Friday, December 4, 2009

Time Flies!

Ok, I realize that it has been an unreasonably long time since I've updated. I'm sorry! I have no valid excuse!

Last week was nothing exciting at school or after school. My main co-teacher, Eun Kyung/Sienna, was out the entire week (and this whole week) due to her baby issues. She can't be more than 1.5 months pregnant, so I'm hoping that this is not indicative of how the rest of her pregnancy is going to roll. From what I've heard, she and the baby are both fine. She just must have been put on bed rest or something. This wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that she is the one technically in charge of me. The strict, rule following principal and vice principal won't let So Young negotiate any of my leave or really discuss my needs/thoughts/feelings with them at all. I have to draft some document to make my leave days official for winter/February break and I can't do that until Eun Kyung comes back. And we're not really sure when that will be. It is just frustrating to have all these loose ends hanging out and not be able to do anything about them. I feel like I need some sort of...foster mom at school. Especially if the rest of her pregnancy is going to be anything like this! I guess I have to put it on my list of stuff to discuss when she comes back. Monday through Wednesday So Young was also out because her son had swine flu. My co-teachers are dropping like FLIES I tell you.

Thursday was Thanksgiving and right after my afterschool program I hopped on the train for the hour ride up to Itaewon (the foreigner district in Seoul). Sadly I forgot my camera at afterschool (where I had been taking the hilarious pictures of kids playing Pin The Beak On The Turkey and Pin The Fork On The Pilgrim that are posted below. The pictures from dinner shown below are from Dana. I had made reservations at an Austrian restaurant that we thought had a Thanksgiving buffet. Turns out it wasn't a buffet, it was a set menu, but we had plenty of food, so that was fine. Chef Meili, the restaurant, is a lovely, homey little place. We were lead up to the second floor and the four of us (Laura, Dana, and Dana's friend Christopher) were seated by the window where we ordered a bottle of wine to get the holiday started right. The food was DELICIOUS. We had beet soup, turkey, cranberry sauce, cooked veggies, stuffing (that was actually cooked in the turkey!), and mashed potatoes. And we ended with pumpkin cheesecake. The place was packed with foreigners searching for a taste of home and it was just a really nice evening. The company was good, the food tasty and the atmosphere cozy. Perfect. The chef came out and took a picture with us, and after dinner we went down to the deli where he cut up basically an entire turkey for Laura to take to her students the next day. Very nice. We also encountered a CRAZY lady who was trying to (and sadly succeeding) in engaging Dana in conversation before we pulled her away. I headed home, happy and full of Turkey.

Pretty darn close....

Seriously far away.

Again, no where close!

This is why I love Korea.  Spinning kids around with a bag on their head and playing Pin the Beak on the Turkey took up almost an entire 40 minute Fun Based Activities lesson.  Awesome.

They were surprised at how close their fork was.

The homey interior of the restaurant.  The tops of the walls were all decorated with pictures of the Austrian chef and his Korean wife.

Posing with the girls as we sipped our red wine.

Beet soup.  It was actually incredibly delicious.  And hot pink.

Thanksgiving dinner from above.

Side view! Haha.

Pumpkin cheesecake.  It wasn't pie...but it did the trick.

Once again I am caught doing the PG peace sign when I should be throwing the Asian peace sign.  Did my picture from Victoria's Peak in Hong Kong teach me NOTHING?!

Dana, Me, Christopher, Laura, and the chef.  He was adorable.  And super friendly.

Carving up that sweet bird for Laura.
On the way home we spotted this rack of cornish game hens at various levels of doneness.  Dana made sure to tag each of us as an individual bird on Facebook, haha.

On Friday I only taught one class because the kids all got their swine flu shots (apparently not soon enough because one of my classes today was cancelled because they'd been sent home due to swine flu.) Friday after school I ran over to Aju Elementary to pick up my camera which they had found on Friday morning. Thank God. I am so used to American schools...I was seriously worried I would never get it back! Friday night we were supposed to go to a free concert that was being thrown to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the first English speaking radio station in Seoul. However there were some ticket issues and I was really tired, so I ended up not going. I was sad later when I heard how cool it was, but it was probably smart that I went sloth mode.

Saturday morning I got up and did a video chat with my whole family as they celebrated Thanksgiving a day late. I was great to talk to my Mom, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, cousins, and my brother and his new girlfriend. Then what did I do? I spent all day sitting/laying in bed and watching the K-Drama "You're Beautiful." And it was GLORIOUS. Dana and Julia had told me that if I liked Boys Before Flowers (which we all know I did), I'd probably like You're Beautiful which was actually current on TV. I started watching it during the week, and I was finished the 16 episode series on Sunday night. It was sooooo good. Basically there is a girl (Go Mi Nyu) who is studying to be a nun until she's visited by an agent who says she needs to pretend to be her male twin brother (Go Mi Nam) and join a boy band in his stead for a month because he's had a plastic surgery mishap and needs to recover in the US. Um...perfect. She agrees and, of course, laughter, tears and love ensue. It was uniquely hilarious and touching, and thoroughly entertaining. I liked it even MORE than BBF. I know...stunning. The story was better, there was still lots of good music, and the eye candy was...awesome. Thanks to back up dancers there were more muscular, shirtless men in one episode of You're Beautiful than the entire series of BBF. And all three of the other boys in the band (Tae Kyung, Jeremy <3, and Shin Woo) are adorable. Especially after Tae Kyung's terrible MySpace hair is dealt with a few episodes in. I can't imagine another K-Drama living up to the level of You're Beautiful, but I have heard good things about Coffee Prince, so I'll check that out next. This one also involves cross dressing and a rich guy paying the girl-dressed-as-a-guy to pretend to be his gay lover. How could it not be entertaining? (Esp. in a country where homosexuality is still ULTRA taboo.)

You're Beautiful main cast. 
Tae Kyung (before MySpace hair make over), Go Mi Nam/Nyu, Jeremy, Shin Woo.

Adorable.  It was impossible to watch this drama and not want to put Lee Hong Ki (the guy who plays Jeremy) in your pocket forEVER.

Sunday I lounged around for a while before cleaning my apartment for a bit and heading out to meet Julia in Gangnam to see....NINJA ASSASSIN. It’s an American movie, but it stars Rain, a total LEGEND in Korean pop music. The movie was INSANELY gory (I cannot count the number of faced I saw cut in half or limbs that were chopped clean off) and therefore awesome. There were some really funny parts that Julia and I were the only ones laughing at. I can't tell if it is a cultural thing not to laugh at movies, or if the subtitles just don't do it justice. At one point a Europol agent comments that he doesn't look dangerous, "He looks, like he belongs in a boy band." I mean come on....that HAD to translate. Plus that joke was probably lost on just about ALL the American audience. Yet Julia and I were the only ones giggling. After the movie we walked around in the rain for a while in search of food before giving up and deciding to take a rain check (extra meaningful because it was actually raining).
Rain, all cut up in prep for his role in Ninja Assassin  And by cut up I mean muscled and scarred.  Obvi.

This week sailed by. Tuesday I got a killer care package from my mom.  It contained three new shirts, two new gum flavors, two boxes of macaroni and cheese (once again labeled "beads" on the cutsoms form), cough drops, books for my kids, A BOX OF THIN MINTS, and ASSORTED CANDY CORN. Seriously....she's the best mom in history.  I didn't have kids for the first two classes on Wednesday since the sixth graders were having midterms (? finals?) so that day went quickly. Wednesday night Angie and I spent an hour and a half running around to different glasses stores trying to find something we liked. Glasses here are insanely cheap (ranging from $25-50 a pair- including lenses and frames) so I want to get some fun ones. The other day on the metro I couldn't stop staring at this guy's glasses...they were black on the front and the arms were black and white checkerboard. I must make them mine. Unfortunately we didn't find any. While e were in HomePlus we decided to browse the books in the all Korean bookstore.  I picked up an English phrase book to flip through, and opened it directly to this disturbing page:

What a great chronology.  What's crazy is that there was no apparent structure to the book.  This page fell between symptoms of illnesses and asking directions.  So random.

On the way home I picked up some take-out and ended up with some pretty terrible food poisoning. I was up puking all night. It was pleasant...PSYCH. Thursday I didn't go in to school, but I was feeling well enough to go to after school. (Amazing how a much better a difference of $120 on your next paycheck can make you feel...) On the way between after school and the train station I got some laughter therapy as Sinead and I discussed English names the kids choose. There is a kid in one of our after school classes named Lion and it pisses Sinead off to no end. For the first like month she called him Leon until he was finally like "Sinead teacher, its LION. Like the animal." As she said to me "Like hell it is." She refuses to call him Lion. I told her that's how I could tell she wasn't American. I was like "Lion? Ok. Want me to call you some random noun as your name? I'm in." Silly Irish girl. You can choose whatever you want to be your name! You can even choose a string of letters that don't make a word and have that be your name. It’s the American way.

Today I came in early to set up my laptop so the kids could video chat with people in the US. My fifth graders are doing a lesson on talking to people on the phone, so I had the great idea to have them video chat with people at home. It is always great for them to hear more native speakers, so I e-mailed a bunch of people and in the end 11 agreed to participate, which was AWESOME. But then disaster struck. After more than an hour and a half, including much technical support from Carl, I was still unable to get my laptop to work on the school internet network using the LAN cord, OR to pick up any of the unsecured wireless networks in range. We ended up having to do a one-sided video chat, where the kids asked questions and I typed them for the person to answer out loud. It worked surprisingly well, except for a few small hiccups. We chatted with my Dad (who put a dummy up in front of the camera first and definitely made the kids laugh), my Mom (who showed the kids a Christmas ornament with my picture on it that I'd made when I was four), my Grandma (who was great and asked the kids questions back which kept them on their toes), my cousins Michae and Ty (who were the first black people most of my kids have ever talked to, and especially awesome because they were the closest to my kids' ages), my Uncle Todd (who dutifully held up all the various pets in their house in the background of the camera), Debbie (who answered like a true Sped teacher with short and succinct responses), Christina (who just HAPPENED to have a Snape figurine from Harry Potter within arms reach), my brother Mike and his girlfriend Loran (whose camera kept freezing as they LIED about their jobs- since when does being a forensic accountant translate to being a professional singer, Loran?!- and tried to come up with easier answers to kids' questions), and my cousin Rachel (whose camera sadly didn't work but she patiently answered questions- such as "do you like insects?"- anyway). Overall it was a wonderful experience for the kids, and (as always) I am thankful to have such a strong support system at home. We'll have to do it again sometime with a working camera so you can see/hear the kids as well.

This weekend I don't really have any plans. On evenings throughout this week I wrapped all my Christmas gifts and got them all packed and ready to send to the states. I'll probably send them out next Monday. I found out that the Daiso right by us sells tiny little fake Christmas trees for a couple bucks so I'll probably get one of those and some tiny ornaments and decorate my room.

Next week we're meeting to talk about our trip in February. Mike booked his plane tickets, but they're kind of general so we're planning out what's happening on the days we're in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. The one thing I know for certain is that we'll be going out to a Pencils of Promise school in Laos, which I am absolutely psyched for. For those of you who need a little background, Pencils of Promise is a non-profit that was started by Adam Braun, a guy I knew from SAS. Its aim is to build sustainable schools in impoverished areas that would otherwise have no access to early education. They have already completed one school in Laos, and are 75% finished with schools two and three. They require that locals provide materials, labor, and a part of the cost. Pencils of Promise donations often come from many individuals donating only a small amount of money. They help small efforts yield big results, and directly benefit hundreds of children. I talked to Adam a few days ago on Facebook and he said he's not sure where the construction on the second school will be when we are in Laos, but that if I drop him a line like 2 weeks before we go he'll set it up with one of his partners in Laos so that they'll take us out to the village and let us see the school, meet the kids, etc. I am beyond excited. This is an organization that is run by passionate, caring people who are seeing real, tangible change. My bags are going to be stuffed with supplies for us to take to the school, and I am going to talk to my co-teacher and see if we could do some sort of drive at the school to collect supplies or funds. If each student I teach brought in a single notebook or package of pencils or crayons, I would be able to take over 500 things with me. That would be awesome. Anyways, I have plenty of time to plan, but I can already tell that visiting that PoP school is going to be one of the highlights of my trip.  While reading Adam's travel journal I kept getting choked up at the kind of tangible change he's making.  What an awesome thing to be a part of!  If you're looking for an organization to give some money to, keep PoP in mind.

My favorite line: "We are part of a global generation of optimists."

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