Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sometimes I'm not Unified

IN Korean class we're learning the past tense and how to tell time and go shopping.

I went to hometime with the Camp Fulbright students and it was so great to see them outside of their traditional classroom setting; it was even better to be in the classroom and not be the one teaching and getting evaluated haha.

Last Friday was my second lesson for Camp Fulbright. After the first, I understood a lot more that structure was necessary in the classroom. The students were much more engaged and I had a better time getting them to interact. I taught a lesson on Slang and Interjections. Awesome!

This weekend I'm trying to decide between a trip out of town, a camping trip (which in Korea means sleeping in cabins), and doing archery on Saturday. Hopefully I'll get things figured out soon because the last thing I want is to get stuck at the University alone.

Socially things are going really well; I've started to find the people I really got along with here. We find out about our placements for our schools on August 4rth and I think we're all counting down the days. We won't know about our homestays though until a couple days before we leave Jungwon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend Retreat at a Buddhist Temple

81,000 wooden slabs with the teachings of Buddha
3,000 meters high when stacked (taller than the tallest mountain in Korea)
16 years
1,000,000 volunteers
3 bows after every letter was carved

HAEINSA. This is one of 9 world heritage sites in South Korea. A buddhist temple set high in the mountains, it's a placed pervaded by both peace and a feeling of sanctuary. We set out Friday morning on two jam packed buses for a 2 and a half hour car ride to this majestic place.

While at our Hotel, the Gayasan Tourist Hotel, we slept on the floor on futon pallets (8 people in my room). We watched American movies dubbed in Korean and played epic games of 20 person Mafia. We walked through a torrential downpour to view the temple itself and listened to a speech by the highest ranking monk. Back at the Hotel, we overwhelmed the bar with orders of pina coladas and singapore slings and enjoyed their hot springs and saunas.

I think this was exactly what we all needed after two intensive weeks of cultural and social adjustment. This next week marks the beginning of Camp Fulbright, a time when 100 Korean students, ages 8-15, journey to Jungwon where they take intensive English classes. Each ETA teaches three lessons. My first lesson is tomorrow on Geography of the Body ;)

Tomorrow is ALSO our second Korean language test. We've all been studying frantically. Even though I can now ask, "What is your job? Where are you from? Where are you going?" and know the words for "bathroom, pencil case, studying, and America, I still have a long way to go.

I miss everyone back home...but I'm having an amazing time. Pictures to come...

Monday, July 12, 2010

One week down, 58 to go!

This has without a doubt been the longest week of my life.

Constants from the week:

  • The answer to every question is, "It depends."

  • After a year in Korea you will not be fluent in Korean and will largely have lost your ability to speak English

  • Kimchi

  • Name Tags

  • Getting lost at least once a day

That all being said, I'm having an amazing time. I've slowly but surely been building up friendships in a turtle-race like consistency. We had our first Korean Language quiz together. I think I probably failed, but I'm already looking forward to the free snacks provided in the mandatory study hours.

Today was also our first Taekwondo meeting! We learned the history of Taekwondo and watched youtube videos of men fighting and bursts of flame. I'm wondering what belt I have to get to for that to happen! Tae stands for foot, step, or step on. Kwon is fist and Do is the art of. Together it combines to produce something better, captain planet style, in, as my master puts it, the art of learning the right way of using every part of your body.

I journeyed into Goesan alone today in search of a white T-shirt to wear under our Taekwondo outfit to protect our modesty. After entering a couple clothing stores and realizing that they had nothing in my size, I finally found a store selling white T-shirts. It was then that the absence of speaking Korean truly caught up to me. For a solid twenty minutes I stood in the store using my nonexistent Korean to throw out words like, I am American, Sorry, and Four (the number of T-shirts I needed.) In the meantime the women in the store looked at me quizically, continued to speak in Korean, and one made her dog bark at me every once and again for good measure.

Until next time, I'm Grace Huntley and I enjoy long sojourns in Goesan's Hot Springs, building up my kimchi tolerance, and naps on the marble bleachers at Jungwon University. ;)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day Three

Our days here feel ridiculously long. A large part of that is probably the fact that the time difference (13 hours ahead from the East Coast) has me waking up at 3 every morning here. Yesterday we had our English placement test. It consisted of a blank sheet of paper that said to write a biography of yourself in Korean. I and many of my fellow teachers to be, turned it in blank.

We toured the town of Goesan yesterday doing a photo scavenger hunt, which included things such as taking a picture eating squid snacks. Late last night, I went back to town (the hundred percent humidity makes everyone look their most attractive ;)) and some of the Korean students at Jungwon took a bunch of us to noriban- Korean Karaoke. We all (twenty-thirty of us) filed into a big wooden room with neon lights everywhere and a flat screen tv in the center.

Today start our intensive Korean classes. Four hours each day. I'm hoping to be an alphabet pro by the time I graduate. We're meeting the head of Fulbright in Korea today. It's the 60 anniversary here, which is equivalent to other notorious American birthdays like the 100th.

The school is super gender segregated. The guys and the girls are on separate floors with gender segregated elevators. The laundry room is guys on one side and girls on the other. No alcohol or smoking on campus, although we were able to drink beer and soju during our GLEE club party where we socialized with a lot of the Korean students (meaning they taught us drinking games.)

I'm surprised to already feel so comfortable here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Jungwon University

After a 14 hour flight we finally arrived an Incheon Airport at five in the morning (4pm East Coast time). However, the journey was far from over. A three hour bus ride later found us pulling up at Jungwon university, only 18 months old. Jungwon, located in beautiful Goesan, looks more like a government building than a college. It sports a humungous outdoor pool and male and female hot springs located within the central building. The bottom floor houses a beauty salon, convenience store, and table tennis room.

We're broken into pairs. Each pair shares a room that looks an awful lot like an iPod store, gleaming and white marble. There's a private bathroom per room and three beds (however we get to use the triples as doubles). After a lunch in the fancy dining hall, complete with chandeliers, we sat through a three hour meeting. There we were given the advice, a) Be flexible, b) expect change, and c) stay in the loop. According to the head of our program, "Whatever decision that is being made, even if it affects you, it's probably not about you."

My biggest fear, finding people I get along with, has been mostly assauged. I'm sticky from the 100% humidity and keep on forgetting to take my shoes off before I enter my bedroom. However I'm glad to be here in this beautiful foreign country, and I'm excited to have no idea what comes next.

Friday, July 2, 2010

24 Hour Countdown

7 pm July 1st 2010
-Last supper with my parents at the Red Lobster. I probably should have dined on cheese since seafood is something I won't have to do without in Korea. I hope I'm not lactose-intolerant when I get back.

-My friend Jackie came over for my last night. She brought brownies and a going away card. My stomach started to drop as I realized I was actually going to Korea the next day.

-I shook off my extravagant 5 hours of sleep and bounced bright eyed and bushy tailed to do a final check on my luggage and then awkwardly walk from room to room, convinced I've forgotten something.

-We head to the gym. I'm glad to get out some extra energy. Less than 12 hours to take off.

-We head to the airport. I furiously immerse myself in my Kindle to keep form brooding. Carsickness be damned.