It is Halloween this weekend so the kids are coming to school ready to have fun (which loosely translates as ready to eat candy!) I took the opportunity to capture some of the sweetness I get to be with all day, every day.
My oldest class. These girls are at the age where school is almost uncool. Evidently dressing up isn't uncool yet. Check out the glasses on Eesun (the second on the right).
Here is the damage done to my board by my students when I'm gone for my dinner break. I always come back to the class for a board full of goodies.
Alex and Harry- two of my favorites. I melt when Alex smiles at me, which he totally uses to his advantage!
One of my more advanced classes. These three girls are WAY too much fun, and such good students! Of course, all three came dressed as witches. Sweet kids!
These two girls are stuck in a class of four rowdy boys who smell and throw stuff at each other. But the girls just sit in their corner and draw hearts all over their pages. Here they are showing off the test I gave them where they drew (very well) the water cycle. They had color and everything. I adore these girls!
Here is one of my youngest classes. The girl on the far right is named Ella and she is a DOLL! I keep singing the Rhianna song "ella ella hey hey!" whenever I say her name. She's one of the ones I would adopt in a moment! The one with the wolf face is Sunny. She's a total crack up, totally quiet and shy but she loves to wear that dog face hat. Ahh... kids....
Here is Scott and Eric. Scott is so cute with his little glasses and bowl haircut. Totally a nerd. And Eric is the class clown and the leader in the class. Good thing he loves me and is always trying to sit next to me (in the seat I reserve for the bad students, which makes me laugh)
So I know my blog posts have been few and far between recently- sorry! I am going to try to make up for it with a cool few posts. First, I just have to say that the past four months have been that hardest months of my life. I won't go into details here but it is safe to say that I have spent the last few months in a pit. I have never been that deep in a valley before and my one joy and consolation from this season was that the Lord was ever near. THere wasn't a moment that I didn't feel His presence, holding me close. I couldn't walk. I couldn't move. There seemed no end to the valley, but He always stayed with me. In fact, there were moments when all I could do is cry out for Him to sit with me. It was all the strength I had. I was reading some of James today and reflecting on how God tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, that it is for our good. I can confidently say that the Lord has been immensly good to me in this past season. He is faithful and I am grateful for the season of sorrow that I lived. That being said, I am also grateful that it is over. The depression left with the fever. The previous three weeks had been the worst yet. I spent a lot of time crying and what little hope of recovery I had felt over the summer was quickly evaporating. One night was particularly bad and it was the next day that I got sick. I wasn't surprised to be sick after so many intense emotions. But as I soon learned, the fever was a blessing. It was those few days of being sick that brought me out of the pit. When it was finally time to go back to work (last Monday morning) I was all too ready to start my life here. I walked out of my apartment that day finally enjoying my life here. I realized that I was eager to learn Korean, to go out and have fun, to make friends. All the things that I had run from earlier, I was now happy to begin. All of this being said, I'll now start to blog again. THank you to all of you who prayed for me during this dark season (especially to Julie and Tosha who let me be real when the pit seemed way above my head). You have blessed me beyond words.
(I saw this on someone's profile and thought it was one of the funniest things I've seen since leaving the land of all humor- Westminster Theological Seminary. I hope you enjoy... and boys, don't be afraid to try some of these out, let me know if they work!)
10. Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)
9. Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. (Ruth 4:5-10)
8. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)
7. Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife. (Judges 21:19-25)
6. Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife. (I Samuel 18:27)
5. Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest. (Esther 2:3-4)
4. Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock. (Exodus 2:16-21)
3. When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision, simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.” (Judges 14:1-3)
2. Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen years of toil for a woman. (Genesis 29:15-30)
1. Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you a rib. (Genesis 2:19-24)
This will be a quick update. As it is, I have a bunch of school work to grade, lesson plans to write, and hopefully a good number of hours to sleep. I am doing ok. I'm still tired and congested, but I have no fever and have been back at work since Monday. Work is going well. I am getting the hang of teaching all the various classes, although I have just enough energy to teach and nothing more. I am doing ok. More to come later.
So I am really sick. Either this is my normal asthma attack followed by 103.8 degree fever, or I have swine flu. I went to a doctor today, explained what was going on and begged her to give me something to lower the temperature. I spent all last night and this morning scared that I was going to black out from such a high temp. And no matter if I took Tylenol and covered myself with cold wet rags, I couldn't get my temp to stay under 103. So I went to the doctor and after she gave me a prescription, she recommended that I go to the hospital to get tested for swine flu. She said it would be $150, so I thought, well at least I would know. I went to the hospital, nearly dying along the way, I was in so much pain and i couldnt breathe and my head was on fire. At the hospital they said it would take 2 days to get the results and it actually cost $600. So I decided to skip that, go home, and just pretend like I do have swine flu. A week of quarrentine for me. Or I guess how ever long it takes to get better.
Good news! As I speculated in my previous post, my time hanging out with my friends here wasn't that bad. In fact, it was almost... wait for it... good! I ended up having Sunyoung and Nicky come over after church and we were joined by my neighbor Gavin, who is from Atlanta. I was a little nervous about the whole affair on multiple levels. WOuld I be ok with so many people around me for so long? Would my guests who had never met each other, like each other? Would I have enough food to feed all four of us? I only have two bowls so how would all four of us eat anyways? It all turned out okay though. Nicky had to leave early so I only had to feed three people. Sunyoung and Gavin had bowls and I ate out of a tupperware dish. And everyone seemed to get along. After eating my rockin' speghetti, we headed out for coffee (Gavin's treat). Four hours later, we fianlly split up. It was good though. I like all of them. Sunyoung is ever sweet and encouraging and we love teaching each other our language. Nicky is a sister at heart, she and I laugh about boys and hearts, and being heart broken all the time. And Gavin, well I think Gavin is my favorite foreigner here. It might be his slightly cynical outlook on life. It makes me feel comfortable. Anyways, thanks for your well-wishes and prayers. I am smiling today.
For those of you who have asked about my address or what you can send my way, any peanutbutter candy like Reeses or Butterfinger, anything fun in English to hang in my classroom, any Chai tea mix, anything really, is greatly appreciated. I don't need anything right now honestly, I'll let you know if I do. I think I would most appreciate just a card and some love!
After the depressing last post, I feel the need to write a little uplifting post. It's not much but it's something. After wandering around Hongdae for a few hours, I made it back over to my part of town. One of the things I love most in life right now is grocery shopping. I think I have always enjoyed it, but now given my slightly anti-social attitude in life, grocery shopping is the highlight of my day. SInce I only have a half fridge, I have to buy small quantities and shop over other day or so. I had heard there was a supermarket about a mile or two up the hill from my apartment. After weeks of shopping at the little market around the corner, the thought of a supermarket was too much temptation to turn down. I found fairly easily and got some yummy food to make for my friend and myself tomorrow. As I was walking home, I ran into one of my students! His name is Sulley, he's probably 9 or 10 years old, and he is a sweet kid. I giggled with glee when he waved to me and started talking very excitedly to his parents who I soon realized didn't understand much English, much less excited California girl English. I slowed down and said very clearly that I was Sulley's teacher at SEA. His mom's expression brightened as she grasped my hand firmly and repeated "SEA, SEA, ah yes, SEA!" I told them that Sulley was a great student and made sure to give a huge thumbs up so they understood. We said goodbye and I walked away. It totally made my day.
I have noticed a pattern. Stay busy, and be okay. Have time to think and reflect, and choke back the tears. Not really a healthy pattern, but I guess its something. I decided to check out an area of Seoul called Hongdae today. It's where the university is and it's known for being a cool hip area. It's also the only place in Seoul where they sell nose rings. I have yet to see a Korean with a nose ring, so they aren't exactly sold everywhere. It's precious when I wear my nose ring and the kids go crazy asking me about it. So I headed out nice and early to make it across town (about a 30 minute subway ride). When I got there I wandered around for a while before I realized I was hungry. THe problem was, I didn't want any of the food I saw available. Korean food is made to be eaten in groups of at least two. There are a few dishes like bibimbop that you can eat by yourself, but in general, Koreans don't eat alone. In fact, many Korean restaurants don't even have a menu available for single meals. Food is communal. So I wandered around for a while, not sure what to do. Finally I stumbled upon Dos Tacos and I felt a million times better. I had a beef and avocado burrito. While it was NOTHING like La Tapatia, it was just what I needed.
Yeah, while today was not nearly as bad as last week, it was really only better in that I have a little more understanding of what's going on in my heart. The problem isn't that I am alone here and I can't make friends. But that I don't want friends. The few that I have made, I struggle against running away from them. I suspected when Jason and I broke up that this was going to be more a matter of trust than heart. I have come to a place where I don't really blame Jason as much as I used to, so that's good. I don't know what happened really. I'm not sure I will ever know. The reality is today, I am not wary of just men, but all relationships whether or not they are romantic. I don't want any friends. I don't want American friends and I don't want Korean friends. I avoided most people for most of the time from June through September, and now I expect myself to be different? Maybe I just got used to being alone. I would rather be alone. Ha. Now you should be worried right? I'm speaking out of pain right now, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. I am making myself be social at least sometimes. I am supposed to have one of my few Korean friends over for lunch tomorrow. It will be the first time I entertain in my apartment. I have to confess, as sweet as my friend is, the thought of being social for 3 or 4 hours is draining. I'm sure it will be fine.
I had a sad dream last night. Not a bad one, per se, but a sad one. When I woke up, I tried with all my might to return there. I wanted to go back to the tears in my dream. I wasn’t done crying I guess. But I couldn’t fall back asleep so I got up and made my way over to Paris Baguette, the coffee house around the corner that has the cheapest americanos and yummy breakfast pastries. I got some work done, blogged, and talked to a few people via internet. But over me hung this dark cloud, residue from my sad dream. I told one of my friends on gchat about it and found myself tearing up in the café. I guess it’s going to be one of those days. I made my way over to school, trying to block out the pain at the bottom of my heart.
Classes were not so good today. I realized throughout the day that when I am not okay, my pool of grace for the kids is all dried up and I have no patience with anything. I guess it was a bad day for the kids to come to class without their homework. A bad day for them to be naughty in class. A bad day for the trouble makers to break my heart. I was on the edge of anger and frustration for much of the day. And not just with the kids, with myself as well. I hated that I wasn’t being patient with them, that I was taking out my bad day on them. Ah well, things tomorrow will be different. They have to be. I want to be. I can’t stay here in this sadness forever, even if it haunts me in my dreams. I really am doing much better since the weekend. But there seem to be parts of my heart that just won’t heal. Or maybe they have, and I just don’t recognize the scars that have formed…
I’m not looking for encouragement, just trying to be honest. I am still working through what all of this means. What does it mean that I still prefer to be alone than with people? That even though I’ve made friends, very nice and sweet friends, here, and even though I enjoy myself when I am with them, I still crave solitude? I’m not asking any of you for answers. I’m just letting you see a little into my struggle.
Seoul is extremely safe. Seriously, the only time I ever felt unsafe at all was in the Itewon area which is full of foreigners. Where I live is mainly Koreans and SO SO SO safe. Seoul is so safe that no only will you not get robbed, but if you accidently drop your wallet on the subway, people will run after you to return it. It happened to my friend a few weeks ago. The photo above is of a subway seat where someone left a purse. I noticed it when I got on the train and sat opposite of it. I wanted to do something about it, somehow get it back to the owner, but I had no idea how to. So after fruitlessly trying to make eye contact with some of the other passengers to point out the purse, I gave up and just took a picture. I'm sure it got back to the owner eventually. Oh Seoul, you are way too easy.
Last night I got my resident alien card! I thought I'd capture the moment by showing off my identity from the various places I have lived. I have to admit, I'm not thrilled with the photo on my Korean card, I didn't realize that the passport photos that I submitted to the government would be so permanently attached to my life here. Oh well. At least I didn't have to wait in a 3 hour line like Chile.
I made a kid cry today. It was the first time in my four years of teaching that I have made anyone cry. The worst part is the kid is a 13 year old boy. Yeah, not exactly the demographic I pegged to be the first to cry. Now before you go thinking I was truly mean to the kid, here’s how it went down…. It’s a class of 6 young teens. We were going around the classroom reading an article. When it got to this young fellow’s turn, he had his head down on the table and wouldn’t respond to me. I asked if he was sick. He said no. He was tired. Ok, well, sorry, but you can’t sleep in class. Please read. After a few minutes of prodding, he finally began to read, no whisper the part of the article assigned to him. Ugh. This attitude kept up all throughout class. Then, a few minutes before class was over, his cell phone rang. Yeah. I looked sternly at him and told him to turn it off. Not only did he not turn it off, but he answered it! Right there in class! NOT OK. I told him that he wasn’t allowed to talk on the phone in class so he stood up, still talking away in Korean on the phone, and walked out of the classroom. Not exactly what I meant. So when he came back, I made him stay after all the other kids had left and I sternly told him that it was not ok. That next time I would take his cell away, etc. I asked him if he understood. Well, he wouldn’t answer me or look at me in the eyes. I could see him getting emotional though. I asked him much more tenderly this time, if something was wrong. He still wouldn’t look at me or answer. I could see the tears welling up in his eyes so I finally let him go to his next class. I asked one of the directors about this, if it was normal. She said it wasn’t normal for kids to answer their phones in class and not acceptable. I had the right to take the phone away right then. But she said that some of the boys at this school turned on the waterworks for next to reason. Odd, its the boys that do this. So she speculated that this boy was one of the criers. So there you go. I made an overly emotional disobedient adolescent boy cry.
It was at the party Saturday night that I met Richard. He was standing in front of Nickie and me in line for food. He introduced himself and his friend Love (no joke, this guy’s name is “Love Moon” maybe his parents were hippies?). We talked a little but I was pretty wary of guys and felt like he was too interested in talking to us. I escaped as soon as I could. Later he tried talking to us again. There were almost 200 people at this party and somehow we kept running into him. I said something to Nickie about it, but she thought he was just interested in us as friends. I decided to trust her intuition on this one since they are both Korean and I’m not. She would know better than I would, right?
Well, maybe I should have stuck to my gut on this one. Who knows? Maybe I over read things, but I saw Richard again today at church. In fact, I saw him three times at church. The first was just a quick passing. The second, he came and sat with Nickie and me and started talking to us. The third, he caught me alone. We started talking. I can’t go into the details, but let’s just say, it was… interesting. There was definitly some awkward topics introduced in this one. At the end of the conversation, when I finally excused myself with the excuse of having to go get work done, he said “Our intellectual connection was… sexy.” Huh? Yeah, I think that’s when I laughed and replied a quick “ok” and was out the door. Ha. I’m going to have to keep my eye on that one. He’s nice enough, but not my type. You know, not a staunchy reformed nerd. He’s charismatic! (I hope my wts friends appreciated that one!)
On that note, I leave you dear readers. I am ok. I am probably going to try to find a counselor here, but things are ok. I guess. If you know of any CCEF grads here in Seoul, please pass that info along my way.
I wish I had my girls here. I would love to laugh with them over the ridiculous things that have happened in the last few days. It started on Friday when I found myself walking around the city, slightly lost, and not caring. I realized that I am quite apathetic toward my life right now, and that includes my feelings about Korea. It’s not that I dislike Korea. I don’t. But neither do I like the country. I just don’t care. In fact, I don’t care about anything right now. I spent Friday examining my attitude toward life and wondering if it was my own version of culture shock. I was pretty sure it wasn’t. The feelings were far too closely resembling the various emotions I have faced over the last four months. The truth is, I just am not ok. I felt like a little blue cartoon animal on a Zoloft commercial. Just stumbling around on the stage of life, not caring about anything in the world. I realized at some point in the day that I am depressed. And then I panicked. What am I supposed to do? I thought through some of the plans of action I could take. I realized that staying in my apartment all by myself with my Twilight book (which is the only thing I want to do these days) probably isn’t a good idea.
This weekend is Korean Thanksgiving so not much is open and the city is pretty empty. So Saturday I headed over to Itaewon, the dirty foreigner section of town. I had never been there so I figured it was as good a day as ever to head in that direction. I planned on planting myself in a Starbucks with my NT Wright book. It would be good. And it was, that is until the African guy decided to hit on me. I was sitting by the front window so I could people watch. He walked by the window, took one look at me and came in the store. I was still looking out the window, my book open on my lap, when he sat down next to me. I didn’t really notice. He cleared his throat. I turned, looking confused. I really was NOT in the mood to be hit on. He evidently hadn’t gotten that message though. He started telling me how much he liked me, how beautiful I was, how much he wanted to get to know me. I smiled as politely as possible and said point blank, “thanks but no thanks, not interested.” He still wasn’t getting the message. I refused to give him my name. I explained over and over that I was flattered, but in no way interested, that I wanted to be alone. He wouldn’t leave. Eventually I gave up trying to convince him and I just turned back to my book. After a few minutes of my reading, and his staring, he started talking to me again. Another round of asking him to leave. I turned back to my book. He scooted up in his chair and touched my arm. That’s where I drew the line. I sharply told him that he could not touch me, that I had said no, and that when a girl says no, it means no. And I gave him one more chance to leave before I would have to resort to telling the Starbucks staff to kick him out (he hadn’t bought anything anyways). Finally he left, after wasting about 20 minutes of my time. Needless to say, this did NOT help my mood. I was slightly impressed though with how direct I had been with him. In the past, in situations like this, I fret and worry over being rude. Maybe the breakup with Jason somehow gave me the chutzpah to deal with these situations.
I had plans to meet up with one my girlfriends from church for this party thing at our church. Ehhh… I wasn’t really feeling like it, but I knew that it would be good for me in the long run, even if all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and shut the world out. So I went to church. I met up with Nickie, my new girlfriend, and we started talking over some snacks at the party. That’s when I started to cry. Yep, right there in the middle of the party. It turns out that Nickie broke up with her boyfriend just 5 months ago. She totally understood my pain and I realized as I verbalized some of my issues that they are much more hormonal than rational. Yeah, TMI I know, but it’s true. I’m hormonal right now and evidently there are no mood swings for me, just depression. Fun. The good news, it didn’t last too long. By the end of the night I was feeling better. Not completely un-apathetic, but better than before.
Believe it or not, I am referring to myself here. Yes, I am a scary teacher. Let me explain… (warning, this is a loooonnnnnggggg post)
Yesterday was my first day of alone teaching. I taught Tuesday and Wednesday but I had Steve in the class with me. I was nervous about two things: time and grading. The classes are all 30 minutes each except the last section of classes which are 45 minutes each. Tuesday and Wednesday in almost every class, I ran late. In some of the classes, I got through the majority of the material in the first 10 minutes and then scrambled to put together some activity that usually then ran late. Oops. The parents want the kids to have their assignments graded and returned the day they are due. This means that the 30 minutes of class, as a teacher I have to not only collect all the homework, teach the lesson, and assign the following homework, but I have to grade each kids homework somehow in class. It’s probably the hardest part of teaching at my school. I’m not sure how we are supposed to do this, and all of the teachers say it’s impossible. We try to think of games that the kids can do without needing us so we can grade the homework. But it’s seriously a challenge. So those were my two areas of nervousness. Time and grading.
But today went fairly well. The kids are not what I expected. I expected that in an Asian culture the children would respect their elders, especially their teachers. I think they respect their Korean teachers at their normal school, but for whatever reason, they try to walk all over us American teachers. Steve (the teacher I replaced)struggled with wanting the kids respect and wanting to be buddies with the kids. This meant some of the kids took advantage of him and acted out in class. Monday, the last day where I just observed Steve’s classes, the kids were SO NAUGHTY! I almost cried in one of the classes out of frustration with one of the kids. He was SO RUDE to me! I would tell him to do something, and instead of obeying, he would turn to the rest of the kids and say something in Korean. Then the other kids would say to me, “teacher, teacher, he said you are fat!” Um… whoa. Ok, sure. I am? And that means you don’t have to obey me? I knew that I would have to teach him again on Wednesday so I prepared myself to have a little chitchat with him before the class. Thankfully I didn’t have to. He was much better behaved come Wednesday.
So I decided to put aside camp counselor Becka and be strict authoritarian Becka. If their Korean teachers are strict authoritarians (I heard that their hit kids here in the schools… ouch!), then I will start off with the message loud and clear that I demand the respect of the kids. I have a poster of my 5 rules posted on the wall.
1. Always show respect to your teacher and classmates 2. Raise your hand to speak 3. Only English in class 4. Stay in your seats unless given permission 5. No food in class
And I not only review the rules before each class, but when I hear a kid speaking in Korean, I ask them what rule 3 is. They smile sheepishly and read the rule for the class. Most of the boys are too rambunctious for their own good. There is one class, B11-B that is composed of 5 12 year old boys. Oh man, they LOVE to test rules. There isn’t a moment when they aren’t kicking each other, throwing erasers at each other. Both of their teachers from this past year have said that they have had a hard time teaching them anything. So I prepared myself mentally for the challenge. And to be honest, I actually liked that class. I find those boys are rowdy and over active, but after yelling at them a few times and threatening them quite a bit, they seemed to work with me. I am sure that we will still have bad days, but I am excited to teach them. Most of the girls are just plain sweet. They are eager to please and pleasing the teacher means knowing English, so they are quick to raise their hands with answers and to participate in class. One of my classes today was all girls and one boy, James. James refused to participate. I gave them an in class assignment and he didn’t do it. Not a single word. I gave him the first sentence, and he still wasn’t willing to work. So I pulled him out of the class and gave him a stern talking to. I told the whole class that if they finished early, they could have extra free time. He waited till I wasn’t looking and then quickly wrote the whole assignment, finishing before anyone else. So he’s smart, just stubborn. That’s ok. I can break that. Tehehe. So when it was time to read as a group, and he refused, I prompted and encouraged, then threatened. Finally, I pulled him out again, led him to the teachers’ lounge where I made him write “I will not act like a baby” a bunch of times. I told him he could come back to class when he was done. The Korean staff all smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up. This evidently is how we teach here in Korea. In any case, it worked. He came back to class a few minutes later, handed me the page of sentences and actually participated in class. Miracle of miracles.
One of the classes, a large one of 10 kids that has a reputation for being difficult, told one of the other teachers that I was scary. Hahaha! It made my day. I can always ease up on the kids. And we will have fun. But I will make sure that I have control over my classroom. I will not let these kids wreck havoc in my life. If that means that they spend these first few weeks thinking I am scary, so be it.