Sunday, May 29, 2011

Soul Searching

I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately as my future looms in front of me.  What do I want with my life?  What do I want to be known for?  What is my destiny?  These are the questions that parade daily through my head. A boisterous marching band sings songs of hope and vision. Protestors, in turn, shout out slogans contradicting that of the band.  The gaudy floats have an even different message.  The answers aren't simple, and they're far from clear, in fact, their closer to convoluted and murky.  I'm a little tired of watching the parade to be honest.  I'm tired of not knowing, but sometimes, the not knowing is the fun part.  The dreaming can be just as exciting as the destination. I plan to continue listening to the crazy rants, songs, tirades, and dreams of the parade and  if nothing else, I hope to see fireworks, if not  a push in some type of direction.  A friend of mine sent me this  speech recently which pertains to this soul search.
 It's a great speech.  I hope your inspired by it as I was.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


One of our preschool field trips recently was to an aquarium.  It was kind of a lame aquarium.  There weren't many fish to see and what fish there were far from spectacular.  Some might even use the word LAME, or wait, I said that already.  But maybe I'm being too harsh. The aquarium was located in Yangpyeong, a decidedly podunk town in the middle of nowhere (yep, we live in the sticks).  The day was still quite cool, but not unbearably so.
It is common to fill our school bus past its capacity and we did so once again on this field trip.  Three students per each two seater bench.  No matter that the seat belts didn't always reach across both students.  And each teacher either had a student in their lap, or stood in the aisle. The bus attempted loosening it's belt but to no avail, and upon arrival it growled before it heaved and hoed to vomit us from it's cabin.  Luckily our destination wasn't far, and our cramped situation wasn't exacerbated by distance.

On our way into the aquarium.

the children weren't really sure what to do at the aquarium.

Notice how I'm having to hold Jearom's head so that he's looking at the camera.  That child!

Upstairs, was a hands on play area, but this, in my snotty opinion, was also a little trite.  The children pictured in this photo above who are in the middle of the couches are stomping furiously on the virtual fish pond which sounds cool in theory- the opposite of lame in fact, however, it didn't work very well, and the children were quickly bored with it.  The virtual fish swam around regardless of their stomping. There was also a station for fake fishing, using magnets, but it was quite difficult for our little ones.  The one super duper interesting aspect of the aquarium, at least for this jaded teacher, was the find of the BLUE lobster.  I'd never seen or even heard of a blue lobster, but in this itty bitty aquarium with probably less than five hundred fish in total had beautiful crustacean I wanted to take home with me.
After the inside of the aquarium became an atrium for wildly screaming and outrageously bored children, we went outside to have our snacks.  The students came prepared with snacks for the picnic that were prepared by their mothers. When I think of picnic food, and maybe once again, this is the pompous American coming out again, but I think of watermelon, among various fruits.  I think of cheese and crackers, and generally healthier type foods.  However, what the kids  brought were entirely different from what I imagined.  Instead of summer sausage and delectable treats, they brought junk food. They were sent to school for their picnic snack with sweetened chips, packaged dry, tasteless cookies, and other such Korean packaged goodies.  I was actually quite surprised at the lack of freshness filling our picnic blanket. There was only one mom who sent fruit, and non of the kids showed any interest in it.

the students kept giving us their hats to hold because they were tired of wearing them.  Of course, I then put them on my head!

After lunch we visited the fish tanks. One of the circular tanks with a diameter of no more than 10 feet, had sharks.  We weren't allowed to feel them though, just stare and point.  The kids enjoyed feeding the fish, but after ten minutes of children pouring cupfulls of fishfood into the tanks, the fish became uninterested, and the water became absolutely saturated with uneaten food.

Afterwards we played with bubbles. We were concerned about the ability of my class to handle the bubbles, but in the end, they proved that they wouldn't immediately pour out the soapy water as we originally expected, but the blowing of bubbles and/or the waving of their arms to produce bubbles was fruitless.  They weren't sure about those translucent spheres floating around, or what one was supposed to do with them. It was a fun, yet exhausting day playing with kiddos all day.  Can't wait till the next field trip!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On Korean Weather; That which may never be understood.

A while back I started a series of rants about things that bug, frustrate, irritate, or just confuse me about Korea. In continuing with the series, today's topic by special request from Karen Benavidez will be Korean weather...cause she was the only one that voted! By the way, I think you will especially like this one Karen. It's got topographic maps and everything! 

First thing to know is that Korea's geographical location puts us in an interesting intersect of perplexing meteorological complexity. Observe;

To our North lies the craziness that is North Korea. A short distance further and you have China. Due West about 300 miles is also China. To our South is the East China Sea and Southeast about 200 miles away is Western Japan. Due East is the Sea of Japan and the rest of Japan itself. For those of you wondering, Fukushima is about 700 miles from us.

Now in Weatherology 101 you learn that the ocean currents have a major impact on weather patterns, especially in places surrounded by water. South Korea is a very good example of a place surrounded by water. This crazy and somewhat confusing map shows that the Korean Peninsula has two main currents; One cold one coming down from the Northeast Sea of Japan and one warm current coming up from the East China Sea and wrapping it's way along the southern coast of Japan.

This mixing of cold and warm currents can lead to some dramatic weather, but that's relatively predictable and fairly easy to understand. Heat rises, so warm air coming off the plains of China meets the cold air coming off the ocean current from the Sea of Japan creating a low preasure blah dee blah blah system that coaleblah blahs with the upper level blah blah making the monsoon season. I don't really understand it all but I get the gist. Warm air plus cold air = rain. Here's where I get frustrated;

I LOVE Texas weather. The winters are mild with the occasional and exciting snow flurry such as this past winter.

April showers take on a bolder form when they reach the panhandle and turn into some of the best lightning storms anywhere. Rainy weather the way it should be! 

The summers are blazing hot with stifling humidity that can only be alleviated by AC, water recreation and an over consumption of snowcones.

Then as the weather starts to turn cooler, MORE STORMS!!!

Here's how things go if you live in Korea;

Winter starts of damp and unpleasantly cold and quickly takes a turn towards bitter bonechill. When it starts snowing, it dumps and the days don't warm up more than a few degrees.

April showers don't exist cause it's still too stinkin cold!

When it does finally start to warm up you have a few weeks of blissful days when the sun is shining and the air is cool and dry and life is good. The frogs come out and serenade you, letting you know they are hard at work cutting down the front lines of the mosquito swarms to come.

Then the air starts getting sticky. It's subtle and sneaky but little things show the shift. The laundry takes a bit longer to dry than usual. The breeze feels less refreshing and the sky starts turning that painful overcast grey that seems bright, but not in the cathartic way a blue sky is.

Then Ajima Nature starts to taunt. you get a brief but satisfying storm that roles through with a short lived but brilliant lightning show and some deep, boisterous thunder rolls that go echoing off the mountains. Then come the days of confusion.

The sky gets darker and more foreboding. The clouds grow fat and dark and in between classes walking outside you think you hear a low rumble in the distance. Your heart picks up pace a bit in anxious anticipation of another good tumble. But the day goes on and the clouds role on through and disappointment sets in as the daylight fades. And you, coming from Texas were the sky builds up and follows through with it's tantalizing ominousness, you just don't understand why it doesn't happen. It looked so close yesterday. And the day before that looked even more promising and eventually you learn to not get excited when the sky changes and the big clouds role in. You  become jaded to the things that used to excite you so much back home. You start to forget what a good storm feels like anymore and the smell of rain has lost its nostalgia and the days of tornado drills and golf ball sized hail are all but a fleeting memory in the back of your mind.
Then, when you've all but forgotten about it, one incredible crash shakes the foundation of the house and of your soul but you've only caught the tail end of it because it's 4 in the morning and you were sound asleep.
So you wake up with the kind of excitement saved for kids on Christmas morning and you think the sky is finally going to rip open and let loose the wrath of Gods and you wait, with baited breath and desperation to see that blinding flash of light that fills the darkness with brilliant neon...and you wait.....and you wait.....and eventually you remember that you aren't in Texas anymore....and Ajima Nature cackles at your dissatisfaction. And the adrenaline fades...and your heart stops racing...and you turn your back to the window and pull the sheets a little tighter and figure you may as well have just imagined it. Just a couple more hours to sleep...perchance to dream of storms....storms nearly forgotten...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Red Curry

We've discovered something quite remarkable at our foreign food market.  It began with a simple glance across the aisle, a closer look, an impulsive buy, and it was love at first taste. These Asian Home Gourmet packets are a fantastic way to make a simple dinner into a gourmet meal!  We've tried both the Green Curry and the Red Curry.  The Green curry was our favorite, but the red curry was pretty darn good as well.  There are lots of different flavors, different strokes for different folks. I feel like an infomerical right now, but they really are worth a try.  If your looking for a yummy nutritious meal (well, in actuality you make it nutritious by adding veggies so the nutritious part is up to you) that is REALLY simple to make-like cut it up, and throw it in, and you like Asian food, pick one of these handy packets up today! (How am I doing as an advertisement? I agree. They should hire me) 

You also might have noticed the BRIGHT purple things in the pictures.  Those aren't altered.  Those are truly purple sweet potatoes.  No joke.  They taste pretty average, maybe a tad sweeter than your average sweet potato, but not by much.  I will miss these pretty sweet potatoes when we go back home.
Everything in, ready to stir.  We added faux crab as our meat.

Kyle's giving his thumbs up!  See the friendship bracelet he's wearing?  He's so funny.

A closer look at what the packet looks like without its head.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Don't forget to smile

Recently, a friend of mine turned me on to TED talks.  Basically, this is a non-profit with the mission to "spread ideas worth spreading."  They're quite addictive once you start watching.  The list of speakers include everyone from an elementary home schooled boy speaking about the environment, to inventors, to doctors with new research, to authors, to philosophers. The array of guests is far stretching, and just about every speech is inspirational or motivational. They make me want to get up off the couch and make a difference, that or watch another speech comfortably curled into my couch. This particular speech, a friend of mine, who loves to share media clips, sent to me.  This speech is about the power of a smile.  The power it has not only your life, but on others lives.  Its really interesting, and encourages you to smile, for the sake of your health.  I really enjoyed it, and I hope you do too.
Watch it here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Monster Hunting at English Village

I’ve been sick for the past week with a wicked cough and I think a sinus infection.  By far, the worst part of being sick for me is when I lose my sense of taste. It’s incredibly frustrating.  Whilst sick, I spent a good 2 days in the darkness of our apartment with our blinds closed playing my new favorite video game Monster Hunter Tri. It’s a great way to kill time when doing anything else makes you feel like passing out.  So on the 2nd day of my Monster Hunter escapade I was tired of not being able to taste anything so I pulled up Google to find a good home remedy to get my sense of taste back. Apparently hard liquor can sometimes clear up your sinuses enough. So, I took a swig of 151 and it worked! I could finally taste! But about an hour later, when I had resumed my Monster Hunt I started getting the feeling that the monster I was hunting could be just outside the apartment. I assured myself that it wasn’t possible and that I was simply imagining it but the feeling was there none the less. That night, I had a very vivid dream that I was actually hunting monsters in real life and that I had made a pretty good living out of it. So this got me thinking that there may be some metaphor here that I can relate to how I feel about my job at English Village.
Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmingly frustrated with the Administration and the new direction that our President has decided to take things in. I have to admit that some of this frustration stems from egocentrism. The Korean approach regarding the workplace seems to be very top down. So when the president says we should do something, no matter how backwards it seems, no matter how poorly we all know it will work, we should do it. I really don’t like the “Korean” approach and I consider “western” ideas about the workplace to be much better. Communication among the directors seems next to non-existent. You’ve all heard the complaints before at this point. But I realized that what you guys don’t hear much about from me are the things that actually DO work. I spend significantly more time complaining than I do praising. Yet another source of the frustration, I’m sure. So whenever things seem to be going write, it’s a bit like hunting down a wily monster. Here’s one way to look at it;

When things are going well, keep things going! Once you’ve learned how to swing your sword properly and you’ve got the timing down just right, you can mow through a pack of Jaggis (think velociraptor) all day long.   
Just don’t get too comfortable cause you never know when a Great Jaggi (think T-Rex) 
  is gonna come along and mess you up.

Here’s another way to look at it;
Always be prepared! Before you go out on a hunt, you’ve got to pack for success. You want armor that will protect you from whatever attacks the beast may throw at you. If it’s a venomspitter, take some antidotes. If it’s a pack of Kindergarteners, pack some candy. The best way to bring down your monster is to know just what kind of monster it is. Be prepared to think on the fly though as you never know when that Quropeco (think big angry pterodactyl) is gonna drop in outa nowhere on you!
Here’s another way to look at it;
Sometimes failing a quest is for the best. Every now and then, you face one that’s just too big for you to handle and it all just goes awry. You place your traps in all the wrong locations, you throw your sonicbombs at all the wrong times and no matter how strong your armor is, that Gobul (think big angry stingray porcupine fish)
keeps smackin you with his paralyzing spiky tail. Time runs out and you just couldn’t hack it. You go back to the village with your head hung low and all you can think about is how much you’re NOT looking forward to heading back out into the Flooded Forrest again. BUT when you do head back out the second time, you now know all his moves. You know how to avoid the tail spikes, you know the places he likes to hide and you know his weak spots.  This time around, you place your traps in just the right spots, you toss your sonic bombs at just the right times and just as he starts limping away you throw down that shocktrap you were hanging on to, toss a couple tranquilizer bombs in his face and you just tagged and bagged your first Gobul and get an even better reward for bringing him in alive! So when the President comes up with this great new plan for how classes should be taught and it looks and smells a lot like the Gobul we faced before, this time we’re prepared and know just how to bring this Monster down as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Living transiently

I wrote a post a few years past about how since our high school graduation, Kyle and I have lived quite nomadically, living in the same city, state, house, or country for no more than two years in a row.  Starting in college:
'01- Texas Tech
'03- College internship in Orlando, Florida working for the Mouse at Walt Disney World.
'04- UT (Hook 'em) You know the game, studying hard getting those valuable BS's.
Fal '05- Italy study abroad program- AMAZING and Europe Travel
"06- Austin and San Antonio- Yep, we lived in both cities that year.
'07- Chile (teaching English, our first taste of it. I'm kinda surprised we kept teaching after wards)
'08- San Antonio, and a few months in Seattle with my aunt
'09- present- off and on living and teaching in South Korea

We've lived our life in such a manner for a few reasons, one being that we like adventure. We're young, and we're lucky enough not to have ropes hitching us to anyone location.  There's something so thrilling about visiting a new place.  It's kind of like being a child again, feeling aware of the entire world around you rather than just walking through it like a ghost.  Every smell, every building, every expression, every sound is novel and titillating.  When you travel, your senses flicker to life, where they had been bored into monotony before.  Life is full of flavor both fascinating, and disgusting.  There's a lot to be said about traveling, living abroad, and seeing the world.
But with everything in life there are downsides as well; nothing is perfection.  Even Italian cream cake, which might seem flawless, isn't perfect for every meal.  If you eat too much of it, you bound not to hold a very pleasing figure for very long.  Our lives, although arguably very exciting, (and lets be honest about excitements, not all are the positive kinds), has definite pitfalls.  One of those pitfalls being the transiency of it all.   Nothing is permanent.  No one is permanent. When purchasing items, it's necessary to consider whether it will be sold, given away, consumed or shipped at the end of the year. You make friends only with the clear understanding, that at the end of the year, sometimes longer, you'll say goodbye, and most of the time forever.  When I first got to Korea, I made some fantastic friends.  Several of those friends have remained here in Korea during the duration of my time here, but our time together is dwindling.  I've said goodbye at this point countless times; so many times that it no longer really throws me for a loop.  People come in Korea, and people go.  That is the how the transient life works. You make friends, they leave, you make more friends, they leave or you leave, and the cycle continues.  Its laboriously frustrating, and painful.  When I make friends, generally, its because the person adds something special to my life, and when they leave, they take their specialty away.  A friend of mine left his weekend.  She's been my most constant, and definitely one of my best friends I've made in this crazy country.  We've kept each other sane.  And now my sanity has sashayed out the door, and I'm left feeling sad about the non-permanence of it all.  We all make decisions in life which lead us down a specific path.  I don't regret the life we've chosen, but it's not always as romantic as it might seem to outsiders and some days I just want normalcy. But then again, I travel partially to escape the normal because its monotony is uninspiring.  As with so many aspects of life, its a double edged sword, but I guess thats what makes life thrilling, or exhausting, depending on your mood or perspective.

On a more positive note, the friends we make and leave behind, generally make travel easier. Those friends who have come in and out of my life also have couches we might one day crash on.  So to all of my friends who have spun through the revolving door of nomadic travels, remember, that where ever I am, you always have a couch, if not a bed to crash upon, and I one day hope in either of our travels, I pray I have the pleasure of seeing you again.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


Lately, I feel as if I've been taking the easy bloggers route, using photos to fill my blog rather than my words.  Who knows, maybe that's what you actually prefer.  But I think that it gives a slightly skewed perception of what our life is like here.  When I am constantly posting pictures of exciting events that we have participated in, it gives the reader, you, our friends, family and fellow bloggers the impression that our life is much more exciting than it really is.  It is true, that living in a foreign country can be exciting.  Never understanding anything that is going on around you because of a language barrier has a way of seeming more interesting than a normal day at home in the USA where things are "normal." It may seem more exciting to outsiders, and some days it is, but on other days, it's just grating, and exhausting.  Some days, I wish everyone would stop behaving like Koreans, and speak English clearly for a change.  So to put our life into perspective without the exciting highlights here is what a typical day in Vanessa's life looks like.

7:45 The first alarm goes off. I shoove Kyle, sometimes a couple of times, to hand me the alarm clock because he doesn't hear it for at least a full minute.

7:50-8:25 wake up, shower, eat breakfast (banana bread, cereal or banana and peanut butter)

8:27: Kiss Kyle good bye and head towards my classroom to thumbprint in, and start work.  I'm the only teacher in the preschool who starts at 8:30. Everyone else has to take half of their hour break from 8:30-9:00.  I vaccuum, and prepare for the day.  Three kids join me in the morning, so sometimes I have to care for them instead of preparing.
10:00 -11:15 is when we start teaching.  Currently we are learning numbers from 11-20.  We're finding this difficult.  And we are learning about the seasons and weather.  They then have to do work in their work books some of which is simple and others of which, counting for example, is difficult.

11:15-12:25 A crappy lunch is brought to our classroom.  The kids sit down, say "Thank you for the meal," and start eating. Some of them don't eat, they just talk or put food in their mouth and let it sit there.  Cindy, my co-teacher will occassionally spoonfeed them to get them to eat.  If they don't eat their rice, they can't leave the table.  They then brush their teeth (or suck on their toothbrush) and have play time.

12:30-1:30 Teaching time again.  We sing lots of songs. Learn phrases such as, "he pushed me." "She's not sharing." "I have to go poo."

1:30- 1:50 We watch "Dora the Explorer"  Which is fun because the kids like it, but the show actually is trying to teach Spanish to the kids so that gets confusing.  When it says, "say, azul, say azul" and some of them still don't know blue.

1:50-2:15 snack time.  They sit down, eat snacks. We wipe off their mouths, tuck in their shirts, put on their jackets, sing the goodbye song, and walk them to the bus.

2:30-3:30- Break time.  Glorious break time.  I typically try and get in a workout video, study, write, and take a short nap during this time.

3:30-4:00 I watch all of the kids from all three classes who did not get on the bus.  They play and I try and prepare for my afternoon class which is typically impossible because I am flooded with, "Teacher, Brian spoke Korean." "Teacher, can I color?" "Teacher, he hit me."  Which is followed with, "Brian, please come here.  Did you hit Erin?"
"Yes, but she hit me first."
"Erin, please say your sorry."
"I'm sorry" looking down and mumbling
"Brian, please say your sorry."
"I'm sorry" looking away
"alright, scoot."

4:00-5:20 Is my older afternoon class. They range from 6-9 years old.  We have fun when I don't pull out my hair.

5:20- I run, study, or fix dinner.  Kyle doesn't get home till 6 so it's my time to get stuff done while he isn't there.
6-7:00 is dinner time depending on if its a running day or what not.
7:00- 8:30 or 9 I study or write or try and be productive.
9:00 We watch a TV program like Glee, Daily show, Colbert Report or How I met your mother which we have downloaded.
10:00- We start getting ready for bed.  We've been trying to get in sit ups and push-ups- but that happens maybe three times a week.

And there you have my boring routine, hardly exciting, regardless of its location.  Its just a regular day.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Quick update

-Here's a sneak peak at what we've been up to.  Children's day.  The day we celebrate children. Why don't we have this is the USA?

-Kyle's got a cough and is currently pathetic.  He makes a grumpy patient.

-One of my best friends in Korea is leaving and it makes me very sad.  I'm tired of saying goodbye to people.

-I took the writing portion of the GRE test.  I don't know my scores.  I didn't fail, but I didn't do as great as I wanted either.  I'm concerned about my "creative spelling" mistakes.

- I have two new students in my preschool.  One is four and one is six.  Basically, I've decided four year olds (who are really 2 or 3 internationally) are NOT ready for preschool.

-I'm looking forward to summer.  The weather is already warming up. 

More later.