Monday, June 14, 2010

Ah, the first real day of being a teacher.

Now that I've gotten over the shock of staying in a country where all I can eat is rice and peanut butter is $8, I decided it's not that bad. Victories that I must share with all of you are the following: I cooked rice TWICE in the last week and both times were a success.
I rode the bus ALONE to work today and got off without getting lost.
I rode the subway by myself and got myself home...I mean I almost got on the wrong train a couple times and thank the LORD for english settings on the subway card transactions, but hey..a victory is a victory. I'll take what I can get.

So, this last weekend, I went to a plethora of places. Haeundae Beach, Pusan International University (equivalent of our dinkytown, except bigger and better shops), Home Plus (equivalent of the biggest super Target/Walmart you've ever seen) and this other place...I can't remember but I guess it's the biggest department store in the world...nation? I forget. The most exciting part for me was not that Louis Vutton was there or that Prada was beckoning my name...negative...I sat for a whole 15 minutes staring at the ice rink spouting off all the hockey terms and stories I could think of at the moment, while my Texan friends looked at me in shock wondering why anyone would want to skate in a circle for more than five minutes. Yes, I am cross-cultural. I have Texan friends. In fact, I think I may start throwing in a random "y'all" just because I feel like it. Next subject.

I know what you are thinking. "Jackie, wow! Such a thrill seeker! Were you scared to go to all these places by yourself?" On the contrary, folks. It was because Jesus gave me such great friends (shout out to Loren and Alaina!) that I went anywhere. Places I go to by myself include the following: Work and Top Mart. I am working on becoming more independent, but I just recently added Top Mart to the list, so I can't push myself too hard. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

I suppose we should get to the portion of the blog that actually has anything to do with my title. People, IT WAS MY FIRST DAY OF BEING A REAL LIVE TEACHER. Guess how many students I had? A whole two. Yup. And I tell you what, those two students had the time of their lives. I know they went home to their parents told them what a great American teacher they had. Oh wait...every student thinks I'm from Canada, England or Australia. Do I really have an accent? I don't even say, "eh" or "matey" or whatever the English say. Hmm. I'm mystified. Anyway, the reason why I had only two students was due to the fact that my school just opened and is in need of some new recruits. Hopefully they come soon, because even if there are no students, I still have to be there from 2PM to 10PM, trying to look busy. I asked if they had a mascot standing outside of the school handing out flyers like Little Caesars (it works for them) but all I got was blank stares.

Speaking of blank stares, here are the funny but true stories that happened to me in the last couple of days.

1. When I walk down the street, I do one of two things. I either, put a "don't mess with the boss" face on or I smile at people. A peculiar thing started happening. The "don't mess with the boss" started getting whistled at, while "smiling Jack-Jack" got even more stares with an occasional disgusted walk-faster-than-you-were-before-to-get-away face. I asked my Korean co-worker today, why that was. She replied, "It's because people who smile tend to be crazy in our culture." Perfect. South Korea thinks I'm crazy. The parents will love me.

2. Fun factoid: Whenever I teach, I have to slow my English down A LOT and I use words that are easier to understand, along with hand motions that mimic charades in order for some of my students to understand. Today, I had just got done teaching two periods of very young students when the owner of Avalon asked to have a meeting with me. I walked into his office and he begins to ask me lots of questions. I thought everything was going well when suddenly he says, "Your English is...uh..very slow." Wonderful. My owner thinks he's hired someone who is slow.

3. It's a good thing to be tall in Korea, or shall I say, many children want to be tall. One day, I was teaching a class for one of my co-workers during training and one of the students yells out, "Teacher! You are SO tall." I reply, "Well, yes I am. Thank you for noticing." Student says, "Teacher, how tall are you?!" I say, "68 inches." The student quickly grabs her cell phone (Korean cell phones would put American cell phones to shame any day. They have so many applications. I honestly think a Korean could cure Cancer or solve the world's poverty issues with his or her cell phone. They are that cool.) and types in the numbers into her conversion chart. When she gets the answer, her face lights up and she tells the entire class in Korean while pointing at me. Everyone's face lights up. The one student exclaims, "Teacher! Wow! You are SO tall!!" When asking my Korean teacher to confirm that being tall is a good thing, she replies, "Only when you are child. Not now."

Dear Korea, please embrace the Amazon woman in me, especially when I wear heels. Shout out to all the Amazon gals like me!

Executive decision: I need to stop the shout outs. That last one made me feel like I was apart of Destiny's Child singing "Independent Women".

Last thing: BIG PRAISE. I get to stay in my apartment. Even though I commute to work by bus (it's a ten minute drive), I don't even care. I have a great apartment that is close to my friends and I'm so excited that I get to stay :). Now if we could just pray that I get pots, pans, microwave and some other things, that would be great. But seriously: Jesus gets all the praise for finding me a church to go to, wonderful Christian friends, an apartment and a job. Major favor happening. THANK YOU LORD! :)

Okay, now I'm off to bed. Shalom out, people.

Friday, June 11, 2010

South Korea: Here I come...#1

I've never done a blog, but I figured, "what the hey?" If Julie and Julia can do it, so can I. I'm hoping you all know who I am so I don't have to really introduce myself...or else it would be weird for you to just randomly follow me. But I mean, what ever floats your boat, I guess.

Anyway, as you should know my name is Jackie. I am from USA and am currently a teacher in South Korea teaching English. This blog, well, it's about my experiences, my thoughts, my crazy antics and most importantly it's about how the Lord is going to work in and through me in my complete weakness.

After 17 grueling hours on a flight, I arrived in Busan on Monday night. Myself and the other teacher, Nick, were picked up by Avalon's assistant manager Kevin. Kevin is a treat. Kevin is 24 and due to his four year stint in New York, will commonly throw in phrases such as, "let's bounce" into his daily vocabulary. In fact, when you call Kevin, you can "bounce" to Jay Z's song "Empire State of Mind"- (side note: I totally had to just google that..i know, they should really take away my citizenship for not knowing that off hand.)

Moving on, Kevin took us to eat Korean barbecue, which was culture shock and delightful all at once. This was the moment I met "kimchi". "Kimchi" is basically fremented cabbage with red pepper paste, in all actuality, it doesn't taste as terrible as it sounds. Although "kimchi" wasn't half bad, I quickly learned that much of Korean food is SPICY. I know that my Minnesotan hotdish background has sufficiently helped me in preparing for this time...err, wait? :)

Speaking of hotdish, as we northern folk like to call it, I got to my apartment and I have no oven. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO MAKE MY TATOR TOT HOTDISH? A whole year without hotdishes..hmm, please pray for my survival. Ha, just kidding but seriously, no oven, no microwave at this time and two burner stove. Priding myself on being such a great cook in the states, I decided to make some rice. After not paying attention for about 10 minutes while trying to learn the Korean alphabet on YouTube, I suddenly smelled burning...yes, I was never meant to be a Korean, my rice has burnt and so has my only pot. No worries, I will not be defeated. I went out and bought myself more rice and will battle once again, hoping this time to achieve victory.

On the subject of rice, let's talk about teaching. I had no way to transition, so that will have to do. There are a few things I have already learned about Korean culture- one is to be very flexible. For example, Kevin says, "Jackie, be at school at 2 o'clock in the afternoon". I am there by 1:50PM, when does my homie, Kevin, arrive? At around 3:15PM. Next example:

Kevin: "Jackie, we are moving you in a week"
Jackie: "Okay, do you know when?"
Kevin: " I'll let you know"
....days have past, Jackie continues to ask each day. Same conversation occurs until one day...
Jackie: "Kevin. When am I moving?"
Kevin: "Oh! You are moving tomorrow."
Jackie: "What time?"
Kevin: "Oh, I don't know..." day...
Jackie: "Kevin, what time am I moving today?"
Kevin: "Oh, Jackie you are moving next thursday now."

Kevin. I wish you were my homie and I wish you knew more about when or if I will ever move.

Things you must know to teach.
1. You must know how to spell correctly. I feel like every day I am teaching, I'm at a spelling bee competition. You see if I don't know how to spell a word for the little kids, I can play it off saying.."umm, this is a different way to spell it?", but the older students will make sure to point it out. My favorite happened to be the day I was not paying attention while talking to my class and I spelt Canada as Canda. One of my students said, "Teacher? Can-da? Where is that?"
2. Have absolutely no shame in looking like a fool. There's no example for that, that's just who I am on a regular basis. Anyone who has seen me dance in broad daylight or heard me bust out in random song or accent should know that.
3. Have more confidence in yourself than your students do. Ha, this is so clique, but absolutely true. God gave you this job, have confidence that if you can't physically, emotionally or even socially do it, He will. He's our ultimate Teacher.

Well, this is very long start to my first blog. Hmm, we'll see how long I'll do this. Blogging world, don't be upset if I don't love this enough to continue on. I will leave on this note: I am completely and utterly out of my comfort zone. Though there are days I hate it, at the same time it's a great way for the Lord to teach me more about Himself and to refine me into the woman He desires me to be. It is because of Him and only Him that I will survive this. He will sustain me through this and hopefully through it all, I'll gain some eternal perspective.