Friday, May 30, 2014

Phenomenal Woman - Maya Angelou Rest In Peace

Phenomenal Woman
By Maya Angelou:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.

I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.

I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.

I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.

I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise.
Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.

Rest in paradise Sista Maya Angelou!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Excuse me, where is the bathroom?

I have been using the same bathrooms as the students for the past several weeks. I always wondered why I never saw another teacher in there but didn’t worry about it. Well, now the bathrooms are getting messier and messier and messier by the day. I think there is a secret, clean bathroom that the foreign teacher does NOT know about.  One that only the Korean teachers know about.  When I find it, I will let you know.

Pink nails – no husband?!

I have been receiving a few comments at school on my pink nail polish and wondered why none of the female teachers had on any color. Well, I found out today that if a woman wears nail polish here it implies that she does not like to cook.  Cooking and housekeeping are very important here and are designated as women’s work.  Having a perfect manicure would suggest that you have other priorities.  

Do you know how many well-manicured women back home, know how to burn in the kitchen?  I could not help it, I laughed so hard.  Some things I can co-sign and this is not one of them. I will wear the brightest, prettiest colors against my chocolate skin with a smile. 

Sick in Korea part 2 - What's up Doc?

I found out why people here do NOT take sick days.  It is because their doctor visits are very brief and frequent, low-impact events.  You know, how back home if you are a “walk-in” to the doctor’s office, you will die from natural causes before they call your name? Well, both of my doc visits this week have lasted less than 15 minutes each, from the time I walked in, waited, saw the doctor and walked out. No lie.  They have no magazines because you will not have time to read it. The nurse acts as a movie usher, once the doc diagnoses you, she takes your elbow (gently) and walks you out while ushering in the next patient. 

Teachers are part of the national health insurance in South Korea (monthly paycheck deductions) so the co-pay is generally $4,000 Korean Won ($4 US bucks). My medicine cost less than $5000 won each time.  Each clinic/doc office has a pharmacy either next door or downstairs for convenience. The pharmacy wait was less than the entire doctor visit. The total time was less than 30 minutes. 

OK, that is the good part. LOL.

The part that makes me scratch my head is… the unlabeled prescription medicine.  The doc says what is wrong with you. The pharmacist gives you the drugs in little clear, square bags that have the name of the pharmacy and the phone # and nothing else. I was lucky that one of my pills clearly said TYLENOL, lol. The others? No idea. The first time I went to the doc, I had a high fever and could barely think straight so I took whatever they gave me. Yes, I paused! But only for a moment.  Most of us teachers have signed legal documents for the bank, immigration, apt complex and phone company that have all been written in Korean.  No one is going to translate an entire document for you, believe me.  So the first time, I took the unlabeled pills and prayed. The second doc visit, my fever was gone and I insisted on getting the names of the prescription.  

The doctor was pissed and yelled at my co-teacher over the phone, but I did not budge. So...he gave me the names of the drugs…in Korean. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sick in Korea part 1

Got sick from something in the school lunch on Wednesday.  Fever, closed throat, vomiting, cough for four days. Being sick in South Korea just reminded me of just how far away from home I really am. Feel sad and isolated. I am back to square one. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

School lunchee

I can usually count on getting my daily serving of fruit and vegetables in my school lunch.

The staples are rice and some kind of soup. There is also usually fish or chicken. And of course, kimchi, the official dish of the country. Kimchi is fermented cabbage and is spicy. I try to avoid the spicy foods as I struggle with my chopsticks, determined to win our daily war.The spicy food makes my nose run, tears up my eyes and aggravates my stomach. Seems a high price to pay for a meal. The lunch pictured below is rice with seaweed (very popular here), fish, tartar sauce, kimchi, soup and apple slices.

Koreans, generally, do not drink water with their meals. So after eating and putting their trays away, everyone fills up a small metal cup for water to wash down the meal. After we recycle our uneaten food, of course.

Here is a pic of the lunch ladies. All of them are very kind and sweet.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sweet pig feet in the teacher's break room

I walked into the teacher's room during break time today. There are usually beverages, communal snacks and rice cakes to share. One of the male teachers picked up a plate of pig feet and offered me some with a smile. Excuse me? I glanced at the clock, it was 10:32am. It only took me a second to recover. I smiled and took a piece. It was sweetened and we dipped it in soy sauce.  It was my first time eating that part of the pig. I am, however, familiar with some of his other body parts. I was able to eat everything but the knuckles and toenails. 

LOL, don't judge me, after all, I am in Rome. 

Ain't no mountain high enough

Remember when the old folks would talk about how far they had to walk, with no shoes, in ten feet of snow/rain/hail to get to school? Well, if I told you I had to walk up a mountain, would you believe me?

My commute is a 3 minute walk, up a mountain. Sometimes 4 minutes if I am dragging that morning. While I have my head down, breathing deeply, counting every painful step, the students race past me yelling "Hi, Teacher".

I cannot answer them until I catch my breath.

Once I get to the mountaintop, the view is so worth it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Feel the Fear and do it anyway

I had a lot of fear before I stepped on the plane to come to Korea.  Fear of the unknown. Fear of being away from my family and close friends.  Large buckets of fear.
It is to be expected. 

There were so many questions racing through my mind. How will I get along with my co-teachers? Will I be able to teach and discipline the students?  How do I navigate this new world without my usual support system?

The best way I have found to handle all these changes happening in my life at the same time is to say a prayer every morning and walk out of my door with an open mind and a smile.  With these three things, you can get pretty far.  I am trying hard to have a positive attitude every day and to find the humor in things that happen.

Got on the wrong bus for an extra hour?  Enjoy the unexpected adventure.  Laugh and make sure to jump off at my correct stop so it will NOT be two hours.

Cannot get a cellphone for weeks because of a government cell phone shutdown? Use facebook messaging and skype to keep in touch with family, friends and co-newbies. I know it is being tracked but you gotta laugh and be happy for the technology.

Beef, chicken and fruit cost more than a mortgage payment? Learn to eat the cheaper local food to supplement my diet.  Smile as I eat kimbap again.

Every weekend, I challenge myself to walk to a nearby area in my neighborhood. I am trying to work my way up to catching a bus to visit my co-newbies in other nearby towns.  I am learning to push through the fear in small steps,  just a little each day will decrease it. 

Eventually I will be able to look back to where I once stood and smile at my courage.

Get on the (wrong) bus

So I got on the wrong bus yesterday. I was downtown and was a 5 minute bus ride away from home. There are two buses that are very similar, the 99 and the 99-1.

Well, I had seen both buses leave my area and had taken both downtown, so I figured that both would go back up the mountain to my house.  

I jumped on the 99-1 and figured, what da heck? It should take me home. Well, it went up to a familiar light and just as I was starting to relax in the front seat, the bus made a RIGHT TURN and sped off in the wrong direction. Well, the right direction for the bus but the wrong direction for me. No! I tensed up and then decided to think positive and go along for the adventure instead of jumping off a moving bus.  

Well, the adventure took me one hour through Suncheon, a metropolitan area. We rode past the university, police station, post office, stores, stores and more stores. The driver took on more and more and more passengers. I finally gave up my front seat to an old man. The driver took on so many passengers that at one point there were two girls riding the bus on the front steps near the driver. Unbelievable. I grew concerned when I could not look past all the passengers to see when the bus driver was back in my neighborhood. Even being the tallest on the bus, did not help me to see past the bodies packed like sardines.

Finally, I thought I saw a familiar landmark through the window! The green overpass near the house.  I reached past a few heads and pushed the button twice. The bus and all her passengers leaned forward as the driver braked.  I tried not to push as I pushed my way through the bodies to the back door saying “excuse me, excuse me, EXCUSE ME”  as if they understood me. I got to the back door and it was starting to close. I yelled out a little desperately “Trying to get out, please open the door again”. The driver reopened the door and I, happily, jumped off the bus and almost skipped to my apartment building.  When I got in the apartment, I took a breath and fell across the bed. 

Home at last. 

Red light district

I took another walk around the neighborhood the other day and was surprised to find more than 25 "love motels" all within a 4 block radius, just minutes from my house. "Love motels" are mostly inexpensive motels (some which are themed) which cater to "professionals" and discrete individuals interested in sexual activities. They are all opened 24 hours daily.

Seeing this many in one area makes me think this is a red-light district, located within a mile of my school!

Korean TV

Just an FYI, Korean television is just as bad/good as the tv programming back home. There are soap operas, dramas, violent movies, reality shows and game shows. Korean television includes cooking shows, various news outlets, comedies and K-pop shows.  Just about any type of show can be seen here.  I have not seen, however, the real-life murder mystery programs. But, since I do not speak the language, I may be missing it.

The few American movies that are shown here are extremely violent. The kind with excessive guns, explosions and car chases. There also seems to be a preferred run of Marvel comic movies. I have seen 3 different versions of Spider man in two weeks. There is cable here but, with the language barrier, it is not worth the price.

Sometimes I wish the tv shows had subtitles because they do seem interesting. While watching Korean tv, I put the sound up high (there is good music) and try to interpret the story line by their body language. One funny thing here, they blur out any lit cigarettes on tv but show the gun violence, hmmmnnnn.

At the end of a newscast, the anchors bow to the tv audience and then to each other before the credits roll.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My (semi) private office

I do not have my own classroom. Instead I share a storage room with another lady. She is older and very kind to me. She has access to the cafeteria and shares her fruit and milk with me. I, in turn, bring her some of my sweets. 

See how luxurious my (semi) private office is?