Wednesday, August 25

1st Full Week in Korea! :)

This is the last of the back-blogs! :) This was written Sunday night - August 22!

My first full week was amazing yet again! Teaching is starting to get a little - key word - a LITTLE easier. I definitely prefer the older kids, the younger ones are really hard to keep paying attention. Thank goodness I only have 4 - 6 year olds. I’m still not exactly sure how to plan for the lessons, but I feel like as long as I’m present and doing the best I know how, everything will work out.

Thursday, I met 2 business gentlemen that I’ll be giving private conversation lessons to. I’m excited, it’s an extra $400 a month. My evenings this week were pretty low key. Thursday, Rim and I met up with Brent and a bunch of his EPIK friends for one of his friends’ birthdays. I love meeting other people who teach - they are super friendly and I can't quite put my finger on it - but since we're all away from home - there seems to be some common thread of a personality that gravitates towards this kind of experience - and I love it! :)

Friday, I went to English club with Rim. It was fun, there were about 40 people there – mostly Koreans and a few Americans. I felt kind of like a dumb American because they were talking about idioms and asking me about commonly used phrases – it was sort of difficult to be the only American in our group. We were there for about 2 hours and then for “Round 2” we went out for a Korean meal and drinking. I 
met some really nice people, and am looking forward to going again next week.

After that we met up with Brent’s crew and had a LATE LATE night. We stopped by a few restaurants and our last stop was a western bar called Whistler. When I say late – we watched the sun rise and topped the evening off by going swimming in what I think may have been the East Sea! I got home around 8:30 - ahem am that is. But it was perfect b/c then I was able to call and talk to my dad – first time since I’ve been here.

Last night (Saturday) we went to a non-touristy beach and camped out – campfire, cooked, played games and had a few drinks. Once again watched the sunrise! :) I’ve been a bum today – an absolute bum haha I fell asleep on the bus on the way home this morning, almost missing my stop. Slept for a while – did some laundry, and just got home from walking to the grocery store. Grocery shopping here is not so fun a) I don’t know how to cook Korean food and b) there’s no cheese or hummus (2 of my absolute staple foods) so I’m living on Korean ramen noodles, got some fruit at the local market (seeded grapes and bought some cereal – which I don’t even eat in the States, BUT if that’s my least favorite part of this experience – I still consider myself very blessed! :)

On my walk home, I was burning up and had a few bags by this point so I stopped at a mart and got a popcicle; decided I wanted a break from carrying my bags so sat down at the table and rested/people watched and enjoyed my popsicle. As I was packing up to leave, the clerk walked out and handed me a 2nd popsicle – the man that was sitting outside with me, had seen what I ate and bought me another one - I was floored by his sincerity! :) Little things like this make me smile and let me know that this is absolutely the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

Smiling from ear to ear,

Em :)

First Weekend in South Korea

This weekend was amazing. I got out of class Friday at 6:30. I caught a bus (which I picked up going the wrong way AND then had to take a cab to the downtown bus terminal) Then Brent and I caught a bus from Pohang to Busan. There, we met up with Tonic, Andy, and Tonic’s uncle. He took us out to dinner, we went to a viewpoint of the city, but it was a little too foggy for pictures, still a blast though. We had milkshakes and Lemonade atop the mountain, then headed down for dinner.

 Me tasting LIVE octopus! :)
 Busan Beach at night! :)

 Cheers! :) Tonic and her uncle were such great hosts!

We stayed at her uncle’s house which just so happened to be a Korean mansion – almost – 3 or 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, walkaround porch, but the catch – no beds. I learned that traditional Korean sleep style is on a mat on the floor with a pillow about a fourth the size of an American bed pillow – the reasoning : better sleep posture – better for your back. But, I slept VERY well and he and Tonic were amazing hosts! Saturday we went to the tip of The Korean peninsula (베스트 웹문서) Gwangalli Beach and hiked/walked up to the top – it was beautiful complete with a Lighthouse. I have tons of pictures - and it's so hard to put everything I saw into words. We spent some time on rocky cliffs above the water, walked down to Korean catching fresh fish, and sat on a cabana type mat, had a few beers and enjoyed the scenery! We even partook (past tense of partake, might have just made that word up :)in live octopus! I have a video but viewer discretion advised due to foul language!

The weekend can honestly only be summed up in short phrases - SEE PICTURES to live vicariously! :)
Share this album with anyone by sending them this public link:

Lighthouse hiking, relaxing on cliffs, Soujo drinking, surrounded by great people, fish harmonie’s (Korean word for grandmother), beer on oceanfront cabana, LIVE octopus, outside gym, corndogs in korea, pizza place and wine, chef show, beach, street musical performances, fireworks, dinner drink everywhere in public – freezing water i.e. - Live in Korea is amazing! :)

xoxo Emily

Monday, August 23

My New Kitchen Table and Paper Airplanes

August 11th

Haha my how things change quickly – I was just rereading what I wrote last night as I was waiting for Rim to pick me up. Did I mention it’s practically been raining the entire time I’ve been here? I think there’s a hurricane nearby and we’re getting weather associated with that. Last night Rim and I went shopping at a store called E-mart. For those who aren’t familiar (like I wasn’t) think Wal-Mart + Dillard’s, but it’s 8 stories – groceries, shoes, electronics, department store clothing sections, it’s pretty impressive. What I like the most is they have inclined moving sidewalks so people are going up flat escalators with their carts. Going grocery shopping is quite interesting in another country – it feels basically the same, EVERY thing is just in Korean. Things look the same, but you can’t read what they are. You pay a dime to use a cart and when you return it you get the dime back. This is to avoid people stealing the carts.

I chuckled when I read my post from earlier. When Rim mentioned getting a table…I thought American table – round/square with a few chairs to sit on, like a card table, – I learned that you sit on the floor in Korea when eating meals. I now have a table…but one that only high enough above the ground for me to sit Indian - er, Korean style, with my knees under the table. I took pictures of my apartment today and am excited to post them. I am taller than my shower and my fridge and the entire place is probably less than 500 square feet. But, I’m adapting– I’m sleeping well, I feel safe, and I’m even getting used to the warmer temperature and not keeping the air on all the time.

Last night Rim and I didn’t get back from shopping until 10:20. Then, we both were hungry so she invited me to eat with her family. I was a little hesitant since I was tired and haven’t had much of an appetite since I’ve been here, but I didn’t want to be rude and not accept the invitation. Boy oh boy did Rim’s mom cook up a FEAST! I couldn’t believe it…we were sitting on the floor – the entire square table just kept filling up with dishes – salad with a very salty salsa like dressing, kimchi soup (VERY VERY spicy cabbage, pork, and tofu soup), small hard fish which I couldn’t eat, broccoli, cucumbers, pork, eggs, sticky rice, and watermelon for desert. There were a few traditional Korean dishes that I don’t know the name of. I tried a few new things, but was very self conscious since I don’t know how to use chopsticks. They gave me this teeny tiny fork and it limited the foods that I could try. I didn’t eat that much, but did make sure to say thank you, though I don’t think Rim’s parents speak ANY English b/c they haven’t talked to me the times we’ve met.

So that’s a recap of last night. Today was good – I slept until 7am and then kept myself awake hoping to get used to this time zone, I think I felt more tired today than yesterday. Rim and I did get the cable hooked up last night and out of the 78 channels I have – I found 4 or 5 English channels!! One of which is CNN – so I’ll probably be more current on the news now than I ever have been before. Also I watched NCIS, Sex and the City, CSI, it was fun! I had a banana for breakfast and lunch (I’ve eaten a lot of bananas since I’ve been here) and then showered around 12 – and took a nap from 1-1:45. Rim picked me up at 2:15, and I taught classes from 2:30-7:20. I think yesterday I won, but today I think there was 1 class that was difficult because the students were 5 and 6, and another group of students were just terrible. Yelling, hitting each other, throwing paper airplanes at me, haha looking back I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall, but I was getting very agitated. That 50 minute class felt like 4 hours long. I felt like I was being really mean, but there was no way for me to talk slow, enunciate, and try to talk over those that wouldn’t quit talking!

On a more positive note many of the students I had yesterday came in to say hello to me, and asked me if they could bring me anything. One of my students, Dennis, (such a cute little Korean boy! I’ll have to take a picture)proudly walked up and handed me a caramel candy. Small victories. Wrapping up for now!

You know, maybe chairs are overrated!

Emily :)

"You have big eyes"

8:07 pm same day – August 10th

I’m keeping up with this religiously right now – only because there’s really not much else to do. After I wrote that this morning I fell back asleep for a while – I woke up around 10 – and then woke up at 1:53 PM. I even got chilly enough to get under my covers – turns out the “sheet” we bought last night is a duvet cover – haha so… I’m practically sleeping on the mattress, but you know I was tired enough that I could have slept anywhere. So I’m back at my apartment – waiting for Rim to come get me – she’s teaching until 9, so I’ve got about 45 minutes. I met James today the other director I’d corresponded with before flying over, and also Lucy, and Sun (male) both are so sweet.

Honestly, the feeling I had today was one I can’t even begin to describe to someone who hasn’t been a minority. I am one of the only Americans these students have probably ever seen in person, so it was weird, I felt like a celebrity they were poking their heads in just to get a look at me. The students were giggling and acting shy. They were even as honest to say – “You have big eyes” and “a big nose”. Which I didn’t take offense to, because comparatively speaking I have HUGE EYES and my nose, well….I guess it sticks off my face more then theirs do, but I don’t think I have a big one. Anyway, it was interesting. I enjoyed meeting the students and am very impressed at how much English they know.

So million dollar question –
How do you teach English to students that speak Korean if you don’t speak Korean?
I was told the ideal situation is one where the English teacher is completely oblivious to the their native language. They are forced to speak to me in English,b/c if they try Korean, I can’t help but give them this helplessly blank look. I have various levels of English speakers – the youngest ones today were around 9-12 ranging in grades from 3rd-middle school. I can’t figure out what middle school is here b/c 16 is still middle school. My first 2 classes were younger kids, the third was the more advanced English class, and the last was a very intelligent class, but ones who were very shy to speak English– my goal with them was to get them talking. Honestly, I don’t feel great about today, but I didn’t leave going, “How in the heck am I going to do this for a year?” So overall, I’m pleased and feeling much better than I was this time last night. Tonight Rim and I are going to grab a few other things for the apartment. My living room is bare with only a refrigerator. Rim mentioned maybe going out and getting something to hang things on – and a bookshelf, maybe even a little table.

I'd certainly welcome having somewhere to sit other than my bed or the floor. :)

Hello Pohang :) Let's be friends

Still back blogging written August 10th - apologize for confusing tenses throughout -

My 1st night in SOUTH KOREA (still seems weird to say!)

I landed in Busan around 9:00pm Monday evening. Brent and Rim were there to pick me up! We had about an hour and a half drive from Busan to Pohang, then went shopping for a few things for my apartment - sheets, utensils, etc. I was pretty amazed we went to HOME PLUS - a store a lot like Wal-Mart. Seeing a store like this was my first indicator I'd overpacked. Rim had her parents help me carry my things up – I def got the feeling that I packed way way way too much when I saw both Rim and her mom struggling to carry my HUGE suitcase up the stairs. (2nd indication of overpacking :) I'd say the most surprising thing is that the shower doesn’t have a booth – which at first made my stomach drop imagining having to practically sponge myself over the sink to get clean, but turns out my floor drains. I just took my first shower here - water spread everywhere but it’s okay, because it drains. I was worried at first, but now realize how awesome it is to have a big open shower!

I met Rim's dog tonight. It's a 4 month old poodle named Yoda (Korean means Sunshine)the dog is really cute, but not as cute as Sadie… it pathetic that I miss Sadie like crazy? I wonder if she’ll even remember me after a year. :( Anyway, I know she’s in a good place, and so am I. I’m tired and hopefully just being emotional right now – everything will be fine I’m sure. I get to visit the kiddos tomorrow as a meet and greet – Rim says there are 5 teachers and a little less than 100 students.

Tuesday Morning August 10 8am Korea time (6 pmCST)
I woke up at 6 this morning. Slept well, but it was shorter than I expected to sleep. It’s a little overcast and has been raining off and on. I took the morning to go ahead and get unpacked and organized. Having my bags everywhere was a little stressful. I feel a little better now that I’m unpacked.

I have this uneasy feeling, and I’m not sure why. I knew things would be different, and granted I’ve only been here a little less than 12 hours, I’m just really scared I think of being away for a year. I need to stop thinking about that and take it day by day. I'm a little nervous about meeting the kids today I hope they like me and I really hope I’m able to be a good teacher.

I think I’m going to try to nap for a little bit – haha there’s not really much else to do – Rim (my director) is picking me up at 2:15pm. I’ll start getting ready at noon hah so I’m not a sweaty mess when she gets here. I wouldn’t mind going outside for a bit, but I’m worried I won’t be able to get back in – which would be not good.

Slowly settling in,

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

I wrote this in the airport on August 8th, but I'm back-blogging because I just this set up -  I've been here for 2 weeks to the day.  I did my best to "e-journal" some things, so I wouldn't forget everything. So, now I'm going to go back and try to fill in some of the blanks.  
Why this? Why now? Why South Korea? Those were a few of the many questions I thought about and some questions friends and family asked me before I left.  The most concise answer I can give is: Why not? :) My hope is that my experiences, friendships I make, and students I have the priviledge of teaching will give others a glimpse into why I chose to do this. 
The weeks leading up to my departure were an absolute whirlwind.  Document stops, government offices to get everything notarized and apostilled, I became a frequent visiter of FedEx to rush deliver documents to South Korea (note: is VERY expensive).  I felt like I was playing amazing race!  At the time, I was still employed - headhunter by day and scurrying gopher at night.  I accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time.  I sold my car, had my dog adopted (by a family member - thank goodness), quit my job, and packed up all my belongings.  Any ONE of those things would be a major life event and I just happened to combine them all into about  a 4 week period. Before I knew it, I'd resigned, said goodbye to friends and family and found myself at my dad's house Saturday the 7th, the night before my adventure began, doing the final packing session.  Still, after all this it hadn't set in that I was moving. to South Korea. for a YEAR. :) 
My "last meal" stateside, though my dad and Trish offered to cook a big farewell dinner, was Sir Pizza :) a comfort food of mine! It was a relaxing evening.  My main goal was to feel good about packing, take a shower and straighten my hair (which was the LAST time I straightened my hair to date) and make sure I didn't oversleep.  I fell asleep around 12:30.  My alarm went off a short 4 hours later - I hopped up to shower and do last minute packing to make sure I hadn't left out anything extremely OBVIOUS and then did the final zippings, carried the bags to the car and dad and I were off to the airport at 5:30. We got to the airport around 6:00am.  I'd been a little worried about my bags being too heavy.  I went so far as to drag my dad's scale our of his bathroom to weigh the bags.  When they were both over, I gave up, and settled with paying the additional charges for HEAVY bags.  When I got to the counter, the Delta attendant let my first bag slide, even though it was 53 lbs. - 3 pounds over.  I graciously thanked her, and nervously looked at bag 2.  59. 59 lbs.!!!! "M'am I'm going to need you to remove 9 lbs. from this bag.  I know you don't want to pay the overweight fee. "  Usually, no I wouldn't have, but seeing as though this was a year of my life we're talking about, I might could be convinced to pay a little extra.  "It's $150.00"  "$$150 DOLLARS!?!?" I exclaimed and promptly pulled my bag over to relieve my bag of 9 whole pounds.  My dad had gone to park the car, and he walked in to find me scurrying to take out towels, books, and anything else deemed unnecessary.  I proudly marched back up to the counter - 42.  Well, hey I still have 8 lbs. I can take.  So, I turned around and added more weight to my bag.  Hey, I get 50 lbs.! :)
My flight to Atlanta went by really quickly – I talked to a few friends and got a few farewell texts sent off since that was the last time my phone would work. I teared up a little bit mid flight and might have had a slight panic attack – that’s when I’d been on the plane for about 7 hours so I’ll attribute that to sleep deprivation.  I thought about how terrible I was for leaving Sadie behind, and selling my car, leaving my friends….
The 14 hour flight to Tokyo wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Thank goodness my grandmother and Jackie mentioned Tylenol PM – I got about 4-5 hours of sleep on the plane.  The weirdest thing was how it NEVER got dark – it was bright the entire time, but they did a great job of darkening the cabin and everyone had their windows closed.
I watched 3 movies (When in Rome, Backup Plan, and started Greenberg with Ben Stiller)
I arrived in Tokyo and was happy to be able to stretch my legs. I freshened up a bit, brushed my teeth. Thank goodness someone asked for my ticket, I was about to catch a ride to another terminal and probably would have missed my flight – I’m glad Brent’s meeting me at the airport – def weird that it’s 4 in the morning my time – I just want to lay flat and I want my pillow…
My plane to Busan boards in about 15 mins – jI ust wanted to jot down a few notes before I forget all this stuff – my brain is turning to mush
Goals – learn the language, make a difference in my students’ lives – enjoy teaching, embrace a new culture, be open minded/flexible! :)

Excited to see my new home! 

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