01 July 2010


I've been "studying" the World Cup the last few weeks with the after school kiddos. Our final activity was "Make Your Own Chant" for the South Korean team.

Names correlate with the student on the far left, moving right.

"K-O-R-E-A was his name-o"
Starring: Anica, Julie, Abby, Lisa (hiding)

(I can't understand a word they say)
Starring: Sarah, Gina, Emily

"Goal, Goal in the Win; South Korea in the Win"
Starring: The Boys -- David, Jason, Ron, Sam

"Korea is the Best-uh in the World-uh Cup"
Starring: Jenny, Cathy, Sally

25 June 2010

대한민국 !

World Cup madness. My life for the last 3 weeks.

Game night: hundreds of thousands of Koreans migrate to two central locations in Seoul.

Sporting red shirts, hats, face paint, and flags, they mix and mingle and drink cheap beer until the first whistle blows.

Enormous screens are placed on site, streets are shut down, and en masse (and on cue), everyone sits down to watch the game.

Only to stand up again.... GOOOAAALLL!!!

And stay standing for approximately 8 minutes, dancing and cheering and trumpeting plastic horns. I took this video at least 5 minutes AFTER the goal was scored. And the crowd stayed like this for another 10 as the game wore on...I'm just here, lost in a sea of red, trrrryin to fit in... 대한민국 !!

15 June 2010

Shouting Reds!

Soccer is in the air, and the beloved Red Devils won their first World Cup game last Saturday against Greece, 2-0.

Koreans are among the most enthusiastic people on the planet, but when it comes to soccer, the frenzy soars to new heights. The excitement is electric, a palpable energy that buzzes through the country, sending shock waves from coast to coast on game days.

I'm thrilled to be in a soccer-loving country during the World Cup. I'm thrilled to be rooting for a team that I didn't know existed 11 months ago. I'm thrilled to be dreaming with the rest of this nation, hoping beyond hope that this small country has a chance among the ranks of the big wig Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Brazilian teams.

Maybe we're a bit foolish, but if you were here, you'd get swept up into the electrifying frenzy too.

My friend scored some FIFA tickets in May, and we got to go to the last soccer match before the World Cup.

Korea vs Ecuador. Korea won, and it was EPIC.

The stadium was packed 30 min before the match started.

The famous "cheering section," on the right. They were wild, ramboncious, and enthusiastic for 90 straight minutes. They chanted and cheered and clapped and shouted and waved flags and...

...lit flares?

For 90 straight minutes.

It was insane. I felt like I was at a homecoming game on steroids.

Thought that a video might capture the electricity, especially after a goal...

... now imagine that noise channeled through a megaphone into your ear. That's how loud it was.

This same Korean team is now competing in South Africa, and when it's game time, the people gather at this stadium, pack it out, and stand for 90 minutes straight, eyes glued to the big screens, cheering and shouting and clapping and lighting flares into all hours of the night....

26 May 2010

A Korean Birthday

The day started off innocent enough.

Home made cinnamon rolls (thanks, roommate) and 7am breakfast with the early risers...

... followed by a prompt birthday greeting at school from two of my favorites, Christine and Cathy.

Gifts and greetings trickled in throughout the day.

The cards were hilarious.

"Kelly! Hi I'm Abby. Happy birthday. It's birthday card... It's so beautifal? I think I love you! Abby. "

Another favorite (from Youna) reads:

"Teacher Kelly Congratulation and Happy Birthday. And I wish this is your best birthday in Korea. Maybe because you got many gifts from students in Korean school. And teacher I am so glad that I meet beatufiul and kind teacher like you who teachess english and are cl
ass and that is you teacher Kelly. And ones again techer congratulation and Happy Birthday. And teacher I wish you and I will be a good, best partner. FROM: Youna"

By the end of the day, my desk was quite crowded.
A red wallet and yellow pencil case reading "Escape from your routine / And spread out your wings to fly away," compliments of Cathy, roses from Anica, a bicycle picture frame from Youna, and a potted cacti from Jane.

After school, my co-teacher Jennifer called me upstairs. I have a great video of a packed teachers lounge, the melodic efforts of my co-workers singing "Happy Birthday" in English, and five proud candles atop a decadent cake. Unfortunately the video won't load, but here's an "after party" picture...

Many of the teachers signed the most epic card I've received to date. Some comments include:
  • "Happy birthday to you! I think you are good teacher. I want to be with you long time. I wish you are happy and healthy in Korea."
  • "Happy birthday Kelly. You are so attractive person. I like you."
and my personal favorite...
  • "Happy Birthday to you! Always I bless you take care Body. Always I bless you take care Mind. You are happy face. I wish you well doing. I love you."
After school, they took me to dinner at an upscale Korean restaurant. I've eaten like this once before when Jennifer and I first met, and the food was equally delicious this time around.

Words will never describe what it meant to have these three women take time out of their busy lives, away from their demanding husbands and children, to have a meal with the intention of celebrating me, and the evening will forever be one of my top three favorite memories of my time in Korea.

12 May 2010

Where did April go?

It's mid-May, and I'm not sure where April went.
School is flying by; only two more months until summer! Here are my after school kiddos:

We've all gotten quite comfortable with each other.

Sometimes they like to take over and teach. We were talking about fortunes, playing a game that predicts what will happen in your life using the sentence "You will _____." I wrote several examples on the board:
  • You will win 2mil in the lotto.
  • You will play professional baseball (with LG Twins, Korean team)
  • You will marry G-dragon (famous Korean pop-star)
One of the kiddos took over my black marker with a red marker.

Clearly they do not like the LG twins, and clearly they have been misinformed about what it'd be like to be married to me...

In other news, the new English Classroom is up and running. We had an opening ceremony and everything. Here are 2 of my 3 co-teachers...

Jennifer (in white) is fluent in English, and is a total god-send. I dont actually teach with her, but we spend ample amounts of time together outside the classroom (and sometimes outside school). Mrs. Pak is in gray, and we teach 4th and 5th grade together. We've got a great system: she prepares the lesson, I teach it. Works great.

Here's the new classroom. Rough life, eh?

The giant TV is a touch-screen. It's my favorite.
And see where the "Room" is? With the bed, TV, couch, and desk?
Yeah... all my students think that's my HOME.

"Teacher home? Teacher home?" I kept getting asked the first few weeks the classroom was opened. Yes, retards. This is where I live.

01 April 2010

Pre-April snow brings.... yellow dust?

March 23
When it snows, it pours...

March 24
Yellow dust. Thanks Gobi Desert.

March 27
An afternoon in the life of a public school teacher. After school.

Notice how they shoved the entire classroom forward 10 feet to clear a space to play... but the best part: they carried that ping-pong table up FOUR flights of stairs.

March 31

Sunrise service. 4:30am.

I ventured inside...

...and called Jennifer (co-teacher). "I'm waiting for you in the back of the room," I yelled over the music. But we couldn't find each other. Apparently this was the OVERFLOW room.

THIS was the main auditorium. People arrive here around 3:30am to reserve seats. Jennifer arrives at 4am and the closest she can get is seating along the side.

I ended up going back the next morning. Jennifer called over the camera man and told him to take a picture of me... AWKWARD.


BUT WORTH IT because he posted them on her church's website, just like this, and beneath our side-by-side photos he wrote: 모전여전

Roughly translated: the daughter takes after her mother.

I love Korea. Jennifer and I laughed for a good three minutes when we saw this. I mean I know I look a little Asian, but really?

25 March 2010

As promised...

Meet class 4-8.
They are unlike any class I've had here.
They are hyper active.
They are high maintenance.
They are high energy.
They are enthusiastic, vibrant little rascals,
and they are really really really into...

Kelly Teacher.

We're on Lesson 2 this week: Don't Do That!
Every lesson has a song, and 4-8 had me heaving in laughter. I've never seen a group of kids so stoked about some lame song.
(I also love how my co-teacher wrote "Don't Do That?" on the board)

Oh no, don't do that! Oh no, don't do that! Oh no, don't do that! It's not OK, don't do that! Don't run, don't run, don't run in the classroom. Don't jump, don't jump, don't jump in the classroom. Oh no, don't do that! Oh no, don't do that! Oh no, don't do that! It's not OK, don't do that!

Okay, last story.

4-8 has, in my opinion, the most high maintenance student in the school. He was one of my 3rd graders last semester and I about killed him. This time around, I chose to goof off back rather then seethe in anger... and oddly enough, it's working.

Well, I thought it was. I thought I was doing something that made him calm down and listen. Until three weeks ago, when I realized that what's working is the little lady who sits next to him.

EVERY week, this happens.
EVERY week, it cracks me up.
THIS week, I filmed it for you.

Maybe you have to be here to see it: she next to Mr. High Maintenance and for forty looong minutes, makes sure his face is glued to the desk. She uses all methods. Hitting, smacking, smothering (she literally stands up and covers him), and gentle patting. Then she'll catch me looking at her, laughing, at which point she (1) gives that adorable, innocent smile (2) starts patting his head with her right hand and (3) rests her chin in her left hand. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. She's so consistent, I love it.

I don't know what kind of super power she has..... but I want it.

22 March 2010

Crowds... of a different kind.

I arrived in Korea just in time for the start of second semester (Sept-Dec). I taught English camps in the morning during January, and worked 9-noon the first two months of 2010. It was rough. March 2nd marked the beginning of a new school year: students have moved up a grade, I'm teaching different grades, the English classroom is getting a makeover, and I have three new co-teachers.

Things look and feel remarkably similar to last September; many things have changed, requiring much adaptability on my part. But one thing is remarkably different: this time around, I'm known. No longer do I wander around the hallways, feeling lost in a sea of Korean children; these days I have to wade through swarm of hugs to get to the next class. Especially when I walk through the 4th grade hallway. Those little buggers amaze me with their unending reservoir of sheer excitement simply because I walk into the room. I'll take a video to prove it: they cheer for at least 10 seconds every time they see me.

I couldn't be more pleased that the students finally feel comfortable around me. It took many long months of smiles, hugs, and an unending reservoir of sheer excitement to get 700+ kiddos to warm up to me.

And warm up have they EVER.
these days,
I'm thinkin they're a little too warm for my liking.

Case in point (I'll give you one example from each grade)(and also, this all happened in the SAME week):

Grade 4
One day I wore my contacts. I always wear my glasses. I dont wear much makeup, and the makeup I do wear certainly isn't trying to "cover up" anything. The first class asked my co-teacher why I wasnt wearing face makeup. I told them I didn't need it, I was beautiful without it. They gasped in horror. I then turned to all the 10 yr old girls and told them they, too, were beautiful and didnt need make up. Some of them fell out of their seat and rolled around the floor shrieking. Suffice it to say that Korean advertising has an agenda, and it reaches all the way down to 8, 9, and 10 yr old girls. And, it works. Unfortunately.

Anyway. The next class, one little gaffer was bold enough to walk to the front of the room, touch my face (under my eyes) and ask my co-teacher why there were dark circles. Well, sweet muffin, we all have wrinkles and splotches and weird things on our face, but most women "cover it up" and I choose not to...

Grade 5
My hair is finally long enough to pull it back a bit. Which I've done a few times, and I've received myriad compliments. Apparently, this was the first time this particular 5th grade class saw it, and as most children do, they noticed immediately. One boy said something in Korean, the class hooted in laughter, and one of the more fluent students graciously translated, "Teacher, he says you look like a man!" And why is that, my sweet little muffin? "Your new hair fashion!"

Grade 6
Winter in Korea. Cold. Long. I brought a pea-coat, and I only brought one. As it is usually very cold inside the school, I have it on most of the time. The day after the Grade 5 hair comment, one of the 6th grade students bluntly asked, "Teacher, why do you always wear the same clothes?" Well, sweet muffin, I'm really poor and haven't any money to buy other clothes! Can you donate to my cause? (... It wasn't even worth wasting breath trying to explain to him that THIS is a coat, and I have only one because I only brought TWO suitcases with me from home and I couldn't FIT more than one, and not to worry because though I may look the same on the outside, I am QUITE proactive about changing the clothes I wear UNDERNEATH the coat...)

These kiddos. Rough crowd.
Now, I have to make sure to
..wear my glasses on Thursdays
..dress warmly on Tuesdays (and ditch the coat)
..and straighten my hair on Mondays.

I've never felt so insecure in my life.

08 March 2010

Crowds and other Korean delicacies

It always feels crowded here. And the crowds are exhausting. A fun Korean fact: bumping, nudging, or flat-out shoving is normal. No one thinks twice about it - except the Westerner who is quite used to her "personal bubble." But alas, I've been bumped, nudged, and shoved so many times the last six months I've grown quite used to it. Observe:

This is Myeongdong -- a popular, cutting edge shopping district in Seoul. I was sitting on the second floor of a coffee shop, digging deep to find more energy, pondering whether I wanted to go back outside and walk around in that, again. This was back in December, when my bubble still felt violated on a daily basis.

Winter here has been bitterly cold. This was a crowded ice festival we went to in January, on the east side of the country. This was also the day "slide" was added to the "bump, nudge, shove" list. We got taken out by people quite literally sliding into us.
January and February I hit the slopes, which - you guessed it - were crowded (I took up boarding this season because I couldn't find enough room on the hill to ski). I tell you the truth: I have NEVER seen anything like a Korean ski hill. I've also never seen such a busy ski patrol. People were skiing, boarding, and sliding into each other left and right. Again, no one seems to thinks twice about it: just get up, wipe off the snow, and continue on with your day until you get taken out again 38 seconds later. If I were to start my own business here,I'd open clinics at the base of ski resorts. I'd make bank.
Last weekend I finally made it to a well known flea market in Seoul. Quite the overstimulating experience. It's rare these days for Koreans to buy anything secondhand, thus the market is a treasure trove of trinkets. I was thoroughly exhausted after two short hours; I haven't been pushed around that much since my rugby days!

Even the meals feel crowded.
This is a traditional (and typical) Korean meal -- complete with a zillion delicious side dishes. Stop by for a visit, I'll take you to a few of my favorite places... (hint, hint)

Besides the crowds, life here is fairly normal. I spend all my time with people. On Monday I hang with my favorite family: the Stewarts. Zach's eleventh birthday is this week, and we threw him a big surprise party on Sunday. Look at the little stud, surrounded by his "best friends in Korea." Rough life, Zach... rough life.
As you can see, the numbers have grown. The gals went from two this time last year, to five, to eight, and now we're pushing fifteen. Whitney had to get a new apartment to fit all the people on Wednesday nights. But growth is to be expected when God is breathing on something.

One weekend in February we crashed Scott and Dionne's apartment, where we laughed, cried, worshiped, ate, slept, and laid many-a-hand in an effort to encourage and edify one another. 'Twas delightful, and another weekend is already in the works.

A recent favorite in the new year: my neighbors. We met Ashley and JJ at the end of 2009, and quickly discovered they live in the next apartment building. They also love board games. Charissa and I live for board games. For two months, the four of us have been getting together for game night on Tuesdays. They bring the wine, we bring the dessert.

Oh, before I forget. Turns out I brought a friend back from Thailand with me. I named him Wormy. Thanks to Asian medicine, he's been flushed out of my system now, but I thought some of you would like to know. I mean, how often do you know someone who contracts a hookworm and lives to tell about it?!

Just kidding. They're not that bad. I kinda miss the little sucker (literally).

The first weekend of March was Korean Flag Day. We went to the park, where hundreds of flags filled the sky and the sounds of Korean festivities echoed throughout the air. The costumes were vibrant and the people were joyful.

And this man ate raw pig. Mmm...

I, on the other hand, found a little friend and was quite content to play with her for the rest of the afternoon. She laughed gleefully and I was giddy. The color coordination was totally planned.