korea to thank for that.

 The moment I had my good feeling moment... I captured it... (oh and my new haircut!)