Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coffee, Crackers and Cutesy 3 Year Olds

I found out today my Kinder 6 class (the one that makes me lose my voice EVERY SINGLE Tues/Thurs is getting more kids.  The maximum each class is allowed to have is 10.  Mine now has 14.  Not ok. Did I mention that these 14 kids range in age from 3 to 7 years old?  Or that their abilities range from being able to say their abc's, numbers and colors to kids who can't even hold a pencil the correct way? Well all of the above are true.

The ONLY upside to this is that now the Korean staff feels so bad about overflowing my classes that they are giving me presents.  I came out of my next class to find coffee and my favorite crackers with a note that says, "I'm soooooo sorry about Part time 6 situation.  TnT.  Let it slide this time.  Thank you. ;)"  Not sure what TnT means but thank you Kids College.  The combination of coffee,  crackers and cutesy little 3 year olds does wonders to make tired Jenn Teacher smile at the end of a long day.

Let's go for a repeat on Thursday.  Wink Wink.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

To Stay or Not to Stay

[It's Sunday again.  What began as another afternoon of wandering around downtown, turned into a fun-filled day at the beach.  Endless hours of volleyball, singing along to guitars and soaking up the rays.  Who could ask for a better afternoon.]

#130.  In cars the phone number of the drive is displayed on the interior of the windshield.  If you are blocking someone in, the person calls your number and you move your car.  Much easier than being the asshole that tows the car.  Ingenious Korea.

I am still on the fence about whether or not to stay in Korea for another year.  Deciding about whether or not to spend another year away from my family and friends.  Figuring out it if it's worth it. I keep having friends of mine getting engaged (3 in the last week), married (4 this summer)  or welcoming new additions to their families (5 this year).  I feel like I am postponing mine.  Starting my own life.  Getting on with my life.

On the one hand I could stay in Korea for another year, save money and have new experiences to last me a lifetime.  I will meet new friends and go places that most people only dream of.  I say that to not put down those people but to simply show that having this opportunity will help me be a better person, use the knowledge I find here in other areas of my life and so forth.  For some people, living in another country for an extended period of time is not an option.  For me, it's something that will impact me forever.  Change who I am.  Alter my ideals.  My ideas.  I'm still me.  The same person with the same ideas about what to do with my life and who I want to be..just taking a different path to get there.  I think of it as i'm on a slow train instead of a plane.  Not the most direct route but it will eventually get me to my destination.

On the other hand if I go home I can go back to school.  Get my teaching certificate.  Find a school to make my mark on.  Find someone to share my  life with.  Be a big girl.  Do everything i'm "supposed" to do.  I'm 24 years old.  I will be a quarter of a century soon.  Not that there is a timeline for my life but I feel like I am running out of time to do everything I want to do.  Everything I am supposed to do.

Clearly I have two hands I am thinking on.  Decisions to make.  If I do end up staying in Pohang for another year I will be coming home for a two week vacation (hopefully) sometime next Spring.  That (among others) is one stipulation I have for a new contract.  If they do not give me it I will be coming home in the Spring.  For good.  It's all up to Kids College now.  Time will tell.

On a more uplifting note, I will finally get a bicycle next week!  One of my good friends in Pohang, Miss Blythe Cooper, is leaving to begin her world traveling adventure and has decided I am the one to get her bike.  Solid.  I will finally be able to bike back and forth from the beach instead of taking a taxi everytime.  Bike downtown.  Bike anywhere my little heart desires.  I have been dragging my feet buying a bike all summer and now I will finally have one.  Hoorah.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Curly Hair and Weekends

[During my weekly Sunday walk around Pohang I saw a Korean man with a tattoo that read, "No Pians.  No Gains."  A tattoo is permanent.  Spell check before you ink.  Lesson learned.]

#128.  In Korea the English teachers are sometimes offered to do private lessons for students not in their schools.  Usually they are referred by word of mouth or just by happenstance.  Teaching outside of a teacher's school is highly frowned upon and in some severe cases (very rare) the teacher in question can be deported if found guilty.  If you do private lessons you have to be very careful of who you tell, where you do them, etc.  Generally the pay (usually ranging between $40-70 an hour) is worth the risk.

#129.  In the past I have talked about the curly hair phenomenon that has swept Korea.  Permas are a hot commodity here and all the rage for men or women.  The topic for today is how Koreans respond to foreigners with naturally curly hair.  It is extremely rare for a Korean to be born with anything other than stick straight hair so the idea that I don't share the same type of hair is completely foreign to them. As many of you know,  I have naturally wavy  hair that goes a little nuts in high humidity.  Lately Korea has been intensely humid and my hair has reacted accordingly.  Frizz central.  Students are constantly touching my hair and asking when I got a perma.  Strangers on the street do the same thing.  I know I look different than you but leave my hair alone.  It's a hot mess in the humidity.  I get that.  Thank you for your interest but there is no touching of the tresses.  I'd wear a sign but I can't yet write in Korean.

I have clearly calmed down since my last post.  My kids were much more behaved and I only had to threaten one student.  I love weekends in Korea but they just go by so fast that more often than not I am even more exhausted on Monday because of it.  Having two whole days with no children begging for your attention is more appealing than I can even say.  The foreigners pack the local beaches, bars and noraebongs and try their best to cram in enough fun to get them through the next week.

Now don't get me wrong.  I love my job.  I love my kids.  I love my school (most days).  It is just freeing to be able to leave the confines of my school and be with 40+ foreigners who just had the same kind of week as me.  People who understand the obnoxious children who put gum in each others hair.  Who teach kids that speak in Korean constantly and have no idea what they're saying.  Who have coworkers that speak minimal English which perpetuates the hand signals you all know I love to do.

The list goes on and on.

Just a few of the people that make this experience worthwhile

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Today my kids were the most rambuncious and obnoxious kids every created.  From beginning to end my kids drove me crazy.  Constantly pushing eachother.  Constantly screaming "Jenn Teacher-uh!"  Asking to go to the bathroom every five minutes.  Teacher, i'm hot.  Teacher, i'm thirsty.  Teacher, I have aches in my head. Jenn Teacher, Wendy pushed me.  Teacher, Daniel spoke Korean.  Teacher, Ricky hit.  Teacher, me no homework.  Teacher, me speech no.  Teacher. Teacher.  Teacher.

You know what kiddies?  I have to go to the bathroom too.  It's August.  Of course it's hot.  Because it's hot I am also thirsty.  Stop pushing eachother.  You will eventually fall and break something and I just don't have time to go to the hospital when I am forced to speed teach you how to conjugate a verb.  Quit tattling on eachother for speaking Korean.  No,  I don't like it when you constantly speak Korean but the occasional slip is not a capital offense.  Stop hitting eachother.  It will just make me have to separate you and you will yet again not get another sticker.  Do your homework.  Bring your speech to school.  Kids.  Kids.  Kids.

Clearly I had a superb day today.  Let's hope tomorrow is filled with less of the above obnoxiousness and more of the polite, well-behaved kids( for the most part) I have been used to for the past 6 months.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rest in Peace Frank

Today I woke up after a restless sleep to find a message in my facebook inbox.  It was from a friend from a long time ago when I worked at Longhorn Steakhouse near my hometown.  She began the message with the usual "it's been a long time" but I knew there was another reason for her sudden communication.  Unfortunately my hunch was correct.  She was writing to let me know that one of our former fellow coworkers had lost his fight to Leukemia.  Oh Frank.

I worked at Longhorn for more than 2 years and even though Frank was not there for the entirety of the time, he was part of the heart of the company.  He always had a hug for the girls, handshake for the boys and a kind word for everyone.  His smile was infectious.  When Frank smiled, you smiled.  He was always able to lighten the morale of the staff and was a joy to be around.  He will most certainly be missed.

If you pray, please say a prayer for Frank and those around him who are suffering.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

White Trash and Summer Camp

[Still no decision made on whether or not to remain in Korea for an additional length of time.  I am attempting to listen to my heart and trust whatever it tells me to do.  We'll see how that goes.]

#126.  In Korea never assume that the American films at the local movie theater are in English.  Don't be duped by the English name or the listing for the movie that is English.  Always double check by asking the movie-cashier-lady of sorts if it is truly in English.  I have been very lucky in here until this afternoon when a group of us went to see Toy Story 3.  Imagine our surprise when Woody begins to speak in Korean.  Now we know.  Always double-triple check.

#127. Koreans cannot have dual citizenship.  Here they can only be Korean.  They are allowed to have a permanent residence in another country but not another citizenship.  Just one of the many differences between Korea and the United States.

This weekend was definitely one for the Korean scrapbook.  Included was a goodbye themed party for one of Pohang's favorite ladies, Miss  Megan Bruce.  Imagine an entire town of foreigners dressed to the nines in the finest white trash apparel available.  Complete with intense eye shadow, trucker hats, hideous tattoos, rollers in the hair and every other white trash faux pas imaginable.

Also included in my weekend was my first summer camp with my school.  We went to our sleepover camp place that is about 40 minutes from our school and had a great time.  Games took up the first few hours, dinner in the middle and more games and a speech contest rounded out our night.  It was interesting to see the kids away from the educational confines of Kids College.  They were so excited to spend the evening with myself and my coteacher Heather that it was hilarious.  Every time one of my kids got someone out in dodgeball they would yell "Jenn Teacher!" just so I would look.  After getting a big thumbs up from me the inevitable smile would fill their face and my heart would melt all over again.

Even though we were hot and sweaty and had to give up our coveted Friday evening, sometimes it takes a night like that to remind me why I do what I do.

Oh and as always, comments are welcome, encouraged and appreciated.

White trashing it up with my best friend in Pohang

Getting the velcro rollers out of Megan's hair.  We learned
that night to never EVER put rollers in naturally curly hair.

The woman of the hour with a few of her TILT favorites, John and Andy

Jesus Drives a Ford

Some of my kiddos cheesing it up for the camera
in between dodgeball games

To of my favorite girls:  Elly and Sophia

The entire group

My group for the night.
We named ourselves The Tigers.

I taught my kids the "Down by the Banks" game.
Anyone who was in the girl scouts knows exactly the game I am referring to. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jenn Teacher

#124.  In Korea they will hospitalize you for anything and everything.  Common cold?  Hospitalization.  Slight fever.  Shots in the butt and hospitalization.  A fractured ankle?  A 2 week stay, multiple shots in the butt and talks of surgery.  No. Thank. You.

#125.  Korean T-Shirts.  Unfortunately for my readers I do not have photos to do this phenomenon the justice it deserves.  Just imagine if you see all of the words on a tshirt completely jumbled around and making absolutely zero sense but making sense in a way that you knew the original intention. Instead of "The grass is always greener on the other side" the Korean version would say something like "Greener grass on the other side is Greener."  You get the idea.  Clearly I will just have to find an amazing Koreanesque shirt for you to witness.

[The following is completely unrelated with previous posts.  Just something that has been on my mind.  That's what a blog is for afterall.]

I graduated from Ball State with a degree in Public Relations.  It is a good degree from one of the best Journalism schools in the country.  I should feel lucky and privileged.  Instead I feel silly for not following my initial major to graduation:  elementary education.  And no the irony is not lost on me that the field I turned my back on is now the field I am most in love with.  Regardless of how silly I feel for having a degree that I don't use or care to use, it taught me about myself.  Without my change in that path I would not have all of the people in my life that I do now or have the same experiences.  I have never been one to say "everything happens for a reason" but in this case I believe it to be true

Everything in my life has brought me to Korea.  I have been wrestling with the idea of staying in Pohang for another year or at the very least extending my current contract an additional six months.  I am at the halfway point in my contract and in the not so distant future I will have to start making decisions on whether or not Korea could potentially be my home for the next year or if America is where its at.  Sure I miss my family.  My friends.  America.  I miss them all more than I can put into words but at least for the near future I think Korea is where I am supposed to be.  Being here has reminded me of my original dream to become a teacher.

I know that I eventually do want to get my teaching license, get my own classroom and start a new life back in the states.  It is the "eventually" part that has got me wondering what my true reasons for extending my stay in Korea could be. I am having trouble figuring out if I am extending my stay to prolong the inevitable of going back to school or if staying here in Korea is something I am meant to do for the foreseeable future.

I turned away from the idea of becoming a teacher in college.  Incredibly, now I am one.  Now I know how to be one when I eventually find my way back to America.  Whenever that may be.

10 of the cutest reasons I have been inspired to get back to teaching
when I return to America

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Before I left for Korea I was a regular at a local gym and had my very own personal trainer.  He kicked my butt back into shape and helped me lose those unwanted pounds that plague the majority of the human population.  With 30 pounds down and three entire months of conscious, healthy eating  under my belt I was sure I would have ZERO problem keeping those pounds off and then some while in Korea.  I quickly learned I was wrong.

Back in the states it is easy to find lean grilled chicken, salads, low fat dressings, inexpensive healthy meal replacement options when on the go...not exactly the case in Korea.  While there is grilled chicken it is difficult to find and for me (not blessed with cooking skills) a bit of a challenge to prepare.  Salads are basically non-existent unless you want to pay and arm and a leg for all of the ingredients.  The normal low fat dressings for salads and alike are nowhere to be found either.  All of my teaching on what to eat got thrown out the window due to the variation in diet in Korea in comparison to that of America.   Couple with that my inability to get to the gym for the past two months due to my broken ankle and you have a pretty good idea at where i'm at.

I am still not at my original weight before I started working out at home but if I continue on my current path I will be there before I know it.  I refuse to again be the girl that hides behind others in pictures. Or run into the ocean as fast as humanly possible so no one will see me in a swimsuit.

With a healed ankle I am ready to get back to the basics of getting healthy again and shedding some poundage.  Back to the gym in the mornings, back to walking around Pohang at night.  Try to limit my rice intake and increase my intake of veggies, fruits and lean proteins.  I have a renewed ambition about losing weight that I haven't felt since I was back with my personal trainer in Muncie.

I'm ready.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Manpris, Transformers and Rogaine

[Last week I played "Can you guess what I am thinking with 8 year olds.  The clues were "It is very big.  It is in many countries.  It goes on a track.  People ride in it to different places."  The first guess was TV.  The next was a baby brother.  They've got a long way to go...]

#120. In Korea Manpris are everywhere.  For those of you who are not aware of what manpris are they are capris (not quite shorts but not quite pants) worn on men.  In America men would never wear capris. In Korea the men just can't get enough. 

#121. It is common for many people to wear glasses for the fashion aspect.  While there are many Koreans who wear glasses because they are prescription, it is commonplace to see glasses with clear lenses specifically because it is considered fashionable. 

#122.  This isn't really a Korean-ism but it is Korea-based so it belongs here.  I lose more hair in Korea than most people have on their heads.  Before coming here I had thick hair that I often got thinned out at the salon.  Now I feel like a balding, middle-aged woman who needs a strong dose of Rogaine.  

#123.  On Korean television, one movie is chosen and shown over and over again for months.  Sometimes years.  This year is Transformers.  On any given day it is usually a good bet that CGV (one of the English stations) will have it on at some point during the day.  More often than not twice a day.

It's weird to not be the new person in Pohang anymore.  The student has become the teacher when it comes to helping people navigate around downtown, figure out the bus system, etc.  I love that I am becoming someone that people can call on to help them around town.  I can help people figure out what food is tasty, what beaches are best, what bars are best, etc. 

Who have ever thought that I would be that person?  Surely not me.