New School

Here it is, finally, and only 3 1/2 months in! Here’s the low down on my return to the Land of the Morning Calm. When I arrived at the airport, I was under the impression that I was the only one being picked up. Wrong. There were three of us, all on the same flight, and we didn’t even know it. I also assumed that I would be getting my own hotel room. We all know what happens when you assume… The other two girls and I crammed into a tiny hotel room with only two beds and an exorbitant amount of luggage. For a week. We got to know each other REALLY well really quickly. On the upside, there were sandwiches and drinks waiting for us after our long journey.  The next morning at breakfast, I was again surprised to find that there were 12 new teachers, as I had been told there would only be a couple of new teachers. Obviously something was lost in translation. After what seemed like forever (a week) of mind numbing training and sharing cramped quarters with strangers, I was finally able to move into my new place. It is much smaller than last year, but also much nicer. A post on that matter later. And if we’re being real, probably MUCH later.

Now for the school itself: It is MUCH bigger than my last school. There are 20 foreign teachers (as opposed to five last year). And we all get along pretty well. I knew that out of that many teachers I would easily find friends, but I genuinely like ALL of my coworkers this year. The same cannot be said for last year. And there are men. This is partially lost on me in that I am no longer single, but is still appreciated as working in an all female environment can get a little catty. My boss this year is not terrifying. And he speaks English. He’s actually very friendly and generous and I genuinely enjoy working for him. I feel much more appreciated this year than last. The hours are better. I get paid on time. I get paid more. I have my own classroom that I can decorate, which I’m pretty sure I did an awesome job of, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. You can check out the pics down below. Last year I had to haul materials from class to class which was a pain because if you forgot something you had to rush to the teachers’ room and hurry back before the kids staged a coupe. This year, everything is at my fingertips. Last year my school had three helpers for the whole school. This school has one helper per class. This is particularly beneficial if someone has an accident, gets sick, or is trying to convey something that I don’t understand. Which is not to say that my ajumma can then relay what is happening to me, her English is pretty mediocre, but at least she can take care of it. Plus, she’s really awesome and nice to me (shout out to Miss Rosa!). I only teach two classes, plus three one on one lessons. This is great in that the older students tend to be more difficult to handle, and I don’t have to deal with them as much. But a downfall is that my kids are so little that I rarely get those little Konglish nuggets of hilarity to share with you all. I expect this year’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things” will be decidedly less funny than last year’s. I apologize in advance and will try and make my kids funnier. But I make no promises. My coteacher is a superstar and amazing and I love her. She mostly just lets me do my own thing and only comes to me if there is a problem. Which is the way I like it. I don’t know what I’m going to do when she goes on maternity leave. Probably die.

There aren’t many downfalls. The biggest one is that I don’t enjoy my kids as much this year, which is really sad for me. I loved my kids so much last year that I nearly stayed at a school I hated. This year, I love my school but my kids are a royal pain in the ass. Which is not to say that I don’t absolutely adore them on an individual level, but as a group they are exceedingly difficult. I’m not sure if it is partially due to the fact that they are from more affluent families. Seriously, these kids’ wardrobes are more expensive than mine. One kid uses Chanel lipstick as her “play” makeup. My biggest problem is that they just don’t listen. Ever. I have to repeat myself a million times and by the end of the day I’m at the end of my rope. I’m constantly trying new methods to get them to listen better, but nothing seems to work. So if you have any suggestions, please feel free to share!

Also,  I am in a new location this year. I said fairwell to Jeonju’s small town ways and hello to the big city. I live in a relatively affluent part of Seoul, right next to Gangnam. Yes, of Gangnam Style fame. There is a beautiful lake a few blocks away that my friends and I hang out at and sometimes go running (read: walking) at. On the lake is a small amusement park called Lotte World. Kind of like a poor man’s Disneyland. A very poor man. But that’s another post for another day. I live in between two subway stops and am so glad to have such easy access to it. Thanks to a subway app called Jihachul (Korean for subway), I am a subway pro and am venturing to parts of Seoul I’d previously never heard of. If you’re in Seoul or spend a lot of time there and don’t have this app yet, download it, like, yesterday. My area’s so fancy, it even has garbage cans. I know what you’re thinking, “Megan, garbage cans are not fancy nor are they notable.” In America that is true, dear friends, but I am not in America. Last year I did not once see a garbage can on the streets of Jeonju. People just threw their trash on the ground and this was totally acceptable. My inner Girl Scout had a difficult time with this method of garbage disposal, and I often carried my garbage in my purse until I got home. This year, garbage cans abound! Just kidding. They’re still hard to come by. But they exist. I have photographic evidence of it. Anywho, that it my new situation in a nutshell. I promise to update you guys with my exciting adventures more frequently than I have been (my mom said I have to).

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I just have to tell you about my day…

I know, I know. I made promises about posts and have neglected to keep them. But let’s be real for a minute, by now you’ve surely grown accustomed to the fact that I seldom do anything in a timely manner. At any rate, rest assured that they are in the works. I have several posts to knock out before my aunt and sister get here in a couple of weeks. Then I’ll have a whole other slew to procrastinate on. For now, I’m going to write a post unlike any other that I have ever written. I am just going to tell you about my day. Because as days go, it was pretty epic (as I’m sure anyone who is my friend on Facebook has already gathered from my incessant posts today). But this. needs. to. be. shared. My first student to arrive today, Ian, walked in and informed me that Annie (whose birthday was today) looked like a princess. I said, “Wow. That is fantastic.” Clearly he could sense that I was not yet fully awake and feigning interest, so he replied, “No. Like a REAL princess.” I wasn’t sure what that meant. Would there be red carpets and fanfare? One never knows with Annie, who celebrates her birthday everyday during play time. All I could say was, “Oh my.” Several minutes later Annie waltzed in. Dressed like a bride. A tiny, little, 6-year-old bride. With gloves and a veil. I kid you not. Scroll down to the picture if you don’t believe me. Then she said, “Miss Megan, look at this!” She proceeded to to twirl in her dress while coming to a seat on the ground with her dress puffed out all around her. Like she was freaking Cinderella. I was in awe of this child. Actually, I am often in awe of this child. She continued to swan about the room until class started. During the restroom break before class started, Ruby stuck my finger in her mouth. In retaliation, I wiped my salivated on finger on her face. She proceeded to make me hit myself in my own boob. Well played, kid. But watch out, I’m gunning for you… The next two classes passed pretty uneventfully (unless you count their adorable rendition of Friday by Rebecca Black). Then it was time for board games. Yes, board games is an actual class at my school. Sounds awesome, right? Not so much. Mostly they just fight and I referee. At any rate, we were sitting on the mat playing Jenga. Last time this happened, one of the kids started rubbing my back. This time I managed to trick them into thinking it was an awesome fun thing to do, so they spent the entire period taking turns rubbing my back. During the course of this epic back rub, one of my students, Jay ( I’m just not really sure how this kid is going to be able to function in society. I adore him. But he’s…interesting.)  turns to me and says, out of the blue, “Kiss a fellow.” I think this stems from something I said in passing a million years ago. (This is why I love this kid. He can’t use silverware, but he can remember an offhand remark from ages ago.) Then another student’s eyes lit up and he said, “Miss Megan kiss SO fellow.” This is Konglish for Miss Megan kisses a lot of fellows. Then he leaned over and kissed my chest. Before I could recover from the assault on my “jijis”, I looked over and Annie had pulled up her dress and down her underwear and was showing 2 other students her promised land. Right about the time I got that situation shut down, it was time for lunch. And not a moment too soon. After lunch was play time. Halfway through playtime I looked over and Jay was lying on the floor with his arm over his face. I looked at him and said, “Are you taking a nap?” He replied, very dramatically, “No. I am die.” And then I proceeded to die. After lunch we had a review period where they spent most of the time coloring activity sheets. One the rare occasion that this happens, I usually put on some Disney tunes and we chit chat while we color. During this period, Henny (I know, I know.) looked at me and said, “Miss Megan! Look at this!” (Her coloring.) I responded, “That’s amazing!” Julia asked, “What is amazing?” I said, “It means very good.” She said, “Miss Megan, you are amazing.” Preach. Then Ian, who likes to pull a Gilbert Gottfried face, started doing Darth Vader impressions and saying in a deep voice, “No! I am your father!” Except I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know who Darth Vader is and thinks he made it up. Then they all started calling each other muffs. Which is apparently short for muffin. I don’t even know. Don’t you wish you spent every day with 12 6-year-olds (which really means 5-years-old Western age) whose primary language is not the one you speak?

Ian's Gilbert Gottfried face.

Ian’s Gilbert Gottfried face.

Annie the birthday bride.

Annie the birthday bride.

Jay: No. I am die.

Jay: No. I am die.

Kids Say the Darndest Things Part 2

In case you guys haven’t had enough of the hilarious musings and mistakes my kids make, I’ve got some more for you. The last entry focused on things they said, and this post will be mostly things they’ve written. A lot of these come from diaries they have to write every week on a topic of their choosing. They often just tell me what they did over the weekend. Some of it comes from homework or in-class assignments. But I also remembered some more funny things they’ve said, and it would be a shame to keep them to myself, so I’ll probably add those in as well. Enjoy!

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So my first kinders and I would go through this routine every week where I would give them their new vocabulary word, ask them to spell it and then ask them what it means. After awhile, it got to the point where I would say, “What is a _________?” And they would respond, “You are a __________.” One week one of their vocabulary words was tool. I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

Me: What is a tool?

Heidi (7): You are a tool. (Well played, small child, well played.)

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My kinders and I were reading a story about – well, I don’t remember what. But the important thing is that there were ROBBERS in the house.

Homework Question: What was in the house?

Alfred (7): There were rubbers in the house. (I understand this means something very different in other English speaking countries that makes it significantly less funny. In America, rubbers are condoms.)

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Ellie (8): I want stank (steak) for dinner.

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One day in class, we were learning about jobs. I was asking them all what their parents did. Robin (aka my 7-year-old love guru) tells me that his dad made Orlando. I was like, “Uh, I’m pretty sure that’s not true. That city has been around a lot longer than your dad. And it’s in America. I’m pretty sure your dad’s never been there.” He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “My dad is an engineer. Orlando is a car, not a city.” I informed him that it was, in fact, a city (Which he found hilarious. I mean really, who names a city Orlando? I’m looking at you, Gangnam.). So then later on in the week they had to write about what their parents did. This is what Robin wrote:” My dad made Orlando (not a city, it’s a car).” Just in case I was still unclear on the subject.

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Amy: I also gave a love massage. (love message)

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My older students have to write summaries every week on a topic of either my choosing or my supervisor’s choosing. The topic question is almost always followed by, “And why?” to encourage them to expound upon their answers. One particularly lazy student named Haley (11) – which is pronounced Hallie. God forbid you should actually call her Haley – in an effort to reach her required assignment length, ended every summary by directing the question towards me and following it up with, “And why?” Like she fully expected me to answer. Sometimes I did.

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John (11 – about his trip to China): It was very fun but the foods were sucks.

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Lauren: Your hair is popular. (Isn’t it just?)

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Diary: I slept with my cousin. (had a sleep over)

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Diary: I slept with my family. (Families often sleep in the same room in Korea, or at least multiple family members will.)

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Diary: I went to clarinet institute because my mother said, “you are good at blowing on things.” (I know, I have the mind of a 12-year-old boy.)

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Diary: My parents procreated me.

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Amy (12): My friend is stupid. I want her to be smart. If she gets smart I will make her my best friend at school.

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Diary: Because my points looked like really excrements.

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Spencer (11): I have a long rod, so I will sell it. (Again, mind of a 12-year-old.)

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Aspen (12): I would like to eat the famous French. (She means the famous French cuisine.)

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Gloria (11): My body was uglied. (I was sick)

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Diary: I am heartaching.

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Jack (12): New Year’s Resolutions:

1. I will study harder than now (important).

2. I will play guitar and practice harder than now.

3. I won’t fight with my friends (important).

4. I will take care of my dog (important).

5. I will save money for my future (important).

6. I will fatten and grow taller (very important).

7. I will meet my girlfriend (not important).

8. I will be more kind than now.

9. I will play computer games until I reach level 120 (not important).

10. I will obey these resolutions.

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Diary: I am spew very hard. (I threw up.)

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Spencer (11): First, I want to be a lawyer so I can rake in the money so I can be rich.

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Robin (7): Homework is the worst study ever. (No doubt, kid.)

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David (8): I am as happy as happy can be. (Seriously, where do they get this stuff?)

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One of my older kids wrote this on a sentence test. The word they had to use was loneliness.: He feels loneliness, so he drinks wine.

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I realized in class one day that instead of saying yes, I often say, “Yeah.” It occurred to me that I had never explained what that meant. I just kind of assumed they knew. So one day I decided to ask them if they knew what “yeah” meant. To my surprise, they told me they didn’t. So I explained that it simply meant yes. They seemed to think I had just taught them the most amazing word in the English language and began shouting it for no apparent reason. Except when they say it, it comes out more like, “Yaw!” So it really sounded like they were trying to wrangle cattle. I wish I’d gotten a video of it.

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Ryan (10): I like one girl. She is pretty. She like to me. She is very pretty. She is nice girl. She not speak F word. (Never mind this kid “speak F word” ALL. THE. TIME.)

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One day I was handing back tests to my older students. I gave Lindsay (11) hers back and she puts her hand over her face and says, “Shitty!” I looked at her and said, “Excuse me?” She looked at me and said very matter-of-factly,”Shitty. It’s like shit. I made it up.”

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And there you have it, friends. Those are all of my stories for now. But I’ve just signed a contract for next year, so there will be more to come!

Engrish/Konglish

During my year in Korea, I saw and heard more than my fair share of both Engrish and Konglish. And lucky for you, I took lots of pictures! I want to start by illustrating the difference between the two (I know! I thought they meant the same thing for ages, too!). But Engrish is a term used to describe the misuse of English by native speakers of Asian languages. It is derived from the common pronunciation of an “L” as an “R.” As in, “dericious.” Which, by the way, NEVER gets old. Konglish is more Korea specific. It is the adoption of English words into the Korean language. For instance, cheese in Korean is “chee-juh.” Cellphone is “hand-uh pone” (hand phone). My greatest accomplishment as a teacher will be to get them to say phone instead of pone. It may never happen. Also, because I probably sound like a douche right now making fun of people  who actually, on the whole, speak a vastly different language from their own incredibly well, I will point out some of my own language mishaps. For instance, in Korean, no is “aniyo” or “ani” and yes is “nay,” which is SUPER counter-intuitive. So often I say yes when I mean no. And vice versa. Also, I have just been made aware that what I previously thought meant “right” and “left” actually means “right foot” and “left foot.” So when I am directing a cab, I tell him to turn right foot. And once I asked a waiter to take me. Because the words for take me and bring me are very similar and I use take me so frequently in cabs. So that was awkward. Flip through the pictures to see some of my photos of the weird verbiage I have come across. Some of them aren’t necessarily Engrish or Konglish, but just culturally funny. Enjoy!

Kids Say the Darndest Things…

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, my kids are hilarious. Almost as hilarious as me. Maybe. I guess I’ll let you be the judge of that. I had to start keeping post-it notes in my teacher basket to write down all of the hilarious things they said. Throughout the course of the year, only one class got hip to my note taking. I’ve been saving them since last year (I seriously have four pages of quotes typed up) and have been meaning to do a series of posts about them, but like I said in my last post, I’ve been lazy. So I guess the series of posts begins now. Some of the quotes will need a little translating. I only learned a little bit of Korean last year but, fortunately for you guys, I’m totally fluent in Konglish. I’ll start you off with some of my favorite misspellings:

canrats = carrots

apple tite = appetite

Catorick churche – Catholic church

French flies = French fries

cocorage = cockroach

umvellibubble = unbelievable (totes my fave)

Lingkyn = Lincoln

bulad = blood

vagitavle = vegetable (a very close second)

roerrcoaster = roller coaster

once upond = once upon

blowme = bloom

mitten test = midterm test

Earth ball = globe (not a misspelling, but still hilarious)

 
And now for some of my favorite quotes. I am putting their age next to their name to give it a little more context. I should probably preface this by saying I have some classes that I blatantly lie to, as you will see.  Also, some students are clearly much funnier than others. Those of you familiar with my Facebook posts should note that Robin is the kid I usually refer to as my 7- year-old love guru (you’ll see why shortly).

Me (to Robin after misbehaving): Do I need to make you stay for 2 minutes after the bell rings?

Robin (7): That means you are killing me one more time!

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Anthony (8): Statue of Lavratory (Statue of Liberty)

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Me: I like tall boys.

Amy (7): Maybe you should marry giraffe.

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Me (teasing a boy who is usually really on top of things): Sean, get your life together.

Robin (7) (in mocking voice): Sean, don’t just get your jacket, get your life, too. (What? Who is this kid?!)

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Mitchel (8): What the devil?! (Seriously, where on earth did he pick that up?!)

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Robin (7): Megan will destroy students with lots of homework.

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Sally (10): Rest in space (peace).

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9 Class (7): Homework, homework, no one wants to do the homework. (To the tune of Beat It)

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Spencer (11): Shut up your mouth!

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Anthony (8): Look at my new butthole (bottle).

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Me: I’m never wrong.

Amy (7): You are smart, but you can’t see everything. (Ouch, kid.)

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Sean (7): Amy is touching Robin!

Me: Amy is touching Robin’s pencil case. Let’s be clear about that.

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9 Class (7): Sean is the meth king (math king).

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Spencer (11): God loves us. God is gay.

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This next ones stems from me calling them slowpokes:

Robin (7): Girl is fast poke, boy is slowpoke.

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Sean (7): Die person go to…die person go to hell!

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Ben (8): I go bitch (I went to the beach).

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The two are playing a one-upping game:

Sean (7): I will be the god. (And by the god, he really just means God.)

Robin (7): I will be the… godfather!

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Spencer (11): Romance movies are so buttery(cheesy).

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Me: I’m the king of everything.

Robin (7): I will call to Obama and tell him to think about that.

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So, this next quote came about because the class was using waited in their sentence and I was trying to prompt them to change it to waiting. After several incorrect guesses, Eliza (8) raises her hand VERY enthusiastically and says, “I know! Waited-ed-ed!” Sorry kid, better luck next time.

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For the next one, we were learning about sports, and I asked them what was their favorite sport to play in P.E. Robin (7) told me that he doesn’t like any sports. I said, “None?!” He said, “I like fighting.” I responded, “They let you fight in gym class?” He told me proudly, “Yes. I am the best boy fighter in my class.” I teased him, asking. “Wait, there is a girl that is a better fighter than you?” He responded (with an evil grin on his face), “She had (has) a lot of power, but I can mess with her.” No doubt kid, no doubt.

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I was trying to explain election day to my kindergarteners (bear in mind their limited vocabulary) and I said, “Today is a very special day in America. Today we choose a new king.” Angela, my favorite of the little nuggets, shouts out, “I choose Megan!” Sorry Obama, I’ve got news for you…

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This was my very first quote. I had only been teaching for a few weeks. I was hurrying my then kindergarteners through something because we were running short on time. Robin (7) looked up at me and said, “Megan, you are not being patient with me.” I was stunned. I responded, “Fair enough. Take your time.” A week or so later, Robin was hurrying me because he knew that if we finished early we were going to play a game. I turned to him, fully expecting this to go right over his head, and said, “Robin, you are not being patient with me.” He looked at me for a second, and then busted up laughing. I couldn’t believe it! It totally became a long-running joke between the two of us. I heart this kid right in the face.

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That same class also liked to discuss (at great length) my love life. After what they think is several months of me being single (they would be SO disappointed in Megan Teacher if they knew how long it had really been), Robin (7) gave me some advice. He told me, “I will give you ‘Megan’s Project.’ Number 1: Be clean.” Apparently my showering skills leave something to be desired. “Number 2: More this (as he waves his hands over his face).” I ask, “You mean make-up?” “YES! Number 3:Wear beautiful clothes.” Clearly, my wardrobe is also quite lacking. “Number 4: Diet.” Ouch. “Number 5: Give to him a rose. Then you can kiss to him, marry to him, and lay a baby.” Yes, you read that correctly. And everyday for nearly 2 months they asked me if I was working on my project. Eventually I think they, much like my mother, decided it was an exercise in futility and accepted my future as a crazy cat lady. So I lied to them and told them Joe was my boyfriend. I hated letting them down. So now they think Megan Teacher is off in America planning her wedding and then I’m moving to England. At least my imaginary life is awesome.

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I should warn you that this next portion is rated R for adult content. I’m sure you’re thinking, “They’re children. How bad can it possibly be?” Bad. I assure you. This is the class that is mad at me because I won’t tell them what word is worse than the F word. Also, after telling this story numerous times, I’ve discovered that there are an alarming number of people that don’t know what that word is. If you don’t know, I’m not telling you, either. Anyway, here’s how the conversation went down. Spencer (11) asked, “Teacher, what does fuck mean?” To which I responded, “I canNOT tell you that and for the love of god and all that is holy, stop saying that in class.” His classmates proceeded to explain to him in Korean what it was in terms of “that’s how babies are made.” So he asked me, “So I can do this when I want to make a baby?” I replied, “You can do this when you are married.” He said, “I want to get married, but I DON’T want to do that.” Wait a couple of years kid, wait a couple of years.

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Stay tuned for for Part 2 of Kids Say the Darndest Things…

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There’s No Place Like Home

So, I am currently writing this during my bajillion hour long layover in Beijing. I am, however, going to have to post it later as the Chinese clearly hate me and Facebook and WordPress because it won’t let me on either of those sites. Or any site that might amuse me/keep me from being bored out of my ever loving mind for the next 5 ½ hours. Suck it, China. If it were not for that gargantuan wall that I so desperately want to see, I would NOT being coming back. Despite the introduction, this post is not actually about how crappy my journey has been so far, or even about the further crappiness I expect to endure until the glorious moment when my plane touches down at SFO. As my year is up, I wanted to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly that Korea has to offer and also what I’m most excited to return to in the good, ‘ol U.S. of A.

Despite my everlasting love for Korean food, my kids are what I’m going to miss the most. Especially my kinders. I can’t believe that I didn’t get up this morning and go shake my sillies out with them. Or that I’ll never pinch those adorable little cheeks of theirs or hear Angela call me “Beautiful Rainbow Princess Megan Teacher.” (That’s my official title now, in case you were wondering, and I expect you all to start using it post haste.) I wish that I could watch them grow and see the wonderful people they will become. That, I think, is reason numero uno that I’m not sure teaching is for me long term. As much as I love my job, I get so attached to those adorable little faces and it’s so hard to see them go. I’m not sure I could handle that year in and year out. I am also going to miss my amazing coworkers (both waygookin and Korean) who have helped me navigate the world that is being a foreign teacher in Korea. I have learned so much during the past year, and am excited to see what year two has to offer.

I will also miss the food horribly and terribly. I have been spoiled by the amazing cuisine in Jeonju and am worried that wherever I end up next won’t hold a candle to what I’m used to. Guess I’ll be making lots of trips to Jeonju next year! I will miss how friendly and helpful the Korean people are, on the whole. The taxi drivers that ask a million questions or the random stranger that comes up and starts talking to you because they are so eager to practice their English and want to know more about you. I will miss my ghetto apartment. It was my home for over a year and it holds so many great memories. I will miss how cheap everything is here. Like, SUPER cheap. And I’m cheap. So it works out pretty nicely. I will miss the “yogio button” at restaurants. Best. Idea. Ever. It’s a little button at your table that you press whenever you need something from your waiter. And other than that, he/she never bothers you. No, “Hi! I’m Kimmy! I’m going to be your server this evening and check on you every 15 seconds and annoy you so much that you regret leaving the house!” Or, conversely, “Hi. I’m Brad. I’m your server. You probably won’t see me again for, like, 20 minutes. Hope you’re not too hungry…” It makes the dining experience much more pleasant. I will miss hanging out in front of convenient stores having a few drinks with my friends. Seriously, that’s a thing here. A socially acceptable, not at all white trash thing. And it’s surprisingly fun. I will also miss all of the wonderful new friends I’ve made this past year. I hope to stay in contact with them all, but am sad to know that in reality, some of them I will probably never see again. Thank goodness for Facebook! (Except in China.)

I will not miss being gawked at. I will not miss being given the disapproving once over because of my weight. I will not miss being told I’m fat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m FULLY aware of what I look like. But it still sucks to hear, like, on a daily basis. And it makes it really difficult to feel good about the 35 lbs I’ve lost since I’ve been here. I will not miss the smog. I will not miss the grocery stores here. Unless you go right when they open or really late at night, they are insanely packed. And they have people yelling out specials all the time trying to get you to buy things and it’s super obnoxious. If I’m solo, I just put on my ipod and tune everyone out. I won’t miss the few Koreans who don’t like you because you’re a foreigner. On the whole, my experience has been really good. But the negative experiences seem to make a bigger impact than the positive ones, sadly. I will not miss my last class on MWF. Seriously, they were all jerks. Middle school teachers – I don’t know how you do it. You have my utmost respect because if I taught kids that age, I’d end up in jail. I will not miss the lunch lady. She was massively unpleasant. Even the Koreans didn’t like her, but they have to tolerate her because she’s older than they are. Homie don’t play that. Respect is a two way street. She was really nice to me on my last day and gave me an extra sandwich and I spent the entire day being worried that she’d tried to poison me. She’s that kind of awful. I will not miss my shower. Or my bathroom on the whole, really. I will not miss my college dorm room sized fridge. And I will not miss surprise tentacles in my food.

Of course, first and foremost, I am most excited to see my family when I get back (read cats). I especially can’t wait to see my sister. She won’t get home until almost Christmas, which will make almost a year and a half apart. Which is balls. She says she’s going to come visit me during year two, and if she doesn’t I might cut her. Because a year without your sister is just too long. Are you reading this, Kristin? If you don’t make a Korea trip happen, I WILL CUT YOU. And you’ve been warned, so I don’t even think I can get in trouble for it. Wait, maybe that’s not quite how the system works… Whatever. The point is, make the damned trip! I can’t wait to see my kitties and poopsies. Especially Abby. I have been waiting over a year to have some couch cuddle time with my favorite dog/sasquatch hybrid. I can’t wait to have good Mexican food. A year without Mexican food is also too long. I can’t wait to see the stars again. You can almost never see them in Korea, and that sucks. I can’t wait to drive (providing I get my license back, but that’s a whole other story) and sing in the car. I can’t wait to experience the holiday season properly. My mom is going to kill me by the time Christmas is over and probably wish I’d just stayed in Korea. I can’t wait to drink decent beer without having to offer up my first born to the bartender. I can’t wait to watch TV. I have kept up on a few of my shows, but I have not just sat in front of a TV and vegged since I got to Korea. And I super-dee-duper cannot wait to go shopping. It is very difficult to get my size clothing in Korea and the selection is pretty limited (read unattractive). Also, all of the bottoms I have saw fit to die two weeks before I left. I am currently sitting in the airport in my last pair of yoga pants that are slightly too big and in the last 24 hours have sprung a hole on the inner thigh. I just pray they make it until I get to San Francisco or things are going to get really awkward…

So, there you have it. The good, the bad and the ugly. Korea friends – I miss you already and can’t wait to see you again! Friends and family stateside – it’s been too long! I can’t wait to see you all and share my amazing adventure with you! Also, I’ve posted a few of my favorite photos from the last year for your viewing pleasure.

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Something Wicked This Way Comes…

With Halloween falling on a Wednesday this year, we did what any responsible adult would do – we partied the Saturday prior. Joe, Emily and I went with a group costume that I’d wanted to do since the previous Halloween but did not yet have enough friends to pull off: Rock, Paper, Scissors. I’d seen it on Pinterest and when I came to Korea and saw how hugely popular the game is here, I knew I HAD to do it. In fact, wanting to do this costume in Korea makes up an irrational percentage of why I extended my contract. Seriously. The costumes took us four tedious days to create, but they were totally worth it. They looked great. We were nervous because it had rained all day and our costumes were made out of cardboard, but the weather gods smiled on us and the rain ceased before we went out and didn’t return for the remainder of the night. Getting in and out of taxis was still a bit precarious, however. I thought our core concept was pretty obvious, but somehow, even when the three of us were standing RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER, people still managed to be slow on the uptake. In some cases, there was no uptake at all. People kept asking Emily if she was a notebook. Yeah, I know, I can’t believe it either. We ended our night at a fairly packed bar, and I was alarmed to find how quickly my cohorts were willing to jump ship on the costume because “it was getting in the way.” I, alone, remained dedicated to the costume because a) I have no problem getting in other people’s way and b) you go big or you go home. I will keep this in mind when choosing costume partners in the future…

Our school Halloween party was in similar fashion to last year’s. We began, as any good party should, by scaring the shit out of small children. The kinders were the worst. I had one whose head was buried in my stomach and one grabbing on to my leg so tightly that I looked like I was walking with a peg leg. It took almost 10 minutes to calm them down. I felt TERRIBLE. Other teachers, however, were undeterred by the hysterics and continued to scare the bejesus out of kids for the remainder of the day. One of the Korean teachers seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it. Even after the haunted house portion was over, she hid at the end of the hallway scaring children as they walked by. One of my kinders, Daisy, had to go to the bathroom and was too scared to go by herself, so I had to walk with her and hold her hand. She got halfway down the hallway when the teacher came out from a doorway and Daisy immediately turned around and bolted back from whence she came. Attempt #2 was much more successful. However, while we were in the bathroom Daisy asked me, “Monica teacher is what are you doing?” This is 5-year-old Konglish for “What is Monica teacher doing?” I responded, “She is scaring children.” Daisy thought for a minute and then said, very matter-of-factly, like the following was a total normal question, “Monica Teacher is eat children?” I laughed and informed her that no, she was only scaring children. And that’s when Monica came in and ate Daisy. Just kidding! No children were eaten that day. Promise. The second round of students that went through the haunted house were also pretty hysterical. I thought comforting them seemed like the best approach. My Korean counterparts had their own way. They, after being the ones that scared the holy living hell out of these kids, yelled at them that if they did not stop crying they would take their party money away and that they would have to go through the haunted house again. Oh Korea, I have so much to learn about your ways…

After we finished tormenting students, they went around to different classrooms and played games. I hosted a dance party wherein we listened to Gangnam Style ALL. DAY. LONG. Listening to Gangnam Style for 8 hours on repeat changes a person. I may look, sound and act like the Megan you all know and love, but know that something inside of me has been forever altered. And may cause me to dragon kick any radio that plays Gangnam Style. Consider yourselves warned.  During the second round of kids, Monica came into my classroom and when the music in the song pauses, she turned of the lights. Bad idea. These kids clearly hadn’t fully recovered from the earlier trauma and looked like they were having Nam flashbacks. Megan Teacher gave LOTS of stamps at school the next day in an attempt to buy back some of their affection.
Note: I have umpteen adorable videos from the Halloween party, but cannot figure out how to get them from my phone to my computer. Will update when more technologically advanced. Until then, enjoy the photos.

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Jeonju Style

Since I’m leaving in, oh, about two weeks, I thought it was high time I told you guys a little bit about the town I live in. The city is called Jeonju, the capital of the North Jeolla province. It’s located in the south western part of South Korea. It is famed for it’s cuisine, and for good reason. I’ve had food all over Korea, and it’s by far the best (And the cheapest, hurrah!). It is known for its bibimbap in particular. If you don’t know what bibimbap is, this is it. Actually, that picture doesn’t do it much justice. Check this one out. Alright, it turns out bibimbap doesn’t look that appealing. But trust me, it’s totally delicious. And Jeonju makes it better than anyone else. Word on the street is that when Michael Jackson had concerts in Seoul, he had his people bring him Jeonju bibimbap. That is a six hour round trip drive. For rice. At least that’s what I heard, anyway… There is a restaurant just around the corner from my place that makes the best bibimbap I’ve had. I frequently order take out from there. Unfortunately, I have no idea what my actual address is, so I have to go to the restaurant, order my food there and show them the slip of paper that has my address written in Korean. Then I go home and they bring the food to me. The ridiculousness of the situation does not escape me.

Jeonju is also known for it’s Hanok Village – a traditional Korean village. Many cities have these, but Jeonju’s is one of the best. It has over 800 hanok style buildings, tea shops, restaurants and souvenir shops. It’s a great way to spend a weekend afternoon, and I swear, I’m totally going to do a post on it soon. They often hold festivals there, which are always a good time. But the best thing about the Hanok Village is, far and away, the magkeolli man. Known to the foreigner community as Casanova, he plies us with alcohol whenever we pass by. Literally, if foreigners walk by he starts shouting, “Hey, foreigners, come here! Free magkeolli!” He lures you over and you think you’ll just stay for a minute. But four hours later, you’re still there and the group of foreigners has tripled. How he does this and manages to make a profit, I’ll never know. There are many rumors that have spread amongst the foreigners, each more far fetched than the last. But, this is Korea, so really, anything is possible.

That’s about all that distinguishes my town from any other town in Korea. They really do kind of all look the same. Any decent sized town is going to have an Emart, which is kind of like Walmart, and a Homeplus, which is kind of like Target. Most people do their grocery shopping there or at the street vendors. It’s kind of like a small scale farmer’s market that’s open every day. I prefer to get my veggies from there, because it’s insanely more cost effective. Every town also has street vendors selling chicken and pork skewers, deep fried tteok noodles (one of my personal faves), tteokbokkki, and deep fried corn dogs (Which are totally a heart attack waiting to happen. And for some reason, they just call them hotdogs.), amongst other tasty treats. These are great for eating on the cheap, on the run, or just for a quick snack. Cities here also have parks left and right, I imagine because most people live in apartments and therefor have no yard. It’s really awesome, but their parks are a bit different than ours. They still have the requisite swing sets, but they also have these giant, raised gazebos that old people just hang out on. Like all day. And well into the night. I’m not really sure what they do there. I think just wait until foreigners pass by so they can judge them. Also, the parks are pretty devoid of grass. There’s, like, shrubbery, and stuff. So there’s some greenery. But if you want to do cartwheels or somersaults or whatnot, you’re shit out of luck. Interestingly, all parks also have workout equipment. I mean, it’s cool that they’re all health conscious and stuff, but it’s still a little weird to see. Almost as weird as the ajumma’s doing aerobics to Kpop in the parks at night.

We’ve also got a zoo, a river that runs through town with a walking/biking path, an amazing park called Doekjin Park and, like any good Korean town, coffee shops and noreabangs on every corner. And dare I forget to mention the 7 story department store?! Sounds like heaven, right? Not so much. It’s crazy over priced and it’s really only good if you’re into Great Depression Chic. So, that’s my town in a nutshell. It’s a great starter town (not too big, not too small), but I’m ready for bigger and better things next year!

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Chuseok

Chuseok is a 3-day holiday in Korea, often likened to America’s Thanksgiving. It is a rotating holiday, they make a lot of food and it coincides with the fall harvest. But that’s where the similarities end. Typical Chuseok festivities include: wearing a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), bowing to their ancestors graves, bowing to their grandparents, getting money and making songpyeon (rice cake balls with a sweet filling). We had a party for the kinders the Friday before the holiday, and all of the little ones came to school dressed in their hanboks. So. Freaking. Cute. Seriously, people, look at the pictures. LOOK. They played traditional Korean games, made hanboks out of origami, made songpyeon and did a traditional Korean song and dance. And then we sang “Gangnam Style.” I feel like it added a whole new level of authenticity to the celebration. Or something. Ok, not really. But it was really cute watching them do the Gangnam dance. I was in the songpyeon making room, where my Korean coteacher informed me that the more beautiful your songpyeon, the more beautiful your daughters will be. Let’s just say I now hope to have sons. The kids’ songpyeon turned out pretty interesting, as you’ll see in the photos. Here’s a picture of what it’s actually supposed to look like.

Since we had a long weekend, Joe and I decided to head up to Suwon Friday night to visit Xander, a friend of mine from college. Suwon is about 30-45 minutes outside of Seoul and where I’m looking to go for my second year. After work, we booked it to the train station and made it to Suwon just in time to meet Xander and crew for a few drinks. The next day we got up and made our way to Hwaseong Fortress, which is basically an old, giant, cool-looking wall in Suwon. We wandered around the base for a bit, then followed the signs for the temple on the top of the hill. Which lead up to an iron fence where we were able to see the path to the top, but not actually access it. So back down we headed. Did I forget to mention that I’d been lugging around my carry-on this entire time? Cuz I had been. We finally figured out where we needed to go, but it seemed like too arduous of a trek for one encumbered with luggage. Also, we were really hungry and a little hungover. I decided to put it on my list for next year, and Joe decided he was willing to live the rest of his life without experiencing it because he’s not cool enough to be coming back next year. After lunch at a restaurant with a very menacing pig statue  in front, we reunited with Xander and crew to hang out at a pub for a bit and then we collectively made our way to Seoul. After Joe and I checked in to our hostel, we grabbed a bite to eat and then met some of Xander’s friends to celebrate a birthday. It was decided that we should try and hit as many clubs before 11 as possible because apparently there’s no cover charge before 11 and once you get the stamp you can get in all night.

I should preface this by saying that I am NOT a club kinda gal. I just feel like the music being so loud you can feel it on your insides canNOT be a good thing. Oh, no! Does that mean I’m old?! Am I a crotchety old lady complaining about kids these days listening to their music too loud? Oh, god. At least I have my cats… Ok, pity party over. Back to the matter at hand. The first club we went to wasn’t too bad. God knows it’d been a long time since I’d heard anything resembling hip hop outside of my own apartment. The second club we went to didn’t want to let me in because I was wearing sandals without a heel strap and they were concerned about me cutting my feet on broken glass. But the girl behind me with a tiny bit of leather going around her heel but otherwise just as much foot exposed as me was totally cool. Seems legit. Also, I would be way more concerned about the girls walking around in stripper heels. That’s just an accident waiting to happen. Eventually Xander came out and said that if I couldn’t come in, our entire group was leaving, so they caved. Apparently they weren’t that concerned about my feet, after all. As it turns out, this place was the reason the term “meat market” was invented. I felt dirty just being there. Fortunately we didn’t stay long, because diseases were definitely being spread that night and I didn’t want to stick around long enough to catch one. The next place we went didn’t let foreigners on the first floor where the party was at, but rather sent us to a basement type area where there were only a handful of other people. The rest of the night progressed in a similar fashion, going from club to club and going back and forth between feeling supremely underwhelmed and like I needed a tetanus shot.

We headed home much too late and, in turn, got up much too late the next day. Fortunately, being in Seoul, our options for food were greatly increased and I was able not only to indulge in one of my favorite hangover foods, but introduce it to Joe, as well – Taco Bell. It had been a year since I’d partaken of the sheer joy wrapped in a tortilla known as a crunchwrap supreme. The nacho-cheesiness touched my lips and I knew that all was right in the world. Joe was not as enthusiastic about his meal. It’s not his fault. He’s British. We spent the rest rest of the afternoon exploring the Hongdae area. We were amused by a person in a cat costume (the kind that team mascots wear, not the Halloween kind) laying on the sidewalk, occasionally handing out flyers. Further investigation revealed that they were handing out adverts for a nearby cat cafe. We were sold. Gimmick: 1 Innocent Passersby: 0. I was so excited at the prospect of holding a cat, I almost couldn’t contain myself. As it turns out, you’re only allowed to pet the cats, not hold them. And only if they are not sleeping (which most of them were). And they only wanted to come up to you if you had food for them. They were kind of assholes. I should have expected as much from a roomful of cats, but my prolonged absence from my own kitties has made me forgetful. The only friendly cat was one of those gross hairless cats, and I suspect that’s only because he’s so ugly nobody wants to pet him, making him the only cat there starved for attention. After the cat cafe, we again joined Xander et al. at a baseball game. It was my first Korean baseball game, and Joe’s first baseball game full stop. It was mostly just like any other baseball game. Except for the cheerleaders. Holding ramen. I can safely say I’ve never seen that at a ball game before. It was a pretty exciting game for a first game. A guy fouled the ball back into his own face and had to be taken away in an ambulance and the game went into extra innings. Joe wanted the real “American experience,” so he went to order us hot dogs. When he came back with only one, I looked at him, affronted, and asked. “Where’s mine.” He replied, “She only let me have one.” We shared the hot dog, but were still hungry. We decided that I should try this time. I walked to the counter and tried my luck ordering two hot dogs, and was happily handed  precisely that. When I returned, Joe looked at me agape and demanded, “Why did you get two?!” I decided that the lady looked at him and thought, “No American (He’s not American, but they assume all white people are American.), two is how you get fat.” Then she saw me coming and thought, “Please, take these hot dogs, just don’t eat our children!” Afterwards, we again headed out for dinner and drinks, and shuffled from place to place as every bar/restaurant seemed to be closed or about to close. There was one amazing moment, however, where Joe got locked in a bank. Yes, you read that correctly. The bank was closed, but the ATM area inside was open. Joe went in to take out some cash, but it wouldn’t let him. He attempted to come back outside, but the door was locked. Never have I ever seen anything so funny as the “oh shit” look on his face when he realized he couldn’t get out. He tried to use the phone inside to call for help, to no avail. Eventually, Xander decided to give the door a good shove, and I think it must have been scared of his brute strength because it opened right up. Once we all recovered from a bout of hysterical laughter, Xander and his  friends decided they wanted to try and find a bar playing the Niners game, which is no easy feat in South Korea at 1 a.m. on the Sunday of a holiday weekend. But we made it happen. So Joe also got to see his first football game that night. Or half of one. We bailed at halftime. It was ridiculously late (or early, depending on how you want to look at it), and neither one of us actually likes football.

Again, we stayed up much too late but did not have the luxury of being able to sleep in this time. We had to check out and get our day rolling. We had lots to do before heading home. We started by going to the largest market in Seoul to look for some souvenirs. Unfortunately, all the lockers in the subway station were full so I was stuck hauling my luggage again. Then, the specific places I wanted to pick up souvenirs at were closed for Chuseok. After an hour or so, I admitted defeat and we headed to Gangnam Station to take some “Gangnam Style” pics. Ever since I shared the idea with Joe, his eyes lit up at the mention of Gangnam. I, on the other hand, was torn between my desperate want to do this and the ensuing embarrassment of taking such a photo.  In the end, it was only mildly embarrassing and Joe can now die happy. Next, we made our way to the main shopping district to get Joe some clothes. Initially we had wanted to wander around for a bit, but we were so tired and bogged down with bags and baggage that we decided to call it a day and head home. We had a great time, even if the trip was not as fruitful as we had hoped. Looks like we’ll be making another stop in Seoul on our way out.

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One Year and Counting…

It’s finally here. The day I’ve been waiting for since this day last year. My one year anniversary in Korea. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and ruminations about the last year. So here goes… I am so very thankful for all of the amazing, new friends I’ve made this year from all over the world. They are such a big part of why my experience in Korea has been so wonderful. And if any of said friends are reading this, know that I WILL be taking you up on your offer to couch surf in whichever super awesome country you hail from that I totally want to visit. No takesies backsies! I have experienced so many new and wonderful things, and I feel like I’ve grown so much. I have stepped WAY farther out of my comfort zone than I thought I ever would, and have loved (almost) every minute of it. I have really enjoyed fully immersing myself in another culture. It has taught me so much about both myself and the world around me. My students are amazing and, as trite and cliche as it sounds, they have truly taught me way more than I could ever hope to teach them. Although I did teach them how to do thumb wars and to say, “You’re killing me, Smalls!” So I feel pretty good about that.
Knowing that if I had wanted to, I could actually be home with my family right this very moment is making the day just a little bit tougher. I really miss home and can’t wait to go back (48 days. But hey, who’s counting?), but know that the choice to stay until closer to the holidays is a good decision, financially. It is probably the first decent financial decision I have ever made in my life, and let me tell you – I don’t see it becoming a pattern. It’s no fun at all. Staying longer also means that I get to hang with my BFF a little longer and that I’ll have a travel companion on the way home, since Joe is going to come back to the states with me for a bit. So I’m trying to focus on the silver lining and not the fact that I would kill for some decent Mexican food in and around my mouth. And that I could be snuggling with my kitties RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE. They miss me. Terribly.

Enough of my whining (for now). Here is the highlights reel from my last year: going to Thailand, going to the Expo, eating live octopus, discovering one of my new top 5 favorite foods – dak galbi, volunteering at/for the orphanages, Mud Fest, playing Harry Potter with fireworks on the beach in Busan, my students, my mom’s visit and, of course, meeting my best friend. Korea year 2 just won’t be the same without my bestie with testes.