Tuesday, November 1, 2011

the time has come my friends.


new name. new space. same crazy.

find me there for the latest.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Heart, Mind, & Seoul: Sucker Punched

Since my last real post, major events have shaken me and I just needed some time to sort through my life, my thoughts, my anxieties. And to think about my options and whatever future I may have here in Korea.

What started out as a rumor, as an uncomfortable piece of gossip spread around by the mouths of native english teachers (hereafter NETs), turned out to be true: the gov't is pulling all high school NETs at the end of their contract term.

I am a high school NET. My contract ends in february. I will not be allowed to teach at my school next year. Neither will I be replaced by another NET.

It was, and remains, such a blow. Like I was sucker punched in the gut.

And that is funny because all this year I had merely toyed with the idea of staying another year in Korea--stupidly thinking that if I didn't really commit to anything, then I wouldn't be disappointed.

How naive.

I've been weighing my options and trying to stay positive, but there's just so much up in the air right now and I honestly don't know where I'll end up in just a few months time. It's worrisome and stressful.

If I decide to renew my contract with the gov't, I will be transferred to either middle school or elementary school (no). Another option is to ditch the public school system and the gov't program, and find work in the private sector through an academy (no). My best option, and the one I hope comes true, is that I find a position at a university.

The question becomes, then, if I don't get a job at a university, will I stay in Korea or go back home? And if I return home, what job awaits me there? I, after all, need to keep working to pay my school loans off. This is not the time for me to dally.

As stressful as that alone is, some of the teachers have actually gone as far as to tell students that I'm leaving. I'm really upset by this because I feel like that information should have come from me personally. I would have liked the opportunity to tell my students that information at the time I saw fit, in the manner I saw fit. As it stands, I've tried to make the students who know promise not to tell anymore students--pinky swears are all but binding here in Korea.

But more that just that, when an occasional student does come up to me to bring up my impending departure, it's just really hard for me to talk about. I don't want to go. I really like my school, and my kids are amazing, and it's just so unfair that I'm being forced to give them up. I know that I was really blessed with my situation this year, and I know that I took it for granted.

And, since I am a sentimental person at heart, the littlest things will make me emotional. My students will do something so mundane, so potentially annoying, but in that moment it will strike me as something fleetingly beautiful. A moment, a memory of something that I will have so few opportunities to see again.

Sitting here in my apartment, looking at all of the stuff--the sheer amount of stuff--that I've accumulated in the last few months, and the home that I've made for myself in my little apartment...and I know that sooner rather than later, I'll have to pack it all up. For good or temporarily, I don't know yet. I don't want to buy anymore clothing or things for my apartment, because all I can think about is the potential hassle it will be to deal with in the near future.

I mean, I even have a giant bag of rice I have to somehow manage to eat by myself in something like 12 weeks...when I thought I'd have more than that.

And even riding the subway, I live off of line 5 (the purple line) and I know my route/stops so well. If I move somewhere else, I'll have to find all new routes and get accustomed to a whole new commute.

It's the little things, and big things, and everything else, that just makes this whole situation suck. Majorly.

So for now, I'm applying to jobs here, and I need to get the ball moving on jobs back at home--just in case--and hoping for the best.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Heart, Mind, & Seoul: Finding My Way Back to Teaching

I've been crazy busy this past week, I don't even know I've survived. It all started last friday, when I had an all-day training seminar that sort of lit a fire under my ass. Lately, I had been feeling all sorts of comfortable when it came to teaching at my school. Some things suck, but some things were good, I coped and I got through it. I wasn't having the best classes, but I was also doing the best with what I had. I was dealing.

But the seminar reminded me that despite what seems like insurmountable obstacles in my way, as a teacher, I owe it to my kids to try and reach them. When I first got to Korea, I was hell bent on being able to effectively teach these kids english. I was full of so many ideas, was constantly trying out new things in the classroom, constantly creating. And then either out of ineffectiveness, hopelessness, or burn out, I stopped trying so hard.

On the one hand, it was good for me personally, because I enabled me to have more cognitive energy to do other things (e.g. learn korean, be a homewrecker), but my classes were uninspired and tedious.

So with a refreshed perspective, I started up this week with a ton of energy that I put into my lesson plans and classes. And I think it was one of my best weeks teaching ever. I felt really happy with the results, and I'm hoping this is a new start for both me and my students.

I am, however, so exhausted I can't see straight. Twice this week I got into the office at 6:45 am. By wednesday, I came home and just crashed at 8pm, I was so tired. I had dishes piled up in my sink, wet clothing that needed to be dried, and a whole bunch of trash that needed to be taken out. I also have no food at all in my apartment, but I am feeling good about how exhausted I am.

I will leave you with this: I had my students write a short essay on whether they preferred to only do what they are good at, or doing new things. I bawled like a baby reading their responses, this one in particular:
"The people who prefer to what they already do well couldn’t improve themselves. They just do the same thing in the same way repeatively. But others who prefer to try new things and take risks aways face to the new world that they haven’t seen ever, so they could experience more things and make them step forward to the wider world. To me, the second life style is preferred. Sometimes, I couldn’t handle the new occasion, but I’m not embarrassed. If I haven’t experience it, I couldn’t learn the way to handle it. As long as I am alive, I prefer to try new things and take risks. I’m so excited to see the new things."
I feel so grateful to know these amazing kids, and so humbled to be a part of their lives. They are so fascinating and endlessly interesting, and so full of youth and the hope of their future lives. It's beyond wonderful to witness.

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Korean Apartment II

I pretty much did nothing but sleep today. It's late now and I just cleaned and I'm bored but super awake. So here's how my apartment is looking these days. A bit more clutter than my first post about my apartment, but not by much I think.

I tried to have a green/blue theme in my apartment, but it doesn't always work out that way. My 15 pyeong little home. I was thinking of doing more, but with 5 months left in my contract, I'm not sure if I should.

p.s. "moves like jagger" is my jam atm :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Seoul Snapshot #5: Amsadong

Amsadong Prehistoric village. Not my most favorite place in Seoul.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cuppa Joe

I have mentioned previously that Seoul has a huge coffee shop culture. There are coffeeshops everywhere, and more independent ones than huge chains. In Seoul, you can't go far without stumbling into one of these gems. In my neighborhood alone (not even a nice neighborhood mind you) 4 coffeeshops opened up in roughly 6 months. All on the same main drag, and I'm not even counting the shops that were there before I moved in.

That being said, the coffee shop culture is different than that of the States.

For instance, many people prefer to drink their coffees and espressos in house. When you go to a coffee shop, you will usually stay there and meet with friends/study. In America, since many of us drive cars, it's really convenient to just get our coffees to go, or go through the drive-thrus, and show up to work with a piping hot cup or something latted.

Going along with that, it's actually not that common (at least around my area) to have a coffee shop open in the early morning. This was probably the most surprising thing to me, as a former barista, because I remember having to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to make my 5:15 starting time. This actually didn't occur to me until one morning when I really wanted some espresso, only to find that none of the coffee shops in my area (including the 4 that had opened up since I moved into the block) were open. Most coffee shops open around 9 or 10am (8am if you are lucky). So actually, rolling into work with a fresh espresso isn't really an option. I'm not quite sure why coffee shops aren't opened earlier, as this just makes sense to me that people would want espresso in the morning.

BUT, this brings me to my next point. Many of the smaller coffee shops don't actually sell coffee. They have a wide variety of lattes/cinos/smothies but quite often, when I find myself looking for an iced coffee or a drip coffee, that option is noticeably absent from the menu.

It may have to do with the fact that many people don't actually drink coffee coffee. In korea instant coffee is really popular but it's a whole different thing entirely to have a coffee machine in a break room. If an individual wants to have coffee at work, but wants to bypass the instant stuff, they use one of these:

And this set up can often be found in coffee shops that offer coffee as a drink selection.

Also, the drink of choice here seems to be an americano. It's often the cheapest thing on the menu, and theres even a song about it, so it seems to me that coffee/iced coffee would do just as well in Korea.

Speaking of americanos, Koreans (or at least Koreans here in Seoul) will drink americanos black. When I am craving an iced coffee, but there's none to be had, I will order an iced americano. But try to get just the tiniest bit of milk in it --no, I don't want a latte, thank you--and its the most absurd thing ever to a barista. If it's too much trouble, I skip the milk and drink it sugary and black.

If you dont want to bother with the filtered coffee, you can either partake in instant coffee. It is insane popular here. The prepackaged sticks come with instant coffee, creamer, and an intense amount of sugar. Oh, and no need for a spoon to stir your hot water and coffee together, just use the packaging!

Or, if you want something ready to go, there's always the canned coffee. These you can buy in any convenience store in the cold drink section, but also in these little "fridges" but instead of being cold, they are hot. Perfect hand warmers for cold days!

The last thing I want to touch upon is that with rare exceptions (and in this case, Starbucks is a notable exception) you can't really specify your milk choice in most coffee shops. Usually everything is served with whole milk, and if you ask for soy or non-fat, most likely the shop wont carry it. It can be slightly frustrating when I want something hot, a bit more substantial than tea, but can't deal with all that whole milk -____-.

Korean coffee, coffee shops, and coffee culture is a thing of its own, and something that I hadn't actually thought about or anticipated when I first got here. Mostly because you think that coffee is a pretty common sort of thing, nothing really special about it, but the more I think about it the more I think that what cultures tend to do with something as basic as a cuppa joe, speaks volumes about the society at large.