Monday, June 23, 2014

Rainy Suncheon - Rain rain go away

I meet up with three other english teachers this past Saturday in Suncheon, the town that is located next to mine. We were suppose to enjoy the sun and do a walking tour, maybe visit a temple. But the weather had other plans. It rained right after we all met up at the Suncheon bus terminal. So we made the best of it. We ate western food at McKenzie's restaurant (delicious) then spent a couple of hours chatting at the Tea Oreum. It was a nice little tea/coffee shop near the restaurant.  After that, it was still raining, so we took a cab to the movie theatre. One of the teachers was familiar with one of the movies. She had read the book and really enjoyed it. It was called something like " A hundred year old man who climbed out a window...".

So I asked the cashier did the movie have subtitles? She said very clearly, yes, the movie had subtitles. And she did not lie. The movie did have subtitles. Korean subtitles. After sitting in our seats and realizing this (and picking our jaws off the floor) we again, made the best of it, sat back and watched the movie. It was actually good. Of course, sometimes the Korean audience laughed out loud (even the kids) while we were clueless, but it was all good.

I would love to see it english subtitles, lol.

It was a nice, slow-paced day and we all enjoyed ourselves.

Visit to the Suncheon City Nagan Fortress and Folk village

Yesterday a Korean friend picked us up for a trip to the Suncheon City Namyang Fortress. It is a traditional Korean village that is 600 years old. It has been turned into a tourist place to raise money to maintain its landmark status.

In a nutshell, straight from the pamphlet:
The village was a planned town established during the Chosun Dynasty. Boasting over 600 years of history, the village preserves culture ties, natural resources and traditional folk heritage times. A few hundred residents are still living in the village. It was designated as a historic site in 1983.

My friends and I hammed it up for the camera and enjoyed posing with the statues.

It was great to see such an amazing part of Korean history.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Happy Birthday Grandma!! - no this is not a costume and wig

Two days ago, my co-teacher invited me to her mother-in-law"s birthday dinner after school. She had allowed one of the classes to sing a Happy Birthday video for my sister a few weeks prior so I agreed.
One good turn deserves another, right?

Right after school, her husband picks us up and drives 15 minutes downtown to one of the larger apartment buildings in the area. We take the elevator upstairs and walk into a very large well-furnished apartment. There is an old petite lady on two walkers slowly moving around the living room. She freezes when we walk into the apartment. I smile and bow my head to her in greeting and in respect. My co-teacher introduces me and she throws out a few English words. I am impressed. Usually the senior citizens do not speak a word of English. "Grandma" makes her way slowly to the couch and gestures for me to sit down. Then she takes my arm and pats it and comments about how soft my skin is. I continue to smile patiently because this "shock"  is usual behavior for me by now. Most senior citizens here are shocked to see me on the streets. I usually smile and bow my head to them in respect as I keep on walking. After the initial shock, most of them smile back.

Grandma pulls out her smartphone and asks to take a photo of us together. I agreed. She takes a picture of both of us and one of me by myself.  She then texts the picture to her friends and daughter. She continues to smile brightly, pat my hand and look me over from head to toe.

Finally it is cake and dinner time. My co-teacher videotapes me and one grandson singing Happy Birthday to Grandma in English. During dinner my co-teacher says lightly, "She thought you had on a costume and wig when you walked in". 


This old woman did not have any point of reference for someone who looked like me so I HAD to have on a costume and wig.  In sixty-nine years on this earth, there was nothing she had ever seen that explained my existence to her.


On the one hand I was shocked at those words. On the other hand, I understood her sincere ignorance. There was no malice in her ignorance. She honestly did not know. And she was such a sweetie. By the end of the evening, we were on our second round of pictures. Grandma put on a nice coat of lipstick so we could take several selfies together. We hammed it up for the camera and acted silly. It was fun. I  was glad I put a smile on an old lady's face and laughter in her heart on her birthday.

Ignorance be damned.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Futball Russia vs So Ko

I was walking up the mountain to my school this week when I heard children shouting. I am used to that sound now but not at 8:40 in the morning. As I get closer to the school, I hear children cheering and singing the national anthem, loudly. Oh my goodness, they were watching the Russia vs SK futball match! I hurried to bow and greet my principal in his office. (He had the game on, too). As I walked up the two flights to my office, every classroom had the game on. I hurried up and put my things down and went across the hall to watch with one of the 3rd grade classes. It was pretty cool to see the entire school wrapped up in the game, supporting their country. Once it hit 9:00 am, we had to turn off the tvs and get back to the business of "learning".

I bet the principal watched the entire game, LOL!

Korea kicked Russia's butt.  Go So Ko!

 Korea's butt was kicked and candy was thrown at the soccer players when the soccer team returned back to the country. The throwing of the candy was an insult.

Two lessons learned here:
1) I am not yet a true soccer fan since I did not find out the real winner, lol!
2) Come on, South Korea, make me proud, next time make it past the first round of games, man!! I promise not to throw any "insult candy" at you! )


Apricot picking

I picked apricots yesterday during lunchtime.  No, not on a farm. At school.

During lunchtime, my co-teacher asked if I wanted to go get some apricots. We walked outside and crossed the schoolyard. There was a huge apricot tree with a large net stretched over the monkey bars to catch the fruit. It made me smile to think that a school would have a tree full of fresh fruit on the playground. My long arms came in handy. I was able to reach into the net and get the freshest fruit. We ended up with several bags and washed them in the sink in the administrative office.

It was sweet and delicious. I even bought some home to share with my primary school today.

Who would ever think that a teacher could go fruit-picking at lunchtime?  Sweeeeeeet.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The heart of a lion

Whenever I get down and sad (really homesick), I  remind myself that I have the heart of a lion and my ancestors' warrior blood racing through my veins.

And then...I'm good.

Oh! And a mango smoothie!
And then...I'm REALLY good.


Tears on Teacher's Day

It was Teacher's Day, which is really celebrated here. I was not expecting anything since I was a new teacher and had not really connected yet with the students. My secondary school was closed so I co-taught with one of the 3rd grade teachers (at my primary school)  for four classes.

One of the students gave me this letter as a gift in the afternoon (respectfully with both hands).

It warmed my heart and bought tears to my eyes. It made me think that all the sacrifices that I have made to be here, are worth it. If I can have a real impact on these students. then everything will be worth it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Down by the riverside

There is a river down the road from where I stay. It is near a park and is, of course, surrounded by mountains and high-rises. Somehow, between the river, mountains and buildings, there is a beautiful strength.

You can almost feel it.


Sometimes, I feel like a shadow here. Moving silently, dark, almost invisible, retreating. 
No connections.