5 Month Update

Today, I’ve officially been in Korea for five months. Only seven more to go!

Despite the bitter cold and my recent string of complaints, things are going pretty well. Right now, I am looking forward to my trip to Tokyo, which is only nine days away. I think a change of scenery will be good and I can’t wait to see my friend Eri and explore her city.

I honestly don’t have too much else to report. Although my office situation pretty much sucks, I love my classes and my students. I have a new elementary phonics class which I really, really enjoy. The kids are all very low level, so I get to have fun and be silly with them. I do a lot of pronunciation exercises and we play games like Pictionary.

In one of my higher level classes, I have four students who I had last semester. They love doing tongue twisters and I’ve even rapped for them before. Yesterday, they shared chestnuts with me and didn’t want me to leave when the bell rang. So two of them kind of attached themselves to me and followed me back to the office. I also recently taught them to stop starting sentences with “and” and “because,” and they’ve kept it up! It’s little things like that that make me feel like I’m making some kind of difference. Even if it’s a tiny one.

That’s it for now!

To Kate –

If you read my post yesterday, you know what a horrible mood I was in. When I got to work, though, things got a little better. I finally received a package I had been expecting from my friend Kate with explicit instructions not to open until we were able to Skype – and this morning, that’s exactly what we did.

There was a numbered order I was to open everything in: first was a lovely Christmas card, second was a hand-painted sign which says 친구 (friend) on the front and “I don’t know what I’d do without you” on the back, and third was the invitation to Kate’s engagement party which I sadly won’t be able to make. I thought that was so thoughtful, though. Last, however, was a big envelope with something inside: a bridesmaid proposal! I cried and said “yes” before I even finished reading it. I was certainly not expecting such an amazing surprise.

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Now, I want to congratulate Kate and Ryan on their engagement and write about how much my friend Kate means to me.

Kate and I met in 2013 when we were both interns in the curatorial department at the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts in Madison, NJ. We hit it off right away because of our shared love for history, sarcasm, and disdain for all the other interns working there that semester. We spent our time cataloging old stuff, reading old stuff, and doing weird things with the collection (like braiding locks of hair and rummaging through potentially hazardous apothecary jars).

What I believe really solidified our friendship, however, was when I did a stupid thing (read as moved in with a stupid boy) and she was there to get me the hell out. She came all the way out to the apartment I was at, helped me pack all my shit into both of our cars, and moved everything to my cousin’s house until I could get down to my mom’s. For that, I will always be grateful.

Taking our curator for dinner at Outback Steakhouse (and thinking I left my purse there when it was really in my car the whole time). Dancing the night away in Atlantic City. Murder mystery parties with too much wine and really bad fake accents. Bubble tea and ‘bolis.

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This is friendship.

It sucks that we’re so far away from each other right now, but a message on WhatsApp or a Skype session always cheers me up. Whether it’s sharing happy things or bitching about bad days, I love being able to talk to my friend while I’m all the way in Korea.

Thank you so much for asking me to be your bridesmaid. I absolutely can not wait to be a part of you and Ryan’s special day! I love you and I miss you and I can’t wait to see you when I come home.

(Un)Happy Monday

This morning, I woke up to a lovely little surprise: no water! And my heat wouldn’t go past 15 degrees Celsius. I couldn’t go to the bathroom. Or take a shower. Or even brush my goddamn teeth.

I had to walk to the fucking supermarket, in the freezing cold, to take a piss.

My utilities have been paid, so I don’t think that’s the problem. I spoke to Hannah, though, and she thought that my pipes might have frozen since it was so cold last night. I have my heat on and I’m going to keep it on while I’m at work. I also plan on speaking to someone to see if I can get a definite answer as to what’s wrong.

I’m also really resenting the fact that I work at an ENGLISH academy and the people in charge have very little grasp on the English language. At all. It is a constant struggle to communicate with them. The majority of the time, I am not filled in about anything going on with my classes: when they’re canceled, when I’m supposed to start a new book, anything.

I feel like a fucking second-class citizen. I don’t think I’ve ever endured so much bullshit in my entire life.

Additionally, seeing that I have no water, I can’t make any of the food that I stocked up on last week to get me through this one: pasta, rice, and frozen dumplings. Why? Because they all need to be boiled. In water. Which I don’t have.

I am trying very, very hard to not have an emotional break down right now since I have to make it through a day of classes. It’s days like this that I want to get on a plane tomorrow and go the fuck home.

Have a Good Day

I’ve been pretty depressed the past few weeks. I think it’s a combination of the winter weather, the stress from work, and missing everyone at home. Last night, I ran into my foreign coworkers after work and we chatted for a bit. Then, I just started crying in the middle of the fucking street. Not exactly sure what prompted it, but I was just really upset. We all went for dinner at this little Japanese place and talked for a while. It helped a bit.

This morning, I woke up and made the executive decision to have a good day.

The first thing I did was go for a haircut. I’m trying to grow it out, but I desperately needed a trim. Haircuts do for me what manicures do for Elle Woods. Feeling shitty? Get a haircut. Starting a new job? Get a haircut. Any mundane reason ever? Get a haircut.

Then, I decided to head over to my favorite cafe for breakfast. To my surprise, my favorite croquette (potato and vegetable), which I thought had been taken off the menu, was back! I picked the plumpest one I could find and ate it as I took a walk up the road. On the way, I saw one of my students who greeted me with a very enthusiastic “TIA TEACHER!” That was nice.

Despite the cold, I walked to Etude House (one of my favorite beauty shops), and treated myself to a new face cleanser (Baking Powder Cleansing Foam Moist), gold glitter nail polish (#107 in the Play line), and a new blush. I also got some free samples. Always a plus!

Hopefully, today’s good mood will continue for the remainder of the day.

 

Exploited

Some days, I feel very exploited working as a foreign teacher in Korea. Today is one of those days.

I don’t often complain, as I love my students and love teaching them. However, there are certain aspects about work culture here that are beginning to exhaust and frustrate me.

First of all, most teachers are expected to work long hours with little time for breaks. Some days, I only have six classes all day, with two hours worth of breaks in between. Others, I teach six classes back to back, have less than thirty minutes for dinner, and then have three more back to back classes.

Additionally, I was also just told that we will be beginning “phone teaching.” This means that I will have to call students at home and ask them questions about a story they were supposed to have read.

Then, there is the lack of preparedness and communication. Today, I walked into one of my elementary classes and, to my surprise, none of my students had their story book. After running downstairs to ask my boss why, she told me it was time for a new book. No one notified me or gave me one. I practically had to beg for the new book so I could get back to class for my lesson. This happens constantly and foreign teachers are also the last to find out anything.

Furthermore, there is complete and utter disregard for the wellbeing of employees. My two foreign coworkers were horribly ill today (and have been since last night). There is no “calling out sick” in Korea, despite the fact that we all have two sick days allowed in our contracts. No teacher should be in a classroom endangering the health of students and coworkers. I find this mentality extremely ignorant and selfish on the part of the employer.

To make matters worse, my office and classrooms remain at frigid temperatures all day. The heat does not get turned on and I am forced to teach in my winter coat while my fingers freeze. The students sit in their coats, as well. The windows in the halls and bathrooms are also kept open. If someone tries to close them, they are promptly opened again.

I really don’t have anything else to say right now. This has been a rant.

The Ulsan Foreigner’s Market

Every month in Ulsan, a group of foreigners come together at Sticky’s (one of the foreigner bars) to sell homemade items. I’ve only been to one since coming here, because I’m always doing something else the day they host it. Today, however, I was completely free! So, Steve and I walked downtown to get there when it opened at 2 PM.

There were so many stalls today: gluten free baked goods, dips and lasagnas and macaroni and cheese, curries, fudge, chorizo, biltong (South African jerky), candles, soaps, and chili. There was also a stall taking donations for a local animal shelter (I donated 2,000 won).

After making our way around the market, Steve and I ended up getting two Harry Potter themed butterbeer cupcakes, buffalo chicken dip, and chicken tikka masala. We hung out for a while to talk to people, but headed back to my place after about an hour an a half. Overall, it was a super successful outing!

Needless to say, we ate all our purchases for dinner. I even had some rice at home to have with the curry. After dinner, we decided to watch some movies, which turned into a mini Quentin Tarantino marathon: Inglorious Basterds and Django. I hadn’t seen the former, and Steve hadn’t seen either. Both were fantastic, despite the fact that they left me sobbing uncontrollably.

Then, my neighbor was undoubtedly intoxicated, as we heard caterwauling from next door. Steve went to stick his head outside, and her door was wide open. Later, we heard a man’s voice and a great deal of screaming from the two of them. This happens more often than I would like and, of course, I would get stuck with a crazy lady for a neighbor. She also recently acquired a yippy little dog, so I hear that a lot now, too.

Regardless, I had a really good day and I’m already excited about next month’s market!

This is the New Year

Two weeks into 2016, I don’t have any resolutions. I don’t have anything particularly exciting to report, either.

The newness of Korea has finally worn off and I go about my days here. In the mornings, I might go to the supermarket. Or do my laundry. Or clean my little apartment. Then, I go to work from about 2:30 until 10. I love being in the classroom. I love my students. It might sound cliché, but seeing their smiling faces really brightens up my day. I get hugs and candy while I teach them new words and songs and tongue twisters. They like to ask me questions and I like to answer them.

Sometimes, kids are gross. Like the kid who sat in class licking his knuckles and then rubbed them all over his face. Sometimes, kids are mean. Like the kid who said a bad word to one of my favorite little girls, but then the rest of the class stood up to him. Which was awesome.

Some days, Steve and I will get dinner after work. On the weekends, we might do some exploring. Last weekend, we finally got around to seeing a movie here. We saw Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch (which was only released in theatres in Asia). It was good, but we were pretty confused because neither of us had ever seen the TV series. Other days, we’ll just stay in and eat snacks and watch old BBC shows on Netflix.

I can’t wait to go to Tokyo to visit my friend Eri. She wants to take me to the Ghibli Museum, Asakusa, the Tokyo Skytree, and Tsukiji Market. I’d also love to visit some other temples and museums, see Shinjuku and Harajuku, and eat copious amounts of sushi. It’s so easy to travel here!

There are so many things left on my Korean bucket list, as well. Steve and I are constantly talking about traveling. We may or may not a wanderlust problem. Our ideas and and plans seem to change regularly. Should we go to the Philippines? Or Taiwan? (I really wanted to do Thailand and Vietnam, but by the time my contract ends it will be wet season there.) The possibilities are endless!

I still have plenty of time left in Korea, despite the fact that it seems to be going by rather quickly. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this year has to offer.

Also, I just want to say thank you to my mom and all my friends at home for always being here for me even though we’re so far away from each other physically. I appreciate the e-mails and the Skype sessions and the cards and the gifts. I miss everyone so much, but I am so grateful for the Internet because it makes everything a whole lot easier. You’re all freakin’ amazing.

How is everyone else’s 2016 going so far?