2/27/2008

They Just Don't Get It...



I'm at the end of another semester...thank God! So, I don't have new students but we just select new books for the classes. My Directors, who don't speak any English, insist on choosing these extra hard books for the kids. I've come to the realization that they don't really give a crap if these kids understand a lick of English. All they want to do is create an illusion for parents. The kids are divided into different levels, but truthfully, I feel some of these classes could use the same book. So I suggested that to Steve. He looked kinda nervous and I said, "What? What is the problem?" He said, "Well, she [the Director] doesn't want them to use the same books. It looks bad. If parents find out, they'll be angry because an upper level is using the same book as a lower level..."

WHAT?!?!?!?!!?

I got so angry. There are no daggone upper and lower levels in MY opinion. Hardly any of these kids can write a complete sentence and whoa, don't even THINK about compound sentences!! All of them need basics and some even need phonics reinforcement. But I spoke up and I refused to allow them to force me to teach an advanced book just for appearances. And then they'll be getting pissed with me because I could only finish half of the book!? Off your rocker, lady! That just irritated the crap out of me. THEN I finished my evaluations. I do them first then Steve and the other teacher add their comments in Korean (or they probably just translate what I wrote...who knows!?). So anyway, one of my favorite students, Louis, just does terribly on tests and he doesn't do his homework. I love him to pieces but he's slacked off (yes, he's only 8 but oh well!). So for the homework, I gave him a C....and for tests, he got an F. I mean, it's basic math! The average of his test scores equated to an F. So Steve says, "Oh, this must be a mistake...you're giving him an F???" I said, "Yeah, well....that's his score...I did the math.." And he's like, "That's a little harsh...how about a C??? An F looks bad to parents..."

Well EXCUUUUUUUUSE ME!!! But if you don't want your kid to get an F, maybe you should make him do his homework. I'm sorry, but my teachers weren't gonna just "give me" a C because an F "looks bad"!! I see now that I am dealing with a different type of beast out here. This isn't real school. This is play school. And you know why they can get away with it? Because the parents are paying customers and they don't really care what their kids learn, they just want high test scores. I've even had to water down my tests because the scores were "too low". This is such a foreign concept to me though. You can't get high test scores if you don't do the work. You're not just going to magically learn English by osmosis! You have to study...and these kids should know a thing or two about studying because they're at school all damn day and night. Thankfully, this semester, I've been able to select more books and I'll be able to focus on grammar more. They get grammar lessons from Korean teachers in Korean, which is fine for basics. But when they come to my class, they can't say boo.

Ahhhh, just drives me up a wall. Basically it seems that my Directors just want me to plow through the book and not reinforce anything and not play any games. Let's see how quickly students start leaving then! I should sit down and have a talk with them...with a translator of course.

Hmmmm...ok onto fun stuff!!! :)

I went to a town in Seoul last weekend called Apgujeong. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Margot and I had brunch in Seoul so we decided, "Hey, let's hop on the subway and just pick a place!" So we did. Apgujeong is the richest area in Seoul, also called The Beverly Hills of Seoul. I'd tried to get a job there actually but as you can imagine, those positions go fast. The subway let us off inside of the Hyundai Department Store. It kinda reminded me of Bloomingdale's actually! They had every single designer shop you could imagine. They have a grocery store inside that looks like Whole Foods Market on speed! All the cashiers and other workers wear suits. They have a section of the store for "Premium Water". I was like, "Oh really?! $7 for some water?!" A bottle of water normally costs 65 cents here! But I guess this water will be paying some bills right? Uh huh...Margot nearly knocked me over when we saw a group of really tall Korean guys.

Ok, let's clear this up because I always get asked: Are Korean men really short?? My answer is always, "No, they're not as short as people think..." And that's true. But you have to consider the source - I am 5'9", which Michelle seems to think is freakishly tall even by American standards. However, she is 4'11.5" so sure...I am freakishly tall to HER. So, yes, by Western standards, Korean men are shorter. But a lot of the younger guys are taller, probably about my height. Coming from the US where seeing men 6' and over isn't a big deal...yes, it was an adjustment to be in Korea. But those men at the department store were like 6'2" or 6'3" and they did NOT play basketball! So it was like seeing Big Foot, yes. Hahaha. Just like back home though, tall men are a hot commodity so you can be assured there's a petite little Korean girl on their arm. That's a whole other post - Why Short Women Are Stealing Our Men!!! Lol....Ok, moving on...

There are also cosmetic surgery places on every corner. Not even joking. A lot of Korean women, with money that is, get the double eyelid surgery. Well, that's what I call it anyway. It's the surgery to give them that second crease in their eyelids. I never thought that would be a desirable characteristic. It's a heated debate around here but still very popular.


Apgujeong is totally hip and trendy. The streets were pretty empty though. I guess most people were either inside Hyundai Department Store or too busy driving around in their Beemers and Benzes. Oh yes...LOTS of those. Margot and I were seriously the only ones just walking! But we stumbled upon a Krispy Kreme!! Lord Have Mercy!!!!! And just as I expected, that "HOT NOW" sign was like a beacon of light. I tore off like someone was chasing me...and yes, I bought 3 donuts and a Snapple. But I actually ate 4 because they give you a free one when they're hot. Do they do this back home?! I don't remember...but I was ecstatic. A small moment of bliss. I can't wait to go back though. We saw a lot of cute clubs and lounge type places, definitely younger people which is always nice. No houses though. I'm used to it now but yeah, no one lives in houses here. Only out in the rural areas I suppose. Everyone has apartments...and they don't look like much on the outside but inside, it's sprawling and luxurious. They probably even have a washer AND dryer. Now, that's big money...

Overall though, a perfect day!! Oh, but I can't forget about the CRAZY African man who stalked me through the subway. I've met plenty of Crazies in many cultures. I seem to attract the Crazy. Maybe because I, too, am crazy. Hmmm, yeah that's logical. Sure, I've been hit on by the crazy ones around 125th street in Harlem. They're harmless and usually just want you to buy something. But lemme tell you, NEVER IN MY LIFE have I actually been a little scared when a man has hit on me. You put on the "Big Girl" voice and tell them to back off and they're gone. But oh noooooo, this is a different breed of Crazy. For starters, he just materialized. I thought his ass popped out of a genie bottle or something. I was with Margot thank God. But I'm walking down these steep steps and he says, "I want to see you..."

HUH????

So, I, being a smart ass, said, "Well you're looking at me aren't you???" My big mouth - talking only makes it worse. "What's your name???" "Funny, my parents didn't give me one! Isn't that weird?? I have no name..." I probably deserve all of this...I'm a real JERK for egging him on. So, we've made it down the flight of stairs. He's still walking and talking to me. His name is Leo...I know that much because he said it about 25 times. All I know is that this is the longest subway station ever. So finally, I said, "Look, I'm not interested. Just leave me alone.." But oh no, he keeps going. I go through the subway turnstile and I think "Ah ha!!! Gotcha!!" Hell no, he just slips his little skinny behind right on through, keeps talking and doesn't skip a BEAT! Ok, so now he has just been promoted to REALLY, REALLY CREEPY. We get on the escalator and I cannot believe this fool followed me!! So I turn around, face him and say, "Seriously!!! Seriously?!?!? STOP IT!!!" I think I get some funny glances from Koreans but I'm really freaked out. He kinda looks at me like HE'S hurt. Oh word? You're hurt? So Margot says, "Yeah, you're being very rude now. You don't do this to people..." And with that, he ran back up the escalator. Weirdo. This is exactly why I don't like Itaewon because it's the most obnoxious breed of men and people in general. And not to single out the African men because some of the American soldiers there are pretty bad, too. Even drunk Korean men don't know how to act. That just happened to be my experience. But I can't avoid Itaewon because it's where I get my hair done and they have THE best brunch! :) So, lesson learned. Just pretend to be deaf.

Hmmm...anymore adventures? Not really. My Korean classes are going great! I've learned most of the alphabet and I study like crazy. This is how you can tell I'm a real nerd. No one else in my class wanted a textbook but I did. I made the teacher go buy the book for ME. And I've now done all the homework and I keep practicing over and over. Now that I can recognize the characters, my brain starts involuntarily reading everything. It's kinda cool but it's also annoying. After a long day out in the city, I just want to come home and rest. But sure enough, I'm on the bus and my brain starts to read in Korean. Of course, I usually don't know what the heck I'm reading but I'm sounding out the letters and putting it together. Like a baby.

The weekends almost here again, which means it will be MARCH which means 7 more months!!! Wow, it's been 5 months already. Time is surely flying by now...should I continue this blog once I've left Korea? What do you think? I'm on the fence about it...but perhaps, if people really give a crap, I will :)

Until then, J

2/16/2008

My Bucket List...



Yes, I've been inspired by the movie to create my very own bucket list. Now, if what a good psychic told me is true, I won't be dying til around 91 or 92. I have 67 years to do all this stuff and that should be plenty of time. Some of my items are the same as the movie...I mean, after all, who wouldn't want to see the Taj Mahal or the Pyramids???! So, here goes.

MY BUCKET LIST

- Visit Japan (Harajuku and Shibuya – take pics with Harajuku Kids!!!)
- Visit Thailand (stay in a bungalow on the water, get a massage!!)
- See the Great Wall of China
- Learn Korean
- Learn Italian
- Go skydiving
- Get a Master’s Degree in International Relations
- Work for the United Nations or the Dept. of State
- Be a good role model for young Blacks
- Live in Italy
- Visit South Africa
- Visit Egypt and Morocco
- Learn to drive a stick shift
- Buy a Nissan Z-car OR BMW Z3
- Learn how to cook a Thanksgiving meal
- Take a road trip across the United States with Meeka
- Party in Vegas
- Start a scholarship organization to send minority students abroad
- Buy a piece of property overseas
- Re-visit Venezuela with Kell and LeeLee
- Live abroad
- Write a book or become a travel writer
- Be a great mom
- Travel around Southeast Asia
- Visit Los Angeles and Hollywood
- Meet Will Smith
- Sit courtside at a NBA game
- Go to the Oprah Show with Mom
- Own a house with a tennis court
- Finish my scrapbooks
- Learn to snowboard
- Drive through New England in the fall
- Go fishing on a secluded lake
- Cruise around Alaska
- Learn French
- Learn how to swim
- Visit Hawaii
- See the Taj Mahal
- Visit Stongehenge
- Climb Machu Picchu
- Ride a horse
- Ride an elephant
- Ride a camel
- Find a partner who appreciates me everyday
- See the Grand Canyon at sunset (or sunrise)
- Find God
- Learn to salsa well
- Visit Bahia, Brazil
- See the rainforest of South America
- Conquer the self-doubt


Not surprisingly, most of my things are travel-related. It is a work in progress and I realize that having kids and a family may squelch a few things, but....maybe not. :) Actually, come to think of it, having a family may actually enrich all of these things! Nothing on my bucket list talks about wealth or money. Although I do want those things, I don't look at my list and say "Oh my God, it's gonna cost me an arm and a leg!" I focus on the end result and the experience. I figure the money will work itself out. So, I encourage everyone to make a real bucket list. No matter how crazy or absurd. Once you start, the ideas won't stop. Yes, I am 24 and I don't know how to swim. I dropped out of my YMCA classes at age 6, after the first lesson where they took me to the deep end and I had a complete anxiety attack. I am still terrified of swimming, but I am going to learn! So, maybe you've had some ideas floating around in your head for awhile. Write it down. Put it on paper. Carry it around. I'm pretty sure you'll start checking things off...a bucket list is just a map so that when someone asks you where you're going, you simply tell them, "Everywhere." Until then, J

*~*If you let your fears keep you from flying, you will never reach your height...*~* - India Arie

2/14/2008

Sleep Eludes Me AGAIN....



Just more pics of my best friends!!! Because they're awesome and I love them...that's all

So here I am...AGAIN...wide awake at 7am!! Actually, I've been up since 6ish. I went to bed at 230am. Seems like I can't sleep without pills lately (don't worry, just Tylenol PM). The other night I popped up at 449am. Two nights before that I was up at 6am again. My mind was racing, which it often does when I feel inclined to sleep. But unlike the past where it was racing with worry, it's racing with plans. Yes, plans!! Big plans! In fact, I've kinda figured out my life for the next 3 or 4 years...incredible. I'm sure there will be some glitches but as of right now, things are lookin up! :)

Margot sent me a link to all these different events happening in Korea - overnight temple stays, paintballing, tours of North Korea (ok, not INSIDE North Korea because I'd probably get shot BUT they have tours to the Demilitarized Zone...a neutral area), hiking trips, etc. So, I'm gonna try to do some of these things a couple of times a month. If I were back home, I'd be planning random outings every couple of weeks but for some reason, that never really occurred to me here. I guess because when it's cold, my brain doesn't function that way. I'm usually trying to find someone's beach and do nothing, counting the days until Spring. But I know Spring will be here soon...I got a taste of it when I was home and it was SEVENTY-FIVE degrees! In FEBRUARY! Why can't Korea get some global warming action??

I've also been without a gym for the past week!!!! YIKES!!! While I was away, my gym changed owners and NOW it's gonna be some yoga/dance studio!!!! BOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I am really freakin' angry about that. I hate yoga...or at least I've hated the yoga my Mom has dragged me to in the past. What's relaxing about bending your body in ways it has no business bending??? Needless to say, I never really got it, couldn't get comfortable in it. I may take a dance class though because it would be a wonderful story for my blog. Meeka says I should include video but that is pushing it. Suffice it to say that me doing aerobics in general is very entertaining. But imagine me trying to follow along in Korean and well, you get the picture.....this story is developing. Details to follow...

Anyway, I found a great website to get FREE movies and TV Shows online. So I'm going to watch The Bucket List...again! I saw it with my Dad last week. Such a good movie. In fact, I know I'm only 24 and those guys in the movie were near death, but I can still make my own Bucket List. It'll just be much longer :) Well, I don't think sleep is gonna happen for me right now. OR EVER!!!! I feel bad for all my insomniac, Pygmychelle friends...*wink* Until then, J

2/09/2008

How to Entertain a 4-year old for 6 Hours...

I'm back in Ko-rea. Yup. And it's butt cold. And I did cry, briefly. What can I say? I can be overly sensitive. I'm balanced now though. On my flight to San Francisco, I was praying that I didn't end up near a crazy, crying child. As I approached my seat, I saw a man in the aisle and no one in the middle seat. SWEET!!! I can probably stretch out and relax...FINALLY. But God likes to have fun, too so before I can fix my mouth to say "Excuse me..", a curly little head of hair shouts, "Hi!!! I'm Sara!!!" Oh Jesus...noooooooo...

Sara is a 4-year old princess. Her mother is Puerto Rican, her father is White. And she was simply adorable. In fact, she looked exactly like Shirley Temple. Over the next 6 hours, I fell in love with Sara. I drew her pictures of fairies and princesses. We talked about our favorite Disney characters (we both LOVE Ariel!) and we both realized we can count to 10 in Spanish and French. She could also count in Chinese. Sara is a free-spirited bundle of chaos. I'm sure people around us were getting quite annoyed by her piercing shrieks of elated happiness that only a 4-year old could produce...but to me, it was like music. When I dozed off for an hour, I awoke to see Sara's big gap-toothed grin staring at me. "What are you doooooing??" she'd say in her sing-song tone. Her father was amazed at how good I was with her. "She never talks this much, I promise...she must be really comfortable with you." And she was...always leaning on me and grabbing my hand. At one point, she even started to play with my hair. Her father, annoyed himself now, said, "Sara, stop it! That's not nice!!" She really didn't care though and neither did I. She was a real pleasure to sit next to.




Towards the end of the flight, as we were starting to land, Sara really had to pee. And when a 4-year old has to go, there's not much you can do to stop it. She started squirming and throwing a fit. Poor Dad just kept telling her to hold it. I, however, thought of a different way to distract her. I told her that I really had to go, too. Suddenly she said, "You do, TOO???" I knew I'd hooked her. I convinced Sara that she was a super hero, the strongest one ever! And we were gonna be strong together and hold it! For the next 15 minutes, that's what we were - 2 super heros...that had to pee. Of course I really didn't have to, but she never knew the difference. In fact, she wanted us to go to the bathroom together! Once the plane landed, she and her Dad made a mad dash for the back of the plane. He thanked me profusely again and I headed out, happy to have averted a crisis. Makes me think I will be a good Mom someday....however, I might need a nanny (as Sara has one!!) because after those 6 hours of entertaining, I was pretty tired. But well worth it...I'll never forget her.

I also have pictures of my new little nephew, Harrison Kent, Jr aka Deuce!!! And he's so teeny. I didn't realize newborns were that small and I kept thinking I was gonna snap him in two. He basically just slept and ate the entire time. He only opened his eyes once or twice but I just sat there in awe of his little hands and feet. My poor friend ended up delivering him WITHOUT Epidural thanks to the nurse's error. I'm sure she felt like she was delivering a 20 lb turkey, but I was so happy to see him finally!! He's too cute for words! It's also strange to see one of my best friends, someone who used to party with me and hang out til wee hours getting into trouble, holding her baby. She's a momma now and there's only one thing that matters in the world to her. So, even though I'll miss my party buddy, I'm glad we have a new member of our crew. :)



I also hung out with Meeka and Michelle quite a bit. Meeka made some divine mojitos and my Mom cooked fish and a German chocolate cake! I should come home more often because that seems to be a good reason for people to cook! So here are pics of that. And I know my Mom is going to complain about me putting up this picture, but OH WELL. I like it....and it's my blog!! :P




I've still got jetlag. I woke up, wide awake, at 6am. I'm thinking the entire month of February is just a wash. I won't be caught up until March probably. But in my mind, March means Spring! Which means warm weather, which means the end of sadness!!! So I'm happy. I actually spent my first day back in Korea with my friend Margot. It was just what I needed, too. We ate at Friday's, had delicious drinks and then she came over and we watched Sex and the City for 2 hours! We laughed til our sides hurt. What an amazing release! Laughter is the soul's medicine I think. My attitude has changed. I'm not dreading being here. In fact, I'm glad that I have this opportunity. And I'm also glad to know what's waiting for me on the other side of the world... more love. Until then, J

2/08/2008

More Bitter than Sweet...

Grrrrrr....I knew it. I just knew it. I shouldn't have come home. Not that I didn't have an absolutely amazing time, but here I am, DREADING having to return to Korea. And by dreading I mean I've had several breakdowns today, tears just flowing uncontrollably, prepubescent-like. I just.....don't wanna go back. Is that so awful?! I don't wanna get back on that plane for 17 hours. I don't want it to be 21 degrees when I land (and oh yes, it will be). I don't wanna get into my little apartment and it's freezing and lonely. Maybe things won't be so bad. As my BFF says, we're going to be optimistic....right? The first 4 months flew by...sorta...kinda. The next 8 months will, too!!! Or so I keep trying to psych myself out. Truthfully, once I get outta the doldrums of winter, I think my time will be fabulous. People will start visiting me, I'll start going out and being more social, I'll start traveling, etc. Why, it'll be October before I know it! I've consulted several people on this matter and their responses varied. Let's run through them:

BFF says, "Be positive! I'll see you in March or April! But I guess now is not a good time to tell you that I don't want you to go back either huh??" Hmmm...nope.

Little Cousin says, " F- that. Don't go! You ain't gotta do a damn thing..." Nice try, young Grasshopper.

Momma says, "Well....*looking sorry for me* can you extend your stay here? Maybe go back in a few weeks...?" No, I can't do that either.

Michelle says, "Ummmm....well you're going back with a different perspective. Things will get better. Trust me..." And I trust her...I do.

Here I am. Back on the seesaw of emotions. Damn. When did life get so hard? And it's not even that hard, just stressful. One of my best friends just popped out an 8-pound baby and I'm complaining about having to go back to Korea. Talk about perspective. So, lemme go ahead and get off my worry wagon. Shut up, fool. Just shut up.....well I'm headed to the airport. Better get started on that long trek. Maybe I can find my ever-elusive sanity along the way. Until then, J

2/05/2008

I <3 Jetlag.

Jetlag is the only reason that I am up at 5:22AM writing this nonsense. It's the only reason I've gotten maybe 10 hours of sleep in 5 days, too. I just fall asleep at random times, like an undiagnosed narcoleptic. I fell asleep after halftime of the Superbowl, I fell asleep mid-conversation with Michelle. I'd probably fall asleep standing up, too. It just hits me like a ton of bricks and it's really annoying. And just when I'll start to adjust to this schedule, I'm gonna be back on the plane to Korea. And I must have jinxed something because on my flight from Japan to DC, sure enough, I was sitting 2 seats down from the "Sleeping During Demonstrations" Man. He was all loud and obnoxious, snoring with his mouth wide open and hot breath blowing. So, as you can imagine, my flight was awful for that main reason. I also couldn't sleep, it was stuffy, and the food was yuck.

I had a really great weekend though! I saw all of my favorite people and tried to eat my favorite foods. Truthfully, my former stomach of steel is now a sorry sack of disappointment. I barely ate anything and what I DID eat couldn't stay down long enough for me to enjoy it. I just realized that the portion sizes back home are GIGANTIC! Looking at a huge plate of food triggers a fight or flight response in my intestines. Usually flight. To the bathroom. :)

I'm most happy that I got to see my best friends though. Being back in Cherry Hill with those 3 girls catapulted me to 1995 - a time when my biggest concern was whether I should go to the mall now or later. Even though I made mountains out of molehills, I've realized they were all molehills. Now, I'm an adult but for those moments with my girls, I was a kid again. We ate and laughed and reminisced for hours. We sat in my friend's bedroom listening to music and taking goofy pictures on her bed, just like when we were 13. We talked about our childhood crushes, some of which I vehemently deny to this day. I think that being on the brink of 25 makes you revert back to simpler times. My worries used to be, "Oh my God, does he like me?" Now my worries are, "Oh my God, I've got no healthcare..." The cost of my ticket home didn't matter though. These are the people who comforted me 15 years ago and they still do today. I was just thankful to be creating more memories.

I'm heading down to Hampton tomorrow. One of my closest friends just had her baby. It's very ironic because her due date was February 14th. Ever since I found out I'd be coming home the week before, I started praying to God that the baby would come while I was home. And sure enough, HE DID!! He was born on February 2nd and he's just adorable. Ask and ye shall receive right? In my next post, I'll be sure to have pictures. I know that's the only reason some of you actually "read" my blog :) Until then, J

2/01/2008

Waiting in Japan...

I'm sitting at Narita Airport, waiting to connect to my flight to Dulles. Why is it so ungodly hot up in here?!?! Anyway, I can't see much of anything. Just airport and more airport. I won't really count this as having "visited Japan". I just want to get this long flight over with already. I've got my sleeping pills and my DVDs and my iPod. I'm also functioning on only 2 hours of sleep which means I'll probably be one of those people who is asleep before the plane takes off. Don't those people drive you crazy?!?! They already have their seats back and are practically snoring during the demonstrations. Anyway, can't wait to see my friends and fam!! Time for hugs and grub!!! What should I eat first? Probably a salad...believe it or not, that's kinda what I'm craving. So we'll see....Until next time, <3 J