From the BK to the SK
 
So it has been a very long time since I last entered a blog. My MacBook broke, so it's been hard to write without a computer. It's also been hard to write where there isn't much free time. Things have definitely picked up since moving here one month ago. That's right - Happy 1 Month anniversary, Korea! How did my friends and  I celebrate? We went and spent an entire Saturday aimlessly and lifelessly and deliriously walking around the biggest department store in Daegu called Lotte, doing nothing but eating and sampling all the free foods. Hah. This past Saturday is one of those days that my friends and I will be talking about year from now, because all we did all day long was laugh at the simplest of things. It's funny when you think about what kind of moments mean the most and what memories you hold on to the strongest. I've wandered around museum after museum all around the world, I've been in and out of every church possible, explored tons of pagodas, but it seriously are those brief moments with your friends that make you put everything into perspective. It's those, "Is this really happening?" types of questions and moments that you remember most. Anyway, teaching has been pretty funny. I won't lie. Some days, it's tiresome when you teach the same lesson four times over the course of a few hours, but it's always different. The students are what make it all interesting and fun. I teach middle school first and second grade, and I teach two levels for each grade - the A and B levels. The A levels are fun and definitely easier to teach because they understand me a lot better or can just catch on a lot quicker. The B classes are more challenging, but I am learning a little bit with each lesson I teach. It's funny, too, how recognizable the students have become for me. I can definitely say that I am starting to separate the classes, because at first it is very overwhelming. You're just one person teaching 20 classes of about 35-40 students each. I started off thinking I'd never learn all of these kids by the end of the semester, but I am starting to catch on. I can read Hangul and pronounce it quite well, so that helps a lot. I can start to read their names and call them out in class, which I can tell they appreciate. They get so excited when I speak Korean, what little Korean I've picked up and can actually recall and remember. Like I said, I can read it and prounouce it, and if someone dictates something to me very slowly and clearly, I can write it. Sometimes I think I am dyslexic, though. I won't lie. It's weird when you can notice a difference in the way your mind functions versus what you're writing out on paper or reading out. But then again I am just beginning to learn a new language, so it's all a big change. My goal is to be conversational by the time I leave here, which is a reasonable but hard goal to set. The thing about Korea is it is very situational, and very much a proper etiquette culture in regard to its speaking and conversational intricacies (did that sentence even make sense?). The way you speak to someone older than you and the kind of language and word phrases you use is VERY different from the way I'd speak to someone my age and then someone younger. There's different and proper ways to count things, not just 일, 야, 삼, 사,  (1, 2, 3, 4....). For instance, there is a way to count people - but within that, there is a way to count people who are older than you versus counting off people that are younger than you (organizing my students into teams for activities). Then there is a way to count objects, then a way to count other things. I swear my mind was going crazy trying to take this all in. But I am doing everything I can to learn. I often go across the street to the little deli and have the guy help me and check my pronounciation, so I need to get him a gift. Each time he sees me he knows I'm coming with "homework", haha, so he starts laughing and reaches for my book. I feel like I've had a really good and unique experience up to this point with all the Korean people I've met. The women at the school told me they look and me and think of their children (most of whom are my age, and the sons are off serving in the army, which is a requirement), so they think of me as their own and want to take care of me. It's a really incredible feeling to have people who barely know you and barely speak your language be so emotional and deep with what little they can say and express to you. Ha, the one group of women - math teachers - took me to Pizza Hut (they LOVE pizza). There's one math teacher whose face just makes me so happy. There is just something abut the way that she smiles and greets me - her face is seriously like a canvas, and all of her emotions are constantly painted across her face. Anyway, she prepared questions for me to ask me, not that she wold understand the answers without my lifesaving co-teacher translating them. But still, the thought counts. She must have gone on a translation web site or something, but it really meant so much to me. She asked me, "Tell us about your childhood," and she learned to say "Help Yourself!" for when the food got to the table. Another math teacher is taking me to her father's house in Gwanju (spelt wrong), which is kind of where Korea all began. There is so much history there. She speaks very little English but has been studying every day so that we can talk to each other. The third math teacher went to the ends of the earth to find me this kind of honey ball dessert that I mentioned, in passing, I tried and really liked. All of the teachers here, whether they are my co-teachers (I work with them in the classroom) or not have really gone above and beyond for me. They bring me little gifts each day or walk over to my desk just to say hi, they've brought me to dinner countless times and brought me to a baseball game. Last week I was able to go to the theme park with my second grade students while the first grade students were away on a camping trip for three days. I went with some of the other teachers, only a few of whom spoke English well. My one co-teacher for second grade was there, and I really kind of look up to her and find myself looking at her as someone whom I want the utmost respect from. She's very intelligent and is very motherly toward me, but in a serious way that's both stern and sincere. There is just something about her persona that makes her seem like this kind of all-knowing, very wise person. Anyway, she took me to the market after the field trip, which was so much fun. I went on all of the roller coasters with my students and the science teacher for grade 2 (he speaks pretty good English), as well as the gym teacher - he speaks nada. Ha. He drove me to the theme park and said (to my co-teacher) he was so nervous because we couldn't speak, so he put on some English music (a few gospel songs thrown in there made me laugh) for me. There was another teacher, a young woman, in the car with us who didn't speak english, either. So, I picked up the newspaper sitting on the backseat and read to them in Korean. I practiced reading the headlines and the stories and things, and they really respected that. The teachers have come to respect me for my desire to learn and read and speak Hangul, as many of my co-teachers have told me this over the past few weeks. They admire how open I am to new challenges, like trying all of the Korean food and going into things with an open mind. That's a very positive feeling. But anyway, after the theme park I went to to the market with my co-teacher and another teacher (no english) and walked around, and they took me to lunch. All I did ALL DAY was eat. My stomach hurt so much by the end of the day. Right when we got to the theme park at 9 a.m., all of the teachers went to kind of this restuarant section. It was pretty secluded, and it was traditional Korean seating. I felt sort of like I was out in the jungle a bit. The tables were on like these raised platforms with tall peaked hut-style roofs above our heads. It was really cool actually. And it's so funny how much they all like to "take a rest." Only a few of the teachers went on the rides with me, while the others most slept by the table. Haa. They always make sure I "take a rest". Even at work, people just put their heads down on their desks - a lot of that happened in China, too. Naps all the time. My dad would hate it. He doesn't understand naps. So we ate again and again and again at the market, exploring the different cultural things I wouldn't come across had I been alone or with my friends. Then after, I met the young woman teacher (who rode with me to the theme park) to go to a baseball game with her and two of her friends. She spoke no english, and her friends spoke little but decent english, but she offered me their extra ticket. It was just so kind and so nice. Like that's the whole thing about Koreans. They kind of really do open their heart to you. There's like no medium point really with Koreans. It's either all the way or nothing at all (obviously in my own experiences). So it's weird to have been here for a month already! The time goes by so quickly. I've been having a lot of fun with my friends, two of whom we met here and I feel like have instantly become genuine friends of mine. It's a great thing to be able to connect and bond with people so instantly, and it's just so weird when you think about how we never knew each other before this. Like none of us knew one another before arriving in August, and yet we all just perfectly fit togther. We have so much fun going out on the weekends with all the teachers. The guys we've met here are, for the most part, super genuine, especially the ones we always go out with. So I've been really lucky on that end, too. So what started out as a series of mishaps and unfortunate twists and turns since arriving in Korea, at this moment, I couldn't feel luckier. I couldn't feel better about what I am doing and what I will do. At times it will be hard to be so far from home and I know those times will come, but it's all a learning process and experience. It's all a part of growing up. Things aren't always easy, and trust me I've learned that lesson well, and in the end you learn the most from the most difficult experiences. ur new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
 


Aunt Barbara
09/22/2010 05:57

Hello Alexandra!!!
Let me say I so enjoy your writings when I read them. Its sounds like you are experiencing so much there in such a short time and I am so excited for you to experience all that you have and will experience while you are there. It sounds like the people you work with are very kind to you, and why not you are sociable, beautiful, American and you appreciate all that you have accomplished to this piont. If this comforts me to know that there are people taking you under their wing I could imagine how comforting your Dad must feel. You enjoy everything there and absorbe everything you can. I think of you often and will write on occasion, would not want to bore you with my boring life.
You take care of yourself my sweet and know I am here for you for anything.
Love you girl
Aunt Barbara

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