A day in the life…

14 10 2010



First alarm goes off.  Hit snooze.  Second alarm goes off.  Hit snooze.  Third alarm goes off.  Hit snooze.


Roll up out of bed to put on water for coffee and check the interwebs for news from the other side of the planet.  Find that not much has happened since 8 hours prior during the last check.  Get on Skype for a chat with Mom, then put down (at least) one full french press of black coffee.  Kill another hour mindlessly meandering social networks and travel articles on the laptop.


Leave the apartment to catch the bus downtown for weekly language exchange.  Arrive at the Western chain coffee shop just in time to wait an hour resulting from his ‘faulty’ alarm clock on a newly purchased smart phone.  Twiddle my thumbs in secret gratitude for the delay as I can now enjoy the beautiful fall weather, $6 Americano, and my iPod instead of struggling with a Korean lesson.  Him – “How can I make it up to you??”  Me – “Hmmm… I guess you can just owe me lunch.”


Head to the restaurant for lunch of beef rib and rice noodle soup.  Kick my shoes off, step up to the eating floor and sit on a pillow at the shin-high table.  Try to avoid sticking out more than I already do being the only white person in the restaurant by graceful use of the eating utensils, with no such luck.  Eating wet, tough ribs off the bone with flat, metal chopsticks is no easy task!


Stop at the corner mart on the way into work to purchase good-behavior-bribe candy for the otherwise hellish kindergartners, and bananas to try to share with my Korean co-workers, though knowing they will most undoubtedly be refused.  No matter how much observation I commit to the curious habits of this sharing-oriented culture, I always manage to make the wrong choice.  Knowing I will more than likely leave work today having regretfully eaten 4 bananas out of guilt of letting them go bad overnight, it’s better to offer and be potentially refused, than not offer at all.. right?

1:40PM – 8:20PM

At work.  Chase a few kindergartners around the desks to physically drag them out of class by the arms and position them arms-up, facing the wall near the teachers’ room.  (Still getting used to the necessity of physical discipline here..)  Next class am told I have “good fashion today” by one of my 3rd grade girls, and soon after, that I have “strange fingernails”.  Next class I must, once again, try to contain my immaturity and inner desire to screw around and talk about video games, hierarchy of cuss words, and words I do and do not know in Korean and keep these three 5th grade boys on track.  Me – “DOES she have black hair?”  Boys – “Yes, she do.”  Grrrrrrrr…


Head out to the little hilltop park near my apartment for a workout.  While using the rope/pulley arm workout thingy, can see the only other patron of this outdoor makeshift gym, an older Korean man, out of the corner of my eye trying to get my attention.  Here we go..  I hesitently pull out my earphones to a barrage of Korean.  Me – “Uhhh.. Hangu mal, choko..” (I don’t know what the hell you’re saying to me!!!)  Didn’t solve the problem.  Me – “Uhhh… Migook?”  (America?)  Him – “Ahhhh USA!!”  Me (in my head) – “Success!!”  After exchanging broken English/Korean life stories I am given an extensive tutorial on how to use the rope/pulley arm workout thingies ‘correctly’.


Begin receiving the usual Friday night texts to head out to PNU for drinks.  I crack some soju while getting ready then head out to catch the bus.  Arrive at one of the many “foreigner bars” of the area to mingle with foreign counterparts and a plethora of Korean women presumably looking to catch a line outta this place.


Usual weekend-night dilemma left in the wake of my refusal to take $20 cabs home: either finish my last drink and dip out before public transit closes, or commit to stay out till 6AM.  Again.  Ehhh, you guessed it; I’m in for the long haul!  Few drinks here, few there, time for second dinner with the group, then norae-bang!  Nothing like a private karaoke room to speed along the sunrise.


Hop on the first subway, haggard and exhausted among beautiful Koreans already crowding the surrounding seats.  Arrive home to a sunlit room and lay on my rock-hard mattress for sleep.


The end of the innocence

29 07 2010

Their chubby cheeks, broken English, and awkward dispositions make them appear cute and innocent, but I’m on to them!  Beneath their cocoons of deception are inquisitive little minions of Satan just waiting to escape.  The following is brought to you in part by Grand Theft Auto and the World Wide Web.

Me: “Where is Elliot today?”

Students: “Teacher, he suicide.”

Me: “Oh, he committed suicide?  Again?”

Me: “What is a ring?  Where does a ring go?”
2nd grade class: “Here!  (*points up middle fingers*)  Here, on the f*ck you finger!”  (*giggles uncontrollably*)
  • A middle schooler’s hangman on the white board:  “SUN OF A BEACH”

I stole this gem from a friend of mine:

Teacher(on the topic of jail/prison):  “What do you find in prisons?”
Kids:  “Black people!”

T-shirt of a 8-ish year old boy walking around town with his father:  Cartoon picture of Kermit the Frog with the caption “Pig F*cker”.  Wow.  WOW.

  • Yesterday I was given a detailed lesson by one of my middle school boys on the hierarchy of  English cuss words, complete with a labeled graph.
“Teacher, what’s English, uhhh… Cigarette!.. uhh… This!” (*dips finger and sticks in lip*)
Me (quizzically):  “Where do you come up with this stuff??”  (Side note: no chewing tobacco in Korea…)

All on seperate occasions:

“Teacher, MAFIA spelling?”
“Teacher, COCAINE spelling?”
“Teacher, SUICIDE spelling?”
“Teacher, AIDS spelling?”

Excerpt from a “Get Well Card” I had my 5th graders write to one another:

"Dear Jake, I hope you get very sick, and I hope you die of AIDS."

I don’t even want to try to recall how many times I have been Dong Chim-ed by the kids…. (meaning “poop-needle, which describes the common action of them sticking a finger or two up your ass in the middle of the crowded hallway.  This is perfectly okay behavior, by the way..)

And for my personal favorite:

Side note: I know some people are/will be alarmed by this piece of writing in the picture,.  I have brought it up to the other teachers in my school with the only response being “Oh yeah, her brother is a bad boy”.  Being a relatively new teacher, and a foreigner at that, I believe that is all I can really do on the matter.  At this point if the school is not worried about it, then whether I like it or not, that’s the bottom line for me.

This is me, procrastinating.

6 07 2010

I only have a few measly words left to hammer out for this paper I need to get done, but since it is something attached to the dreaded deadline, it has become something I ‘need’ to get done and therefore spend more mental energy convincing myself to do than simply doing.  Blast!  The best thing about deadlines is there is always that last minute; it is always there for me, waiting patiently until I finally catch up before delivering that necessary swift kick in the ass over the finish line.

Wait for it… waaaait for it……

Today was long considering I had to be in a few hours early to squeeze in my few extra minutes of kindergarten classes, but still not “long” by comparison to the average American (or any other country in the real world) workday.   If there were a career to be made from juicing the lazy fruit and still getting pretty much everything I want from life, I could probably retire early in my great success (..so far.. don’t jinx it!).  Although, if you don’t mind, I prefer the term “ingenuity”.  [Puh-tey-toh, Puh-tah-toe].

On a more “grab the bull by the horns” note, I got to play superhero again for my 2 favorite students, Jake and Elliot by trapping a giant fly (eeeeeek!!) in the blinds and saving the day.  “Aaahahahahahaha!!!  Korean girl scream at bug, but Teacher!” – (..succession of vocal and animated ‘capturing bug in the blinds’ gestures..).  I get such a kick out of stuff like that!

Goldfish sponges

19 05 2010

I never had much interaction (at all) with children prior to my acceptance of a job requiring constant interaction and dedication to molding their sub-developed little brains for 7 straight hours a day.  Seems reasonable… (ahem!).  But in Korea, the fact that my birth certificate was printed in America and that the preceding years of my life left me with a Bachelor’s degree in hand, I am somehow qualified to do so.   I can only imagine the incredulity of those close to me upon my declaration that I was headed overseas to teach little children in primary school.  I have preached tirelessly the fact that i will never, repeat, NEVER have children of my own, although never quite penetrating barriers of skepticism.

Against all odds, overall, I think I am doing swimmingly!  Everyday is a surprise, to say the least.  I will waltz into work one day with high spirits, in disbelief that I actually get paid to do this, only to walk out of my first class ready to drop dead from exhaustion and frustration.  Other days are just the opposite, and I can’t remember how I could ever be upset with these little angels.  My dad always used to say “Now I know why tigers eat their young”; …so do I.  The reason tigers eat their young is exactly why evolution made children so adorable.  Something about cute, miniature humans makes you just fall in love and somehow forget about all the time they spend making you want to rip your hair out.  There must have been some force of intelligent design at work here, in one sense or another…

So I have decided that kids are like goldfish sponges.  They have the amazing ability to soak up audible information like a sponge, even when you are certain they are paying absolutely NO attention.  At the same time, they have the memory span of a goldfish; their temper tantrum could easily trigger a spontaneous combustion one moment, and 3 seconds later they will be happy as a clam.  Must admit I am slightly envious of this capability…

I still maintain I will never have a goldfish sponge of my own, but I am starting to really like the little buggers.