Friday, September 12, 2008

Chusok, foreigner's club, and life

First of all in response to various requests/questions:
1. Please don't hate me for not having pictures up yet. I have 13 hours of jet lag and 5 and 6 year old kids during the day for my first week in Korea. They will be up soonish, I promise.
2. Yes, I also find it ironic that I'm teaching sports vocabulary to little kids. However, even I know that you use a basketball to play basketball with and that's about as advanced as we go so it's really not a big deal. I'm looking forward to the next unit (hobbies) a lot more.
3. There are other English speaking teachers and my supervisor speaks English and Korean. I have a classroom helper who only speaks Korean but it works out alright because I'm great at miming things and using my dictionary. Why can't I have milk with the kids? Na lactose allergu (literally: I lactose allergy). Point at milk. Allergu.

Thursday morning had more class observation for me which was fine if a bit dull. I like working with the kids better. I got to teach a couple of classes in the afternoon and that was fun. At 8 and 9 years old students it is much easier to communicate since they know more English. Then I spent a couple of hours making hats for the kids for Chusok with the other teachers. Chusok is the Korean version of Thanksgiving celebrating the harvest but it's also about ancestors. Everyone returns home and the country basically stops for a day (Saturday). They also give gifts (more on that later). After work, my boss took me out to dinner with her kids and Jay, the English teacher who is Korean but spent 12 years in the states. Where did we go you ask? Outback Steakhouse, I kid you not. Interestingly, I was the only American in there. Apparently it's very popular with the Koreans--there was a 40 minute wait on a Thursday night though we only actually waited about 30. I played tic tac toe and hangman with my boss's kids. Hangman is a very popular game with my students and it also works for reviewing the day's vocabulary. Anyways, as sweet as it was for her to take me out to dinner, I would have preferred Korean food because after all, I'm in Korea. By the time we finished dinner around 9 I was exhausted since I keep waking up at 4am and being wide awake. However, Jay invited me to hang out at the foreigners club and I couldn't resist the temptation of getting to unwind with other English speakers.

Club Psycho is actually a pretty mellow bar with huge mugs of beer for 3,000 won (about $3.00). They have any music you could possibly want to listen to from the Beatles to an indie album that came out a month ago. I got to meet other teachers, play pool (free!) and just relax. I ended up leaving around 10:30 though because having been up from 4am the jet lag was killing me. Jay helped me find my bus and my first solo bus ride was taken at night. It's a little tricky because I can't understand the station names but I just have watch closely for landmarks and I made it home alright. I managed to fall asleep at my laptop with the lights on. I woke up disoriented at 4am as per usual but managed to turn the lights off and fall back to sleep.

I know that Friday is always bad for little kids because of the Big, Exciting Weekend but Friday before a major holiday is rather difficult. I am officially of the camp that says giving little kids any amount of sugar when they have to sit still afterward is Evil and a plot of the powers that be against us. For Chusok I got a purse filled with body products from one of the kid's moms. I have no idea what any of it is but the purse is pretty. My boss also gave me a ginormous box of canned ham stuff. Danish ham. It must weigh 15lbs. I read about this in my Korean culture shock book but reading about gifts and getting large boxes of ham are two entirely different things. Two things passed through my mind at that point. One, good thing I don't keep kosher. Two, I won't have to buy any protein products for the next few weeks. Noodles and ham! Rice and ham! Corn flakes and ham! Maybe not with my cornflakes. We went out to dinner after work to a fancy Korean barbecue place. The food was really tasty and I got to try soju (Korean vodka like drink) and a plum wine that was incredible. Very good for washing away the taste of an accidentally eaten jalapeno type pepper.

The Food Catch 22:
If you have finished everything your host gave you or is served at a restaurant, they think that you liked it and want more. If you don't finish everything you didn't like it and want something else. I'm small! I don't eat very much! I loved it...and don't want anymore. My culture book is no help on this subject. It was written by a man. He probably ate 3 helpings of everything.

After dinner we went to club psycho again with a bunch of teachers this time. It was fantastic. I also met another English teacher who is obsessed with Hannah Arendt too! We are going to borrow each others Arendt books and he told me the best English language book stores in Seoul. Obviously there was much excitement. One of my fellow teachers was a bit perplexed by this.

Me: I found someone to talk to about Arendt! *bounces*
R: ...who?
Me: My favorite political philosopher who wrote a lot about violence!
R:Wait, what do you mean political philosophy? What is that?
Me: Errr--you know Plato right? That whole tradition of writing philosophically about politics that evolved from that.
R: Uh, right.
Me: It's fantastic! *bounces off to go talk more books with Arendt fan #2*.

However, R did get my Dr. Who reference when I mentioned that our vacuum looks like a dalek. I secretly call it my little dalek. We are on a mission together against the evil dirt in my classroom. "Exterminate!"

I'm going to go make myself coffee now. Remind me to never blog again before coffee.


Nancy K said...

A fellow geek! You must be thrilled.
The bar sounds like a great place to hang out and meet people.

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

I am thrilled to meet a fellow geek. Geeks Unite! Geeks Unite at Night! G.U.N.! ...I really need to get out more. National holidays are Not conducive to being a tourist.

Jessica said...

I'm glad things are going well so far. Hope you can take a break and go bouldering! When you do you have to tell me all about it.

Josh said...

you are funny..... I'm amazed that you manage to convey your fast-speaking nature on a blog