From the BK to the SK
 
I am so incredibly proud of my Penn State family. Thon 2011 raised $9,563,016.09 for the fight, for the cure and FOR THE KIDS.
I screamed when I saw the total announced, and then I started crying. There is nothing better than to feel proud of being a part of something that is so much bigger than yourself. There is nothing better than being a part of Thon. I am still in shock of having raised 9.5 million this year, almost 2 million more from the 7.8 we were raised 2010.
Congratulations to all of the Penn Staters involved with Thon this year.
9.5 million is incredible! WE ARE PENN STATE!
 
 
Here are some little things about Korea I may have not shared already. If I have, forgive me:
1. The word "maybe" does not ever mean "maybe" in Korea. I am not quite sure how they all came to the uniform decision that "maybe" will mean either yes or no. For example:
-"Alexandra, maybe you studied journalism in college."
No...no, I did study journalism in college. That is without question. This is an example of when maybe means yes.
Or...
-"Can we go to the bank to pay my bill after school?"
"Maybe."
This is an example of when maybe means no. 
In neither situation does the word maybe mean maybe.
2. Koreans often also like to say that they do not know something when, in fact, they really do.
For example:
Me: Where will the new english teacher live? Did you find an apartment for him?
Korean co-worker: I don't know.
Me: Oh, well there is apartment in my building maybe (even I fall victim to it), because other native teacher will finish work soon. Maybe he can live there?
Korean co-worker: No, new teacher's apartment is near to your home but not in your building.
3. It is not unusual for Koreans of the same sex to be affectionate with each other. For example, many of my girl students will walk down the hallways holding hands with one another. This is also something you will see while walking around the streets in Korea: men holding hands with one another or women holding hands with one another.
It is also normal for my boy students to be lounging across one another, playing with one another's hands or showing some kind of affection toward one another.
4. Men in Korea wear man bags, some of which are more extreme than others.
5. Couple in Korea often dress in matching outfits from head to toe.
6. It is natural for single Korean men and women to remain living in their homes with their parents until they are married, even if they are 30 or older.
7. EVERYONE in Korea owns immaculate cars that smell and look like they are brand new.
8. NO ONE in Korea knows how to park. I very much enjoy watching teachers pull into a parking space in the school lots each morning, slowly and steadily backing into a spot that is the size a a city block. They pull out and adjust their themselves multiple times throughout the process.
9. They have no sense of privacy or personal space. They have no hesitation approaching you, for example, in a fitness center locker room when both of you are naked. If there is a problem with my apartment, for example, and I am trying to explain it to my co-teacher, slowly but surely an entire circus crowds around me as if I am the finishing act, all quizzically staring at me as they all try to asses the situation.
10. Everything and anything can be carried on your backs or on a bike, from a kitchen sink to sky-high piles of vegetables.
11. Koreans eat and lose weight in the process.
12. Anything that ends in an "e" or an "h" is pronounced with an "ey" at the end: ricey, lunchey, changey, switchey. The list goes on.
13. Koreans CAN DRINK. They LOVE TO DRINK. I think it's because most of the time they can be so serious, but just add a little but of soju or some beer and they're wild.
14. Koreans love eyeglasses. Many wear fake, big, enormous glasses. You can tell they are fake because there is no lens in the frames.
15. Many of the dogs that are for sale in pet stores sport pearl necklaces, a bit of face makeup (for example: rosey cheeks) and dyed hair. 
16. There is no such thing as going to the doctor in Korea or in Asia for that matter. If you are sick, you go to the hospital and are seen, given a prescription and back home within 20 minutes. 
17. Kimchi is the solution to all problems. If you have a stomach ache, eat kimchi. You want your hair to grow? Eat kimchi. Your car broke down? Fill it with kimchi.

If I think of others, I will make sure to post them a separate time. For the time being, those are the most rel
 
 
It's official: I landed in Korea 6 months ago. Happy anniversary to all of my friends in Korea!
Let's see. What can I tell about Korea that I haven't already?
There are three genders in Korean society: male, female and ajuma. Beware of the ajuma.
Ajumas are typically middle-aged women in Korean society who have had kids and are thus to be considered all-knowing and all-powerful. This is not a joke.
They stride through the streets in a constant power walk, and they will 100 percent walk over you or through you if you do not move out of the way for an ajuma. They're incredibly intimidating, and they don't take any b.s. from anyone.
When waiting for the bus, I know to prepare myself for the wrath of the ajuma elbows. It's like a wrestling match, and she will always come out victorious. Ajumas, despite their older age or the apartment building they are carrying on their backs, are able to secure a seat on a crowded bus or subway by laying claim to it before anyone else. They throw a purse, a shopping bag or any other item they can onto the seat, disregarding any human casualty that may be lost in the process.
The pushing and the shoving on public transportation in Korean society, and in general situations, is most often caused by a current of ajumas making their way to secure seats. 
I promise you, I am not making any of this stuff up. Do not be surprised to be body checked, to be literally shoved forward (literally have two hands placed on your back and find yourself being physically moved), to be elbowed, to be physically assaulted by an ajuma. It's a surreal experience where you're left wondering whether what just happened actually did just happen: Were you really body slammed by a 70-year-old Korean woman sporting a visor and a perm? 
Yes, you heard me. Visors and perms. In the summertime, ajumas always wear visors on their heads and look like they are going hiking. Another sure sign of an ajuma: the perm. An ajuma wears a perm 'like a badge of honor'. 

A smile gets you absolutely no where with an ajuma. My heartbeat quickens when I realize I am about to find myself in a situation with an ajuma, especially when boarding or exiting the bus. It's like they're ready for war.They're pretty much always hunched over, but do not underestimate their strength based on their poor postures. Ajumas have superhuman strength. You most always see them walking in groups when they're middle aged, but the older ajumas almost ALWAYS are pushing a cart that probably weighs the equivalent of 12 elephants. And they're basically pushing it with their pinky fingers.
Ajumas are considered the most powerful creatures on earth. If a nuclear bomb were to hit, ajumas would survive. There is nothing that can stand in their ways. I found this YouTube video online. This is proof that you should beware of the ajuma, even on your very own wedding day.
Watch until about 40 seconds in:

 
 
My new favorite video of Thon. FTK!
 
 
So I know my posts have been emotional recently, but Thon just seriously makes me happier than most anything on the planet.
I've felt slightly homesick watching Thon live the past...30 hours!
There is just something about being an outsider, not being a part of Thon but knowing that you once volunteered and came together with the rest of your university to support a cause that's bigger than anything I ever imagined. I just finished watching the Pep Rally, where different teams put on performances and dances. I just felt so proud at that moment when I was watching that unfold. To have so many people, so many students, who in your four years at Penn State you may never meet, unite and dance for life is just an incredibly inspirational experience to be a part of and to watch.
My school is known to be proud and just plain obnoxious, and no matter where you go in the world you'll meet people from Penn State in some way or another. Trust me, I've been a good amount of places, and I really can't think of anywhere I've been where I haven't met someone who has a direct or indirect connection to Penn State.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I am proud to be a Penn Stater. I am proud of all the students who are in the BJC this weekend and all the dancers who have 16 hours left, whose feet and legs and eyes are probably so tired and sore and sleepy but who fight through the pain for the families and for the kids.
You still have time to donate, and every little bit counts. Go to the Thon website, and you can help make a difference in a child's life.
 
 
Hey Guys. You can watch Thon Live by clicking right here on 'Watch Live!'
And it isn't too late to donate. You can help make the difference in the life of a child.
FTK Always,
Alexandra
 
 
This is one of my favorite YouTube videos of Thon. 
 
 
So this is a long overdue post, but this weekend is a weekend that makes me so incredibly proud to be a Penn State graduate: IT'S THON WEEKEND!
For those of you who don't know, the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon is the largest student run philanthropy in the world. It is a 46-hour no sit, no sleep marathon that raises money and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer.
Thon weekend is unlike any experience that I've had anywhere in the world, and the students, people, families, children and friends I've met through Thon are unlike anyone I've ever met in the world. 
One of the reasons I love Thon so much, aside from the sense of family and love and overall inspiration that reaches every corner of the Bryce Jordan Center Thon weekend, is that these children whom you're raising money for, whom you're fighting for and whom you're standing for - these children teach us all so much about life. They teach us about what it means to smile, to be courageous, to be strong and to never give up hope. Just when you think your life cannot get any worse, just when you think that your world was turned upside down, you see the smiles on these children's faces, and you hear the soul and innocence that fills their laughter, and you just remember to be thankful. You remember to be grateful. You remember that no matter how bad things may seem, there is always and will always be a reason to smile.
You'll often hear a Penn State student say why he or she Thons, and you are inspired with each person you meet.
I thon for the dancers, I thon for the families, and I thon for the kids. Always. But I thon for my brothers, and I thon for myself - a constant reminder that no matter what happens in life, we have one another, and I couldn't feel luckier to have them by my side through it all. And soon enough, I'll have a new sister, and I know that no matter how dim things get, we'll always have one another. There will always be a reason to smile.
I tend to get very emotional during my posts, and Thon always is something that makes me incredibly emotional. I am so proud to have been a part of Thon and am grateful for all of the memories I made, all the friends I made, all of the people I met and all of the people I helped. I am proud to be a Penn State student, and I am proud of all of those students who continue to work hard and come together for such an incredible cause.
Thon starts today, February 19, at 6 p.m. and ends Sunday at 4 p.m. It isn't too late to donate. So please, if you can, donate now and help to make a difference in the life of a child.
One day we will dance in celebration, but until then we will dance for a cure.
 
 
I was with one of my co-workers and her family the other day when her husband told me I had a 'mission',
I had a bit of a puzzled expression I think, but I know that mission in Konglish is usually just like a simple task and doesn't involve scaling mountains in the middle of no where.
He told me his son was interested in learning about the Louisiana Purchase, and so he asked me to explain it to him using a map of the United States.
I don't think I've felt that nervous in a long time. The Lousiana Purchase? Were they kidding me?
I started to laugh, but I figured that since it was just an explanation for the kid, there was no pressure.
"Father wants to learn about it," the kid said. "I am not interested."
He got yelled at in Korean for throwing his dad under the bus, but he looked up at me with his big head and braces and just laughed.
So we're sitting in the car and the father hands me a map of the U.S. and a workbook. I honestly couldn't tell them a damn thing about the Louisiana Purchase. off the top of my head. It's one of those moments that make you stop and think like, "Am I a moron? How is it I can't recall something about my own country's history so easily?"
 The last time I learned about it was in junior junior year of highschool when I was 17 years old, and before that I think I was in the 5th grade.
I start reading the TEFL workbook he hands me, and it's jogging my memory little by little. I don't understand, though, exactly what it is he wants me to explain using the U.S. map.
I'm like, "Uhh...here is Louisiana, and this is the whole purchase?" haha, and I show him. He asks me to explain, using the map, the expansion of the U.S. from east to west.
I wanted to be like listen, buddy, everything on the map is marked off as to when the U.S. gained what territory when and how. I don't understand what it is that he wants me to indicate that isn't already there?
I explain what I can, remembering what I can about the Mexican cession and all these other expeditions and conquests and purchases, and when I finish talking, the entire car remains silent. No one is speaking for maybe two minutes. The father doesn't say anything, the mother doesn't say anything, and I look to the kid and he just starts laughing.
I laugh with him and do my best attempt to salvage whatever bit of intelligence they might think I have and I say, "I never liked history...haha...umm...hahah...haha,,."
He smiled back at me in the rear view mirror, and all I could think was that I hope perhaps I spoke too fast for him to truly process and that he was just too shy to admit that.
"Ah..thank you," he tells me. "I understand now."
 
 
So since returning from my travels through Malaysia and Singapore, the adjusment hasn't been as hard as I first thought it would be. To be honest, when I was in Malaysia and had only two days or so left of my vacation, I was contemplating not returning back to Korea. It sort of reminded me of when I called my dad from the Roma airport after my study abroad trip and backpacking trip through Europe, crying into the phone that I wasn't going to get onto the plane while the woman behind the counter calmed me down saying that if I truly, truly wanted to stay, well, she would do what she could to help me get situated the first few days.
My one best friend from uni, Molly, is coming to meet me to do some backpacking through SE Asia, Israel and a little bit of Europe before moving to Australia. (Molly, you're coming with me!)
I've done nothing but research this past week, reading and reading endless Lonely Planet articles and forum posts and suggestions as if I was leaving next week sometime. I still have six more months, which is a bit of a hard point to hit, but it's been OK so far since being back. Maybe it's just really nice to have that "at home" feeling.
I met my friends for coffee last Thursday night, and when I got off the bus and was walking down the street to my house, I just felt really at ease. It was that kind of cold I really liked, where the night is empty and silent and still, and there's just this cold air that hits your skin and awakens your sense.  I felt really happy to be in Korea at that moment.
But I am looking forward to six months from now when I can do some traveling, and four months from now when I'll have a new sister! Yay Michael and Lauren!
My friend Molly and I are planning on traveling through Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and INDIA for about 2.5 months, making our way to Israel for about a week, going to Istanbul, Turkey, maybe doing the Northern Lights in Norway (an idea I must admit I stole from someone I met backpacking), then stuffing my face with some gnocchi in Italy (ROMA'S GNOCCHI DI GIOVEDI) and finishing up in the city that stole my heart four years ago: Paris. Then, I will knock on the door of the International Herald Tribune until they give me a job.
That's it. I am just so excited right now as I do my research and decided to share it here.
Other than that, things are going well. I am still desk-warming, and I really can't imagine teaching anytime soon.