20 September 2009

One Month? Really?

I had octopus soup for lunch today. Again. One month ago, on my FIRST DAY, we had octopus soup. Nothing says "Welcome to our school!" like chewy purple tentacles...

But it wasn't so bad the second time around. I actually ate the octopus this time, didn't gag, and flushed it down with some kimchi. I think I'm growing out of my culture shock. I actually like kimchi now, I can down octopus soup like a champ, and I stopped bringing snacks to school for fear of what they would serve for lunch.

Oh wait -- I forgot about the pig intestines. That was "lunch" my second day at school. Day 1 = octopus soup. Day 2 = pig intestines. Can you imagine how much I was dreading Day 3?? Ahh! What have I gotten myself into?! I'm going to starve here! But Day 3 was curry and the menu has been bearable ever since.

Much has happened since I last blogged. I had my first visit from home. I had orientation/training. I spent a weekend farming in a rural part of Korea. I saw my first dog farm. I've fought against spiders and fleas in my apartment (stupid fleas won't leave). I've had sleepovers on the roof with the gals and breakfast every Saturday morning at an American pancake joint, Butterfingers. I've been teaching over 700 students a week. Then I got sick. But I bought Korean sinus medicine for a whopping $1.50USD (universal health care is glorious) and got better OVERNIGHT. No joke. Koreans don't mess around. This weekend is Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and I have a 5 day weekend. We're going to go camping on the beach.

Enjoy the pics, videos, and stories!

I am of the impression that friendly faces in a foreign land are ranked among the most beautiful and cherished gifts of life.

My dear friend and former roommate came to visit. Lindsey is actually the reason I'm in Korea. Last November she decided to come teach here, but then she ended up staying in Seattle and I'M the one living and working in Asia. Life has a funny sense of humor.

She was only here for six days, but how I treasured our time together! We traveled around Seoul, visiting all the hot spots. We got lost on buses. We ate weird food. She got to experience what my day-to-day life is like in Korea. But the thing I treasure most is the time we had to TALK. I've been going through a very intense period of transition and adjustment, and being able to externally process it for the first time was an indescribable gift.

My favorite moment from her trip:

The guy on my left became my new boyfriend within 2 minutes of our initial meeting.

The guy on Lindsey's right just kept saying "I love you. I love you," while trying to get a hug.

Let me explain. These guys work at a candy stand, making homemade, fresh Korean candy. These stands are all over the city. My Aunt Holly actually told me about this stuff before I left, emphatically telling me that I just HAD to find this stuff and try it.

She wasn't kidding.

I have a hilarious video of them making the candy, but it's not loading right now. Here are a few others for you to enjoy!

Then there are rooftop sleepovers with breakfast the morning after.

And cultural drum dances to start orientation, as well as a photo of some of the other elementary public school teachers in my area.

And finally, farming in rural Korea.

I spent the weekend pruning tomatoes, kickin it with some awesome Korean college students...

... and stumbling across my first dog farm. Hundreds and hundreds of cages full of dogs, all of which will end up on someone's plate at a restaurant. And the worst part? I got closer look at the dogs, and I'm about 80% sure they were Rhodegian Ridgebacks. My aunt has TWO Rhodegian Ridgebacks... as pets. I took a picture of a few in the cage, but I don't think I'll post it. Reminds me too much of Cooper and Sophie... sorry Aunt Holly. Gotta love those cultural differences :)

Well folks, that's all for now. As you can see, I've been keeping busy! I'll be sure to send another update soon.

11 September 2009

"Work" shouldn't be this much fun....

Well, there is only good news to report here on the home front. It's Friday afternoon and I'm sitting at my new desk in my new classroom in my new school, pondering my first week of teaching as I type on this new computer.

So many new things in life these days.

Let me just get right to it:


I've known that for a while, but I've never actually been a teacher until 5 days ago and I CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF IT! The joy and anticipation I feel every morning simply because I get to go teach again is all the caffeine I need. Well... maybe I need a little coffee... but here's why:

I teach in a public elementary school. It is a large school and I am the only foreign teacher.
In public schools, the kiddos start English classes in 3rd grade.

I teach 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade.
Again, I am the only foreign teacher, which means EVERY 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade class comes to me.

I teach 23 classes a week.
M/Th/F I have 5 classes, and T/W brings me 4 classes.
I only see each class once a week. Classes average 30 students.

Let's do the math: 23 classes per week, 30 students per class....

Yep. 700 students. Your calculator ain't lyin'.

But before you start feeling too sorry for me, let me tell you that my job couldn't be easier. Because I only see each class once a week, I only have to do ONE lesson plan per grade. That means I only have to prepare three lessons per week. Three lessons. And all I do is teach the same lesson over and over and over and... you get the idea.

I also teach an after school class M/W to 17 students, and a "teachers class" on T/Th (other teachers in the school). That's actually my favorite part, because (1) I get to create my own lesson plans and (2) I actually get to know my 17 students!

I teach 3rd and 4th grade with Diane (above)
and 5th grade with Susan (below).
Diane and Susan are the coolest co-teachers a gal could ask for.
I'm totally blessed to be teaching with them.

The classroom.

The kiddos.

These are some of the 3rd graders in one of the Thursday classes. Thursday is my favorite because I have 3rd grade ALL DAY. They are the cutest stinking kids you'll ever meet... witty, charming, obedient, eager to please -- what more could a teacher ask for?

All that being said, I am VERY happy and VERY blessed to be at this particular school. The great part about having 700 students? Half of the school knows me. Every single day I feel like a celebrity when I walk around the hallways... "Hello Teacher Kelly! Hello Teacher Kelly!" What's more, I've been showered with compliments all week. The other teachers think I'm great -- one has already asked me over to her house for dinner. Diane (co-teacher) compliments and encourages me daily. Many homeroom teachers have come up to me and said, "Kelly, my students keep telling me, Teacher, have you met the new English teacher? She's so nice! She's so tall! She's so beautiful!" Ahh... makes my heart melt every time.

Just to give you a taste of what I "have to put up with" everyday, here's a group of 3rd graders singing about apples...

This is what they sound like: do you like ap-lah's ap-lah's, do you like ap-lah's ap-lah's? yucky yucky yucky yucky ap-lah's, yucky yucky yucky yucky ap-lah's!

How can you do anything but smile like a big goof and wonder how you lucked out with such an incredible job? Well, that's what I do anyway.

Life just keeps getting more and more beautiful over here in South Korea :)

09 September 2009

Attack of the Ants, Season 1

Season I, Episode I: I Stand Corrected...

Season I, Episode II: The Battle Begins...

Season I, Episode III: Season Finale

02 September 2009

Korea: The First Days...

Days 1-3: I don't really remember, I was too shocked by the reality of what I was doing... there was a few long plane rides, a lot of movies, some really bad bimbimbap on the Korean Air flight, a really dirty aparment that I dumped my bags in, my first experience at Home Mart (like a Korean Wal-Mart), losing all the cash I had on me (that was fun...) and NOT finding it (even more exciting...), irregular sleep patterns, and long walks around Yatap (my neighborhood) to get to know my surroundings.

"Yeaaahh! I'm going to go sit on that plane for 12 hours!!!"

I moved to Korea.

The apartment building.

The neighborhood.

3 blocks away: the river.

1 block away: the creek.

Both are excellent for longboarding.

Day 4: I woke up early to go meet up with some other AT gals for breakfast. AT = Adventure Teaching, my AWESOME recruiter. They were so intentional about introducing me to other teachers via email so that I wouldn't be completely lonely my first few days here.

Getting ready to navigate the subway system, approx 10 hrs after landing.

Day 4 also included 5 hours of cleaning my apartment, Korean BBQ for dinner, my first encounter with kimchi, trekking into Seoul with the AT gals to hang at their favorite hookah bar, taking a bus for the first time (which is MUCH more intimidating than the subway), missing the last subway for the night, and taking a taxi home at 1am.

Day 5: church in the morning, followed by a quick lunch of kim-bop, kind of like sushi (but not really sushi). After lunch, Anna and Whitney (not pictured) came back to my apartment and we pulled out the instruments for a little jam session. Whit and I on the guitars, Anna with her ukulele... let's just say we need to practice!

Lunch with Anna and Sunny.
Day 6: Breakfast in the morning with my FAVORITE Korean friends, Minhyung and Soojung, at Butterfingers -- an American breakfast joint. Kind of like IHOP. Adventure Teaching works with Y&G Recruit, another recruiting agency in Korea that places teachers. Minhyung and Soojung just happen to be my recruiters from Y&G, though most recruiters are not anywhere near as thoughtful, caring, helpful, friendly, and kind as these two people. They have made all the difference in the world as I've transitioned to my new home.
The rest of my days have been full of cleaning/moving into my apartment, continuing to meet people, trying to find Costco in Seoul and getting lost instead, longboarding, sleeping, taking subways, buses and cabs, and trying new food. Here are a few more pictures:
Kim and her husband Todd (not pictured) had two wonderful children, Zach and Lia-Joy (above). Todd is working as a science teacher at a local Christian school.
The guy in the green shirt with his hands in the air is Joe, the teacher I am replacing. I got together with him twice before he left to talk about the school I'll be working at starting next Monday. He was eager to share everything he knew and give me advice. What a gift!
Ben, Katie, Tayla, me.
Dinner at Whitney's on Wednesday nights - Whitney is in light blue, Chrissa is underneath her, and Mindy is in the purple. Not sure what was so funny at the time... too much wine maybe?
A quiet dinner along the river, just me and my PB&J.

Stay posted, much more to come!

01 September 2009


And at the time it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I must say, there is no feeling like the one I got the night before the flight. It was the epitome of that sinking emptiness we get in our stomach when it feels like something is terribly wrong. And it stuck with me for three days. I COULD NOT believe what I had just done. You know, that whole packing-up-my-belongings, leaving-everything-that-has-ever-been-familiar, and moving-to-a-foreign-country-that-is-VERY-VERY-far-away-from-everyone-who-knows-and-loves-me thing. It was quite difficult to stomach for a little while.

But I’m doing MUCH better now that the culture shock has worn off. I’m slowly starting to pick up tidbits of the language. I can navigate the subway system like a champ. I’ve taken several taxis, all by my big-ol’-self. I’ve been into downtown Seoul, gone shopping for groceries at the market, gone longboarding daily along the Han River, almost finished moving into my apartment, and eaten four traditional Korean dishes.

Which brings me to my next point. I hate to break it to ya folks, but kimchi and I did NOT get off to a good start. Here’s the problem: my apartment was VERY dirty when I came on Friday night (It took me FOUR DAYS to clean it! Yes, that means I JUST finished cleaning this evening). Everything was pretty gross, but the worst BY FAR was the refrigerator. I had been given fair warning by my recruiters that new teachers often find the stench of rotten kimchi inside their fridge... but I never imagined how bad it could get.

THERE WAS MOLD COLONY IN MINE. A giant family of rotten kimchi mold, and it wasn’t just a little village occupying the top shelf—IT WAS A GIANT KIMCHI-MOLD CITY. ALL OVER MY FRIDGE.

And when I opened the door for the first time I almost passed out from the huge kimchi-mold gas cloud that burst out of the fridge and into my face. It’s like the mold knew I was coming. Like the mold-city secreted as much of the smell as possible as a weapon to LAUNCH into my nasal passage upon our initial contact in an effort to defer me from ever coming back to destroy them... and I gotta tell ya, it almost worked. I steered clear of the fridge for a good 8 hours before I mustered enough courage to grab my weapons—rubber glove, sponge, bleach—and venture back into the battlefield for our last encounter...

Fear not, I won the war against the kimchi-mold city. My refrigerator is bleachy clean and currently contains several varieties of fruit. However, despite the full function of my nasal passages, the kimchi-mold has left me traumatized and now I cannot seem to get along with edible kimchi. It’s actually not too bad, considering it is rotten, fermented cabbage swimming in Korea’s version of Tabasco sauce, but THE SAME SMELL that was in my fridge hits you during the aftertaste, after you’ve already swallowed...

I tried some kimchi on Saturday night while at a Korean BBQ restaurant with some gals. I was looking forward to it, and was presently surprised there wasn’t any projectile vomiting when I ate it.

Then the aftertaste hit.

Memories of the battle against the kimchi-mold city hit me so hard that the world stopped spinning for a few seconds until I could regain composure and come back to reality. I know you think I’m crazy. Just trying to be funny, maybe. That I’m exaggerating. Or that this is just a cute story to entertain the both of us.

But I wish I could explain the stench to you, because then you would understand everything.