Category: class observation

Rice cake festival, Seoul, and Hwacheon

Whew!  What a whirlwind weekend I’ve had!!  I’m grateful for the opportunities to see so many things, but MAN I’m looking forward to not traveling every weekend!  I’m sooo tired….but let’s start at the beginning, shall we?Last week was fairly uneventful.  Classes and study went by as usual, with nothing particularly exciting to report.  The one exception to that would be Wednesday.  A bee got into the classroom in the middle of my lesson, and I quickly realized that ignoring it, my preferred choice, was not an option.  The girls were screaming and running away from it, and there was absolutely no way I was going to get them to pay attention to the lesson.  So I intended to just shoo it out of the classroom, but he wasn’t cooperating and time was a-wasting.  So I must admit, I was forced to sacrifice the poor bee in the name of education.  The response I got from my girls, however, was quite amusing.  I got a standing ovation, a chorus of “We love you, teacher!” and even “Teacher, you’re my hero!” a few times.  Almost makes me want to let bees run loose in the classroom just so I can kill them, lol…

The other excitement on Wednesday happened after school.  Songi, my host sister, had a test, so she got out of school early.  She actually asked me to walk home with her – at which I jumped at the opportunity – and then I suggested that we go to the Rice Cake and Wine Festival, which was happening in Gyeongju at the time.  She agreed, and we spent the whole afternoon hanging out together at the festival, even making rice cakes and eating dinner together.  With all of the stress and tension that’s been happening in my homestay lately, it was so wonderful to just be able to enjoy her company for a while.

Songi convinced me to dress up like the ancient Queen Seondeok (who my school is named after)
Making 똑 (rice cakes)!
Apparently she WAS smiling!  Lol…

I also have a newfound respect for her.  On our way back we decided to take a taxi, and long story short he basically totally ripped us off.  He went the ABSOLUTE longest way back home that he could, and our fare was about 3 times longer than it should have been.  Well, I knew what was going on but wasn’t really able to do anything about it.  But Songi?  She would have none of it.  First she called her mother (while still in the taxi) and starts complaining about how the taxi driver’s ripping us off, so that he could hear her.  Then she hung up and starting laying into him.  Then she called the taxi company and complained about him to them.  And THEN, when we finally got out of the cab, she warned the people getting in after us to find a different taxi!  This coming from the girl who’s normally so shy she won’t even let me put the camera on her face when we skype with friends back home!  I was so proud of her!!!!

So anyway, that was my week’s worth of excitement…now on to the weekend!  On Friday night, after my dance class, I went up to Seoul on the KTX (Korea’s super-fast bullet train) with my friend Harry.  THAT was an adventure before we even got to the train station!  My school took me out for dinner after dance class, but I had to leave early to make my train, so I took a taxi back home….and then I realized that I had forgotten my credit cards at school, so I had to take a taxi there to get them, and then another one back home; I got into my fourth taxi of the night to FINALLY head to the KTX, but then we had to turn around again because Harry thought he had forgotten something (which it turns out that he hadn’t).  So by the time my FIFTH taxi of the night brought me to the KTX station, we had to run to make our train – we did make it, but it was tight!  Not the way I would have wanted my weekend to start, but I guess it makes for a good story, right? 🙂

My first KTX ride ever!!

So Saturday we spent milling around Seoul.  There was an expat festival that we went to in the morning.  I met some cool people there, but the festival was all outside and they weren’t prepared to handle the rain that came, so we left a little bit after lunch.  We were contemplating going to Lotte World, which is like the Disney World of Korea, but the torrential rains kind of killed those plans.  So instead, we decided to go see…Cats!  Yes, the award-winning dancing and singing extravaganza has made it all the way to Korea!  And, while I’m sure some of the brilliance was lost on me, since it was all in Korean, I was still definitely able to appreciate the fabulous sets, talented singers, and incredible dancing.  Add to the mix smart phones, with which we could look up the synopsis of Cats during intermission, and we got along just fine :).

One of the performances at the expat festival
Left to right – Tony from Sweden, Yu from China, me, Harry, and Fabriccio from Italy.  I love traveling…….but man, I’m tiny!! 😀

Our evening was spent in the rain in Itaewon, the foreign district in Seoul.  We went to a Jordanian restaurant called Petra Palace and got hummus and falafel for dinner, and I was super happy :). Sunday morning we found an early English speaking church service, and went there together before we parted ways – he went back to Gyeongju, and I went up…to Hwacheon!!

The Petra Palace 🙂
Hummus…..yummm

My dear friend Sarah’s 21st birthday was this weekend.  And, it just so happened that I don’t have school this week, and I was already in Seoul, so all I had to do was go a little farther north and I was there!  She had a party on Sunday night with her host family, Leora’s host family, her co-teacher, and Adam, another Fulbrighter.  I stayed with her in her homestay both Sunday and Monday night, and went to school with them on Monday.  I got to observe some of both her and Leora’s classes, as well as be there for the party that Sarah’s co-teachers threw for her.  Her family took me on a walk around the town on Sunday night, and out for dinner on Monday night.  They were so amazingly loving and wonderful…her host brother, Eun-chan, who speaks near perfect English, took a liking to me.  We when on a walk after he finished school on Monday, while we were waiting for Sarah and Leora to finish.  Her host sister, Eun-song, is in high school.  So I didn’t get to see as much of her, but she’s super sweet (and also speaks English really well), so when she was around we had fun.  Her parents don’t speak much English, but they try, and you don’t have to speak the same language to see the love exuding from their pores.  They are all Christians, so I even got to read the Bible with them both mornings that I was there.  It’s a daily tradition that they have now – Sarah and the kids take turns reading, first in English, then in Korean.  It was so cool to be able to share our love of Jesus together :).

Beautiful Hwacheon

It was so hard to leave them, and the ride back to Gyeongju was very long, but I’m sooo glad that I went up there.  Meeting these wonderful people, getting to see Sarah and Leora and Adam, seeing what a real homestay family should be like…it was just so refreshing!  But now, I fear that I shall have to cut this short – this blog is getting long, and lessons for next week must me made!  I’m sure you’ll hear from me again soon… 🙂  Check out pictures from Hwacheon below!

Leora’s host sister
Sarah and Eun-chan, her host brother
Leora and co-teacher
Fulbrighters reunited!!
Eun-song (Sarah’s host sister), me, Leora, and Eun-chan
Leora’s host brother
Eating cake with chopsticks, gotta love it <3
Happy birthday, Sarah!!
Cuddling in the park….man it’s cold up there!!
Sarah’s host parents and Eun-chan
Me and the whole family.  I love them….. 🙂

Korean lesson 101 – Daejun, Patbingsu, and Cheonan

I have so many stories to tell you!  They’ve been running us ragged these past few days; I’ve barely had time to think, let along write.  But the craziness seems to have finally quieted down a bit, so it’s time to pick up my metaphorical pen again 🙂

Friday was a very interesting day.  We separated into several different groups and then went to different schools all over Korea.  We got to sit in and observe 2 different classes of a current Fulbright ETA (English Teaching Assistant – what I will be! :]).  We had lunch with the other teachers of the school, got to talk to some of the students in the class, and asked Rachael (the ETA) questions about what it’s like to teach in a Korean classroom.  It was very informative.  I went to a co-ed high school in 대적 (Daejun), so I got to observe an advanced all-boys class, and a beginner all-girls class.  Although I got the impression that what I witnessed was not a very representative example of what I can expect to see in my own classroom – Rachael was in a brand new school, she had her own classroom, the school administrators were very flexible, and her students’ English level was very high, all of which is atypical for a Korean school – it was still very informative to see.  This is the first year that future ETAs have had the opportunity to go and visit school before they actually started teaching, and I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to do so.

Friday night there was a 팥빙수 (Patbingsu) party!  The winning team of the photo scavenger hunt was treated by the orientation coordinators to Patbingsu, a traditional Korean dessert.  Well, my team happened to win (I showed you some of my team’s pictures from the hunt in my blog post called “Adjusting to my new life”), so I got to experience this first hand.  I had no idea what to expect, but I had heard many many people rave about it, so I went with high expectations.  

Would you like to know what Patbingsu is?  It is a large cup full of shaved ice, which is then topped by a variety of different toppings.  Mine had ice cream, mandarin oranges, watermelon, apples, something the approximate consistency of corn flakes, a type of mini marshmallows made out of rice paste, and red beans.  Yes, red beans.  It was a very, very strange combination, but surprisingly, very good.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Especially because it was free :).

My first taste of patbingsu 🙂



Saturday was just as filled as the rest of our week with classes and workshops.  I’m already soooo sick of sitting – and I’ve still got 5 more weeks to endure!!  I sit for at least 8 hours every day.  I’m always using my brain, and never using my muscles.  It’s completely draining.  I’ve been playing alot of ping-pong in my infrequent spare time to release all of that pent-up energy.  I now have a target on my back – I haven’t been beaten yet, and all of the boys find that simply unacceptable.  It’s awesome :).  I was also really glad when Taekwondo started yesterday (Monday).  I get to release all my pent-up energy and frustrations by yelling and punching and kicking things.  It’s great, I’m really enjoying it :). 
Sunday I went on an excursion with a group of other ETAs to 천안 (Cheonan).  We took 2 different buses to get there (I love public transportation!! :]), and then spent the afternoon either shopping or just hanging out and exploring the city.  I decided to go to Cheonan because I was thinking that I would like to be placed there, and I wanted to go and scope out the city before I requested it.  Turns out…I love it!  It’s a great sized city – not totally overwhelming, but big enough to be entertaining.  It’s also really close to Seoul – it’s actually on the Seoul subway line, in fact – which would be awesome for dancing! 🙂  I’m trying not to get my hopes up, because we’re not guaranteed to get the places that we request….but teaching in Cheonan would be awesome :).


Monday was super busy.  I had Korean class (and my first test!), teaching workshops, GLEE club, Taekwondo, Calligraphy, studying, a lesson plan to prepare, and a Bible study.  Deciding to go to the Bible study meant that I did not get to bed until after midnight – and I was paying for that the next day – but I’m SOOO glad that I went.  There were about a dozen of us, and it was just so encouraging to be able to share and read the Bible and pray and encouraged and be encouraged with other believers.  I just love that God never fails to send Christian fellowship my way when I need it, wherever I am.  God is not limited by national boundaries.  Bible study is definitely going to become a regular in my schedule during orientation :).

Speaking of schedules, I also decided to drop Calligraphy.  As much as I would like to take it, there’s simply not enough of me to go around.  Between all of my other obligations, and trying to study Korean as much as possible, 2 hours of Calligraphy every week was just too much.  The second after I made that decision, I felt such relief.  It’s like my body knew that it was going to get a rest.  I like to keep myself busy, but I also know my limits.  See, I AM taking care of myself over here!! 🙂

Well, I’ve got to draw this post to a close.  The US Embassy is visiting tomorrow, so classes are starting even earlier than usual so that we can be done by the time they show up.  It should be way cool!