Monday, September 27, 2010

This Morning there was a Slug in the Tub

It finally smells like Fall here. It's continuously windbreaker weather (although it warms up in the afternoon) and my mind is full of images of hayrides and pumpkin carving and gourds and apple cider and jumping in giant piles of crunchy leaves. I think I would give my ride arm to cook smores by a giant bonfire and then walk around for days after in a sweat shirt smelling of campout's.

It's going on the third consecutive week that our house has been without warm water. Love me some military freezing cold showers in the morning. This morning I made friends with a slug in our bathtub. Sweet. Also, the internet is out at home...which helps with my writing since I don't have the options of immersing myself in trashy TV shows.

There's finally beginning to be a schedule to my weeks.
Wake up: 6am.
School: 7:30-5.
After school on Tuesday: Glee Club
Wednesday: Korean Classes
Thursday: Thirsty (Getting Crunk with the Naju Crew)
Friday: Usually busting out of Naju.

This weekend we discovered a new part of Kwangju while riding the 160 bus straight from our houses. We can arrive at the huge Lotte department store (second floor has a guy that speaks great English at the top of the elevator) and then walk five minutes to the HUGE downtown shopping area complete with Coldstone, Pizza Hut, Outback Steak House, and coffee shops galore (although a couple were definitely fronts for prostitution rings.)

It's nice to know civilization is only a 30 minute hop and fifty minute bus ride away ;)
And I got newsheets that don't have unidentified stains on them...slowly the nest building continues.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Just Around the River Bend

It's been almost three months since I first came to Korea...and there's 9 more to go.

It's strange to think how fast time has gone, is going right now, and yet when I look ahead to another 7 months minimum of doing what I'm doing...sometimes it does look a little bleak.

I continue to truly enjoy teaching; however, at times I wonder how effective I am as an English teacher. I know a lot of our role is to merely be an English cheerleader; you can only lead a student so far in a direction they don't want to go. Part of getting through the day sometimes is learning not to care so obscenely much about what happens inside the classroom, but at times the apathy itself makes me sad. Also it's hard hard HARD HARD HARD not to compare sometimes. There was so much I wanted for this year that the circumstances of my school make it difficult to make happen.

My host family is still incredible. They are kind and caring and truly go out of their way for me. Sometimes I wish we had more opportunities to bond through activities; my mom is often busy with church, housework, or teaching, my sister is always in school, and my brother cannot be peeled away from the computer screen (my hands have developed temporary carpal tunnel from two player games). I worry that there's a glass ceiling on how deeply our relationships can truly develop with both the language and cultural barrier in place. Maybe only time will tell?

Socially, the people in my life are a saving grace. They help me stay sane and keep me tethered to a world in which I can still see myself as culturally, socially, adept and independent. It's an identity that after being relegated to practically infant status (not understanding speech or being able to communicate), being unable to do things for yourself, etc etc that it can be easy to feel slipping.

I have an eight day break coming from the 12-20 due to school exams and a school camping trip. I'm not sure what I have planned yet...but I'm thinking maybe it should be really drastic? Shaving my head or journeying to Japan for a week or another tattoo or backpacking around Korea...something to shake off the doldrums.

Along those lines, I've begun to plan for my winter break: beginning December 23 and lasting until March 1st. Within that time, I'm fitting in a two week trip to the US, a week in Bali and India each, and maybe a three week language class in Seoul.

Maybe I'll spend my time living for tomorrow...but I can't help wishing I cared a little more about today.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I like Jane Austen and Red Wine

Today I started piecing together the room that will be my home for the next eleven months. On my daily trip to Dunkin Donuts (I'm so close to the free drink I can almost taste it) I purchased a holographic wolf poster from a vendor on the sidewalk for the American equivalent of $1.50. After taping it to the wall, I realized that this room suddenly doesn't feel foreign anymore; the 16 hour plane ride, not so apparent.

As I said while talking to a friend tonight, it's through the small idionsyncracies of a place, a person, an environment that one is eventually able to take ownership of and internalize. Along those lines, I'm slowly building up my sense of home at my homestay. It's contained in the smell of dwenchanchegae as I walk to my house, the 5 am wake up call from our dog, the way we have hundreds of crates of pears in our garage (straight from the pear farm my family owns).

Home is wrapped up in the obscenely loud rainbow colored clock hanging on my speckled bedroom wall and the large oriental cabinet behind my bed, where I occasionally hang my bathing suits (that's right kids, offending ancestors and traditional sentiment everywhere.)

At school, I've yet to find my perfect stride. Some days I stumble a bit, and yet it feels good to walk into the classroom, when I know my toughest challenges to date have been outside of it's walls.

Really, the thing I feel most blessed about has been the people in my life, either those whose words and advice and general conversation have followed me here through emails and texts and packages, or the new family I've begun to create within the Fulbright network. I've come a long way from fearing that there was no one I would truly connect with within our 73 person group.

What I'm looking forward to in the future:
-getting paid for the first time on Friday
-Chusuk: Korean Thanksgiving next week with the homestay family
-Oct. 1-4 First ETA Conference in Gyeongju
-Beginning a Glee (English) club at our local university in Naju
-Winter Break perhaps in India and Bali

...but mostly that free coolatta.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Intro: The Storming Period

Well, the honeymoon is officially over. I have exited out of the "Wow, I'm in Korea; it sure is neat!" phase and entered into the, "Man I'm craving a tuna melt and my own bed" phase.

This last week has been difficult for a multitude of reasons...all of which I feel it might be prudent not to post within the context of a blog. However, I'm slowly settling into both the routines and schedule of what will be my life in Korea for the next year.

Every morning, I wake up at 6 and walk over to the main house to take a military shower (shutting off the water while soaping up). I get dressed in the bathroom and slog back over to my room, where I put on my face and attempt to pump myself up by blasting the Music of the Day.

Drive to school around 7:20-7:30 with the host family and then get together my stuff for the first lesson plan of the day. One thing I have to say- between the hour walk home and the school cafeteria food, and my persisting ineptitude with chopsticks, Korea is the best diet plan ever.

Every day is at least four classes- usually the last and first ones of the day. After school sometimes I grab a burger with the rest of the Naju crew and sometimes I just come straight home. Truth be told, I'm exhausted by the time I fall into my bed.

I spend some quality time with the family; soon to be transferred to an hour of English tutoring for me every night.

I find myself living for the weekends here. I'm not sure if it's because it's the only glimpse I have of the freedom and independence (both socially and emotionally) that used to characterize my life, or whether it's just a much needed escape from having to be "on" all the time, into the much missed arms of friends that have already begun to feel like family.

There's really nothing that bonds you quite like either a 7 day trip into the wilderness or a year together as foreigners in a country where whatever you're doing, it's probably wrong.