Friday, August 28, 2009

Bon appetit!

So I am sure you're all DYING to know what the food is like and how I am surviving.  When we went out to the Melting Pot, Liz made some snarky comment about me not eating any of the food here, and Jo Anna (ever the whitty one) responded "Why?  Is it a culture where all of their food is left-overs?"  TOUCHE.

But really, I have eaten things here already that I would never have tried at home.  I ate a mushroom.  More than one.  On several occasions.  I choked down some tofu too, but that has far from won me over.  I ate marinated hard boiled quail eggs.  Who is the unadventurous eater now?!


On the top left, we have a soup with long skinny mushrooms and onions floating around in broth.  Top right, the ever present (and still amazingly delicious) sticky white rice.  On the bottom left, I am still unsure as to what this was.  The green was basically young spring onions, and then the jury is out about what the other stuff was.  One girl claimed they were onions.  No way.  I think they were strips of octopus/squid.  They tasted fishy and were not the texture of onions.  In the middle of the bottom, we have some sort of porky sausage that looked like boneless wings, and the QUAIL EGGS.  Natasha ate them thinking they were olives.  Oops.  Thankfully a girl at my table told me they wern't olives.  They were an interesting consistency as I would say they were about 90% hard-boiled yolk and only 10% (if that) egg "white."  And then, on the bottom right, the one that does not belong.  Delicious chocolate Chex.

Laura gnoshing on some quail eggs.

Ok, I think the white rice and cooked veggies are pretty self explanatory.  The bread was a weird, coffee flavored bread, complete with raisins.  Guess how much of that I ate.  The exactly ONE bite it took me to figure out that it tasted like coffee (ugh) and had raisins in it (cringe).  Missing on the right is the tiny scoop of AMAZING potato salad that I ate before I remembered that I was going to take pictures of my food.  On the bottom we have a breaded chicken patty, covered in copious amounts of red sauce.  In general, I would like my Korean food with about 1/3 of the sauce with which it is served.  Oh well.  The soup was a generic cream based soup (cream of celery?  cream of cabbage?  cream of something.) and you can see the teensie little shot glasses that pass for drinks here.  I long for a nice big 20oz glass of water with a meal!  In the non-water cup, you can see what might look like iced coffee.  Those of you who know me (or read about how much I hate coffee a few sentences back) know already that it couldn't be coffee.  I bet you couldn't guess that it was some kind of random black bean drink!  Because I sure couldn't when I ladled it out of the punch bowl after being told by some Korean-American girls that it was "delicious."  Delicious was a stretch.  It had kind of a burnt flavor and it (terrifyingly) got thicker the closer you got to the tiny bottom of the cup.  By the time I reached the bottom, it was roughly the consistency of pudding and had flecks of bean floating in it (think of how vanilla bean ice cream melt it....and make it browner). Mmmm.  Not.
I keep forgetting to bring my camera to dinner, and I just ate cereal for breakfast this morning after video chatting with my parents, but here is today's lunch.

Lunch #2

Today's lunch was, in my opinion, one of the best we've had.  Starting at the top left we have the slightly more colorful that normal rice.  Sadly, it was colored with carrots and seaweed, neither of which are my favorite.  I ate it none the less.  Next to the rice is a scoop of potato and corn salad, which was not as good as yesterdays' straight potato salad.  The next item is a little tricky to explain.  It is basically like they took mashed potatoes and mixed in corn, and some scallions, and possibly a few other little vegetable treats.  Then they took a scoop of the mixture, breaded it, and fried it.  Dip that baby in some (slightly spicier than normal) ketchup and you are good to go.  Then we have a little bean sprout salad and the piece de resistance.  Those noodles were AWESOME.  They were thick and spicy and the veggies were well cooked.  It was quite delicious.  The soup was a generic brothy soup with onions and sprouts.  I think they must be worried about us getting used to the bland food because they certainly kicked it up a notch with their spices today!  Dinner's soup definitely cleared out my sinuses.

Today we did our teaching demonstration (which we finished waaaaay quicker than expected) and sat through nine other group's 15 minute presentations.  A lot of people came up with really fun activities, so that was great to see.  We got our temperature checked again, and I received my bank account card and bank book that is...drumroll please....completely in Korean.  I need to find a bank near my school that allows me to do online banking in English.  But, for now, Hana Bank has at least granted me an account.

I wonder what I agreed to when I signed those forms in Korean....

Tonight I have to pack up all of my stuff because tomorrow we move to our apartments and get to see our schools!  Finally!  The guy from SMOE posted the following picture on the website, with a notice that said "Dear Teachers, I have uploaded a map of the city limits of Seoul. All the yellow is Seoul. If you are wondering where you could be placed, please take a look at the map." 

Um...helpful?  Not at all.

We are still waiting for the (perhaps mythical) list to be posted that lets us know where we are placed.  I am not even sure if it has the school name on it, or only the district.  "After dinner" has turned into later and later.  Hopefully I will be able to see it before I go to sleep!

I am off to pack.  Leave a message if you are reading this blog.  I realize that there are a bunch of you out there who I might not even know that are keeping tabs on my life in Korea.  You know about me, let me know something about you!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Korea: The Land of Ambiguous Information

I guess I will pick up where I left off, which would put me at Wednesday.  All day Wednesday we had lectures by people who have been teaching in Korea for a number of years.  In the morning we had a great guy who provided us with a lot of helpful technology sites and information that will be really useful in class.  From what I have gleaned from the speakers, the schools spend a lot of money on technology and have SmartBoard-esque things in each room, as well as computers and LCD projectors.  I am definitely looking forward to that.  He gave us some super useful links (like which you stateside teachers should check out as well- it has really cool ideas and fun stuff like karaoke players that you can download for free!) and set me a little bit more at ease about being in the classroom.  Brigid and I were discussing the fact that sometimes it seems as though it might actually be easier to not have taught in the US before coming here.  I have so many preconceived notions about how classrooms are run and how kids should work together in groups and go through rotations and yada yada yada that probably won't work here. 

Wednesday afternoon we had another guy come in and talk about getting kids involved in class.  He definitely had some helpful suggestions and some interesting ideas for games, so that was a useful session as well.  I cannot imagine signing up to teach in a hagwon and just getting kind of thrown into the fray.  This orientation has probably been invaluable for those who have never taught, and even those of us who have taught before have gotten something out of it.

After dinner last night we schlepped all the way back over to the Chemistry building in the sucky weather and heat, only to find out that mysteriously the schedule had been changed and we didn't really need to be there to work on our project.  Oh well.  We did get stuff pretty much outlined and finished it early anyways.  Last night we also got a notice that said "The Seoul City Tour (scheduled for Friday) has been cancelled due to the increasing number of H1N1 influenza patients in Korea. We will be replacing that time slot with a daily temperature check done by the nurses. We are now enforcing the daily temperature checking system by adding an afternoon official temperature check, administered by the nurses."

So that is random and kind of sucks. I am not sure the real difference between us being exposed to sick people on Friday on the tour or on Saturday when we get dropped off to live and work there....seems kind of random.  This is an increase from one temperature check a day to two, so who knows why that is.

Getting my temperature taken with the FIFTH kind of thermometer I have experienced this week.  This one they glide across your forehead from one temple to the other.  It is crazy!
One of the biggest complaints I have about this week (even though it probably isn't something that could really be fixed) is that everything is super ambiguous.  Since we don't know what school we will be at, it is impossible to get any concrete information about how things will be run, what will be expected of us, etc.  Some presenters say the textbook is awesome.  Others say we will "find it lacking."  We get told in one lecture that the kids don't learn the alphabet in the public schools until fourth grade, but then the teachers with experience come in a tell us that ALL of our kids will be able to speak, understand, read, and write at least some English by the time they get to third grade.  A South African kid behind me who taught here last year in a public elementary school was saying that most Korean teachers even incorporate the English alphabet into their classrooms in like first and second grade. It will be interesting when I get to see the kids and judge their proficiency for myself.  Even though we have been given massive amounts of information this week, there is still a whooooole lot that is up in the air. 

On Saturday, after the closing ceremonies, we are going to get on buses split up by the district we will be teaching in.  There are 11 districts in Seoul, so each one must be fairly sizable.  I hope I see friendly faces on that bus, since those are the people I will be living closest to!  We will go to our district office, where we will meet our co-teacher.  They will take us to our school and show us around before taking us to our apartment (eeps!).  Jon Pak (guy who works for SMOE) said they would probably hang out with us for a little bit and then take us shopping for some essentials.  The super bad news that we found out today is that we cannot get internet at our apartments or get a mobile phone until we have our Alien Registration Card (ARC).  The ARC takes up to 5 business days to process, and you have to go down to the immigration office to apply before those five days even start.  Hopefully SMOE will get our medical check to the schools immediately so that I can go apply for my ARC on Monday or Tuesday.  Cross your fingers that someone will have a working unsecured wireless network in my building!!! I was about to start hyperventilating about being so out of contact my first week until Brigid reminded me that I will still have internet access at my school.  Whew.  But still, it sucks to be disconnected.  Good thing I have three seasons of Arrested Development with me to keep me busy!

This morning we met to listen two presentations about two kinds of co-teaching experiences.  The first woman was a Kiwi elementary school teachers and she was very energetic and the video she showed of her working with her kids was awesome.  We were just about to get into the meat of it when we found out that we needed switch presentations.  It really sucked because she thought she had more time or she would have presented things differently.  We missed seeing the actual activity that they were doing.  The second presentation was not nearly as good, and it was middle school so it really didn't apply to us.  They spend much more time on grammar, mechanics, etc.  Booooooring.

This afternoon we had our mandatory official temperature check and came back over to the dorms early.  I have been messing around on Facebook and looking back over some old nataliedee comics.  Now I am probably going to lay down and read a little before dinner.  Tonight I feel I should really attend the Survival Korean II, even though I really just want to see the movie they are playing in the other room! I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Later tonight I will put up a post just about today's food.  It has been...interesting.  Liz, you wouldn't believe the things I am voluntarily eating.

Annyonghi keseyo! (Bye!)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not Quite Real

Whew! I finally got a few minutes where I am not expected somewhere (and I am not falling asleep) to update my journal.  Getting internet access in my room also helps, as without the cord that I got today I would need to be downstairs in the lounge hogging the common computers.

SO, lets start at the beginning.  It was a VERY long flight from Chicago to Seoul, however Korean Air was great! The stewardesses were so friendly and helpful-even to the super annoying and rude old woman in front of me. She was American/Canadian and I seriously thought about smacking her.  There was a huge group of American grad students on their way to Kuala Lumpur and there were a few SMOE teachers sitting near me on the plane.  At each seat we had a personal entertainment system that had movies (American, foreign, Korean, classic), TV shows, the map channel, and games that you played using a controller that popped out of your armrest.  I haven't played Tetris in forever, but I probably played for over an hour.  I watched 3 movies and slept for about four hours.  The food was awesome, too. We had two meals and the first time they came around the woman asked if I wanted beef, or a traditional Korean dish. So I chose the Korean, because why not? It was fantastic, and I definitely made the right choice. After she set it down she was like " you know how to eat this?" and when I said no she ended up giving me a card with directions about how to mix the different ingredients. An adventure already! I think it is pretty funny that they have pre-made cards that describe how to make the bibimbap with pictures and directions in four languages.  I was telling another girl about it and she said on her flight she just mimiced everything the Koreans next to her did.

When we arrived at the airport, I hooked up with Julia and Erich to go through the H1N1 checks (they made you fill out a questionaire about symptoms and they took your temperature as you got off the plane) and picking up our luggage.  When we got down to gate F we met up with the various recruiters and I finally got to meet Dave from Footprints who has been so helpful during this whole process.

huge SMOE signs greeting us in the terminal
After a big enough group arrived, we loaded on to a bus for the 2 hour trip down to Sungkyunkwan University in Suwon where we are having our "official orientation, unofficial H1N1 quaratine."  By the time we arrived it was around 7:00pm so it was just a free night.  I grabbed a quick dinner with Laura, a girl from South Africa, and then unpacked some of my stuff in my room. My roommate is named Emma and is from England. The rooms are really nice- this whole building is. The food has been good so far- and Korean.
my room- my bed is on the left
On Sunday I overheard two girls talking and one of them introduced herself as Helen, the girl whose friend my mom had met at a training the week  before they left.  We had exchanged some e-mails and it was totally random that we ran into eachother when there are so many people on campus. Monday morning I ate breakfast with her, her roommmate Manisha (from Atlanta), Julia (from NY who spent the last year in Korea teaching in an private language school) and Laura (from Chicago). After breakfast we went back to our rooms real quick and then walked around campus for a while. We are not allowed to leave campus because Korea is taking the H1N1 quarantine stuff very seriously. (We also have to take our temperatures each day with provided thermometers- old school glass and mercury kind that take your temperature in Celcius- that we were given as we walked in. Then we turn in our temperature sheets to the staff each day. I had no idea if I was reading it right or not, so I ended up converting it to Farenheit and it looked right to me so I turned it in. As a fun sidenote, on Tuesday I was shaking my stupid thermometer and it slipped out of my hand, breaking and spraying silver mercury all over my floor.  I knew better than to touch it because it is poisonous or whatever, but I did end up playing with it some before I disposed of it.  Mercury is seriously awesome.)
maps of the two campuses- we are on the Natural Science campus

In the middle of our walk we stopped in a little cafe in the student center and got some iced drinks and looked at magazines. It was a lot of fun and good relaxation. After our walk, we ate lunch and headed over to the auditorium for Opening Cermonies. They had some performers come and play traditional Korean instruments.  They played classical music, a folk song, and "Let it Be" by The Beatles.  They were very good.
performers at the Opening Ceremonies
After the Opening Ceremonies, there were a few lectures/presentations.  The first one talked mostly about the school system in Korea, and then we went on to learn about Korean History.  My jet lag caught up with me around 4pm and I was exhausted. I felt bad because we were in this huge auditorium listening to a Korean high school teacher talk about Korean history and I couldn't keep my eyes open! It was made worse by the fact that I was pretty much right in his direct line of vision, just about 10 rows back. Oh well.

Yesterday I learned that I will be teaching elementary school, which I am ESTATIC about! I think there are about 185 people teaching elementary, 140 teaching middle, and 115 teaching high school. I am very impressed by how many returning teachers, many of whom have only been here a year, are able to understand (and even read) lots of Korean. I hope that I pick it up as easily as they did! On Monday at the training we learned some interesting things about Korean English education. For example, the national curriculum doesn't have kids learning English until they are in 3rd grade. They don't learn the alphabet until 4th grade. Most of them learned at least preliminary English in kindergartens that they went to, or learn it in hagwons they attend after school. Apparently the third grade textbooks have basically no writing, it is all picture based. It should be very interesting!

I wasn't allowed to eat breakfast this morning (or have any water since last night) since we were having bloodwork done this morning. We started the morning learning about han ji, which is a traditional Korean paper/fabric made from the bark of Korean trees. We made fans by tearing different colors of han ji paper and adding it to the fan. They were useful when walking across campus in the heat! (It has been warm and muggy, probably around 80. It isn't as bad as DC in August, and there is a marked temperature difference in the shade versus the sun.)
my han ji fan
I swear I didn't know what we were making when I wore the matching shirt!
Throughout the morning session we were called out in groups of about 30 people at a time to walk back over the dorms and get our medical check. We were in the second group, and by the time we got there, they were a well oiled machine. We got papers and an identification number that was written in permanent marker on the back of our hands. Then we had our temperature taken, and we were given a cup to pee in, with three vials for blood tests, and two vials for the urinalysis, all with our number on it. We were given an eye test, they weighed and measured us, and then took our blood pressure and heart rate. Then we went to another station were they took three vials of blood before sending us off to answer some questions with a Korean doctor ("Do you have any sickness in your heart?" etc). After that we went off to the bathroom where we went in the cup and the nurse poured it into the two vials. This was especially interesting as we hadn't been able to drink since last night and I have remained pretty dehydrated since I got off the plane. Some people ended up having to go into the cafeteria and chug water! After peeing in a cup, we had to go up to our room and change into a provided shirt, take off our bras, all our jewelry, etc so that they could give us a chest x-ray. Lets just say that when it comes to little Korean scrub shirts, one size does not exactly fit all, haha. But I lived. The x-rays were done in this little x-ray bus, and as one girl said "there was no lead blanket to cover up your woman parts!" All very interesting.

This afternoon we had speakers come in and talk about classroom management and co-teaching with the Korean English teachers.  The first guy was from Canada and has taught in Korea for a few years.  He was hilarious, and made me really glad (again) that I got put with elementary kids!  The second woman is a Korean co-teacher.  She came in and showed how to make interactive lessons by teaching us some Korean vocabulary.  It was great and really made you think about the process of teaching a second language.  We also got an assignment where we are breaking into groups of 3 to do some demonstration teaching later this week.  I am with Brigid from Chicago and Natasha from Canada and I think we'll have a good group.  After the lecture I messed around online and went off to the evening class on "Survival Korean."  Um, I want to adopt the adorable woman who taught it as my Korean mother.  She was a great teacher and I really hope I learn Korean while I am here.  I will take the second half of her class later this week.
view of Suwon from my window
little old lady next door drying chilies to make kimchi

The reason I titled this post "not quite real" is because I keep thinking "Ok! I can totally do this!  Korea is a piece of cake!" and then I realize that this really isn't what living here is going to be like.  I won't be living in a dorm full of English speakers and running around all day.  It will be interesting to see what "real life" will be like here.  I look out my windo overlooking Suwon and I am anxious to get off this campus and see what living in Korea is really like. 

For now, I am looking forward to learning a lot more over the next few days of orientation, networking with teachers so I have someone to hang out with once I leave, and enjoying my time here.  I better sleep now, since this is the latest I have been up since I arrived!  10:37pm...gasp!

Much loooooooove.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'm Alive

And in Korea!  Though at times the plane ride seemed to go on forever, I did actually arrive in Korea last night.  After a mostly uneventful night of sleeping, waking up, sleeping, waking up, I got up around 7:30am this morning to start my day.  They underestimated the number of internet cords they needed and they have already all been handed out, so I have to wait until the new ones come in today or tomorrow before I can really sit down at my laptop in my room and update my journal with the happenings so far.

Much love to everyone at home!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thank You!

Mom and Dad
Thanks for all your support (emotionally, financially, etc), and the spa day.  Thanks for the Kindle 2 and for my new digital camera.  I will absolutely make use of them all the time.

Thanks for organizing a beautiful send off dinner, and for the personalized stationary (even if it was all pre-addressed to you!).  I am going to miss you sky big this year.

Tristan, Debbie, Anna, Greg, Carl
Thanks for coming out to dinner at The Melting Pot.  It was delicious, and a wonderful way to say goodbye.  I love you guys.

Jo Anna, Stephanie, Joilene, Ming, Amanda
Thanks for coming out of town to say goodbye.  Whether you were already passing through, or came especially for dinner, it was much appreciated.  And the flowers were beautiful.

Thanks for coming to dinner, and the gift card.  I am purchasing books for my Kindle as I type this.

Debbie, Charlita, Kara, Robin
Thank you for a fantastic dinner at Catonsville Gourmet.  It was great to catch up with you guys before I headed out.  You were the best team ever and I will miss you at my new school.

To everyone else
Thanks for talking me down when I needed it, leaving loving messages on my Facebook wall, and being all around superb friends.  Keep in touch!

Freaking Out...

...does not even begin to describe it. My life for the next year has, as best as possible, been packed into these three bags:

(and no, the spinning wheel is not coming with me to Korea)

Earlier this week we went over to L. L. Bean in Columbia and I purchased two of their extra large adventure duffels with wheels, and one medium tote to use as a carry-on. I had already packed two rolling duffels, but upon inspection it was clear that there was absolutely no way that I could cram everything I needed into those bags. The bigger of the two previous bags was about 3-4 inches shorter than these bags. The bag on the right weighs in at a reasonable 49.54 lbs. The max weight without surcharges is 50 lbs. Nothing like cutting it close...

The bag on the left contains EVERYTHING ELSE, and weighs a whopping 76 lbs. For the privilege of having everything I need, I will pay United Airlines a $200 fee. Lovely. Then, of course, I have my carry-on chock full of goodies, and my purse packed to the gills. When I left on Semester at Sea, I struggled to figure out how you packed 100 days, and all climates, into two 70 lb bags. I was right on the cusp of having too much in my bags on that trip. You should all be impressed that even though it took me 140 lbs to pack for 100 days in 2005, it only took me 126 lbs (give or take a few) to pack for an ENTIRE YEAR this time.

There are lots of things you have to pack that you never really think about when moving in the states. For instance, my parents insisted that I bring a smoke/fire detector for my apartment, since it might not have one. I had to bring half a year's supply of my favorite deodorant, because the brands and availability are limited (and I couldn't afford more right now, hahaha! that stuff is expensive!). I had to pack gifts for my school principal, and umbrellas and flashlights. I packed a pillow and slippers to wear in my house because it is custom to remove your shoes. There is just a bunch of stuff that you have to think of, and find room for, in addition to clothes for a year. Since (from what I have heard) most Korean women are a size 2 and wear size 7 or smaller shoes, I really needed to come prepared. We all know that I am no size 2. I had to pack clothes for heat and humidity when I get there (and next summer), and bitterly cold winters. Oh, and all that good stuff in between. STRESSFUL!

This morning, in honor of my leaving, my mom treated me to a facial and pedicure at Glow in Annapolis. The pedicure was great and the facial was amazing. It was definitely a needed hour to relax. She had given me the choice of a facial or massage, and I am glad that I chose facial as my muscles would have been all knotted back up from stress by now anyway. I haven't felt much like eating the past few days- I pretty much constantly feel nauseated by all the butterflies in my stomach. I am hideously nervous.

Yesterday I got on the message board for the SMOE Fall 2009 teachers and I was shocked to see that a bunch of teachers received phone calls yesterday telling them that the SMOE had accidentally given out too many positions and they didn't actually have a job. As much as I am freaking out now, I cannot even imagine what those people are going through. It appears that these were mostly people who applied only recently, or weren't going to have their visa in time, or needed to come to orientation late, or who had the lowest level of qualifications (Level H). Since I applied back in April, have had my visa for over a month, will be at orientation on time, and have a higher level of qualification (Level E), I think I am fine. I toyed with the idea of calling Dave (my recruiter) yesterday to ask if I still had a job, and then I realized that if the answer was no, I didn't want to know! I have talked to a couple other Footprints people that I had been in contact with and they seem to be safe as well. I just hope the people who got cut had some back-up plan. I don't know what I would do! People have quit their jobs, invested tons of time and money, made plane reservations, etc. People are hundreds of dollars in the hole. I would be livid.

You know how little kids are constantly full of "what if" questions? I am constantly full of "but how" questions.

But how am I going to get used to not talking to my mom as often?

But how am I going to have enough money to live comfortably until I get my first paycheck on September 24?

But how am I going to be in contact with people before I get my Korean cell phone and my internet service hooked up?

But how am I going to do the things that come so naturally here: food shopping, getting from point A to point B on my own, paying bills?

But how am I going to survive a year? What was I thinking?!

I know that the answers to these things (and more) will reveal themselves after I arrive, but that doesn't really help me now. I am definitely struggling with the idea of not being able to be in close contact with people, especially my mom. My mom is absolutely one of my best friends. She is the first person I call when I am excited, or upset, or confused. She is the one I tell all my stories to, the one I am going to want to share this experience with real time. (Pause for bawling and a heart-to-heart with my mom.) Aggh, okay. No more. Only positive thoughts now.

Here is your positive closing thought for the evening. I am about to go pop some NyQuil gel-caps and fall into a (hopefully) dreamless sleep. Tomorrow morning the adventure begins.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Friends Rule

Tonight my friends treated me to a wonderful dinner at The Melting Pot in Columbia. Not only do I have awesome friends from this area who attended/organized (Liz, Carl, Greg, Tristan, Anna, Debbie), but I also had some out of town visitors from New Jersey (Amanda), and Delaware (Jo Anna and her roomies: Stephanie, Ming and Joilene). We got a private party room (at least partially because we would have annoyed the heck out of any other paying customers, haha) that had balloons, a congratulations card for me signed by the staff, and fondue chocolates to take home. The meal was delicious...cheese fondue, salads, meats to cook hot pot style, chocolate fondue for desert, and a cake Liz made for me...and sooooo filling.

But even better than the food was the company. I know I have said before on here that I believe I have some of the best friends anyone could ask for, but I just want to reiterate that. When people ask me my strongest quality, I really think that it is the fact that I surround myself with really awesome people. I have intelligent, warm, caring, hilarious friends who mean the world to me. One of the things I am most concerned about in Korea is finding people that I click with. Liz reminded me that I made some great friends in college, which is definitely true, and insisted that I shouldn't worry. Still, I am terrified that I won't have anyone to eat dinner with, or go see some stupid movie with. Everyone keeps reminding me that there are 599 other teachers who are in the exact same situation as I am, and that we will all be looking to make friends quickly. When I went on SAS it was kind of the same situation, but I had Erin with me. I am really expanding my comfort zone by setting off on this adventure alone, and I am just really hopeful that everything turns out okay. I am going to miss my friends so very much. Please keep in touch guys! Don't forget about me because I'm on the other side of the world!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Going Away Dinner Numero Uno

Tonight I went out to dinner with the Hilltoppers at Catonsville Gourmet as a going away get together. Debbie and I met Kara, Robin, and Charlita there for a delicious dinner (and awesome BYOB wine from across the street). I basically got all caught up on changes that were probably going to be happening this year at Hilltop and what as gone on in everyone's summer. As crazy and obnoxious as it was at points, I recognize how lucky I was to teach at Hilltop Elementary for the last year and a half. While I had my disagreements with how things happened sometimes, overall it was a great experience that definitely taught me a LOT about working with kids- and adults. I had some fantastic team mates in my two SPED pals, Charlita and Debbie; a great speech-language pathologist, Kara; and a hilarious and straight shooting school psychologist, Robin. While there were definitely some ups and downs over the past year especially, I could not have asked for a better support system (or better people to vent to!). I am really going to miss you guys next year!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back from Europe...

Well, I am back from my two week trip to Europe with the Girl Scouts and I had an even better time than I thought I would. Before the trip I really let myself get caught up in the cost (soooo muuuuch moneeeey) and the terrible timing (getting back just 8 days before I have to leave for Seoul) so I wasn't much looking forward to it. As most things in my life, it was a wonderful experience with some really fun and interesting girls.

We flew out of Dulles and across the ocean to London Heathrow. We had a bit of a layover before getting on a short flight to Dublin, and a quick hop over to Shannon. It was an incredibly backwards way to get to western Ireland, but cest la vie. We spent a couple nights in Killarney before driving across Ireland to Dublin. After Dublin we took a ferry over to northern Wales and spent a night there before making our way up to Edinburgh via England's Lake District. We spent only one night outside Edinburgh and a day in the city before we boarded a night train for a trip down to London. (As a side note, this was the most comfortable sleep of the entire trip for me. Awesome mattresses, AMAZING pillows, and a gentle sway as you slept that reminded me of my time on the MV Explorer.) We spent 2 nights in London and then headed out to Bath/Stonehenge for a day. We spent a night in the "Bath Region"...which, surprisingly, was in southern Wales. Bizarre. Then we headed back up to London for two nights before flying out.

It was a lovely trip. Here are some of the highlights:
- Rainy jaunting car ride in Killarney
- Beautiful day on the Ring of Kerry
- Visiting the Rock of Cashel (for the second time) and being amazed by its beauty (for the second time)
- Guinness factory tour and the awesome views from the Gravity Bar that overlooks all of Dublin - Laughing for hours about random things on the bus
- The MOST entertaining people on the streets of Edinburgh, gearing up for the Festival...seriously, I could have people watched for HOURS
- A fun visit to the Girl Scout World Center: Pax Lodge where we learned an entertaining cheer in a foreign language and fell in love with the word GNA!!
- Seeing Stonehenge (which I wasn't able to see last time I was in England, thanks to Hoof and Mouth disease)
- The "Day of Many Modes of Transportation" during which we went down and hung out in both hemispheres at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich
- Seeing Wicked (again) in the West End
- Getting to know a very diverse, interesting, and entertaining group of thirteen girls aged 13-17

You can check out all of my pictures from the trip here ( if you are so inclined.