Wednesday, May 25, 2016

If I Had a Million Dollars

Three years ago it seems that I was often writing about my students, either things they did in the classroom that entertained or amazed me, or some occurrence from the rest of our time together.  The past six months I've often had thoughts of "I should write about this" but for some reason those rarely materialize.  The blog has taken a back seat in my life while I pursue other interest and spread my time thin between different outlets, but I'll try to get back into it.  My students although vastly different than those I had at Buksam High School are still entertaining, intelligent and full of fun ideas so it's only fair I share some of this with you.

Last week I presented one of my writing classes with the topic "If I had a Million Dollars", I'm surprised I hadn't done this sooner, but was reminded of the song (and discussion point) while chatting with a friend last week.  This particular class is always filled with energy and bright ideas, so I was hopeful for the writing they would produce. So without further ado, if I had a million dollars...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Promises of Magic Delivered

Feeling better and ready to leave the confines of my house I was happy to have a boyfriend with a weekend (finally) off work, and was able to get out and explore.  Despite waves of boredom or cabin fever I do get really good at being a hermit, finding comfort in my habitat, but I was happy to get out on Saturday.  After a brief meeting with my old friend (enemy) Soju, Friday evening and lots of needed catch-up time with the boy, it was a late start on Saturday.  After waking up he was busy on his phone, no not messaging or screwing around on social media, rather searching for where he was taking me for the day.  I asked twice but got only vague answers, leaving me clueless but surprisingly content.  I usually like to be the one with the plans, so it seems I’ve changed a bit recently?

We finally ventured out around 1pm for lunch, which neither of us had an appetite for (I blame Soju – for everything).  I asked where we were headed next, but the only answer was “Magic.”  He asked if I was okay to drive (ride) for two hours because he wanted to take me to a temple in 밀양 (Miryang), a place I’d never been.  I was fine, after all car naps are always an option for the passenger, but my concern was for him having to drive there and back.  He said no it was fine, so off we went, stopping in 군위 휴계소 for a coffee (and batting cage practice, much to my dismay) before continuing on our way. I asked why this temple we were headed for was ‘magic’ but he told me I’d see once we got there, only hinting that there were three reasons behind his claim, and fish being significant.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Recovery Process Begins

For as high as my spirits were on Monday, I woke Tuesday with a heart and head full of ""  Waking up stiff from head to toe with new aches and pains as I rose from bed set the tone for the day, but I tried to beat it. I was up early so gave it some time before texting Sam to see if we'd be able to go get my bandages changed. He responded that we'd first meet the insurance man at my place around 11 and could go take care of my face after. Like I said before, my mind was anywhere but on the legalities of the accident, but I'd soon have to deal with that too, once again so glad I had Sam.

The two of them were at my door shortly after 11 and after they talked for a while Sam explained "my choices".  Apparently the police were arguing that the accident was in fact my fault, actually this blog post does a good job of describing the details involved with bikes in Korea. The officer said there was no bicycle lane on the sidewalk so I should have been riding on the road, although the sidewalk was divided half red/half white, which in my understanding represents a bicycle lane, but I digress. Thankfully, like I said before, the man that hit me was not an asshole, took responsibility for the incident and was willing to pay for the damages.  Sam explained because of the laws the payout may be less (me taking partial fault) and that I had two choices: 1. A lump sum payment up front or 2. Submission of all medical costs to his insurance with possible additional payments after.  I've still yet to make the decision on this, but either way I feel like things will be okay.  I had a few moments of "what the hell" thoughts as we sat and discussed, but as the meeting came to a close I was feeling better.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Adventures at Andong Hospital

I've completely failed at sharing stories of my adventures, struggles and other details of my second bout in Korea, but that's about to change. It's been a while since my last post, but I'm guessing this one will draw a little attention.  Last weekend, I ventured up to Seoul to meet an old High School friend, Anna. Coincidently we met each other only two weeks ago, when I traveled to Thailand and was able to see Anna in Bangkok, where she's currently living and teaching.  This time around though it way my turn to play tour guide, and I can proudly say I did a fine job of it.  I spent yet another weekend falling deeper in love with this country.  Saturday night we accomplished a full night out in Gangnam, thanks in part to our awesome Couchsurfing host, full of Korean BBQ, Soju, Beer, Chicken Butt, and of course Noraebang (Karaoke).  Sunday followed suit, despite a creeping headache, with more delicious food, a visit to both the Bukcheon Hanok village and Ihwa Mural village, a stop for coffee near The Blue House, quick breeze through Gwangjang Market and ending it all back in Gangnam.  Needless to say we were in bed early and before long Monday morning came and it was time to say goodbye, with me heading back to Andong. Thoughts of "I don't want to work today" were swimming through my mind as I arrived, and as luck would have it I got the day off, but not under the best of circumstances. I got to spend the afternoon at Andong Hospital, after a car decided it'd be fun to knock me off my bike...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It's All About the Finish Line

The thoughts and opinions that continue to be expressed by my students doesn't always blow me away, but I do have to sit back in a state of awe as I listen sometimes.

Last week during a writing class every student was given a different writing prompt, asked to respond to the answer during our time allotted, after which we would share our work.  The first student had a question of beauty vs. brains, if he could only have one which would it be.  I was happy that he, and the rest of the students agreed that intelligence would trump looks should they have to decide, but it was some of his reasoning that made me shudder.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Great Debate

One of the highlights of my new job is that I'm no longer a puppet teaching 'fun' English classes, these kids are here to learn and my classes are no exception.  My schedule rotates between reading and writing lessons but I also have a few debate classes thrown into the mix. It took me a few lessons to get into the swing of things with the students, understanding what their level was at, their debate style and of course personalities, but now things are going along great.  While not all the topics are received with high praise, most of our lessons have went pretty smoothly, sometimes students have surprised me with strong arguments and unique viewpoints, while other times I've been left in a slight state of shock.  Let me give you some examples...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Road Trippin'

Before taking off for Europe I wanted to spend one more weekend with Hue, also it was technically his summer break and I couldn't just let him sit in Milwaukee the whole time.  If I had thought ahead a bit more I would have planned a real trip, but instead a 6 hour drive north, with stops both in my college town and the twin cities, would have to do. I didn't want to be responsible for a huge group, after all I wanted to have fun this weekend, so my invite extended only to Hue and Jun, both of whom were happy with the plan.  To round out the group I invited my cousin Alivia, smart, independent and with a thirst for knowledge, I'm honored when people say we're a lot alike.  Given the people I'd be spending the next few days with I had high hopes for the trip.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Summer Fun

After partaking on the end of summer trip with Hue and his friends I realized I had some work to do. These students, my new friends, were now on summer vacation and for the most part hadn't made any plans.  I couldn't let them just hang out around Milwaukee, reliant on buses to get them where they needed to go and not knowing what to do with themselves.  I started brainstorming ideas and soon had a list of things not only that I wanted them to experience, but things that would be just as fun for me.  After parting ways at the end of the field trip I ended with 'See you soon' rather than 'Goodbye', and I meant it.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Can I Come?

As it always does summer began to fly past us and before long we were already entering August, Hue was wrapping up his summer ESL courses and I was itching to leave the country. I tried a few times to make plans with Hue but it seemed he was always busy with studying or our schedules just didn't collide.  Then one day his response was 'I have the final class trip' and I went out on a limb asking if I could join.  I had fun hanging out with just him so wouldn't tagging along on an ESL, end of summer, multi country mash-up be that much more exciting? The correct answer is yes.  Thankfully his teachers didn't mind, as long as I was registered and paid my fees, so that's how I found myself on a school bus filled with teenagers from around the world, and a few teachers from UWM.  Once again I fell in with the students feeling a sense of belonging more there than with the staff, and many of the students being Korean, I felt like I was back.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Chicago the Korean Edition

After a summer filled with Milwaukee adventures with Hue and some of his friends it was finally time to venture across state lines and show the boys a bit of what our neighbors to the south have to offer.  My friend Shaun (fellow Buksamer) was coming home for a visit, bringing with him his new Korean wife 미진, which of course called for a party. Shaun had invited both Caitlin and myself, both so we could meet his wife and have a little reunion of our own.  We figured this was the perfect excuse for a weekend trip to Chicago and wanted to bring Hue and his friend Jun along, thankfully Shaun didn't mind.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Teacher, I'm Coming to America

During my first two years teaching in Korea I had multiple students that spoke of the day they'd be coming to visit me in the United States. I of course encouraged these dreams, but aside from a select few, seriously doubted it would actually happen.  Then last year, while teaching in Cambodia I got a text from one of my previous students 임희욱.  He was asking for advice, which school from a list of 7 he should pick; believe it or not he was going to start studying in America that summer.  My jaw hit the floor when I browsed through his choices, there at number 5 was UW-Milwaukee, a short 20-minute drive from my parents. house.  I gave him an unbiased review of his options, but also mentioned that Milwaukee was in fact my home-town, although I wasn't planning to be back for a while.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

That Hagwon Life

I'm [already] three months into my contract in Andong, and the differences between this job and my last are pretty clear.  Gone are the days of desk warming and pretending to be busy between class periods, now replaced with jam packed schedules, one after the next.  There's days when I have no more than 20 minutes of break time between classes, but those are matched with days I only have to stick around for six hours instead of eight.

Coming into this contract I knew my experience would be a vast contrast to the life I was used to in Korea, and that's part of the reason I chose private versus public.  At least at a hagwon I wouldn't be able to directly compare my old school to the new, of course life was going to be different.  I was expecting all of these schedule changes, loss of a co-teacher, mixed classes and high work expectation, but there was one thing I overlooked. I completely ignored the fact that I'd be face to face with the students who are waist deep in Korea's education problem, overworked, under slept,  highly stressed kids - the youth of this country.

Teaching in public school I knew that my students were stressed and overworked, but what high schooler isn't? I remember days of studying, homework and essays and now watch my cousin in America complain about the same, it's something all high schoolers go through.  My old students had to stay at school until 10pm, but I also watched them sleep through classes, play with friends, and some days not actually study all that much.  At this hagwon though, the kids are 1) much younger and 2) serious about getting the work done.  These kids (or maybe their parents) are serious about their studies which means no time for screwing around, playing or sleeping. Basically what I'm trying to say is, working at a hagwon can be a little depressing.

So that's where I am, three months deep into a whole new culture shock experience.  Learning again what it's like to be a teacher, on some days playing babysitter, and ultimately trying to show these kids a little more than the ins and outs of the English language.  I can already feel bonds growing with some of them and hope to befriend more.  Of course their parents are paying for their education, loads of homework and robot production, but I'm hoping to give them a little bit more than that.