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Day 199: Going home

In less than a day I am going home for the first time in almost a year.

I am curious as to what kind of culture shock I will experience when I am there.

I know that Korea has changed me in many ways, but I am curious how much that will affect my perception of both the people in America and American customs….

Keep you updated~

confused korean

Day 92 Part 2: I attempt the impossible

Part 1: Korean Names Overview

PART 2: Attempting the impossible

This year I am attempting the impossible. I am teaching over 600 students and I want to remember all of their names!

Why? Because students respond much better in class when you know their name versus saying “Hey you! Red Sweater! Read the sentence!” The students already have the problem of speaking English as a second language, so if they are zoning out the best way to grab their attention is to say “MINJU!!” Generally they snap to very quickly after that.

The Inherent problems in this task:

1)     My classes are HUGE and I don’t see them that often

2)    Korean Names are really similar!

3)    Korean students don’t always write their name properly in English

4)    Korean Names are hard to pronounce

5)    Korean students look very similar

Problem #1:

I have many students in my classes. My smallest class is about 14 kids, but an average class size for me is 32 students. The 3rd  grade students (9th grade in America) I see once a week. The 2nd grade students (8th grade in America) I see once every three weeks.

Problem #2:

There is a huge similarity among Korean names. Check out Part One: Overview of Korean Names for more details.

Furthermore  in Korea it is important to introduce your  full name when you meet someone.

In America, it’s easy.

“Hey! What’s your name?”

“Sarah.”

“Sarah! Nice to meet you! I’m Riley.”

In Korea:

“What’s your name?”

 “My name is Jeong Seung Hyun!” the student spits out faster than a rattlesnake biting it’s prey. 

First of all, too fast! Secondly, your family name is unimportant!

Family name! This is too much!!

I just want to know their first name. However, this confuses them because they always say their last name first.

So then I end up asking them “What’s your given name” which further confuses them!

Given name? What does given name mean?

Problem #3:

Even though at this point my students have been studying English for 5 or 6 years, some students don’t know how to write their name in English and/or when they do they write it wrong.

This was a challenge for me when I first moved to Korea since I couldn’t read, write or speak Korean.  Blog post pending about the trials of trying to learn names last year.

So if I look at a Korean name written in English and try to pronounce it, I might end up saying the name wrong because it is written wrong!

Wrong all around

Problem #4:

Even if a student wrote their name completely right, some Korean names are REALLY hard for me to pronounce.  They are foreign and strange sounding.

Like this name:

I find the vowel    hard to pronounce in Korean words, which makes it difficult when I have to say the student’s name.

And this this name:

Gyuuuuu is just weird to say. So no matter how hard I might try to a say Korean student’s name I will probably mess it up.

Why so difficult!!

There are many more examples I can think of, but I think you got the point.

Problem  #5:

Korean students look very similar. They tend to have same  eye color, same hair color, same haircut,  and many students wear thick, black framed glasses.

Hair cut styles:

For Girls: Long (straight or permed) & Bangs! Almost every Korean girl student has bangs and they  are CONSTANTLY brushing them.

For Boys: Short (sometimes permed!)

Not to mention all my students wear the same uniform!

This is exactly what I am talking about. THE SAME!

I felt like the students tended to blur together more my first semester teaching because just how similar they all looked compared to American students. American students differ vastly in both facial features and also in their style of clothing.

The loud kids in my classes are really easy for me to distinguish from the others and same goes for the kids who physical appearance sets them apart from the others. The students with a different hair style (colored! a light brown!), or  a student who wears white glasses instead of black, or who throws on a preppy sweater over their collared shirt tend to be more memorable.

But for the more quiet students, unfortunately, it was and still is lot easier for them to blend in the background since my classes are just so BIG.

–>  So what normally happens as a result of all of this: 

I will ask a student their name. They will tell me “Kim Sang Jun.” I will attempt to remember their name, but won’t see the student for 1 or 3 weeks. In the meantime I have a ton of other students whose names I want to learn.

When I finally see that student in class again, the following three scenarios ensue:

1)     I will end up forgetting Kim Sang Jun’s name entirely. Oops.

2)     I will confuse him with someone else because I think he looks like “Jae Won” He’s not Jae Won. Damn.

 

3)    I call on him and say “Seong Jun!”

“Teacher! WRONG! Sang Jun! Sang Jun”

Double damn.

Solutions:

Last year I had each student make a name tag. My vision was that they would always bring it with them to class and slowly over time I would learn all their names with the help of the visual stimulation.

WRONG! The kids would forget to bring it to class or would lose them.

You forgot? You lost it?.... Cool

As a result, feeling so overwhelmed my first couple months teaching here, I didn’t end up learning my student’s names unless they specifically sought me outside of class to talk to me a lot.  I know, I know. That’s terrible.

My only excuse is it was hard to adjust to Korea land.

This year’s plan:

At the beginning of my first class with my students I had each student write their name in English AND Korean (in case they wrote their name in English wrong) and then I took their picture with their name. Seeing the students name WITH their face has made it a lot easier for me to remember their names.

Also, seating charts! I made a specific seating chart for each of my classes which I constantly refer to. Some students names I know off the bat because I talked with them a lot last year and this year.

I got this

BUT other students I hardly see, so it’s good to have a reference chart. It is my goal that within next month I will have learned most of their names!  Wish me luck with this endeavor!

 

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Day 92 Part 1: Overview of Korean Names

In the interest of sparing people from information overload, I decided to split up #92 Storyaday into 3 parts.

Part 1: Korean Name Overview

Part 2: I attempt the Impossible

Most Koreans have three names: Family name and two given names. The family name always come first.

Example: Kim Min Ju

Kim= Family Name

Min Ju= Given Names (note that the names are 1 syllable each)

Korea is the land in which everyone has very similar or identical names. Here are the 5 most common surnames in Korea.

 Just because a person has the same last name “Kim” does not mean they are directly related to another person with the last name Kim.

For me, it is impossible to know who is related to who unless they specifically tell me: “That girl is my sister. That boy is my cousin.”

I might think two kids look similar and are brother and sister, but then it turns out they are NOT related and they are boyfriend and girlfriend. Vice versa: I think they are dating, but they are brother and sister. That is an awkward mistake to make.

Now let’s look given names:

 There seems to be a set of given names that Koreans like to use and they deviate from the names very slightly.

 For example, in one class alone I have 8 kids (mostly girls) whose given names starts with “Ji”

Oh dear. That is a lot of Ji’s walking around.

Also, Koreans tend to like to have similar given names but like changing the order of the given names. So in a class I might see students with names like this:

Sometimes the names are very similar but different by one letter:

And, to top it all off,  most of the times it is hard to tell who is a boy and who is a girl by looking at the names.

In America if you see the name “Sarah” and “James” you are going to know that Sarah is a girl and James is a boy.

Likewise if you see names like “Ashley” and and “Dylan” you are probably going to assume “Ashley” is a girl, “Dylan” is a boy. You could be wrong, of course, but more often than not the results will be as expected.

But here in Korea many names seem to be gender neutral which is a problem for foreigners.

For further reading on Korean names I suggest you read these posts. I find them really fascinating!!

Now Read Part 2: I attempt the Impossible !!

confused

Storyaday Day 99: Bip bi! Bip bi!

Today a 2nd grade student (8th grade in America) kept pointing at my hair and saying “Bip bi! Bip bi!”

I was totally confused and tried writing what she was saying on the board in English. She told me it was wrong and then wrote in Korean.

That didn’t help me at all!

I still was confused and asked my co-teacher was going on. My co-teacher couldn’t really explain it to me and I let it slide to that I could start class.

LATER TODAY

Some girls came to my lunch class and said “Bip Bi! Bip bi!” and pointed at my hair.

Finally it clicked!

They were saying “Pippi!” as in Pippi Longstockings! I had braided my hair today and it reminded them of “Pippi!”

or as the Korean pronounce it “Bip Bi, Bip Bi”

In Korean the P & B sound kind of blends together and it is hard for many students to distinguish between the two.

For example, when I am trying to help a student with spelling a word and I say “B” they might write down “P” and vice versa.

Glad I finally figured out what the girl was trying to say!

Day 88:Tim Burton OR If at first you don’t succeed try again 2 more times

It was July 2010 and I thought I might freeze to death. I was in Melbourne, wearing a white winter coat I had borrowed from my Australian friend and thinking how backwards it was to be utterly frozen in July.

The changes in seasons from the northern hemisphere (in which I had lived 20 years of my life) to the southern hemisphere(in which I lived 5 months) kept throwing me off.

What do you mean you wear boardies and a tank top during Christmas? What do you mean you feel like an icicle in July?

So. Strange!

Because of this, the whole time I was in Melbourne with my friend Rose we sought to do museum and other indoor activities to keep out of the cold. One the exhibits I went to and loved was the Tim Burton art exhibit.

I have always liked Tim Burton movies (with the exception of Beetlejuice which haunted me as a child and still haunts me today) and so it was cool to explore many works of his I had never seen before.

I saw drawing and stories from the time he was the child and saw various props and costumes from his movies. What I remember the most from the exhibit was seeing some costumes from “Alice in Wonderland” which I had watched in the movie  theater while I lived in Australia.

2010 Melbourne, Australia

Now let’s Flashforward 2 1/2 years. I am living in South Korea and I discover that the Tim Burton Art Exhibit is on display at the Seoul Art Museum. I decide I absolutely must go up to Seoul and reconnect with my memories from the time I was in Australia.

Attempt #1:  A Monday

I go to the museum on a Monday feeling very excited to compare the differences between the exhibit I saw in Australia and the one in Korea.

Problem: The Museum is closed on Mondays! Gahhh!

 

I  have to leave early on Tuesday which means I can’t see it this time on my trip to Seoul. Bummer.  :/

Next time  I am in Seoul I vow to  make this happen for sure!

Attempt #2: A Sunday
This time I want to go early on a Sunday with my two friends. But it ends up being a lazy Sunday per usual and we get to the museum at 4pm.

Problem: The waiting period for the museum is 2 hours but I have to catch a bus back to the city I live in at 7pm! I don’t have time to make it.

Damn. This is annoying me. Seoul is about a 4 hour bus ride from Seoul with roundtrip bus fare about 52,000 won (about $50 USD). This trip ain’t cheap, so I don’t know when I will next get a chance to be in Seoul and see the exhibit.

Why!?!?!

Attempt #3: A Saturday
I am up in Seoul for a K-Pop concert and by hell or high water I WILL GO to this museum exhibit!!

I drag my friends out of our hostel and race to the museum where I discover, yet again, there is a 2 hour waiting time.

But this time I had planned for it, so my  friends and I wander around Deoksugung Palace until we can get into the museum. The entrance for the Palace was only a paltry 1,000 won = less than $1 USD. It’s a cool place to kill some time and also to see some of Korea’s history.

Finally, at last, the time comes in which we can enter the museum.  Yes!! Nothing can stop me now, muhahahaa.

I love taking my photos with Tim Burton monsters. Also, it appears as if I only have one outfit I wear in Korea. Ha.

Slight snag: There are hordes and hordes of people at the museum because it is a weekend and also because it is one of the last few weekends the exhibit is open.

I decide to skip over the long lines and wander around the parts of the exhibit that isn’t super crowded. The exhibit has many of the same things I saw while in Australia but a few different things, notably materials from his new movie “Frakenweenie” and from the short “Stain Boy.” If there are any “Alice in Wonderland” artifacts around, I don’t see them through the crowd.

Furthermore, my experience here accompanied by 5 friends is also vastly different than the time I saw it in Australia by myself. When I saw it in Australia my friend Rose decided to go to an Abba exhibit so I ended up exploring Tim Burton on my own.

This time there is a lot more laughing (laughing in a group over silly things is fine; laughing by yourself just causes you to receive strange looks) and a lot more posing for photos. Overall I think the highlight of my epic odyssey to see this exhibit was taking funny photos with my friends next to Tim Burton’s art work.

I just love Batman's itty bitty feet compared to the rest of his body!

 

Day 76: I like you

Last week I read a Cracked.com article discussing the 5 major Virtues of Mr. Fred Rogers (from Mr. Roger’s neighborhood).

I can’t tell you how many hours I spent watching that show when I was younger. Actually, I’m not gonna lie,  reading the article and watching the video clips made me tear up. Mr. Rogers definitely made a huge impact on me, even though the effect of his show is very subconscious.

In his award acceptance speeches Mr. Rogers asked people to take 10 seconds and think about the people who have helped them become the person they are today. Although many people have crossed my mind, too many to name, some of the first people I thought about are the people I have met in South Korea.

Moving to a new country was TERRIFYING. I spent the whole 13+ hour flight to Korea sick to my stomach, feeling like I had made a horrible life mistake. But once I got here, I calmed down and realized that Korea is really awesome. I love my new life here.

A large part of that has to do with the people I have met, both other foreigners and Koreans. Most of the other foreigners I have met here are not only super friendly, but also, like me, they  are willing to go off on random adventures at any place and at any time.  I also love how most of the people here have such a positive outlook on life! It’s hard for me to talk to people/ be friends with people who  are constantly serious and/or negative because they suck the joy & fun out of everything.

My favorite types of people are the ones who are ready to laugh at anything (even about crummy situations) and I feel that this describes many the foreigners friends I have made here.

Living in Korea I interact with Koreans all day. I have to say that as a whole my experiences with the Korean people has been extremely positive. I find that most Koreans are very kind and friendly, ranging from the students who yell “Teacher, I love you” down the hallway at me (those crazy middle school kids!!), to  the Korean friends I have made, and to the random strangers on the street.

Case in point: Last week it was drizzling and I didn’t have an umbrella. I decided to just tough it out in the rain during my 5 minute walk home from the bus stop to my apartment. As I was waiting on the sidewalk for the light to change so I could cross a busy street, a random Korean woman walked up to me and held her umbrella over my head.

I insisted in Korean I was okay, but she insisted emphatically that I stay under her umbrella. We talked for a few minutes (with my broken Korean) and then we crossed the road together before going our separate directions.

Since Korea is not as ethnically diverse as the US and other countries, non-Koreans really stand out. I feel that many Koreans will go out of their way to try to talk to foreigners and to show kindness that I have not often experienced in America. Of course, there are some things that Koreans do that I find rude (like shoving you in a crowd and not apologizing @__@; coughing/sneezing with their mouth open, etc.) but in general, I find Koreans very helpful and nice.

All in all, I feel really lucky to have met so many awesome students, teachers, friends, and strangers, who  really go above and beyond to try to help me and show kindness to me just because they can, not because they are obligated to.

For them and for all the other people  out there who have offered a friendly smile to me I say “Thank you. I like you. I appreciate you. You make me happy when skies are gray.**”

 

*Nod to the rainy weather that night.

English Winter Camp Video (storyaday)

This video is about the two week English winter camp I taught.

It was a mix of a detective camp and a music camp.  There was a heavy emphasis on the detective portion (7 days) and a little on the music (3 days). It was exhausting, but a lot of fun! ^^

Why I like being a middle school teacher (Storyaday: Day 15)

I could spend a lot of time writing all the reasons why I like being a middle school teacher in Korea.

But to keep my fingers from crying out in protest, I will highlight the key reason why I like being a teacher here.

My students. My students are awesome! I have met a lot of really amazing kids the past 5 months I have been living in Korea.

I am always so impressed with the kids who speak English really well and also the kids who make an effort to talk to me despite their low English speaking ability.

Since I teach a lot of students, it’s hard to get to know them all.

Also, since I am the foreign English teacher, it’s a little intimidating for most of students to talk to me because they feel like their English isn’t good enough. (This is crazy because Korean and English are radically different from each other; any English they can speak is inherently better than my Korean language skills!)

Anyways, it seems that just as some of my students started to warm up to me, the school year was ending and they getting ready to head off to High School.

Still, some of them seem to want to stay in contact with me, which I find really great. I am very curious what they will do with their lives and where they will end up in the future.

I hope to keep in contact with them and see how much their English improves over the years!

Side story: At my school there is a range of the Students’ English ability ranging from the very highly skilled students to those students who can barely read simple sentences or understand simple questions like “What did you do this weekend?”

Despite this, a few of the students with low English skills have managed to “befriend” me. This means they come by my classroom and say “Hi” even though they are unable  to have an extended conversation with me.

I think what has helped with this is that most of the students have discovered I am trying to learn Korean. When I try to speak some Korean to them (and they can hear my horrible American accent and also the fact I struggle to pronounce words/ read basic sentences) they start to feel more comfortable.

They probably think, “Wow, Korean is really hard for her, but she still is trying. I should try to speak English, even though I find it hard too.”

Despite  massive language barriers sometimes,  I find it possible to enjoy spending time with my students. I think it is cool that some of my students feel comfortable enough to reach out to me, even if they can’t always communicate everything they would wish to say.

I think the biggest part of learning a language is practice, practice, practice. It can be frustrating not being able to say what you want to say, or saying the right word or people not understanding you because of your accent. However, if you practice a lot,  everything becomes easier over time.

Here’s hoping my Korean improves dramatically by the time I am done living here! 😉

Storyaday: Day 10 “Temptation”

I am ten days into my new yearlong project: storyaday.

Today I met with some other writers who wanted a chance to write in a fun/inspired setting.

My friend Kate has a deck of cards with a lot of random words on it. You can use it for a game, or  instead, as she likes to do, you can pick 3 cards at random and then create a few paragraphs of a story using those three words.

After we finished writing we would read what we wrote out loud. I haven’t heard feedback on my writing since Spring 2011  which was my final semester at UMW. It  was refreshing, if a little nerve wracking, to read my work  out loud and hear other people’s comments.

I found it interesting to see my friend’s different writing styles. I tend to lean towards more fantastical and magical settings, but my friend Kate has a really fluid style that I think adapts to both the surreal and also the realistic. My other friend Erica tended to write about relationships, especially that concerning the topic of family/romance drama.

One of my weaker areas of writing that I want to focus on this project is that of description. I find myself writing more action and dialogue than description.

In general when I read I like to read books with minimal description. One of the reasons why I am not the biggest fan of reading the Lord of the Rings books is because Tolkien goes on and on describing EVERY leaf and every tree in the story. I don’t need to read 50 words describing one object. I am content with something as simple as, “He walked past a tree.”

Today I made more of a conscious effort to include description in my writing.  —->

Story of the day: 

Temptation (words: lush, crest, hear)

The   crest of the hill was just with in her reach, but she was too bedazzled by the sight of the lush flowers that lined the hill’s pathway. She felt tempted by the exotic aroma that emanated from the golden flowers. They smelled like honey and strawberries. And the color of the flowers! Never in her life had she seen a color so vivid.

She vaguely remembered there was a reason she was supposed to ignore the flowers along this path. Something she had heard from her mother…? Or grandfather? She couldn’t remember.

Just one whiff she thought. I just want to hold it up to my nose and smell it. She stepped off the path and reached out with her hand to touch the closest flower.  She expected it to feel silken to the touch, but instead she felt sharp needles  sink into her flesh.

She started to scream…..

daily story journa;s

2012 recap & 2013 resolutions

2012 Recap:

Again, another busy year! I was working a really horrible retail job that made me hate my life. @__@

But then I quit the job and travelled in Europe for two months! I definitely hit my goal of trying to go to as many new countries/places this year as I could!

I met a lot of really cool people, saw amazing sights, and reconnected  with some of my favorite people.

The biggest life change for me was becoming an English teacher in South Korea. I had never been to Korea before, nor taught English before so it definitely turned my life upside down.

I have been living in Korea for 4 months now and  I  finally feel like my life is starting to settle down. I like going off and having adventures, but it’s nice to feel more comfortable with where I live and the job I am doing.

Last year for my 2011 recap and 2012 resolutions I said that I wanted to blog every week. That definitely did not happen! I think this is in large part due to the traveling I did this year and the fact that I fell behind on posting my #366 Creativity Journal Project.

I already mentioned this in a recent blog post, but  #366 Creativity Journal did not turn out exactly as I had planned.  I am no where close to being finished posting this project and certain events happening in my job the next few weeks will make it difficult to play catch up.

I am disappointed in myself for not trying harder this year to get my act together. But I will count this as a learning experience as I finish up #366creativityjournal and I move into my next yearlong project.

This brings me to my 2013 resolutions:  

1) Storyaday project: I decided that this year I want to hone my writing skills. I’ve decided to write a story (fictional AND/OR nonfictional) everyday for a year. Ideally I want to write both a fiction piece and non-fiction/autobiographical piece. To keep track of my progress I will be using these handy notebooks I found.

These are 100 days storybooks. In Korea one of the big moments of being in a relationship with someone is when you have been dating your partner for 100 days. I am not sure why; this will require further investigation. Regardless, this book one way you can keep track of your dating life, or really any life event that requires you to count specific days.

The reason why I like this kind of book is because  it will be easy to track  365 days worth of writing. If I were to use a blank notebook it would be easy to miss some days or to say, “I am too tired to write tonight, I will do it tomorrow.”

Sometimes I don’t want to sit down to write because I know when I do I will end up writing a lot and it will take FOREVER. But since each page doesn’t have that much space to write, it will be easier for me to keep myself motivated with this writing project on the the days I don’t feel like writing.

One of my biggest regrets when I was living in Australia in 2010 was I didn’t keep up with a journal as much as I would have liked. I was too busy living in the moment which was great at the time, but now there are some moments that I wish I had written down so that I would remember it better.  Pictures can help jog my memory, but it doesn’t always help with capturing emotions or the conversations I had with people.

 

2) Blog, Blog, Blog. I have a blog. I should use it. Otherwise this is just a waste of my money and superior writing skillz 😉

3) Koreausa Project. I have been terrible at posting photos. Megan Mc is getting swamped with work too. But it’s a great project and I would love to keep working on it.

4) Travel, Travel, Travel! Travel to as many countries and places as possible this year.

5) Learn more Korean. It’s so useful for everyday life and also to communicate with my students.