Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sick as a dawg!

So this last month or so I'm pretty sure I had bronchitis or mono, or some horrible hybrid of the two. Being sick in another country, well, is not the easiest thing in the world. Being in an unfamiliar place, not knowing where things are and not being able to speak or read the language in order to figure out where to go and what to do to get better, on top of having no energy to get out of bed = no fun.

My first attempt at getting medicine was going to the hospital. Luckily I had a friend who has been here for two years, and he told me what I need to say to the taxi driver to get to the hospital, he met me at the hospital and found out where I needed to go and who I needed to talk to. But it was all in vain, because at this point, I hadn't received my insurance card yet. He then proceeded to take me to the pharmacy, where I told the pharmacist what I needed.

Did the medicine work? Nope, not one bit. I continued to sleep 14 hour nights only to wake up and go to work and then come back home and sleep again. On the weekends, all I would do is sleep. And maybe, after two days of sleep, I would have enough energy to walk to the store to get food. But there was no way in hell I had enough energy to stand up long enough to cook food. I was lucky if I was able to take a shower!

One day a week or two ago, I was eating lunch with my co-worker, Mrs. Hwang. She was concerned.

She asked me, "When you get home in the evenings, are you really lonely Blythe? Do you get depressed?"
I laughed and responded,"No, why do you ask?"
She replied,"Well a couple of teachers and I have noticed that you have lost weight, and we thought it was because you are lonely and depressed."

I insured her that if I have lost weight here, it's because Korean food is a lot healthier than food in America. Later on I thought about it a bit more, and realized if I had lost weight, it was probably because I was sick and hadn't be eating. And probably because Korean food is good half of the time, and the other half... we'll just say it's 'interesting'.

Another co-teacher of mine, Mrs. Jeon (sounds like John), noticed that I was coughing a lot. Hackin' up all sorts of nonsense. She went to the pharmacy and got me medicine. For that kind gesture, and amongst others, I now call her my 'Guardian Angel'. She's the only person here that I can feel free to ask her about anything, and I know she'll understand and help. It's good to have her, I'm really lucky.

I felt better for like two days and then was sick again, this time with headaches and body aches, along with the coughing and extreme exhaustion. The same exact day I got my insurance card, Mrs. Jeon took me to a clinic.

At the clinic, we waited at most 2 minutes to see the doctor. He asked me questions in English and knew all the medical terms. Then he proceeded to stick a long, thin, skinny, metal rod-like camera up my nose. This was a very strange experience. There were flat screen tv's all around the room so EVERYONE could see up my nose. Mrs. Jeon had a pretty good laugh (Heck, I did too :). I couldn't keep my eyes open because it felt soooo weird. One jerk and man o man, that thing would be up in my brain.

Then he takes a similar camera, and sticks it down my throat. And again, everyone in the room could see what the doctor was looking at. On the end of the rod-like camera were pinchers (they looked similar to the pinchers pincher bugs have). He pinched my tongue a couple of times, don't know why he pinched my tongue, but it hurt. He stuck the camera far back into my throat and made me gag, then proceeded to spray some stuff in my throat. Not water. Don't know what it was.

He gave me a prescription for three different medicines. He told me to take them three times a day with food. When I was checking out, the visit cost a whole wopping 3 dollars. The pharmacy was in the same building, and when I got my medicine, they package each dosage (the three pills) together in a little wax paper pocket. This is brilliant! When you are sick, opening bottles and keeping track of what you have taken is hard enough, let alone in Korean. The only downside I see to it though is if you have small children around. Definitely not child proof. More like idiot proof. And the cost of the medicine? $4. That's right, $4 for 3 prescriptions.

The hardest part about taking the medicine was taking it with food. I had no food in my place because I had no energy to go grocery shopping. So I would sleep 15 hours, to be awake for 4 hours, and then go back to sleep for another 12. In that 4 hour window, I would get food, eat, and take my medicine.

This time, the medicine worked! Hooray! I've gone out of the house every day since :) And let me tell you , it was a long time coming. I felt like a prisoner in my own body. I can explore Korea again! And go dancing! And meet up with friends! And best of all, I can take showers and eat food! :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A letter from my student Ye-Ji

Bung Eo PPang

This pastry is so deRicious not only did I have to take a picture of it, but I have to write a blog about it too. It's just that good.

Bung Eo PPang sounds more like it's pronounce Pung O Pan. Bung Eo means fish and Ppang means bread. Don't worry, it doesn't taste like fish bread, if fish bread were an actual food. It is only named that because it looks like a fish.

So the outside part tastes like a like fluffy crispy waffle and the inside is filled with custard. I just discovered a stand on my way home from school that sells these three for one dollar (1000 won). If I get fat here, Bung Eo PPang is the reason why.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody!

When I was still in Sacramento, my dancer friend Jamie told me all about how she was going to South Korea to teach English as a second language. I am definitely thankful for her because without her knowledge and courage (and being my human guinea pig), I may have never decided to teach English here... because I would have had my doubts. And now, since she has been here longer than I have, she is my swing sansei. She knows where to go, who to talk to, where to get the information... she's just got it.

So I've been out swing dancing a total of three times and let me tell you something, Koreans definitely know what's up! I would have gone out more, but I've been kinda sick :( Anywho, my theory on why Koreans are so good at swing dancing is the mechanics of it all. Koreans know how to execute a move that is taught to them. It's like a math problem, you input one two triple step and out comes Lindy. Also, practice makes perfect and Koreans know how to work. I actually learned recently that Korea works the most out of any other country in the world. True fact.

If I go out on the dance floor and ask any random Korean to dance, they will not only know how to lead, but lead the moves they know very well. Probably 75% of the time. If I go out on the dance floor and ask any random Korean to freestyle, that would kinda be like throwing a wrench into the works. See, all Koreans can regurgitate moves, the really great dancers have musicality as well.

Then it comes to me dancing with Koreans. I'm about 75% musicality aka I do what I want! So there is tension (haha get it? get it?) at times. Also, I'm a lot bigger than most Korean woman... and I'm not just saying height (there are actually a lot of Koreans taller than me), but frame. The women are petite and on average weigh 100 pounds (if that). I found out this past weekend that my shoe size is one size bigger than the biggest shoe they carry for women here. So you could imagine that dancing with me might be a little different then what the leads are use to here.

Nevertheless that doesn't stop them from asking me to dance! Jamie told me on our first night out to not be surprised if nobody asks me to dance because most of the time Korean men are really shy. So I was prepared not to get asked to dance. But luckily that wasn't the case... we were both asked to dance a lot.

All the dancing bars are in the Seoul area, so from the first step out of my apartment to the first step into the dance it takes about two hours. I have to take a bus to the subway, then transfer subways, then walk to the venue. It sounds like a long time, but for some reason time flies on the subway. It never seems like two hours.

All in all, I can't wait to go out dancing again. It's amazing. Not only because of the dancing, but because of the interaction. I don't get to interact with a lot of Koreans because for one, I don't speak Korean and two, even if a Korean knows how to speak English, they are usually too shy to speak English to me... they are afraid to be incorrect. Also, they have this family/group mentality which makes it difficult for an outsider like me to make new friends, because I'm not a part of any group yet. Hopefully I can be part of the Lindy family/group. Once someone has danced with me they usually open up more, and I like it. I want to get to know as many Koreans as I possibly can. They are good people :)

Video Time!

The Tranky Doo, Korean Style.
Lindy Hop at Happy Bar

If you are someone in Korea looking for a good night of swing dancing, check these blogs out:

Nalla's: Lindy Explorer

Adamas': Social Dance - Swing Dance in Korea

And it's also nice to know the metro website:

Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation

Manseok Park

One great thing about my school is the view. In front of the school, there is Manseok Park. It is so gorgeous and large. People run around the lake, there is a soccer field, basketball court, festival area... you name it, Manseok Park has it. I took some pictures for you to see.

That' s all I really have to say. Manseok Park is amazing. I know, not much to this blog post but sometimes less is more :) When I eventually do spend some more time in Manseok Park, I'll tell you more about it. How's that sound? :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Step Into My Office...

The main reason I am here: To Teach English as a Second Language. Songwon Middle School has around 1000 students. The school has five floors and my office and classroom are located on the fifth floor. The students are 13, 14, and 15 years old and are put in classes according to their age and academic level i.e. the high achievers, intermediate, and low level learners. The school is literally five minutes from my apartment. I can actually see my apartment building from my office window :)

If you were to drive up through the front gate, it would look a little something like this:

When it comes to teaching, I create my own lesson plans for my students. I do not follow a curriculum, they just emphasize that my main focus is on English speaking. This week I am going to an orientation, so I might find out a bit more to what I need to be doing.

Every week I teach twenty classes and each class has forty students in it. I pretty much see every student in the school once a week. This rotation allows me to teach one lesson per week. With three hours of prep time a day, I have fifteen hours in a week to come up with one lesson plan, which means I am way ahead of schedule with my lesson plans. It's a nice feeling to be prepared. And if the lesson I put together isn't working for some reason, it gives me time to fix it. Usually with my one lesson a week, I adjust the lesson to be more difficult for the high achievers, and for the lower level learners I dumb it down.

My classroom is great. It has a projector mounted to the ceiling, two white boards, computer, teacher's desk, six windows with picture blinds, seven tables for students to sit at, and central heating. If you would like a tour, visit My Classroom in Suwon, that is, if you have facebook. Still haven't been able to load a video on blogspot yet. And here are some pictures:

The students are full of life and lots of energy. They always say hello to me in the hallways and then a lot of the time follow with, "You are beautiful". It feels awkward for random strangers, my students no less, to tell me I'm beautiful all the time. But it is nice on the days when I am feeling a little self-conscious about how I look :) The third thing they tell me the most is that I have big eyes... and not scary big eyes like the big bad wolf, but they think that having big eyes are a good thing.

The food during lunch is usually delicious, and you really can't beat the $45 a month it costs to have it. There is eating etiquette though... there are places on your plate that you have to put certain food (I don't know if this is a school thing or a cultural thing) and you can't leave the table until everyone at the table you are sitting at is done eating (which sucks sometimes when you have things to do during lunch, but it's a nice gesture). One thing you can't do in front of people is blow your nose, which is frustrating because most all of their food is spicy. I don't know about you, but spicy food can get my nose running, and this can be an inconvenience at times.

Something that I learned the hard way is they don't supply toliet paper at the school. It's BYOTP here at the school, and I've noticed in a lot of public restrooms too. And it's not like they run out all the time, they literally do not have holders in the bathrooms. Rarely do you see paper towels and if you're lucky, there is a hand dryer.

But yet, after lunch, most Koreans brush their teeth. They brush their teeth three times a day. And when they are sick, they wear masks to make sure they don't get others sick. Seems like a contradiction to me, but who am I to say which hygienic routine is more important.

Kinda getting off topic... my co-workers. My co-workers have been so nice and they are always making conversation with me. I was feeling sick to my stomach one day and my co-workers notice I was having a difficult time with my food. They thought I didn't like the food. I told them I did, but that I was feeling nauseous. Mrs. Hwang took me to the school nurse to get some medicine, she offered to take me to the hospital, and she made me rice cereal not once, but twice to help my stomach. Totally above and beyond.

My other co-worker Mrs. Chang, she has been getting all my paperwork together and just been on top of everything concerning me. It's really nice to have co-workers that are looking out for you. Especially in a place where half the time I can't figure things out for myself.

All in all being a teacher is just as I imagined. It's everything I want in a career. It's a job that I can be proud of and that makes me feel important. Most of all, I love doing it and being here, which makes it not feel like a 'job' at all. And that's the kicker :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My New Digs!

I have waited awhile to have an apartment all to myself. Even though I like having roommates, there is always something special about having your own place.

My apartment is on the sixth floor, and highest floor, of my apartment building. Now you think I would have a fantastic view of the entire city living on the sixth floor. Apparently my apartment building is like the midget of buildings in Suwon. Don't get me wrong, I like my view, it's just funny to think I'm six floors up and still dwarfed by others.

The best thing about my apartment (besides that its all mine) would have to be that the heat comes through the floors. I love my warm floors because my feet are always cold. Also, it warms up my bed :)

The worst thing would have to be the water pressure of my shower, and that my shower is also my bathroom, so it gets my entire bathroom wet. The plus though is my bathroom stays really clean because I have to wipe it down every day :)

Location, location, location! I live super super close to work, it's only a five minute walk. I can actually see my apartment building from my office. I've always wanted to be in walking distance from my job and live in the city, and I have that here :) I am so close to many different stores and restaurants which makes things very convenient and I walk a lot more now than I ever did in Sacramento. Also, I don't consider myself a very good driver and I don't really like driving, so it's nice that I don't need a car here.

Here is a tour of my apartment. I hope you love it as much I as do :)

Note: I've been trying to upload the video in my blog all day, but it never completely loads. I will try to load it later, but if you have Facebook, you can see the video there. Here's the link: My apartment in Suwon. And here are some pictures.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More to come...

I made it! In one piece and everything :) I have lots of things to say, but no computer to upload photos and movies to go with what I have to say. So sit tight little ones, mama has to wait for an internet connection in her apartment. Until then, much love!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Introduction: Goodbye Hello

California is referenced in multiple medias time and time again as THEE place to be. Living in the state for the majority of my life has provided a wealth of enriching experiences that I would not trade for the world. Although California is the perfect locale for living life, the people are really the ones (in my mind) who make the sun shine so bright.

In the history that is my life, the days before I leave to live in another country are chock-full of bittersweet goodbyes. These last three weeks have been especially bitter when it comes to goodbyes. After having a tough year of being laid-off and trying to re-establish myself in society, I finally gained speed. I figured out what I wanted to do as my career (teach English as a second language), I was working at jobs that I did not only love, but also gave me the experience I needed, and I was working forty hours a week. I was feeling less like a leech and more independent, prideful even. Also, living
in Sacramento for five years has allotted me a network of loving friends and family, who were there for me through the good times and the bad.

I'd been talking with a recruiter every now and again about teaching English in South Korea but I got the impression that I had applied too late to go teach there any time soon. My recruiter set up an interview and I thought it would be good practice. An hour after the interview they offered me the position. They gave me one day to look over the contract and give them an answer. If I were to say yes (which I did), they wanted me there by November 1st. It was October 8th. Talk about going from 'gaining speed' to Mach 3 in less than an hour!

Teaching English in South Korea is an amazing opportunity for me. This is th
e sweet. The bitter is leaving the life that I have built in Sacramento. It has been really difficult for me to say goodbye to all the people in my life knowing that I will not see them in a year, and some of these people I might not ever see again.

But you have to accentuate the positives, right? The goodbyes are almost at an end. It is the time now to focus on the hellos.

Hello South Korea.

My Visa Photo