Friday, September 26, 2008

Amazing Daze

Day 11

They're filming a game show across the valley, I'm serious.
9 a.m. brings cannon fire and cheers.
A charismatic voice fills the air via loudspeaker.
A child's voice follows. I can tell by the voice that this child is VERY key-u-tah. (This is how my students say of the various English words adopted by Hangul.)
Once again, a man's voice fills the air. He exclaims!!! Video game music with heavy bass pushes the little molecules of everything into adrenaline-inspired motion. The contestants, there must be contestants, are spurred into action by the blow of a whistle into the mic.
Cheers and repeat above minus cannon fire plus excitement...if it's possible to get any more excited than they already sound.

This kick-start to the morning is followed by several hours of small errands, some baking, followed by many hours of turnover cleaning. I spoke to no one but myself, save one moment.
Let me paint the picture for you:
I'm standing on the wrong side of the railing to my street-facing porch; one hand clinging to the rail, the other hand clutching a drippy, soapy rag. I'm wearing khaki capris left by Angela, a band T-shirt, and MAGENTA lipstick. Yes, I'm wearing lipstick. Why? Because I found it. I forgot about it being in the bottom of one of my bags, and I found it. And I put it on.
So, anyway, I'm washing the sliding glass doors in slightly too small, left behind clothes, but I'm cleaning my apartment so, who cares, right? Suddenly I hear a soft giggle, and a "HIIEEEE, Hello!"
I turn around with my bright magenta lipstick and wave "An-yeseyo"
I remember: I'm not IN my house cleaning, I'm hanging off the outside. And I'm the weird foreigner.

Day 12

An amazing day.

A friend.


I've made a friend here, which is so crucial. It's good to be able to talk with someone openly. Social philosophy, recent Korean history, traditional medicinals, language; we covered it all and more throughout the day. She invited me to hike Guemosan with her and another friend of hers who, unfortunately, had to cancel.

8:30 a.m. She picked me up.

9:26 a.m. We started hiking.

11:27 a.m. We reach the top with shaking legs,
sit down for an apple and are joined by giant bees.

On Guemosan is a double-walled fortress. I will go back with a camera and take photos sometime. Also, I will stop at the temples. My legs were protesting on the way down. I'll know better next time. Go on the way up.

In the late afternoon, after lunch and coffee, I saw the library. This was a BIG DEAL!!! Actually something I've really been wanting to do, which would have been put off much longer were I totally on my own, simply for the reason of not being able to read street signs or follow directions. Lame, I know, but true.

Day 13

Just Another Manic Monday

Day 14

To the Fitness Room!
In the morning, I hit the very tiny gym-like room with a co-worker. She takes mis-steps multiple times on the stair-stepper, while I fumble with seat-height on the stationary bike and try to figure out why it won't turn on. We work our way around the room relatively smoothly, but we're both very glad that it's only us and a couple of senior citizens here to exercise.

Next, it's to the Photo Place for me!
I need more I.D. photos for the hospital and my foreigner I.D.
I end up calling my gym-partner to have her explain to the photo man what I need. He takes my photo, and for a fee of W1000 (~$1), prints the photos in 15 minutes opposed to overnight. When I go to pay him, he glimpses a photo of The Celebs in my wallet. He's into it. I think it's the diamond background in addition to their diamond smiles.

Okay! Off to the hospital! I get a foreigner check-up for my foreigner I.D. some eyesight, hearing, blood, and urine testing! an X-Ray of my chest, yes I have lungs and there's a heart there too, oh! Don't forget, go see the dentist.

An hour and a half later, I'm back at school and only 5 minutes late for classes.

Day 15

ohmygodicantmovemylegs. they're still so sore from hiking Guemosan. I can barely stand first thing in the morning. Sun salutes do some good, then I putter around the apartment until I leave for school. The schedule changes constantly and I'm still attempting to remember students' names. I'll get used to it.

Cindy makes Dukbuki at school. I try to remember how so I can make it at home. I made pumpkin curry stew today. Cooking for one is really different. The other teachers all share with me, and I want to bring something to share with them...but...what if they don't like it? what if I don't like it? I can't bring it if I don't even like it...maybe I'll bake cookies or something. I did that on Saturday, tested out baking cookies in the toaster oven. it's awful, baking in that thing. The degree markers are worn away, so I can only guess at the temperature, but I think I'm pretty close.

I'm a little lonely.
During the dinner break at work, I just listen to the talk around me. I don't understand any of it. I think of potential social situations where the same thing might occur. I simultaneously dread and look forward to them...I'd like to learn Hangul, and there's not many better ways than immersion, but it is also rather alienating. I've been doing flashcards and a "Your first 100 Korean Words" book, so sometimes a word or two will sound relatively familiar. I'll start the lessons soon. I'll get it eventually.
Until then I'll continue pantomiming, pointing, or calling a friend to talk to someone. The language barrier makes every day an automatic adventure. I love adventures.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Maggot Melon / Oil Ear


Acceptance of this fact: my wake cycle is the sleep cycle of another. There are few hours of overlap.

Also: Duk - some food that is good that has no english name...The Government of South Korea is considering adding some new English names to popular dishes.

*G.I. Soup ~ Spicy Sausage Soup

However, I think this primarily applies to Seoul and other tourist destinations...
The Korea Herald is a main source of my information regarding Korea and beyond. Luckily, one is provided daily by the school.

Day 7

Nonexistent (in my memory)

OOH!! The woman who runs the Hagwon took everyone out to dinner to say Farewell Angela, Welcome Candida. Low tables, floor seating on pads, I learn some dining etiquette, drink soju, and "cider" (think 7-Up). Also, I am told my hair is like a doll's. There is some confusion but we finally spell it out and understanding unfolds.

Oh! OH! MAGGOT MELON! maggot melon and oil ear.
1) I cut into a melon. There are maggots in it.
2) A student in the adult conversation class had a bad day because a mosquito flew into her ear, she put oil in it to kill the mosquito and subsequently couldn't get it out. Neither could the doctors at the emergency room. They eventually put a tiny camera in her ear to see well enough to scoop out the mosquito. After that she came to the school, realized she had no socks* with her and went to buy some so she could come to class. This is D-E-D-I-C-A-T-I-O-N.

This day unfolds like a dream


Day one of teaching. How did it go?

First class: "Tony, stop that."

Second class: "Repeat after me: S Shh She. They are not the same. Good job."

Third-Fifth classes: "Hi, My name is Candida. Are you being shy? It's okay, let's have some Homonym Fun...'does the hare have hair?' I'll draw a picture. 'Your sister ate eight pears and got a stomachache'. Funny, right??"

Sixth class: "Okay, let's read together. I'll be the NARRATOR, Tom, you be Teen Reader, Manfred, you read the part of Miss Teen America, okay? Go!"

Seventh class: "Hi Lisa, nice to meet you. Being an adolescent is difficult, right? Let's read about best friends. Very good! We'll have a good year together."

Follow that with yoga class, and it's a pretty decent day, eh?

Day 9

I finally discover the mountain behind my home. I hike to the top where, lo and behold, lies a mini-gym. Okay, actually let's call it a "mini fitness zone"; chin-up bars, something with little rotating platforms that you stand on and balance (with a place to hold on), something with pegs on it, I don't know, and a neon yellow hula hoop. So, for my moment of mid-day zen, I hula hoop on top of a mountain. This is great.
Classes are fine, if one dismisses utter confusion on the part of teacher and students for multiple hours of the day. We'll work through it. I think they like me anyway. The adult class informs me that I CAN, in fact, use a korean 220V printer with my american 110V computer. (please, let me know if this is wrong before I fry my computer.)
I wear too many stripes during yoga and get dizzy looking at my pants and shirt while in plow pose.

Day 10

All is well. I have taken a stab (chopstick style) and perhaps a slurp at gimbap, duk guk, asian pear, Naengmyun, some mystery vegetarian buckwheat noodle dish, various kimchi, some other pork dishes (including feet).
I will start Hangul lessons in exchange for looking over a friend's English compositions. She and I may also make kimchi together. We went to E-Mart and she pointed out herbs, dried plants, and various rices and grains next to many seaweeds on display in a prominent location. I believe, at one point, I exclaimed, "I love Korea!" and again when I saw the ginseng bedded in moss in the produce section.
MY FELLOW AMERICANS: Jujubes are part of a real plant. They are not just a candy you buy at the movie theater when you are 8 and think it's funny when you can't open your mouth because your molars are stuck together.

Angela left this afternoon. She is headed to Seoul, then on to Sussex for graduate school. I am so glad to have had an introduction to this country. The alien-ness of it is sly. Things seem relatively normal until a truck blaring something drives by at 3 mph with shoes made of rope swinging off the back while the tidiest woman I've ever seen clicks past in her kitten heels.

Concerning my speech pattern: cadence is starting to sound like an ESL tape recording.
For much of the night, I have been sorting through the kitchen, re-arranging, as I tend to do, listening to "This American Life", and the contents of the iTunes library on random. A peaceful evening. I look forward to further furniture arrangements.

*In South Korea, one removes one's shoes upon entering a school, resturaunt, home, etc. It is considered impolite to be barefoot.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

send me some mad libs

I am standing again. The rug pulled from underneath me in the form of a 13 hour time difference has been put back in place. Mostly. My newly illiterate status will take slightly longer to adjust to and correct.

My general habit of immediately orienting myself in the current location has been shoved aside. Instead, I orient myself to a new occupation, a new life while having the luxury of someone to train me. I am a replacement; the woman whose life I'll be taking over leaves in four days. My life will be my own of course, however, I will assume her job, her home, her telephone, her bills, her clothes, many of her acquaintances...they'll be mine. So, let's just say I'm taking her place in Gimcheon, S. Korea. It feels strange.


4:44 am After being in transit for nearly 20 hours, I am off the plane at Incheon. I take a bus to Seoul where I catch a train to Gimcheon. I arrive in Gimcheon at nearly 11. Angela meets me, and we grab a coffee and glutinous rice donuts at Dunkin' before buying slippers, exchanging money, and taking a taxi home. After a shower, we go to Temple Food (where I will take anyone who visits me) for temple food with vegetarian bibimbap and a variety of amazing kimchi. We leave Temple Food and walk past a row of trees inhabited by enormous spiders on the way to a street where we will catch a taxi. I go to Prime Hagwon with Angela to A.) see where it is B.) maybe meet some co-workers and students and C.) perhaps sit in on a class. Angela opens the door to one classroom to say hello. The students all say hello save one boy, who is very into grimacing and gnashing of teeth at me, with accompanying audio.
I do all of these things. I am exhausted. I go home. I fall asleep at 5 p.m., Angela returns from yoga, I wake up, eat something, and fall asleep again until...


6 a.m. I wake. Mrs. Lee once wrote to me in an e-mail "as soon as early," which I dismissed as a mistake, but it does make sense, if one is in a hurry. 9 a.m. rolls around as Angela and I carry on morning activities. We go to "Bruce" the traditional medicine doctor at the community clinic. He is young and fulfilling military duty. I get acupuncture on my shoulder while Angela chats with Bruce and the nurses. She has a knack for getting through shyness. The day goes on, I go to the school at 4 p.m. to meet Mrs. Lee, chat with her for an hour, then sit in on Angela's classes. The first class screamed at the sight of me.


The kids are excited to see me as I walk up. My name has spread by now, some of them shorten it to "Candi", but not most. It's exciting to have a new person around, especially a new foreign teacher. Maybe glitter stickers will rain from her hands. Maybe she's a former gangster whose birds will follow her forever! Maybe she will hold students upside down by their ankles and teach them American parlour tricks while singing romantic ballad style. Oh, and little animal- shaped erasers will fly out of her mouth like a fountain. Or maybe it will be sour gummy candy.

At night we go to a resturaunt. Chusok rice wine is gifted, entertaining converastion is had, giant kimchi pots line the garden outside. Have I made mention of gardens?
They are everywhere. Pumpkins grow on roofs.


8:10 a.m. We are picked up by Mr. Shil and driven to a middle school in rural Gimcheon. English camp with 13-15 year olds will be my first teaching experience. 45 minutes-break-repeat x 4. It goes so well. We play a game similar to 20 questions, we draw on the chalkboard, we play bingo. Great. They all listen, and contrary to a comment made the previous night "middle schoolers? they're evil." These kids were such fun. so much fun. Also I ate some kind of sugared pre-packaged hamburger.

Evening brings Jon Stewart via the internet. Nighttime brings a trip to Gumi, introductions to new friends, shabu shabu, and the Waygook Grill (foreigner bar). It is Angela's going away party and three of us: Angela, Myoung He, and I leave together on a train for Gimcheon.

Day 5

I wake up, I walk, I read, I blog. I wonder how long it will take before I can remember how to tell a taxi driver where I need to go in Hangul (Korean language). Perhaps finding discounted electronics will not be as simple as I thought. I want someone to send me some mad libs.