Sunday, September 30, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Lost Sheep

Luke 15

New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

I remember the moment clearly - the moment I promised to myself that I would keep the ring close for the rest of my life.  Many years previously, my dad's father had given it to me.  He had made it himself for his mother, and, through the course of time, he came to give it to me.  I remember that day quite clearly, too, but that is not the day in question.  No, on the day in question I was wearing my class ring on a necklace around my neck.  I had lost weight, so it no longer fit on my finger.

On that day, my grandpa was watching baseball in his den, as usual.  I came in to talk to him, each moment with him more treasured than they had even been previously; he was dying, you see.  We were talking about my cousin, who had recently been by with his fiancée.  Grandpa turned his eyes on me, and apparently did not hear my question, because, instead of answering, he looked at me and asked, "Is that my ring?  Let me see it."  My heart plummeted.  His ring was in the house, but it wasn't on me, and I told him so.  I don't know if that actually bothered him or not, but I felt like it did.  Clearly, me wearing his ring was important to him, so, from then on, I did wear it on a chain around my neck.  It was too small for my fingers, but I found a way to wear it, nonetheless.

The ring became familiar, expected.  In a way, I found it as much a part of me as my face.  On the rare occasions that I had to remove it or forgot to put it on in the morning, I felt entirely naked.  It was a comfort, a physical reminder of how much my grandpa loved me.  It became a matter of occasional rolled eyes, but I didn't let that affect my resolve.  It was important to him for me to wear it, and it was important to me to have a part of him with me.  So I wore it.

The ring was so familiar that, when my mom's dad got sick, it was generally accepted that I would be given a ring of his to add to my necklace, which I was.  It was not one that he made or anything, but it was his high school class ring, something he still occasionally wore.  I slid it on the same chain, and, although the rings were clearly too heavy for it, I still wore it every day.

But then, one day, I reached up to hold the rings during a test I was taking, a habit I had taken to while thinking, and it wasn't there.  I absolutely panicked.  Terror coursed through me.  The only things I had of my grandpa and pop-pop were gone.  I cried.  I banged on the doors of any friends I thought would potentially have paid attention to what I had worn that day, begging them to let me know if they had seen it on me, trying to figure out exactly when I'd lost it.  But no one remembered seeing it.  In spite of the knowledge that I'd put the necklace on in the morning, I tore my apartment apart, but with the ever-sickening thought that I had not properly clasped the necklace and it had fallen into the grass on my way to class.  Not finding it at home, I skipped chapel and carefully scoured the grounds, seeing with even more terror that they had recently been mowed.

It was a lost case, I knew it.  I went to another class from which I would have learned just as much if I had spent its time continuing to look for the necklace.  I used the time attempting to convince myself that they were just rings, not a big deal - just things - and I still had the knowledge and memories of my grandfathers' love.  But it was no good.  I felt like I would live the rest of my life with some portion of the sinking feeling in my soul.  I berated myself, telling myself that I was too attached to a worldly object, but it helped nothing.

Finally, feeling stupid, I prayed.  "Oh G-d," I said.  "Just help me find it.  I'll trade any of my possessions.  Just help me find it."  But, by the time I collapsed, exhausted from panic and tears, in my bed and fell immediately asleep.

In the morning, I went looking for my school ID card, so I could get breakfast.  I grew even more irritated at myself, as I realized it, too, was missing.  Eventually, I pulled out the jeans I'd worn a few days previous to check its pockets, and there was my necklace.  I accepted at that moment what had happened.  Delighted, I put it over my head, called my friends, and went to buy a new ID card.  I knew I had traded the lifeline of the ID card for the necklace.  While I normally would have been devastated at the loss of the card, I knew I had gained something so great, that it wiped away the dread of the telling off I was about to receive.  I had gained back my lost grandfathers in that moment.

As I read Luke 15 this morning, I couldn't help thinking of this event in my life.  Suddenly, I understood so much better what Christ was talking about in his parables.  G-d made a trade - something so crucial, so important (but re-attainable) in exchange for something inexplicably valuable to him, although something that caused the sneers of those around him.  G-d exchanged Christ for us.  

When we turn around and show up at His feet, there is such celebration.  The other things that he had always had are no less valuable, just as my treasured stuffed mouse was no less valuable, the quilts my mother had made me were no less valuable.  I would be just as devastated if I had lost any of those other things, but, at the time, they were not lost.  I had found something that I thought was gone forever, something that meant the world to me.  

I think what surprised me the most was that, even though my friends rolled their eyes when I fingered the rings around my neck or scathingly joked about how I wore them every day, they genuinely celebrated with me about finding them.  We smiled, laughed, and ate way too much.  The world was perfect, for just a day.  THIS is how G-d celebrates with Heaven when a lost one turns to Him.  Those of us who had always been with Him are no less important, but what was once lost, is found, something for which he traded everything.  The celebration must be more than we can imagine.  If I can throw an entire, class-skip-worthy party over finding a necklace, G-d, who is bigger, more magnificent than all of us put together must have something even more enormous than that for every lost soul.

Praise G-d, from whom all blessings flow.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Does this dialogue bother anyone else?

Sometimes, there are things that come up that really bother me to teach.  There's nothing I can do about it, though.  For example, I have to play this dialogue for my students this week.  It's a listening thing, so I'm hoping that they'll miss the finer points and not realize how bad it is.  Ugh.  I grit my teeth every time.

What do you think?
Uncle John: Is that you, Yujin?
Yujin: Yes, it's me.  Nice to see you again, Uncle John.
UJ: Me, too.  How was the train ride?
Y: It was OK.  It only took two hours.
UJ: That bag is heavy, isn't it?
Y: Well, just a little.
UJ: Let me help it.
Y: OK.  Thanks.
UJ: Don't mention it.
Am I a freak for letting that get to me?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pumpkin Soup

Fall is here!

In celebration, I made pumpkin soup and lemon cream pasta.  Of course, since I made pumpkin soup, I had to bake pumpkin seeds as well (they were too spicy this time - bummer).  Furthermore, I'd like to share my pumpkin soup recipe (mostly) with you.  Now, I'm not sharing all of my secret tips, or else people won't think mine's the best anymore, but it'll still be good. :)

First cut a small pumpkin into slices.  Remove the rinds.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spice to taste.  Personally, I like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  Others would recommend pepper as well.  I don't like pepper, so I'm not.  Bake the pumpkin at 350 F for 20 minutes or so until it's very soft.

While that's baking, boil some water.  Cut up your favorite vegetables and throw them in the pot along with your favorite spices (sweetish or non).  Boil it all until it's very soft.

When everything is done cooking, slowly add the pumpkin slices and vegetable broth (you just made that) to a food processor.  Puree it until it is all smooth.  You may have to siphon off some of the soup into a bowl after a while if your food processor is smaller.

Voila!  You have wonderful pumpkin soup (my favorite Fall food).  Enjoy! :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Long-Awaited Walnut Cookie Festival Videos

And now, I'm proud to present the videos of my and my friends' journey to the First Annual Cheonan City Walnut Cookie Festival.

I'm not sure how I felt about the kids doing this dance.  I was quite torn between disgust at their sexualization and their cuteness as energetic children.

I was entirely impressed with these middle schoolers who did taekwondo at the festival.

This is a much shorter shot of the taekwondo kids.

And THIS is the video of the moment.  The kids weren't the only belly dancers; there were some adults, too.  There had been a grandmother in the audience who kept dancing from her seat along with the kids, but, when the adults got on stage, she couldn't restrain herself anymore.  She broke past the MC, and climbed up on stage, joining in on their dace.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Walnut Cookie Festival Photos

Cheonan is known for its "Walnut Cookies" (which are more like cakes), so it's surprising that this was the first year they decided to have a festival celebrating it.  My bandwidth is horrible tonight, so I'll have to upload my videos at a later date (trust me, you want to see them), but, until then, I'll share some photos.

Being foreigners, we got a lot of attention from the press.

How to make the cookies

My friend, Rash, helping to make the 떡

I have no idea what belly dancing has to do with walnut cookies.

Yes, I promise you a video of the grandma who crashed the dance.

Part of the entertainment was asking Waygooks to speak in Korean.

Cute kid hula-hooping contest.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday Class: Letters to President Obama

I wish I had more of these, but a lot of students took them home to finish for homework.  There might have to be a second part, if I can get photos before we seal these up and send them off.  Sorry, some of these are a bit blurry, but they're totally worth muddling through!

Saturday Class: Dream House

In studying the rooms in a house, I had my students design their budget-less dream houses.  Here are some of my favorites:

Five houses in one!

Which ones do you like?

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Poem


Cool weather kisses my arms
My legs are warmed by boots that hug them close
Sweaters and scarves are draped over my frame

The sun is going to sleep earlier
The moon is staying up later
The skies are bluer
The clouds are fuller

Spices waft on the breeze
Across fields of pumpkins and squash
Eager to make their ways to the table

Grass is fading
Trees are changing

Mrphumph adnum mrphumpuh

Sorry, Fall just shoved its hands down my air passages.

Someone send me some
And/or some antihistamines?


Open them first
So the authorities don't confiscate them
For personal use.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New School

Okay!  I promised, and I'm coming good: Photos of my new school!!!

My desk, with glimpses of the three other desks in my office. 
What I see when I walk in - there's a computer center to the right.

What I see while teaching (minus the students, of course).  It's very nice to look at.

There are so, so many good books and games!  I actually took more pictures of them, but I figured that you probably wouldn't be quite as excited by the close-ups as I am.  Refer to the picture above to get an idea of how many books there are. :)

I love that there's a bunch of English graphic novels.  The kids actually go in and grab them to read during their free time!

Okay, that's all for now.  I'll work on getting you some photos of kids, soon!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

(I Remember)

Evette and I had early morning orchestra that day.  We were both so tired.  We found later that we had the same reason for being so exhausted -we'd both spent the night dreaming strange dreams, and we both spent morning orchestra debating whether or not to tell the other about them.

The rest of the morning passed in a half-eyed blur, until it was time for lunch.  Seventh grade ate so early that year.  I generally made a habit of peeking in the classrooms as I walked past, and that say was no exception, but only one classroom was worth noting.  There were several women in it, holding each other and crying.  I remember clearly my reacting thought: "Someone's son must have died."  I don't know why that was my thought.  I don't know why it was "son" and not "daughter."  I don't know why it was death and not illness or some other entirely unrelated tragedy.  But there it was.

We went to lunch, where I finally revealed my dream to Andy.  My whole dream had been a kind of white-lined sketch on blue paper.   It was a perfect replica of New York City; I recognized it from the trip I had taken there the previous April.  Suddenly, an airplane entered the dream and flew into a Twin Tower, which proceeded to topple over onto the silent city.  I remember entering the dream at that point, rather than observing it.  I was on the ground, feeling the shadow swallowing me, looking up in terror at my impending death.  Then, I woke.

No one put much stock in my dream.  I had weird dreams all them time.

We had to hurry to our next class: American History: Reconstruction to Present Day.   The room was eerily silent, especially for a middle school.  We took our seats to notice that the TV was on.

"The administration doesn't want me to show you this," the teacher said. "But you deserve to see this.  Your children will study this in their history classes.  I can't be a good history teacher and not show you."

And then we watched the burning towers crumble to the ground.

In his shock, the teacher said, "I guess the Empire State Building is the biggest again."  I was horrified.

Cathy went to the pay phones at the front of the school and called her mom, who picked her up.  I was furious that my mother hadn't shown up to sweep me away, but I, to this day, still don't know why I wanted to leave.  It's not like she could provide any more sanity to the world.

She did pick me up, though, at our normal Tuesday afternoon meeting time.  I was hoping she'd tell me that my piano lesson was cancelled for that day; I didn't feel up to it (not that I ever did), but she took me straight to the church.  She wanted me to have normalcy.  I started learning the song Sanctuary, which I, in turn, played a month later in church, on my family's last Sunday in that city.  It seemed so ironic it was sickening.

I was angry.  I was angry for having normalcy forced on me.  I was angry for having fear forced on me.  I was angry for my life spinning out of control.

Not even bothering to drop off my school things, I went to the basement, took out some paper and water-color paints, and began flinging color across the page, imagining it was someone conveying my anger to the people who I felt were causing it, impaling it into their souls and out of my own.   I think my mom still has those paintings.

I remember.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Middle School is going to be interesting

Today I taught both of my first real middle school lessons.  I'm not counting my introduction lesson, because... well... I'm not.  If these past few days have been any sort of indication, my schedule is going to be constantly in flux, which isn't as upsetting to me as it would have been a couple months ago.  My Monday classes seem to be lulling me into a false sense of security for the upcoming weeks.  They're great kids and mostly great students.  It's nice to have an easy Monday, but it makes for a hard lesson gauge.

People still seem to be mostly satisfied with how I'm teaching.  I had a difference of opinion about how to handle tardiness, but, in the process, learned that at least one of my co-teachers is marking my students on participation, and I think I saw another teacher doing that as well.  Over all, however, my discipline plan of class points leading up to a snack party and review bomb game seems to be working. All I have to do now is figure out when a kid is translating rather than chatting.  I've got to work out a signal for that or something.

Furthermore, I ran into the girl who took over my old school.  She had a bit of a rough day today, just normal settling in stuff, but it's hard, I know.  It made me glad I wasn't at that school anymore, but I'm sure my day is coming.  I bought her some of my favorite Korean snack, 호떡, and pointed out the good pharmacy.  Hopefully stuff will turn around quickly.

Tomorrow I'm planning to finish sorting out what I'll be doing for Chuseok.  I'm not going to write more about it, because I don't want to get my hopes up for anything, but it has potential to turn out great. :)

I'll write more soon.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Funnies: The Lack of Time-Continuity

This week's Captain Bob is inspired by my beautiful cousin Becky and her early start on her Christmas music. :)

<<The last adventure || The next adventure>>

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Good, better, best...

Gangnam Style

I was walking along the streets downtown with some friends last night, and we heard it, not in one building, not in two buildings, but in three, blaring out into the night.  Gangnam Style has become a global phenomenon, and I can almost hear my Korean counterparts saying, "It's about time!  Finally the world is realizing how great Korea is."  But, just like in America, these people seem to be listening only to the beat and chuckling at the appearances of famous comedians in the video.  I have not heard one Korean comment on the controversial message the song sends.  The whole song is a commentary on what the singer wants in a woman and why he deserves it, the resounding theme is "I want a sexy woman, and I deserve it because I'm "Gangnam Style'."  Gangnam is a section of Seoul known for it's ritzy style of living.  "Gangnam Style" is applied to, obviously, a person who lives like they're from Gangnam.  But don't take my word for it; check the lyrics yourself:

Oppa [older brother/boyfriend] is Gangnam style
Gangnam style

A girl who is warm and humanle during the day
A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes
A girl with that kind of twist

I’m a guy
A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy

Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end

Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

A girl who looks quiet but plays when she plays
A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes
A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all
A sensable girl like that

I’m a guy
A guy who seems calm but plays when he plays
A guy who goes completely crazy when the right time comes
A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles
That kind of guy

Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end

Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two
On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two

You know what I’m saying
Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

So, maybe the words themselves aren't all that controversial.  Maybe it causes your heart to flutter a frustrated beat at the materialism it seems to endorse, but what's so new about that theme in pop music? Well, let me direct your attention to the video.  Psy seems to be trying his hardest to make the whole thing look ridiculous as possible - to make the whole world laugh at the concept of Gangnam style, whether through Psy's lounging beach-style on a playground, the trash flying through the air, the girls walking around in the snow with their shorties on, or the over-the-top excitement at being on the tennis court with a couple beautiful girls... and that's all in the first minute.

Are we slaves?

I want to take a moment to acknowledge that my serious thinking about this song was really spurred by the pastor of one of the three churches I'm bouncing between right now.  Pastor Josh wrote a very well thought out post on his blog about how this video seems to be a modern-day version of Ecclesiastes - the material world is meaningless.  Furthermore, he suggests that we are personally enslaving ourselves through our habits.  He doesn't mean the ball and chain kind of enslavement (although that DEFINITELY still happens today around the world, including the USA), he means the soul-sapping, Christ-deferring kind of enslavement.

We live in a world where depression is quickly becoming the number TWO debilitation of people across the globe.  We live in a world where suicide is one of the three leading causes of death in young people, aged 10-24.  We live in a world that chants the mantra at us "Good, better, best, never let it rest..."  Never let it rest?  If that's not slavery mentality, I don't know what is.

The ultimate result

This week, my friends and I have been plagued with the unthinkable.  The equivalent of an American ninth-grade student of one of my friends attempted suicide while at school by jumping out of a third story window.  He survived and underwent surgery on his leg and jaw.  What would prompt such a young person to do that?  I'll answer quite confidently: The unbearable pressure to succeed.  We just started the second semester of school, here in Korea, and our middle-schoolers are busily applying to high school.  Mid-terms are at the end of this month, and finals are right behind them.  There's no rest for them.  They go to school all day and study when they come home, and when I say "all day," I do mean "all the daylight hours."  If I thought I was going to fail under such circumstances, I honestly can't say I wouldn't do the same as him.

"But that's Korea!", you say.  What has this to do with me?  Korea is leading the world in suicide rates, but that does not make the rest of the world immune.  After all, it is America posting the Good, Better, Best poster in its classrooms (believe me, I know - I stared at them day after day, making it my own mantra).  America (and the rest of the Westernized world, for sure, I can't speak for the rest of the Eastern world) puts such an incredible value on academic and financial success, that, even if it isn't a personal value, it's weight it crippling from having it constantly cast onto people.  It's the rolling thunder of inadequacy looming directly overhead.


As Christians, we are called to something more than this mindset that we've had drilled into us.  We've been set apart as holy, living sacrifices.  We've been commanded to refrain from conforming to this world.  One crucial way to do this is to REST.

We cannot focus on other people, let alone G-d and His Kingdom, is we are physically and emotionally exhausted.  This has been proven time and again.  Take Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Our most basic human needs are the physiological ones, like food, shelter, and sleep.  It's not until we achieve those and all the other levels of the hierarchy that we can reach the final level, added by Viktor Frankl, of looking beyond ourselves to other people's needs or the existence of a higher being (although some people may argue that being given self-worth by a higher being can fall on the fifth level of the Hierarchy of Needs).

In case you don't want to read all that psycho-babble, the answer is this: We have to take care of ourselves! It's so important that G-d even commands it:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." -Exodus 20:8-11
Even G-d chose to rest, to take a break from work and stress.  If it's good enough for Him, isn't it good enough for you?

There's no need for the pressure of 24/7 perfection.  You're going to get sick.  You're going to need a break.  You're going to fail.  That's life.  That's humanity.  And, you know what?  That's okay!  Take  break, worship, relax.  Don't get caught up in trying to be the best.  Take it from someone who knows - it's not worth it.

I love you, and I'm praying for you!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Getting there

Today was wonderfully what I needed.  I think the most relaxing part of the whole day was knowing that I'm obligated to do nothing tomorrow.  I have two, commitment-free days in a row.  Sundays don't count, because I feel obligated to go to church, and I often am teaching on Saturdays.  But not this week.  This week I've got Friday and Saturday to actually refresh.

Furthermore, the stresses are sorting themselves out.  I got two lovely emails today: One told me that my revised Maryland taxes had been accepted, and another told me that I'd been approved to go to Bulgaria, since Alex worked out the insurance issue.  Now, all I need it to wait for some information from my school and I'm off to celebrate Chuseok, American-style.

Tonight, I went to a Jambalaya party, thrown by a couple of my friends downtown, followed by a little calm down time with Cameron and Lisa.  Both were wonderful and drastically different in setting/mood, but, again, helping me regain a grip on my mental health.

Here's to another day of relaxing tomorrow.  Hooray!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Today is apparently NOT a mental health day.

Today might be more like a mental breakdown day.  In fact, my world pretty much looks like this:
I'm on the right.  The rest of the world is on the left.

Growing up, I was famous for my encouragement of the "mental health day."  I still fully support them.  I worked my butt off and, as a result, had some days where I just couldn't mentally function anymore.  I would stay home from life on those days, and I feel I was a much more productive human being for it.  Sadly, Korea doesn't seem to believe in those days, so I've had to figure out how to make due without.  I didn't allow myself too many of them in college - the only ones I did take were on the occasional Saturday (instead of going to synagogue), and maybe, because of that, I'll be able to figure it out here.

However, and thank G-d for it, tomorrow I have a built-in mental health day.  Tomorrow is the school's "foundation day," which means that, because the school was built on that day however many years ago, we don't have to attend.  Lovely.  After today, I need it.

This morning, I woke up to the email on the left, and just about had a conniption.  Filing my taxes has been a long and painful process, especially since I've had 3 different paying jobs this year, all needing to be filing in entirely different ways.  The sad part is that I needed to pay state taxes on a grand total of ZERO of them, and yet, my state tax return was still rejected.  Why?  Because I tried to file in Maryland as a part-time resident (since I've spent maybe 2 whole weeks there this tax year).  Unofortunately, in order to do that, you have to file state taxes for the other state you're claiming as a part-time residency at the same time, leaving me with two choices: Tennessee or Korea.  Korea, clearly, was not an option, and Tennessee got smart and only requires you to pay state taxes in extreme circumstances.  As a result, I had no second state to file in, and got rejected.  Yes, I had to sort that out this morning.  I ended up filing as a full-time Maryland resident.  Here's hoping that that was the correct choice.

I got to school, where I thought everything was going to be better, but Sam, my wonderful deskmate, told me that I needed to change the lesson plan for the class I would be teaching at 2:45 today from chapter 6 to chapter 7.  Oh yeah, I had 3 non-contiguous hours in which to make the plan, find a working lesson CD, and make photocopies.  In spite of the daunting nature of the beast, I managed it.  I was ready.

Then, I get a message from my lovely Alex, telling me that her boss had approved my request to visit her over Chuseok, all I needed to do was send her a copy of my traveler's insurance so they could send it to the even higher-ups to approve my request.  Traveler's insurance?  Oh yeah... I remember that now... that thing that I used the one time I lived in Germany through the church of the Nazarene.  That thing I've never used before or since.  That thing that I have NO idea how to get or pay for.  Right.  That thing.  I have both Korean and American insurance and am entirely willing to sign a waiver.  Does that count for anything?

But wait, there's more.  It's now 2:15, and do you know what both Brenda (my deskmate on the other side) and Sam both just told me?  The class that it was so important to change my plans for isn't actually until next week.  In fact, I'm done teaching for the day.  Brenda at least softened the blow with some chocolate milk (which I don't really like at all, but it was a sweet thought) and Sam clearly felt awful (he'd also given me half a chocolate bar earlier).  I know it's not their faults.  This is how Korea works.  It doesn't diminish my stress any, though.

So, assuming I'm still going out with my friends Cam and Lisa tonight (remember them?), I'm going to beg them to give me some time to run by the travel agency on campus right after school and see if I can work something out.  Not that I'm going to BUY traveler's insurance before I'm approved to go visit Alex.  

Yeah.  It's been that kind of day.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Of course this would happen this year.

I'm exhasperated - it had to be this year, didn't it? -  but, nonetheless,


I've been a devoted fan since high school, and, as such, I'm very seriously considering turning up Stateside if the O's go all the way.  

Anne and the O's through the Ages

And, one more time, for good measure:


Monday, September 3, 2012

Day 1

I finished my fourth first day of middle school today.  I hated middle school the first time.  I went to three of them (thus this is my fourth first day), and you'd think I would have found one that I liked, but no.  None.  Zero.  Today, was different.

I love my classroom.  It's beautiful.  It's just eclectic enough for me to like it, but subdued enough to be a good learning environment.  I didn't get any photos today, because I was holding on for dear life.  When I settle into a routine, I'll be sure to take some pictures.

My students seem to be the same level of rowdy as my fifth and sixth graders were (thus far), but today I was much more willing to roll with it.  I feel like that may have been because I was definitely the head of my classroom.  The other teachers barely said anything, but it was beautiful and it flowed.  If discipline needed to happen, it did.  If stuff needed to be translated, it was.  If I needed to joke with someone beforehand, it happened.

And that's another thing.  So far, all of my co-teachers speak flowing, beautiful English.  I even explained my pajama dream to the woman who has the desk next to me, and she laughed!  She laughed hard!  She went so far as to say, "I guess you were very nervous!"  I didn't have to explain it any more than I would to a native speaker.  Furthermore, Sam, who sits across from me, is SO helpful.  He explains everything I have a question about (even when he ran into me on the way home and I was having a bit of trouble ordering dinner).  He doesn't know it, but he also made such a HUGE difference between this school and the last one: he closed today by saying, "You did a great job today."  Yes, my other co-teachers gave me positive feedback, but I had to ask for it.  This was out of the blue, and it was wonderful to hear.  Don't get me wrong, I am all for constructive criticism, but the balance goes a long way.  He also told me what I most wanted to hear: "The most important thing you can do is be friends with [the students]."  He took the pressure off and told me that I'm doing well.  What more could you ask for in an office mate?

My students even seem excited to see me!  I ran into a couple of them on my way home, and they gave the very classic "Oh!" that means "I recognize you and I wasn't expecting to see you!", and quite eagerly spoke English to me.  What strange, parallel universe am I in?

I'm not foolish enough to believe that this isn't tainted by the first day, rose-colored glasses, but I'm very happy with my decision to change schools, so far. :)

I start middle school today.

I dream last night that I showed up to school in my PJs and forgot where my office was. Half of that is true. Ahhhh!!! I'm getting more nervous by the minute. Prayers, please.

My dream in detail:
I woke up to go to school, and I realized that I'd left all of my stuff in my other apartment, which happened to be in my old school.  My blanket was there (so I woke up cold), my clothes were there, my school supplies were there... So I knew I needed to go get them.  I decided to swing by my new school first to tell them why I was going to be late.  So I went in my PJs (sweat pants and a sports bra), but I couldn't find my office.  I spent several hours wandering the halls in said PJs, not finding it before I woke.  There's a good first impression.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Story-Writing Challenge

I challenged my 5th and 6th grade Saturday class to write a story, using some words that I gave them.  I'm sorry, I don't remember all of the words, but they were things like "with Judy", "hungry", and "sunglasses" (I assure you, Mom, I had someone else pick these out.)  The kids rose to the occasion wonderfully, and I have their stories to share with you.  The first class was not thrilled with the idea of being filmed, thus the papers in front of their faces, but, I told them from the beginning it would happen, so this was not a surprise to any of them; I thing they were just hoping we'd forget.

Please be sure to vote and tell me your favorite, so I can tell my kids, as that was the purpose of the filming.  Understand, these are the equivalent of American 4th and 5th graders, for most of whom English is not the second language they're learning, but the third.  These students have had access to English classes through the public schools for two or three years, depending on their grade level.  That being said, I'm thoroughly impressed with what I got, especially considering that there was no co-teacher present to translate instructions for them.

So, again, please be sure to vote!!!  Thanks!

P.S. Just try to guess which team has the native speaker who moved to Korea. ;)


"One day., there were Sam and sammy.  Their's mother told to Sammy 'You have to buy jeans with Sam.'  So they went to the jeans store by a bike.  Soon, they felt hungry.  So, they went to the restaurant, and they ate foods.  A few minutes later, they noticed they were lost the way to buy jeans store.  So, they asked to a woman 'Where is the jeans store?' said Sammy.  The woman said 'Go straight., turn left and turn right.  Then, it's next to the bus stop.'  'Thank you.' Sam said.  Then, they found jeans store and bought jeans!"


"On Sunday, I went go shopping with Judy to buy the sunglasses.  We was in the shopping mall But we didn't where sunglasses shop it is.  So they ask the greeter ' where is the Sunglasses shop?'  greeter said 'go straight and Turn right'  So They go Straight and turn right but it's wrong it is a clothes shop They ask again where is the Sunglasses Shop?  So Shop greeter ask turn Left and GO Straight so They go Turn Left and Go Straight NOw it is Correct!  NOW, They bought a sunglasses and back their home  But they're tired so take a rest in the living room  In TV their hand Some boys group In TV.  They eat in kicthen."


Magic sunglasses
"I will go to the beach with Judy.  So, now I'm making a lunch of the kitchen  I'll taking a delicious kimbab and the magic sunglasses.  These sunglasses are the magic Sunglasses.  It can read Person's mind."
Judy: Hi!  Scarlet!  Let's Play until over night!
Me: Oh~ that sounds great!
"They took a rest on the chair and wearing Sunglasses  Suddenly, a handsome man pass through these two girls.  'Where is the bank?'  The bank is between the Post office and the market.' 'thank you, bye!'"
Me: oh, no!  my sunglass said the man is the robber  Call the Police!
Policeman: thank you.  You Catch the robber.


Day at VIPs.
Lucy was riding a bike with Sam.  They felt hungry because they rode the bike for too long.  They wanted to go to VIPS but they didn't know the way to VIPS so they asked someone on the way, "Excuse me, how can I go to VIPS?" asked Lucy.  The stranger replied, "Go straight and turn left.  You should ride the bus at the bus stop.  Then go straight and turn right.  It's next to the jean stor."  Lucy and Sam went to VIPS.  "What would you like for lunch today Sam?" asked Lucy.  "I want a steak medium-rare," Sam replied.  "Me too.  Excuse me, could you take our order?" Lucy shouted.  "Yes.  What would you like?" said the waiter.  "Two medium-rare steaks." said Sam.