Plenty of opportunities exist in Korea to try new experiences. The weekend before last we had a three-day weekend (we had Monday off to celebrate Independence Day) and I managed to fit a bunch of things in.

First, I went to the Dr. on Saturday morning. My friend Robin was going so Katrina and I tagged along. I wanted to ask about some prescriptions and my ankle. The lady spoke English very well and referred me to a specialist. I didn't have to pay anything for the visit, woohoo! Normally back home it would be $25 bucks just to talk to a doctor. After school today I will see about getting my Rx, since I was told to come back and then they would have some on hand.

The next day a few of us were downtown and decided to try out a DVD-bang. It was really neat! Basically you get your own room with a big couch-like area to sit on. The screen is huge and equipped with surround sound. They have many movies to choose from... we ended up watching Lord of War. I wasn't too excited about our choice, but in the end I really enjoyed the movie. DVD-bangs are sometimes places for couples to go and have some "privacy". You know, not really any movie-watching going on. We had five people and it was a little bit of a tight fit.

After that, Toby was kind enough to take Trisha and I to the fortune teller and he translated for us. I asked for some insight into my love life. She said I will meet an older guy that is good at talking, which I guess means good at conversation. Should be in the near future and he will propose. I felt like I had a good connection with her and she even told me that I need to stop thinking about past relationships because they are over. It felt really good to hear it. She mentioned I am very worried about my job and need to focus on what I want, and that whatever decision I make it won't matter because I have close friends that are very supportive. We went back yesterday to see her and she gave me some more information, that my husband will be rich and we can travel together. After we get married we will have a baby very soon... or maybe even before - oh no!

On Monday we tried to go to a jjimjilbang (Korean spa/sauna) but couldn't figure it out. It's probably better that we waited because I have a Korean friend that really wants to go with me so I should wait to go with her. I really want to sweat out some toxins and get my skin exfoliated, maybe a massage. I just don't know how I feel about being naked around people that are potentially my students or other people I know. Whatever I guess, not too big of a deal.

Wendesday I went to see a specialist, luckily there is a clinic near my home. The doctor was cool and spoke English and the X-ray guy was kinda cute... Anyway, my ankle and knee are fine in regards to my bones, but it appears that I have a ligament problem. In order to verify this I will need a MRI. While the costs of healthcare are significantly cheaper than in the US, I don't feel like shelling out 300,000 won right now for that. I really wish I had just gone to the doctor when I had my injury a year ago, but someone told me not to. He gave me some pills I should take for three days and then I did 45 minutes of physical therapy. I have never had PT before so I can't compare it to what it's like in the US, but it was a little strange. They put this really hot towel on my leg - I had to ask them to make it less hot two times, and I'm no wimp when it comes to heat. Then she put some suction cup things on my leg and ankle and there were electric shocks. It was creepy because my foot was moving on it's own... Then she put some red lamp over my leg. All in all, it was pretty relaxing and I will probably go for a few more visits. The total for my Dr. visit, x-rays, meds, and PT was like $10. I was very happy :)

This past weekend my teacher invited me to go to a meeting for an English club she is in. There were about 15 Koreans that spoke English. I was really impressed by them. Some had lived abroad and had interesting stories to tell. We went to a traditional tea house. The one I ordered was way too sweet for me, but my co-teacher ordered a delicious tea that tasted exactly the same as back home - Celestial Seasons' Sleepytime Herbal tea. My dad and I used to drink that so it reminded me of good times. Afterwards we went to a NY-themed restaurant and had rice that you ate with your hands and we made our own kebabs. It was surprisingly really good. I was kind of bummed about eating there because the food seemed similiar to what I had the night before.

Lastly, yesterday I went to a Multi-bang with some friends. You can sing, play games, watch movies, etc. We played the Wii for a bit and then watched New Moon. Unfortunately you rent the room out by the hour and we didn't have enough time to watch all of the movie. I finally was getting sucked in at the end too. I am really curious as to why that movie had some Korean in it.

I took some pictures, but I am at work writing this so I'm not able to include them. If you made it this far, sorry for the novel. :) I don't think many people even read my blog, but that's alright, it's more for me to recount my time in Korea.

Only Six More Months!

I'm a day late in posting this, but yesterday marked that I only have exactly six more months in Korea! I suppose if I were to renew my contract then I would only be 25% through, but I still have a lot of time to mull that over. I miss America and there are still plenty of other places that I want to see. It's unfortunate that I am writing this post now because I think the past two months of deskwarming (coming into school to do practically nothing all day), along with the winter cold, have dampened my mood a bit.

On Tuesday, classes will resume and we will begin our next session. I will still be in charge of the second and third graders. A lot of changes have been made and I'm not really sure what to expect. I am hoping it will be a breath of fresh air. My handler (teacher responsible for assisting me with any problems and day to day responsibilities) has changed. Apparently nobody liked my old one, and while I didn't have too much of a problem with her, I just didn't find her to be a warm person. When I was in need of help I felt more comfortable asking other teachers with whom I had established more personable relationships. Two of my favorite teachers will not be with us for the majority of the semester: one is taking time off to care for her son and the other has a thyroid problem and will be gone for three months. Another teacher I really like is moving to a different school, and our vice-principal is being replaced so that she can become a principal at another school. I am going to have to adapt to the new teachers' methods which may take some time.

I remember really enjoying teaching, but I just haven't really done it in so long! The second graders will all be new to me, but the third graders will be the second grade students I taught last year. I am dreading 2-6, or whatever their new class number will be, but maybe they will have matured a bit? One can hope... I still have no idea what my schedule will be like, and I keep asking for a calendar so I will know when exams are, but I won't know until Tuesday, at the earliest. I am also curious whether I will have afterschool classes or not, along with the staff conversation class. I suspect I may not have the staff class anymore because only one teacher was showing up, and I was informed yesterday that I will have to start creating a monthly presentation on subjects of my choice, such as American culture. I'm trying to stay positive and think of it as a fun activity I can knock out in an hour or so, but I wasn't provided with the purpose behind it.

As for my personal development in the past six months, I am very pleased. While I do consider myself an independent person, I really do enjoy the company of others, so it took some adjusting to living on my own. I was used to living with my family of four, plus four kitties, in a large home. Now it's just me in my tiny studio. I relied on my parents a lot for advice and taking care of household duties. Now I have to do these things on my own. I had to unclog my sink because I was too embarrassed to notify the landlord because I put rice down the drain when it should have been in the food trash... Even cooking can be a chore, especially with my one hot plate. However, there are plenty of 24/7 kimbap places around so I know I will never go hungry. Also, I finally after six months configured my second drying rack. I also learned a valuable lesson in dealing with LG Telecom... some shady guys tacked on tons of extras to my cell phone plan, but hopefully my co-teacher has the problem resolved now. Basically I've learned to be very cautious with my financials.

I've made a lot of friends in Korea and it's been a blast. I even have a few that I consider really close friends and hope to remain in contact with, even when we go our own separate ways. I've also seen a few friends leave and this will continue to happen until it's my turn. Korea is such a transient place, people coming and going all the time. I think when it is time for me to return home I will be saddened, especially since I will be returning to Tampa and many of my friends have moved on to bigger, better things. However, I think when I return it will only be for a brief period of time before I move on to my own next big thing.

One thing that's really great about Korea is that there is pretty much always something to do, but you may have to travel. I don't really mind, I've gotten used to it since I live in Chilgok and everything is far away. If you have a hobby or interest there's a good chance you can find others that are interested in it too. I went scuba diving at the Busan Aquarium this past weekend in the shark tank and it was a ton of fun. I'm hoping to get certified sometime in the near future now. I'm hitting the gym more regularly now too. Back to travel, it isn't as cheap as I had expected in regards to going internationally, but I will be going to Hong Kong in just a couple of weeks. Then I have Taiwan to look forward to in May. I went to Japan over Christmas and hope to go again to see other parts of the country like Tokyo and Osaka. There's still plenty of places in Korea I have to go to as well, but luckily busses and the KTX are cheap. So much to do, so little time (and money!).

Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts, it's been awhile since I last posted. I hope the next six months go as smoothly as the first. I'm really looking forward to making the most of my remaining time in Korea!

Lucky 59

Time to blog about one of my favorite topics: food! A couple of weeks ago a shop on my way to school closed down. Nothing new, seeing as how the galbi restaurant near my house was turned into a meat market overnight, and now I find myself hearing "moooos" in the early morning. However, this time the shop turned into something I have been eagerly awaiting - Western food! While my area in Daegu does have some of the usuals, Mr. Pizza, Outback Steakhouse, McDonalds, and so forth, those are all about a half hour walk away from me. So when I saw the name of this new place, 59 Pizza, I quickly made my way home and googled it.

I've been under the impression that pizza in Korea is expensive. Cheese sure as hell is. But at 59 Pizza you can get a large pepperoni pizza for, get this, 5,900W! While the opening date was on December 17th, I wasn't able to be one of the first customers due to a lack of cash... even today my pizza was purchased on borrowed funds, but that will change come Thursday. So after school today, and a crummy lunch, I decided I would give the place a shot. I was debating whether I should wait until my students were all home, but whatever, they probably assume I've eaten there three times already.

I walked in and the lady was really nice. A bunch of those flower arrangements that are always present with the opening of a new restaurant/store/etc were along the wall. All I had to do was point to the picture of the pizza I wanted (they don't really have a dine-in area) and the size. Larg-e of course, since it's only 1,000W more than a regular. Now I'll have a few meals other than spaghetti this week, hooray. I was afraid the pizza box would scorch my hands as I walked home, but that was not an issue as the box has a cute little handle on it:

The pizza smelled good the entire walk home. It felt like the longest walk ever. I felt guilty walking home with my pizza box, like a typical waegook, too good to eat Korean food. Which is actually not the case, but they probably think that. I didn't want to pass the restaurants near my house, like the orange restaurant though, so I walked down a different street to get home.

As I am writing this I am on a full belly. The pizza met my expectations, although they weren't very high. One peculiar thing about it was the sesame seeds in the crust. Still can't decide whether those are worth complaining about. It definitely didn't have the grease like pizza back home, but still it was pretty tasty. For only $5, who could say anything? I restrained myself from eating the whole thing, so I am looking forward to cold pizza tomorrow. :) Take a look for yourself:

It's possible

I should be blogging more... especially about school. People ask about it and I always give very vague answers. So here goes...

This week was the second week of having to create my own lesson plan since we finished the textbook. Last week I did a cultural lesson on Thanksgiving, and this week the lesson plan was about predictions, and I used astrology to demonstrate it a bit. Wednesday was the first day I had to teach the astrology lesson and I was really nervous since I hadn't exactly planned it well... I just used a lesson plan I created over the summer for my TEFL class. It was designed for a small class and for an hour whereas my classes are twice as large and only for 45 minutes. To make matters worse, my guinea pig class has the lowest level of English proficiency. To my surprise when I handed out the group activity they all got right to work on it before I could even explain the directions. I asked my co-teacher if we should stop them but she said to just let them work. They did a great job! I was really impressed, and happy to see the students so engaged.

For both the Thanksgiving and prediction lesson plans I made sure to relate it somehow to Korea. For Thanksgiving our activity at the end of class was to create a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting Turkey Day and Chuseok. Before I introduced the Western way of astrology I first talked a little bit about Chinese astrology which is what they are familiar with. I told the kids that I am a rabbit and they quickly began trying to figure out how old I am, but they will never know O:) It was really funny listening to them try to pronounce the zodiac signs.

The happiest part of my day had to be when I was exiting the 2nd grade teachers' office when I heard an unfamiliar voice say, "Hi Rachelle!" I looked over to see the girl that is proclaimed to have the lowest English grade in the school talking to me. My response: "You can speak English?!?" She tells me a little. I was in shock! She then grabbed on to me and told me she loves me, hehe. One of the worst male students in the school happened to be nearby and he was trying to tell me she is a bad student. They both were slowly going back and forth at it in English (for me I'm assuming, they could do a much better job in Korean I'm sure). It was time for them to head to class and when I saw my co-teacher I told her about it. She told me that the girl likes me and is trying to speak English. Originally I was told to not make her participate in class, so she would just sit at her desk at the back of the room with all her markers and pens drawing. She is quite an artist (if anyone saw the Van Gogh Starry Night picture I put up, it's hers), and draws pictures of nearly naked cavemen... we're talking intricate details. Which reminds me, one of my co-teachers confiscated a "graphic novel" from a student and I had a hard time not laughing when she showed me one of the drawings.

I still just can't believe that that particular student spoke English to me today! She was pretty indifferent towards me in the beginning, but I would always smile at her in and out of the classroom and apparently it changed her attitude for the better. She is part of the guinea pig class and I saw her working diligently on the group assignment. It upsets me that sometimes teachers don't give enough credit to the students. Unless they have a learning disability, they are probably capable of learning, if motivated.

I heart middle school!~

Boy, You're Sweet!

As those of us living in Korea know, today (November 11) is Pepero Day. Pepero Day is a commercial holiday that involves giving friends boxes of Pepero which are thin, sesame seed sticks covered in chocolate. They are similiar to Japan's Pocky. I think most Koreans enjoy Pepero Day, although there are some that believe it is too materialistic and that it is just a way for the Lotte brand to generate revenue.

All day I read status updates of people receiving Pepero from their students. Funny thing is, I didn't see a single student at my school with one (I'm almost curious if it was banned from our school, or maybe I just don't pay enough attention). The only package of Pepero I saw was the one that was on my desk this morning that I anticipated receiving from one of my students because of a conversation we had last week. Here's a picture:

Lee Taeho was kind enough to leave a note and if you'll notice, there is a cute little bear sticker at the top. I'd be surprised to see a male, American middle school student to include one of those. ;) His message basically says that he knows I may not be familiar with Pepero and that he hopes I enjoy it. He also mentions that he thought it was unusual for a foreign teacher to be teaching at a public school. He is one of my upper-level students and I really hope that misspelling of "hello" was intentional.

The love doesn't stop there though, after one of my classes I was having trouble retrieving the CD-ROM from the computer. One of my students (one of the twins that reminds me of Arjay) approaches me and says, "Let's go," to me not realizing that I need to get that out first. He comes to the rescue and of course when he does it, it pops right out. He then proceeds to pick up my things and escort me out of the classroom. As we are walking through the hallway (awkwardly for me) his little buddies come up snickering something about us being on a date and that someone should take a picture. These boys are a trip!

More on Korean boys, they are quite enigmatic. They play video/pc games for hours on end and have an immense appreciation for violence and death. When I asked my students to come up with inventions, many of them thought of death machines where you could kill yourself. Yet, they are extremely sweet and affectionate. They walk around in the hallways holding hands, fixing each others hair, and draped over one another. I find them to be effiminate too, as they like to wear colors that are typically gender stereotyped, such as pink and purple, and they carry around Hello Kitty pencil cases. Nothing wrong with that, but I find it contradictory to other components of their personality. Nonetheless, they keep me entertained!

Korean Hospitality

Last week I was approached by three girls and asked to make an "appointment" to eat ddeok-boggi with them. They told me that they would pay and wanted to go to a restaurant. I initially agreed, only because I didn't know how to say no, but then I talked to my co-teacher and she thought it would be better to have the meeting at school. I understand where she is coming from, and don't want to do anything that will put my reputation in question. I found it a little strange that the girls wanted to do something outside of school with me, but I guess they are very curious and want to get to know me better. I met them today - there were more than I was expecting - and each ended up bringing something to eat or drink. The girl that organized it is Jennifer, the one on the left in the uniform. She looks unhappy because she does not like having her picture taken. I met her my first day in Daegu before school even started at HomePlus. In addition to ddeok-boggi, we had kimbap (similar to sushi), quite an assortment of snacks, and 2% (a beverage that is like flavored water).

The weather in Daegu is getting cooler so it was a bit chilly. The days are also getting shorter so it got dark earlier than usual. Luckily we were all equipped with our cell phones so that helped provide us with light when we needed it at the end to clean up (you can even see our makeshift trash bag in the top right corner of the picture!). It was very dark and Jennifer told us a ghost story; and her English is quite impressive. She ended up translating what a lot of the other girls wanted to say, but she encouraged them at every opportunity and kept telling them to speak in English, or at least try. The girls seemed to think that this would be a "bad memory" for me because it was cold and dark, but I really enjoyed spending time with them and trying some new Korean foods. I really think it was an excellent opportunity for them to practice their English, too!

On a side note, I can't believe this is my first post since I have been to Daegu! I have been very busy and have had a lot of experiences here in Korea I would have liked to blog about, but did not find the time. Hopefully I will be able to write more, but if not, I will be sure to take plenty of pictures =)


I have so much to talk about and don't even know where to begin! The orientation was finally over on Friday and that is when we arrived to Daegu. We had to meet our co-teachers and they did it in a rather odd fashion. We were all herded at the front of the room and the handler proceeded to call our names and then the people picking us up stood up/clapped/cheered, whatever. I found out that the lady that picked me up is not actually my co-teacher but a different one since mine was not back to school yet. She seemed to be in quite a hurry so I accidentally left my passport and really need to get it back since I need to apply for my ARC. She is a really sweet lady and even though I know my co-teacher now I still go to her for help sometimes. Also, we will be doing the school newspaper together which I am excited about. We had to go shopping for bedding and other things I need for my place. I got a $300 allowance for just sheets/bedding and then another $300 for whatever else I need to get settled in. I am not going to go into any more detail about my place since I already have the pictures up on FB.

So that was Friday. On Saturday, Katrina and I arranged to meet at HomePlus at 1pm. We were successful! Woohoo. So we ate, shopped around a bit there, and then decided to check out the mall. We attempted to get pedicures but just got "color chang-eys" that were really cheap, but not what we wanted. For dinner we had Mr. Pizza which was really delicious and cheap. It was nice to have Western food after not having it for so long. We ended up going to HomePlus again since we didn't buy anything the first time around. I ended up getting back to my apartment late so I wasn't able to go downtown. My neighbors ended up coming over though since my stove top arrived but the delivery person took it to them. The mom was so concerned that I hadn't eaten since she knew I couldn't cook anything and she brought me over fruit- very tasty. She has two kids, a boy and a girl. I was afraid the girl would be one of my students but luckily she goes to a different middle school. She has to translate everything which is difficult because she doesn't speak English very well.

On Sunday, the teacher that helped me get settled in asked me if I wanted to go hiking so we met up at 10 and walked over to this trail near my place. It wasn't too bad of a hike and the views were breathtaking. They have random exercise equipment on the mountain too lol. A few women were doing these very strange, heavy-looking hula hoops but they must work since they all had really flat midsections. She also wanted to show me another mountain so we drove there, but being that it was Sunday we couldn't find a parking spot. We just drove around and chatted and then she dropped me off near Katrina's place. Luckily I remembered how to get there. After having a drink outside of GS 25 (convenience store) we made a quick decision to go check out downtown Daegu. We were actually on a mission to find Red Mango but that was unsuccessful. The shopping totally made up for it though! I didn't buy anything but I can't wait to go once I get my paycheck. I have never seen so many shops at once! We ended up eating dinner at The Holy Grill, which is some place I always hear about and it was good - got to see some scores from back home including the Rays! Which reminds me, I saw a lady wearing a TB baseball hat and nearly cried lol.

SCHOOL! This is what I am most excited to blog about. I wasn't nervous about my first day of school since I was told I wouldn't be teaching any classes. The kids are awesome! I was told that I am teaching at one of the better schools so that makes me feel like my job is a little easier. They are definitely more well-behaved than I thought they would be. They are so nice and friendly too! I am nearly late to my classes because they are constantly stopping me and asking "Where am I from?" and telling me "Nice to meet you", "You're so beautiful" etc. On the second day of school we had an assembly because we also got a new prinicpal so I had to make a brief speech about myself in front of the entire school. I loved it though - there were girls screaming and everyone was cheering for me - very welcoming. There aren't any foreigners in my area that I really know of so I guess that it explains it. I felt like a president or something though. The kids at my school think of America as "Obama's Country" it's so cute. The girls are definitely better than the boy students. I have quite a few co-teachers and one of them is this older, soft-spoken woman and she can't really control the boys. Since I am new they listen to me more, and I love using my authoritative voice lol. Today I introduced myself to my class and had the students introduce themselves on a sheet of paper, this is one of my favorite lines: "I'm just a puppet of school which stays in class from 8:00am to 4:00pm." I feel kind of the same sometimes. Especially since I don't know what is going on half the time since I don't speak Korean.

Anyway, that's all for now. I have more but I am sure this is already boring.