Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"She's So High"

Hello friends! 

It is Wednesday March 26th, 2013 and I am SO excited to be able to tell you a little bit about all of my adventures since my trip to Daegu. I am so sorry for the lapse in time, but I think it is important to know that the time means that I am having a wonderful time in Korea, and becoming happier and more grateful for the decisions that got me here everyday. The new question is, where do we even begin? The last week has been so jam packed, but it is also hard to believe that 18 weeks from today, I will be on a airplane back home. Only 18 more weeks of this crazy adventure. Only 18 more weeks of changing lives by teaching a language that native speakers don't even always appreciate. What a an incredible opportunity and experience. 

Now, let's get to the good stuff! 

First, I'll talk on school and move to other stuff. Since my first priority in Korea is to Teach, I am so happy that I have been blessed with the best school in all of Korea. Napo Elementary is so great. I love all of the children, and I have such a great time eating lunch everyday with the teachers. I have a great community there, and I cannot believe the blessings Napo hs already brought to my experience. 
Last week, things were moving at a pretty nice pace. The teachers at Napo taught me a traditional Korean game called, 윶 (uch). It is a traditional Korean game, almost like "Sorry!" in the United States. However, it is completely handmade. The game pieces were coke bottle lids and pieces of rubber. All of the teachers at Napo got really into the game, it was such a great time! You can see the board below, and the small game pieces. These pictures are really calm-looking but don't be fooled. About three seconds later, there was some serious yelling and laughing going on. Oh, Korea! 

I also have great students. These photos are my second graders, who had just given me a bracelet. Our verbal exchange went something like this:

Adorable Second Graders (ASG): Hello Teacher! 
Me: Hello Girls! How are you today?
ASG: I am happy! *said by all six of them, which I totally enjoy. 
Me: That's great! 
ASG: Teacher, earrings? *I point to my earrings and say, "Yes, earrings!"*
ASG: Teacher, necklace? *I point to one of the little girls, and say, "Yes, this is a necklace!"*
They then point down to my wrist, and say "Teacher, what called?"
Now, I am thinking along the lines of an EFL teacher. You wouldn't believe how incredible these kids are at giving you the hints they need to find a new word. It is unbelieveable. 
Me: Wrist? Bracelet? 
ASG: Yes Teacher! Bracelet! For Kiyana Teacher!!! 

See? Definitely my favorite gift, ever. Love my sweet girls! Here is my bracelet, and here are my great girls! 

Also, another great thing at school, is that they have boards with everyone's names on it! So, they have a board of all of the students at Napo and one of all the teachers. Why is this beneficial? Being able to read Korean names is one thing, but remembering them in an entirely new story. Luckily, I have taken photos of the boards, so in my break times, I can memorize names! It's been a process, but I think it's going to work! 

Anyway, I walk into school last week, and guess who is on the teacher board? ME! Have I mentioned how much I love my school? They go out of their way to always make sure I am comfortable, and taken care of, and that is something I will never forget. 

See? There I am, top right! So cool! 

Teaching is also going so well. I think if I learn nothing else from Korea (which is highly unlikely) I at least have the knowledge that I am made to be a teacher. I think that only teachers will understand, but there is such a large amount joy and satisfaction I feel when a child just gets it. It's almost as if you can see ideas click, and then it's truly like a light bulb turns on. To know I have been a part of that, in any child's world, is enough for me. I am so glad that this place, as difficult as it may sometimes be, had solidified the career path I am choosing for the rest of my life. I am so excited to get on that track, and to be able to experience the joy of children "getting it" for the rest of my life.

Next, onto the second part of my time in Korea, life. 

As my time in Korea comes and goes, I realize I am developing such a life here. Sometimes, it feels almost as though I am living in two worlds. One, in Korea, where I am seen as a professional, have my own apartment, pay my own bills, etc. Then, there is America, where I am a college kid, just trying to figure it all out. That's the funny thing about living somewhere else. I had never thought about the possibility of life being so different. But it is, and it is a great thing. Before I left, people always told me that my life would be drastically changed by being somewhere else for so long, and that I was so brave to make such a big decision. I never really understood what they meant. Now, though, I know that I am changing drastically here. Everyday is a new adventure, and usually it is one that I cannot wait to dig my hands into. Last weekend, we traveled to meet some friends in Jeonju. We had such a great time! We hung out, found a park, traveled through a palace, saw a Korean wedding, and so much more! Here are the photos from my adventures in Jeonju. 

We had such a great time, with some of the FUNNEST friends! Cannot wait to be reunited with them all so, so soon. 

Of course, a Kiyana in Korea blog post would not be complete without a Kiyana in Korea story. So, Virginia and I are the only ones who went to Jeonju this weekend. Of course, she lives over by the Uni and I live closer to LotteMart. What does that mean? It means we take different buses to get home from the bus terminal. After such a long weekend, I was so exhausted and so glad to be finally home. I tell Virginia that I can ride buses 1-8 to LotteMart and get off there. She is the bus master, so she tells me that 8 is on it's way to a near by bus stop and that her bus stops there as well. Great! I think. I will be home in no time! I get on bus 8 and it begins to head east. My error? I have never been on bus 8 before, so I just figured it takes a very different route than 1-7 which I ride quite frequently. (Totally, totally wrong on that one.) Well, before too long, I realize we are still heading east, and I look up to find myself of the very rural part of Gunsan. As I continue to sit, wanting to cry, I keep riding the bus. I didn't know where another bus was, and all buses turn around eventually, right? Well, wrong again. I ride the bus for close to an hour and a half, all the way to the Yellow Sea. (So, this was not so fun. But I also think I may have seen China, so that was something!) All of the sudden, the bus stops. In the middle of nowhere. Me? I am of course the only person on the bus. The bus driver turns and looks at me with a "get off the bus motion". I am now in about 85% freak-out mode. I don't have a phone, I don't even have a building nearby. What do I do? So of couse, I ask the bus driver, in my best Korean, "Bus-uh Terminal ju sey yo?" Which literally means, "I want to go to the bus terminal." The bus driver then points to another bus 8, one about 100 feet away. I tell him, in my best Korean, thank you so much! I get off and run to the other bus. Yes, I did look like the crazy foreigner, but I didn't care. I get on the bus, and we begin back on our hour long trek back to the city. I am sad to say this, but I held it together so well until I got off the bus. I then ran to Laura's (again looking like the crazy foreigner) and sobbed into her arms for about the next half hour. I can safely say, I laughed about it after. Anyway, of course I was going to take a photo of my empty bus experience. This is one I never wanted to forget! 

After that nice break-down, and recovery Laura, Kyla and I decided to go grab some dinner and head to a movie. We ate Popeye's and watched Warm Bodies which we all agreed felt so so similar to our lives in Korea. If you haven't seen it, it's a must watch for sure. 

This week has been almost too good to be true. It is Wednesday, and there is already so many great things! 

I was able to visit the Gunsan Museum of Modern History with my mentor teacher, and get a cell phone! Ialso got paid and got my first package from home yesterday, complete with the greatest things. I am so, so blessed! 

What a great adventure this experience has meant to me. On the agenda this week? Trip to Seoul to meet up with our great friends, Hoa and Alex who live on a small island just below Korea. We have missed them so much, it will be so great to see them again! Kyla also has a friend coming in from Hong Kong, so it will be so nice to have him here for a few days! 

I cannot wait to see all of my friends this weekend, and further more I cannot wait to see what else life for me has in store in Korea. As always, thank you so much for all of the words of encouragement, and love I constantly feel in my time here. It is the biggest blessing. 

Until next time, America!

Kiyana In Korea

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"On The Road Again"

Hello! It's a cloudy, but nice Tuesday here in South Korea! The best part about Tuesday is that I have 1-2 Class and then a little break before a sole 4th grader comes in. It's a nice, relaxing day after a Monday full of classes. 

There are so many great things to post about, it is so hard to know where to begin. I am so glad I have now gotten over the shock of being in Korea. I am glad that passed so quickly and did not seem to have a lasting impression on my time here. 

Let's start with Friday. After such a long time of always working the typical restaurant schedule, (usually 2-3 days a week and then all weekends) it is hard to adjust to the realization that after I get off school on Friday, I am home for the weekend. Well, in Oklahoma I would be. In Korea, however, I am not home but out exploring this incredible country and visiting with my friends that I have made here that happen to come from every end of the earth. (Why yes, it is the coolest thing ever.) 

The past weekend held no exception to this rule. 

Friday nights, we usually all meet up and set in our plan for the following morning. This weekend's adventure? Began small when Kyla, Emilee, and I spotted an Italian restaurant right across from LotteMart. We decided to meet for dinner and finalize our weekend trip to Daegu from there. 

But first, a decision I have been so anxiously awaiting since we arrived in Korea 6 weeks ago. (I know, it HAS already been that long! Crazy, right?)

HAIR DYE! To buy, or not to buy? Is it the same in Korea as it is in America? As you can see in the photo, I was nervous for sure, but gladly settled on a color I thought would look good. (Or at least cover my blonde roots that often look grey in the sunlight!) 

The answer to that one was yes! Thankfully, my hair is the same reddish-brownish color it was before I left America. It isn't orange! YES!
(To any boys reading this, sorry. To any girls reading this, I know you totally understand!)

Now back to the little Italian place!  

The little place was called, "New York, New York" and holy cow was it so good. I had pasta carbonara and a side salad. It was so good! Kyla, on the other hand, was confident enough to try lasagna. To her surprise, every bite held a new and exciting ingredient. You name it, it was probably in her lasagna. (That being if you name black olives, sweet potato, red bean, and what we think was raisins. Haha!) We decided we would have to go back, but I think we are all counting lasagna off the menu. The girls ordered some drinks which we have come to the conclusion did NOT have alcohol and we enjoyed the rest of our evening over Italian and then ice cream. Friday was a good, good night here in Gunsan! 

Then there was Saturday. 

Don't get me wrong, Saturday was so great! However, you know those awkward get to know you games you often play at parties and on the first day of school and summer camp? You know how one of everyone's favorite questions is: "If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?" I can safely say that my answer to that question for the rest of my life would be to teleport. You see, Gunsan is right on the West Coast of Korea. (Literally, I see the Yellow Sea everyday on my way to school. It's pretty awesome.) Daegu is completely on the other side of Korea, or in other words, a four hour bus ride away. Luckily, I woke up at 5 to shower and pack so I was able to fall asleep when we got on the bus rather quickly. When I woke up, I saw it! DAEGU! What a beautiful (and huge!) place. It was so warm (and huge!). It was surrounded by mountains (and it was HUGE!). In case you aren't getting the picture, Daegu looked pretty huge. This began to make me anxious. How in the heck would we even be able to find our friends in this monster city? Luckily, some of our prepared friends created a map that step-by-step took us right to The Traveler's Bar. (This AWESOME place where we were meeting all of our friends!) 

We made it and holy moley, was it awesome! We had a fun day of visiting, celebrating, drinking, and eating. We even had green beer for St. Patty's Day! It was an awesome time! 

We left the bar for a few hours to sightsee and find a hotel. What we ended up finding was an incredible sight. After leaving our things at our hotel, we rounded a corner to see nothing but about a dozen Korean teens rapping to a small beat box that was sitting on the ground. They had gained quite the crowd, and were passing around something. My first thought, are they standing in the middle of a street drinking and rapping at 3:00 pm? Surely not. Turns out I was right. They were definitely passing around a liter of water, being careful enough to not let their lips touch the bottle. It was hilarious! Apparently, they take these rap battles very seriously in Korea. By that, I mean they always remember to keep hydrated! (Please, ignore the corny jokes. I've been watching The Bachelor late at night. I need more sleep!) Here are the rap stars themselves. If you look closely enough, you see the giant liter of water in the middle of the circle. SO hilarious! 

See? Totally giant. Totally awesome. 

We headed back to Traveler's to find the crowd had only multiplied and that we were going to go to a new Korean bar. (Funny thing here, at Traveler's the pricing of all the American Liquor was about the same. It wasn't too expensive at all! However, once you know how cheap Korean food and drinks is, it's hard to stay in a Western bar for too long, no matter how much green beer they have. 

We ended up all being split up and Laura and I ended up with our friends, Max and Andrew. We went into a small place, had some soju and a 파전 (Panjeon, which is a seafood pancake. SO good!)

After that, Max and Andrew found out that Kyla and Emilee were in a small bar across the street. We decided to head over there, and we were so surprised to find a very, very happy Emilee and Kyla and a 90's themed Korean bar. 

Yes, a themed bar. I only wish I had taken video when Laura and I first walked in. There were flashing lights, and loud music, and of course, the girls had already made about 15 Korean friends! It looked like they were having an awesome time! Then, the music began again and the dance floor flooded with Koreans and well, two white girls. I decided not to miss out on the fun and was so eager to jump into the awesome scene! We danced and danced, and I am pretty sure the guy with the bicycle on his shirt below asked if he could be my boyfriend. But you know, I really don't know. He wasn't getting the "I don't know Korean" look I was sending his way. Oh, well! We danced the night away until about 2:30. 

Another thing about Korea. The place is magical. Everyone and everything stays up so late. It is hard to go to bed on time when you know that there is so much fun always going on no matter where you are. Which leads us to the next part of the evening, and a personal favorite, Karaoke. 

We ended up waiting on some friends to head home (their bus came at 6:30). Laura and I decided it would be a good idea to keep them company until they left. This is where we went wrong. I am pretty sure half of the party fell asleep at Karaoke while the other half of us sounded like boys going through puberty while singing. Cracked voices,  tone changes, and all. It was such a fun night though, and we safely made it back to our hotel room around 5:30 a.m. (Something I am positive I could never do in America.) 

The next day, we woke up to find that we had about an hour to get up and check out of our hotel. We also awoke to find our great friend, Lee on the floor of our hotel room fully dressed in his clothes from the night before. (Trench Coat and all!) It was a hilarious, and great way to wake up. 

We left Green Motel about an hour later, in search of a legend we had heard about from some friends, Mexican Food!!! 

A few blocks later, we found it! Caliente's was our next stop on the route of exploring Daegu. SO good! It was a wonderful day so we ate outside, on the patio. It was such a nice time with the greatest friends! 

After lunch, we headed towards a park some of our friends had visited the day before. We had heard that it was awesome so the plan was to head inside, grab some ice cream, and hang out to enjoy the day. Of course, nothing in Korea is really what it seems. This park was not only a park but instead, an old fortress with a built-in zoo and small shops. WOW! We took photos of so many animals! (And as always, the cute little ones running around!) We could also see the entire city of Daegu from the fortress wall. It was such a great day at Dalseong Park! The park had it all, including: 

Emilee, Laura, Kyla and I in front of the entrance! 

Laura and I on the fortress wall. (City of Daegu in the back!)



Cute Babies with Hello Kitty Balloons!

And this man. As we were walking past the elephants, this man quickly approached us. He began to ask us the general questions we get everyday. What are we doing here? Where are we from? etc. This man was different, however. Instead of stopping there, he began to give us a lesson over the park, and basically over Korea as a whole. It was hilarious. He then followed us around the park for the next about half hour, filling us with knowledge about the park. There was no escaping all the information, even if we didn't really understand it. As you can see, I think Lee really enjoyed this guy! Haha! 

After that, we decided to head to the bus station and prepare for our four hour venture home. We bought tickets for the next bus, which was coming about an hour later. We bought our tickets, and saw some friends at the Terminal. They told us about an awesome Korean market just a block over. Of course, we headed towards Gwannum Market and few minutes later. We saw everything from Octopus to Tennis Shoes. I even got a nice little surprise near the end of the journey.

See the woman there in the pink? Well, in the market, there was a very small, old, little lady that was slicing a mysterious substance. (Later to be decided it was a fruit.) However, she is slicing it and I just stopped to look. The little woman in the pick then picked up a toothpick, picked up some of the fruit and shoved it into my mouth. Haha! That's the funny thing about Korea. No matter where you come from, they want you to love it here. They love foreigners and can hardly wait for you to try the things that they have here. After she hand fed me a few more pieces of fruit, Kyla and Laura decided we better go so we could catch the bus. After being offered more fruit and soju, we graciously declined and headed for the bus. 

We hopped on and found ourselves home a couple of fours later. After a long bus ride, we all headed to our own houses and decided to get ready for the new week ahead. (Well, I think they did. I just went to sleep!) 

As I sit here, and think about this past weekend, I realize that no matter what, the truth is that I am living the coolest life that any 20 year old could ever imagine. I am discovering things and places that some people may never have the opportunity to experience in their entire lives. That is what my experience here means to me. I always miss my friends and family, and the familiarity of home. However, I am so blessed by the opportunity to learn and experience a world entirely different from my own. I am so lucky, and so fortunate to have gotten here. I think this experience is constantly teaching me new things about not only who I am, but also, about how much I really need to think about and consider all of the little things life has to offer. It is such a blessing to be here, teaching and learning in Korea. I cannot imagine the other adventures that are awaiting me here! 

Stay tuned, because as always, there is more adventure and fun to be had here! 

Kiyana In Korea

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"It's a nice day for a White Day"

Sorry for the play on Billy Idol's White Wedding. You should have known something like this would come eventually :) Haha! 

Today is Thursday, March 14, 2013. Do you know what that means? It is WHITE DAY! 

White Day is a special holiday in Korea. (I think it is also celebrated in China, but I am not really sure.)

Anyway, back to White Day! Holidays are a very important part of Korean culture, and White Day is no exception. What is White Day, you ask? White Day is simply another form of Valentine's Day. In Korea, on Valentine's Day the girls give boys gifts. On White Day, the genders switch so today was the day for boys to give girls gifts. 

Anyway, before I realized it was White Day, I was on my walk to the bus stop and you will never guess who apparently lives right next door to a daycare? This girl! Living next to a day care probably isn't going to help my obsession with Korean children in the slightest. How can you not fall in love with these cuties? (Sorry for the creepy photo. I was just so excited!)

How sweet, right? 

I then got on the bus to school and made my way to one of my favorite places, Napo Elementary. 

Thursday is a long day, where I have a class every period. I was excited though, because I had prepared some awesome games and really fun activities for the little ones. 

If you are a person who has ever taught or is considering teaching English in Korea, just know that sometimes no matter how hard you plan, those plans will hardly ever work out 100%. What do you do then? You improvise. Haha!

So today, I taught first and second graders to say hello and shake hands. I taught fifth grader how to sing Justin Beiber and play a game called four corners with adjectives, and I taught a fourth grader how to play go fish. If that isn't a successful day, I don't know what is. 

The great thing about this day though, is that I was handed candy left and right! Korean kids apparently love to give their teachers candy on White Day! They also taught me how to say it in Korea. Such a sweet thing! I love all of my gifts! 

Thursday's for me also mean time for 회식 (pronounced "hweshik") Hweshik is basically a time to grow together as a community with the members of your faculty at school. In literal translation it means "dining together". Hweshik is very popular in Korea and is extremely popular at Napo. We all go out to hweshik every Thursday night. Hweshik is probably one of my favorite parts of the week! I am so extremely blessed to have the nicest teachers at Napo. They are always so kind, considerate, and happy. I love to spend time with them! For dinner today, we enjoyed roast BBQ duck! YUM! 

Also, someone (Soju) encouraged me that it would be a good idea to try something a teacher at my school gave me. Turns out it was Chicken Lung. You know how I said bug tasted exactly like you think it would taste? Yeah, Chicken Lung was about the same as you think it would taste. Haha! Glad to get a snap shot before I ate it! 

After a great dinner, we were all headed home until my Vice-Principal announced he would like to take all of the ladies (and any boy teachers who wanted to go) out to coffee and dessert for White Day! We went to a place called the Banana Factory. It was so cute and so nice! 

I know I keep saying this, but I am so grateful for all of the wonderful people at Napo! 
One of the teachers at Napo ordered this delicious waffle for dessert! 

Probably the best waffle I have ever had! Anyway, we enjoyed the rest of the evening laughing, and just enjoying each other's company. (Well, they were laughing. I was smiling with a "I have no idea what is going on" expression. Oh the joys of not knowing Korean!) My Vice Principal kept laughing at me, because he would ask me a question in Korean, and I usually just looked at him, and he just responded with, "Oh yeah, you are not Korean! I keep forgetting." I guess my English doesn't give it away as much as I thought! Haha! I cannot wait to spend more time with these people and to see where the rest of the semester takes me! They are so wonderful, and I am so happy to have met them! 

Tomorrow is Friday and as usual, it means traveling! We are leaving to spend the weekend with other TaLK Scholars in Daegu. I cannot wait to see all of my friends that have become my second family here! Many photos and a blog to come, as always! 

Have a good weekend, America! 

Kiyana in Korea