From the BK to the SK
Happy Birthday to one of the rarest, most beautiful and genuine people I have ever met - my cousin Alison. I hope you have an incredible birthday. You have an enormous heart, and I hope that one day I turn out to be half the person you are. You are like my older sister who never leaves my side, no matter what country or city I might be in. OK enough emo.
You da bomb diggity, Al. Happy birthday! Love and Miss you so much!
So, I was out on Saturday night to celebrate one of my good friend's birthday. My friends and I have been taking it easy on the weekends recently, so Saturday night was a combination of a birthday celebrating and a celebration of our being real human beings. That celebration ended at 5 a.m., and my body cannot sleep in. I was up and ready at 8:30 to seize the day, my eyes glazed over but feeling happier than I could have imagined.
We went to one of the popular Western bars here in Daegu, and my friends and I decided to grab a table where these two guys were kind of already sitting. As I slid along the bench, closer to these two guys, I heard something that made my heart leap in pure joy.
I turned to them in a way that I am sure scared them because I pretty much screamed, "SIETE DI ITALIA?" (Are you from Italy?)
Yes, Firenze and Bologna. My heart skipped another beat, and I thanked whatever God brought these two guys into this bar in Daegu.
I was so excited to speak Italian, to talk about Italy, to talk about Florence, to talk about the fact that there is no way I can rightfully eat a bowl of pasta in Daegu and call it Italian food. Marco was 23. Roberto was 32. I was in love. My brain was working a mile a minute and I could feel my face getting flustered, as I felt like I was in a race against time to speak all the Italian I could before the night came to an end.
I wanted to instantly be transported to my house in Florence, to my favorite resturant with my favorite Italian family and my favorite friends and my favorite bowl of pasta and my favorite pizza and my favorite lifestyle on the planet: dolce fa niente (Thanks for reminding me of this, Elizabeth Gilber) - the sweetness of doing nothing.
Which brings me to my next thought - I MISS ITALY. I watched Eat, Pray, Love this morning, and I know in my heart of hearts that I will end up living in Europe. I know it. I want to live in Paris for some time, because as you all know I seem to compare every traveling feeling to that feeling of when I stepped out of the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, and then find myself a beautiful life in Italy.
But, I have been in Korea for only three months and have more than enough time to decide what I want to do with my life, although I can most definitely say I haven't the slightest clue as to what that is. Thinking of everything there is to do and see, places to live in and people to meet, things to study and dream jobs to chase after - it all gets so impossibly overwhelming, so impossibly confusing and so impossibly impossible.
I guess that's the beauty of growing up and the beauty of living a life you never could have imagined. It is this wild ride that takes you on every twist and turn - both good and bad - that every day changes your point of view, changes your understanding of yourself, your understanding of the world, your understanding of importance and your understanding of life. And every day there are just more twists and more turns and more hidden corners and side streets that you never know where they will lead you to and where they won't lead you to.
It was writing an e-mail to Sheila one day a few weeks ago after she asked me for some book suggestions. I get really intense about things like this, taking such requests very seriously and seeing it is more important to fully explain each book and why I like as opposed to doing something like planning a lesson I have to re-adjust.
Anyway, after receiving my very extensive list, she said something that I never truly thanked her for.
"Some day a friend is going to ask her friend for some book suggestions, just like we're doing, and your memoir is going to be on that list."
I don't know the roads I'll take to get there, what I'll do in between or what I'll discover along the way, but I will get there.
It's getting late, so I am going to end this blog with my favorite italian word: Basta.
So my friends and I decided to have a Thanksgiving dinner together on Thursday night. One of my friends came across an ad for a Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner Delivery service (that was a moutful to write), and so we all chipped in for what sounded like a great celebration. None of us have ovens, and to tell you the truth, if I had an oven, I wouldn't have volunteered to cook the turkey, anyway.
We all met after school, and it was a weird day. I am used to waking up from a night out where I may have accidentally come home and already started helping myself to my family's Thanksgiving dinner, waiting around all day watching the Macy's Day parade while counting down the minutes to eat. (Apparently my little brother came home at 6 a.m. with no shoes on and no legitimate explanation, so it may beat my eating our Thanksgiving dinner side dishes two years ago.)
There was no 'Happy Thanksgiving!' greeting when I walked into school, despite the fact that I mentioned about it being Thanksgiving Day. It didn't feel quite like a holiday, because I can't recall a holiday where I ate my dinner at 8 p.m. at night after a long day of work.
That's right. Unfortunately, the turkey arrived later than planned, so my friends and I stood there tapping our feet anxiously waiting for a dinner we were about to rip apart like savages, as we had all decided to skip lunch so as to make sure we were fully prepared for the meal ahead. Bad choice.
The turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie all arrived, and we took our seats - keeping it traditionally Korean and eating on the floor - and all stared at the turkey.
"Um, does anyone know how to carve this thing?" I asked. We all laughed. I looked at the knife and decided against it, seeing as I sliced my finger cutting up vegetables earlier this month.
Our friend Rachel went to work, cutting it while we kind of just decided to be cavewomen and dig into the stuffing with our forks. A few hours later after devouring every last bit of dinner and dessert we could manage, we were sitting like zombies, almost in tears that we would need to teach the next day after recovering from an extreme case of food comas (not a smart idea in the real world).
Thank god I have four of my favorite classes on Friday, because when I woke up I debated - as if it was a life or death decision - as to whether I would go into work or, as they say in Korea, "take a rest".
My students made my day incredibly enjoyable, as playing Thanksgiving Bingo with them is really a blessing in disguise. They get SO intense, and they're all chanting things like "Gimme turkey!" or "FALL! FALL! FALL!", and they wait on the edge of their seats as I dig through the bag and pull out their fate.
But then I play an extra game for some candy, asking, for example, "When in November is Thanksgiving?", and receive responses such as "India", "Pilgrims" and "November" for answers from my lower level students. Oh, how I love my Friday classes.
So normally I have to stay at work until 4:30 p.m., as do all the other teachersl, even though my last class is over at 3:20 p.m.
My one co-teacher - let's say she reminds me of the stereotypical JItalian mother you see on TV shows or in the movies (and by that I don't mean to offend anyone). She is very overbearing at times, and I always feel like I have to please her and make her happy. She's always highly suggesting I try things or highly recommending I do something, and it always seems like she knows what is best. I love her to death because she is like the mother you always want to make proud, but sometimes she makes me so nervous!
Anyway, at around 3:30 p.m., she raced out of school. I found it a little strange, and about ten minutes later I found out about North Korea attacking South Korea.
All Korean men must serve in the military for 22 months, and her son is currently serving his time. I made the connection, though it was only my assumption, that she left for reason relating to what is going on with North Korea.
I am safe, though I have heard one or two jets fly by my house. South Korea is currently deploying fighter jets, which explains why I heard them right over my house.
North Korea fired at Yeonpyeong island in South Korea, killing two soldiers and injuring many soldiers, causing many civilians on the island to flee to Incheon, right outside of Seoul. North Korea claims that South Korea fired first, athough accoring to CNN, the Souther alerted and announced to the North that it would be conducting firing test shots. After the North telephoned to the South, asking for the fire to cease, at around 2:30 p.m. the North attacked by firing hundreds of rounds of artillery at this island near the border of the two countries.
South Korea fired back, and it has been holding emergency meetings since this afternoon in order to figure out the best plan of attack so as to avoid a full out war. South Korea is currently on its highest security alert.
Other than hearing the fighter jets fly over my building, which I will admit made my heart skip a beat, I don't feel scared or nervous. Life is continuing like normal, though really I have only been to the gym, where all the TV's were showing either the South Korean soccer game or the news program about the NoKo-SoKo situation.
It's weird. Realistically, we're always at war at home: We fight the war on terror every single day. There isn't any fighting happening on our territory and on our grounds, but our men and women are over in Afghanistan and Iraq every day fighting for our country. The war on terror is definitely a scary war, what with all the possible bomb threats or high-scale attacks, like 9-11.
But here, in South Korea, it's like every day is a war they're fighting to avoid. And it's sad, it truly is sad. My heart breaks for my co-teachers and co-workers whose sons are in the military right now, because I know when I arrive at school in the morning, they will tell me their minds were worried and they couldn't sleep.
I am an adrenaline junkie and am hoping I can write the crap out of the situation that unfolds over the next few days. Sorry, Dad.
I will keep you updated, but I am staying optomistic that things will be OK.

So first, my brother Michael is touring with the USA team right now (he was given a leave from his team in England), and had a game against Scotland at 7:30 p.m. his time. (Figuring out when to talk to my brother and his fiance is SO hard, and I always message them at like 6 a.m. or 1 a.m. their time, haha.)
He lost his game, but he was named captain of the match, so I just wanted to give him a little love on my blog. I am very proud of him and my younger brother, Christopher, and would be completely lost without them by my side. So - Congratulations, Michael!

Second, I am technically an aunt. No, no - Michael nor Christopher secretly had children, but my cousin, Laura had her baby on November 12. Sophia Addison is officially one week old! I am so happy for my counsin and for her beautiful, healthy little peanut of a baby who was born at 6lbs, 6 oz. I CANNOT wait to see her in June, and I CANNOT wait to go baby shopping for her. Let's be honest - I am definitely going to be the one who will be her stylist.
(Laura and I are on total opposite ends of the spectrum with our styles.)
Anyway, I want to congratulate my beautiful cousin for her beautiful daughter!
There is a lot, a lot of pressure in Korea on a daily basis to succeed, and though I am only a native English teacher, I feel it all the time. I never want to let my co-workers or co-teachers down, I don't want to disappoint them or be rude to them, especially because they always compliment me on me adaptive attitude and traveling ability. They are impressed with how well I can adjust to a culture and embrace a culture and really allow it to challenge my mindset and thinking. Whether they mean this, I am not sure, because I know there are some things I can be resistant to. But I do my best and give everything a try, which is why the picky-eating nature I had for 20 years of my life had to change once I moved to Italy.
Western Europe wasn't too crazy, and I was sort of just getting my feet wet with the whole trying new foods thing when I traveled to new countries. I was the QUEEN of saying, "Oh, I don't like it", about a food or drink when realistically, I never even tried it in my life. I just didn't think I'd like it.
China was obviously no time to play around. Either I ate or I starved. It is really no different here.
I went to dinner with my co-teachers, principal, vice principal and other co-workers to celebrate the success of my open class. Let me preface this also by saying that Koreans know how to eat. I mean, this is coming from a girl who grew up in an Italian family in Brooklyn, where pizza and pasta and sandwiches and huge portions (thanks, America) was all I knew.
No. Koreans run stuff.
The amount of food that Korean women and men consume without even gaining a single ounce of fat is incredibly impressive. There are some bigger built Korean men and women in comparison to the people in China, yet still - it is so baffling to me that people can eat the way they do and lose weight doing it.
We went to a buffet with such delicious food, and I piled endless amounts of sushi onto my plate. I brought my plate back to the table and ate some of the best sushi I've ever had in my life. I sat there in a food coma, wanting nothing more than to be carried to my apartment and to my bed and sleep for the next five days.
Before I knew it, the waiter put down three plates on the table, and my eyes grew wide with horror. Now, I've seen some pretty gross stuff living in China and ate some pretty shocking things, but everything I ate was already dead. Well, I guess everything aside from the snake whose blood I drank and meat I ate in my snake soup. But at least when I drank the blood and ate the meat, it was dead. The snake was dead. I saw it murdered, yes, but it was dead.
These plates were small, side dish plates covered in octopus tentacles. Again, I've seen some pretty gross things, and this isn't the first time I have encountered octopus while living in Korea. I am pretty sure there was a whole one in my soup at lunch once.
The octopus tentacles were cut up into tiny pieces, smaller than my pinky finger, and they were moving. Yes, that's right - they were moving wildly about the plate. They were flailing around, doing flips and turns and wriggles and wiggles in every direction. My mouth dropped and I looked at my two female co-teachers.
"We highly suggest you try. It is delicious. Soaked in soy sauce and peanut sauce."
I looked at them. All I could say was, "But it's still moving."
They laughed. They told me it was very fresh and that I really should try it. Basically, all eyes were on me.
I played dumb, trying to somehow postpone the minute to picking up the wiggling octopus legs with my chopsticks.
"Do I have to chew it? Or can I just swallow it whole?"
They laughed again. No, silly, you chew the moving octopus legs. Duh!
I searched for a small one, which wasn't hard to do. I didn't have to sort through the plate since all the tentacles were moving from one places to anothe for me. It was wiggling out of my chopsticks. It didn't want to be eaten. It knew its fate, and it was doing its best to release itself from my grip. It wiggled pretty violently, as if it had eyes to express its fear and a mouth to scream with. My mind was racing. What if I get sick? What if it starts moving around in my mouth? There is no way I will be able to control myself from projectile vomitting all over this table (I know, I am such a lady). I finally got a hold of it and held it tightly between the points of my chopsticks so it wouldn't get away. It was now or never, and it was doing its best to swim through the air, trying to find its way back home.
I ate it, chewed it as quickly as I could. It felt extremely chewy - like e x t r e m e l y chewy, and the fact that it was still moving didn't make it any easier. I tried to keep it to the left side of my mouth, and I raced to chew it and swallow it as fast as I could. As I am trying to get it down without thinking about the fact that I just ate a moving, living thing, my co-teacher goes to get a piece, also. The tentacle she wanted  was more reluctant than mine was to be eaten - it was literally suctioning itself to the plate. We all watched - I'm still chewing while this is happening - as she struggles to rip it off the plate and eat it. One by one the little pores give way to her fierce pull, and before I know it she's eating a tentacle, too.
I can successfully say I've eaten something that was moving. I've joked before, saying the meat on my plate winked at me because I was certain it was still alive, but this was no joke. These little legs had life.
Another plate comes out, and I feel my stomach do a flop: No more. That's all I could think.
This didn't look too bad. It sort of just looked like raw clams that were orange. I've eaten raw clams before at my Uncle Gerard's house, as for some reason he and my father and my brothers found it would be a great lifetime experience to eat the clams raw ("best way to eat 'em!") rather than have them cooked for dinner. I am pretty sure if my Aunt hadn't stopped them, there would have been none at all for dinner.
Naturally, my co-teachers suggested I try, and naturally I had to ask what it was. I should learn my lesson by now and stick to my rule: DO NOT try to figure out what it is that you're eating.
"How can I explain this?" is never a good sign when your best speaking co-teacher is unable to even put into words what it is you're about to eat. Instead they translated it for me on their phones: Sea squirt.
It just sounded dreadful. The name alone sent a chill through my body. Was I really about to eat something called a sea squirt? I picked it up and noticed on the understand it had two, huge brown spots. The one thought that went through my mind was: Oh, shit. Literally. I was petrified that these were saw raw they weren't cleaned, and I was about to eat something terribly crappy. (Good play on words. I know, I know - once again, I am SUCH a lady.)
I asked again if I swallow or chew only to receive the same response, and so I ate it and chewed it as quickly as I could. It tasted like drinking absurd amounts of very, very, very satly ocean water. It wasn't terribly bad, but it wasn't something I'd really ever crave during my time here in Korea.
They asked me which I liked better, and my answer was so incredibly simple:
"This one," I said, pointing to the sea squirt. I honestly did like it better. "It isn't alive."
They laughed at me, "It is alive, it just isn't moving!"
I smiled and laughed. "Ok, Ok. Then I like it beacuse it isn't moving!"
Aside from moving animals for dinner, the other aspect about eating out with Koreans is the drinking. Korean men LOVE to drink. Asians in general love to drink. I remembered going to lunch at work in China and seeing some of my "bosses" chugging pints of beer on their lunch break. Koreans, though they don't drink on the job (my one co-teacher does drink boiling hot water....kind of weird, no?), they love to drink in social settings.
We did a toast with our beers, which I don't really like but I take a sip out of respect, and my principal spoke in Korean about how pleased he's been with my performance and my hard work. My one co-teacher must have told him to say "Bottoms Up", because he looked at me and forced the awkward and unfamiliar sounds out of his mouth. I smiled. They're always doing one thing or other to bring a smile to my face, even if it's highly suggesting I eat something that is still moving or something that's called a sea squirt.
So today I had my open class, and I will admit I was very nervous. I am always the kind of person to put an unnecessary amount of pressure on everything and anything I do, no matter how simple the task might be. Normally, I have total control over my lesson plans and I have complete control over my classroom. There really is no concept of co-teaching, which is what we are supposed to be doing. In middle school, native teachers have control over the full 45 minutes of the class.
I have to admit, every Sunday, when I am struggling to create a fun and exciting lesson plan, I envy my friends who teach in elementary school and basically have to teach what they are told teach. If I even ask for a guideline as to what some key words are, key phrases, the answers I receive my co-teachers are always: You do what you think best. I walk away grinding my teeth in frustration. It took me two months to figure out that students stay on the same lesson for three weeks in a row. (No wonder why I would walk into class and their books would still be opened to Lesson 7 when I had planned for Lesson 10.)
For my open class, I had no control over the lesson I would teach and present infront of the two other teachers and the representative from the Daegu Ministry of Education. My co-teachers decided that, because, "maybe I studied journalism in college", we do a writing-intensive lesson as opposed to a speaking-intensive lesson. It made me a bit nervous and uncomfortable, because if my open class went poorly, I could be recommended for extra teaching training. But I agreed, offered my suggestions of what we could, ideas to motivate the students, created the game - but the rest was up to my lifesaving co-teacher whom I am so lucky to have.
It was a bit frustrating nerve racking to have no control over the lesson plan, the structure of the class, etc. I realized this week how much more enjoyable and relaxing it is to not really have anyone to answer to or anyone to please (who knew?). The whole week I felt nervous, and as Friday drew closer, all of the teachers could tell I was freaked out. They would bring me aside, speak to me in Korean while holding my hand in between their hands, their faces conveying such love and admiration. "Fighting!" they'd say, which meant I will do great. "Endure!" they'd tell me, which meant they believed I could do it.
This was probably my smartest first grader class, but I could only imagine they were even more nervous than I was. They knew there was just as much pressure on them to speak out and perform well, because no matter how great of a teacher I was, if the students weren't responsive, then the class just would crumble to pieces.
Friday morning came, and before I knew it I had ten minutes before my open class was to start. I stood the front of the classroom as the students filed in, coming up to me with words of encouragement.
"You are beautiful, good teacher!"; or "You will cheer up and do good!"; and "For you, I raise my hand!"; along with some "I speak much for you, teacher!"
As always, they brought a smile to my face and laughter to my heart, and slowly I felt myself feeling a little bit more relaxed. The two native teachers sat in the back of the classroom with the education rep, and behind them was nothing but love and support. It felt like all of the teachers canceled their classes just to watch me, to support me and to be there for me at a time when they knew I needed it. Maybe three of the teachers standing in the back of the room were co-teachers of mine, the rest were teachers who spoke no English and understood next to nothing. Yet they watched and cheered me on, giving me thumbs up and smiles as the class.
The whole lesson went smoothly, and my students made me look awesome. They participated eagerly, spoke clearly and fully and really showed how much they enjoy having me as a teacher. The smile painted on my face couldn't justify the happiness that swam through my body. I was so grateful to have such incredible students, but I felt even luckier to have such amazing co-workers. They were so proud of me. It really felt as if I was a young girl, getting ready to perform in my first dance recital or first school play or play in my first soccer game whose family was there to cheer me on. Family: I truly and honestly felt it for the first time here in Korea, and it was so beautiful it almost brought me to tears (I am SO emotional).
The representative from the education office was so impressed with me and my teaching, she asked if I had a background in education. She was surprised to learn I was a journalism major and that this was my first teaching job, because she felt certain that I had either studied it in college or had teaching experience throughout my years in university. That one compliment lifted the weight of the entire world off my shoulders, and I felt like I breathed for the first time that day without feeling any bit of nervousness. My voice is clear and strong (I'm a loud person naturally, obviously, but I even amaze myself at the decibel it can reach without straining it), and I speak so clearly (yet I don't think she's totally aware of what a Brooklyn accent is).
It felt great to hear all of that, to know that she was pleased, to know that i wouldn't have to go to extra training, to know that I had so many co-workers who loved me like I was a part of their families and to have students who made me feel so proud.
I live in an area that is pretty desolate, but is near the industrial area of the city. There are loud, noisy trucks that drive down my block all day long, their engines roaring as they wait impatiently at the light on my corner. It isn't loud enough to keep me from sleeping, but it is loud enough where when it's quiet, it is creepy.
This morning, I woke up to pure silence. There wasn't a single car driving down my street - not a single truck loading crying pigs or cows or some other items for transport racing down my street. There was nothing racing down my street.
Why? Because today was D-Day. Today was the Korean SAT.
Korean high school students take the SAT once a year. First, they take the test as second graders in high school. If they do poorly, they can take the test one last chance. There isn't a three strikes and you're out rule in Korea. They give two chances, and those two chances heavily influence the rest of their lives.
Cops patrol the streets of Korea on the morning of the SAT, and everything else is on delay or canceled all together. My school was on a one hour delay so as not to cause any traffic for those high school students who were anxiously making their way to their testing sites. We thought there was pressure in the U.S. to receive a high SAT score - well, you've never lived in Korea.
The test is 9 hours long. Planes are not allowed to take off or land during certain testing hours, and, like I said, unnecessary traffic is eliminated by forcing the rest of the city to go on a delay for work or school. Students' parents flood temples to pray for their sons and daughters to receive high scores, as well as adhere to superstitions like, "Do not feed your children slimy seaweed soup before the SAT exam - their knowledge will slip away." My students were telling me that their sisters who took the SAT today received lots of money, rice cakes and chocolates last night as a final good luck before as the hours dwindled and the test drew closer.
One of my co-teachers has a daughter who is a senior in high school, hoping to go to art school in Seoul. Today was her last chance, and so yesterday I bought her a little good luck gift. My co-teacher appreciated it, and it felt good to do something nice for someone I realistically didn't know.
The world stops for the Korean SAT, and right now the students are going over the answers, which are released by a newspaper, finding out their fate for what they think is the rest of their lives. 
Yes, you read that right.
In my extra calss, as part of Two Truths and a Lie, one student wrote down:
I have eaten snake meat/
I have eaten dog meat.
I have eaten cow meat.

The lie was that the student had eaten snake meat. I knew they ate dog in parts of Asia. I mean, there were times in China when I just shut my eyes and held my nose and just ate what was put in front of me.  I know - this is coming from the girl who drank snake's blood.
"So you've eaten dog?"
He looked at me and said, "Yes, teacher." I turned to my other students. "You eat dog, too?"
They all shook their heads enthusiastically. "Teacher, it is delicious. Very delicious," one of my girl students said to me.
According to what my students told me, there are dogs that are raised to be pets and there are dogs that are raised for eating. For. eating.
"It is very delicious, teacher. It tastes like pork or beef. I did not know first time. Then my grandparents tell me: You eat dog."
We decided that for the next class, a good discussion would be to have a debate about eating dog. The only problem was that out of six students, only one student willingly wanted to be on the team that was against eating dog. (He's tried it, but didn't like it.)
"Teacher, do they eat dog in America?" I laughed.  I picture my Mowgli, her precious face and long limbs that make her look part human, part fawn. I couldn't look at her the same again if I ever willingly and knowingly tried dog meat. I feel like she'd sense it right away, she'd know that I betrayed her, and the sadness would settle deep in her big, hazel eyes.
 "No. In America, if you eat dog, maybe you'd get arrested," I said, and they laughed. They asked me what kinds of things we do eat in America, like what we take for breakfast and lunch and dinner. Their eyes grew wide with hunger and they "mmm" at every food I mentioned: from waffles to pizza to bagels to pasta, chicken to steak and even cereal - they were hanging on their edge of their seats, licking their lips and dying to know what New York pizza tastes like. They were dying to know where they should go if they want to eat some good American food.
Obviously, without any hesitation, I said you couldn't get better food anywhere in the U.S. than at home.
"Teacher, no rice? In America?"
I laughed. The fact that rice was missing from my American menu took them by surprise. It's like all they know.
"In Korea, you take rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, yes?"
They all smile, let out a laugh. They know I am about to be the bearer of bad news.
"Not in America. I eat rice....well, never (their faces express some shock). If I do have rice, I never have plain rice. Like my brother, he loves Chinese food and white rice, but he'd never eat it plain. Americans don't really like plain."
They look confused. "Plain, what is plain?"
I told them about how plain has no taste, lacks flavor, and, well, just doesn't do it. Plain means no soy sauce, and it clicked. "Ohhhhh! You take nothing on the rice."
It's funny how earth shattering (in my opinion) of a diet change moving to the U.S. would be for them, not taking rice with every meal. For me the earth shattering change isn't so much the staple of a diet (thought I do miss my italian food) but the food's origin, i.e. when I ate pig intestine. There isn't anything at home - like a set, staple American food - that we eat in abundant amounts with every meal like the way Koreans and Asian eat rice. I just wonder what would go through their mind, going to an American diner for breakfast or restaurant for dinner. Would their minds be racing the same way mine does every time I walk into the "school restaurant", silently praying that there isn't an entire octopus in my soup or rice cakes that I'm convinced are moth balls that fell from the ceiling and into my bowl? (Rice cakes, p.s., tend to feel like eating glue. I am pretty sure one has been lodged in my throat for four days now.)
It's very interesting to me that what is so normal to my students is something I find to be so crazy and vice versa. I don't intend of eating dog anytime soon, even though my students did their best to persuade me to try it.
So, first let me clarify that when I refer to my students as first and second graders, that means first and second grade in middle school. The schooling in Korea is different. Elementary is 6 years (like 1st through 6th grade at home), middle school is three years (like 7th, 8th and 9th grade at home) and high school is 3 years (10th, 11th and 12th grades at home).
So, I started teaching an after school class of six students - 4 girls and 2 boys - from my higher level second grade class. I love them. It's so funny how they seem so little and young to me, and I tend to forget that they are 15 years old. They just look like babies.
The past two weeks I had to go to two other schools in Daegu for what is called an open class, where the native English teachers are observed by two other native speakers and reps from the Daegu Ministry of Education. We are evaluated and have a discussion based on our teaching methods and approaches after the class is over. (Mine is tomorrow!!) Anyway, to get to the point, when I went to the two open classes I had to observe, the students just did not seem as cute as my students. They seemed older - definitely looked like teenagers in their statures and height and facial features. They just looked so much more mature than my students. I wonder if the native teachers who observe my class will think and feel the same way when they leave my school. All I thought of was how much I love my students.
Anyway, so I have six second graders that I teach twice a week for two hours after school. I started right after Halloween, so I am a bit late on posting this, but there were just some stories I have been dying to tell.
So the first week we were getting to know each other with different ice breaker games, even though the six of them knew each other very well. I felt stupid that I didn't know their names. I mean, I could read their names, but I didn't know them personally. I recognized two of the girls from the the classes I teach, but the other students I didn't even realize I taught.
One of my students has so much personality, and she is constantly making me laugh. We played "2 truths and a lie" as a way for me to learn about them. Just in case you can't figure it out, I'll explain the complexity of the game: You write down two truths and a lie about yourself.
So my one student goes up and writes down her first sentence, "I am bright, kind and intelligent", along with two other statements about herself. The lie was that she was a good piano player, and the other students were harping on her about how the lie is that she's bright, kind and intelligent. So they're joking with her and one of the other girls stops and asks, "What is bright? I do not know."
She thinks for a minute as to how to describe what she means by "bright", and in my head I am assuming she means that she is smart, celver, etc. Instead, she says:
"Umm....bright eyes - bling bling! my smile - bling, bling! my face - bling, bling! my clothes - bling, bling! I'm bling bling!"
Like I've said many times before, some of the things my students say just make my entire day better. I could have the crappiest day, be tired grouchy and then they say something that just makes my heart smile. In that moment, I was just so happy to be doing what I was doing and experiencing what I was experiencing. Years from now, it's little quotes like this that I'll remember the most