Wednesday, July 21: Today I leave for Turkey. It will be a long trip. Mr. O told me yesterday afternoon that the principal at Byeokjin said I could take the day off today!! Then the guy from customs called from Incheon and told me I could pick up my package at the airport today for a steep customs duty of 72,000 won!! Since I have the day off, I’ll take a bus to Incheon at 1:00, get there at 5:20, pick up the box, then wait around at the airport till my flight leaves at 11:55 pm! Last night, Kathy was so sweet and picked up my bus ticket for me at Dongdaegu… I would have had to do that myself if she hadn’t done this. I owe her so much for this favor, which took a big burden off of me! Anyway, today it no longer feels like things are conspiring against me in my trip. 🙂
Tuesday, July 20: Why is it that when you’re getting ready to travel it seems everything is conspiring against you? It’s just like the process of buying a house; people who have gone through purchasing a home say they feel like they will never go to closing. Today, I was expecting a package from home which contained a debit card to replace mine that has expired. The box also had some things I really needed for vacation that I wasn’t able to find here in Korea. The package didn’t come because they held it up in customs in the Incheon Airport in Seoul. I have had three other packages from home (none of which was urgent) and they have never held one up before! I will be in Seoul at Incheon tomorrow, but the place is not right at the airport and I will be pressed for time. So the package and I will pass each other going in opposite directions tomorrow! In addition, I worked hard to prepare for all my summer camps so I would be ready upon my return home to dive right in; suddenly today one of my co-teachers told me one of the lesson plans (which I was told had to be a 40-minute plan) should be 3 hours long!! So now, when I return, I will be stressed right away trying to complete two more lesson plans. Then my friend Jayne writes me from England to tell me that Turkish airplane companies are going bankrupt and stranded Brits are having to pay double to get out. Why, why, why? Ok, this is where I need to learn to BREATHE ^o^……
We went to Sydney to celebrate Ben’s birthday tonight, but I left early because I ate too much cake and felt incredibly fat!!
Monday, July 19: Winding down the first semester at school. Today was my last official day of classes. I played Jeopardy and Hangman with the kids:-)
Sunday, July 18: For the first time since I’ve been in Korea, I was able to talk by Skype to my friend Ed from the State Department back home. He’s a foreign service officer and is applying now for his next post abroad. We share a love of foreign lands, and a common experience at the State Department ~ I was in charge of the UN delegation to the 2007 Middle East Peace Conference in Annapolis (& he was in charge of the Africa delegation) …. We so wanted to share a bottle of wine, but as it was midday for me, I couldn’t imbibe… I had to pack for my trip:-)
Saturday, July 17: I went with Kathy to Sugar Joe’s, a laid-back bar near Kyungbook University’s North Gate, where we chatted and listed to live music by Akooztik Coxwell. I’m so happy to have found this place, recommended by Kate, an English teacher at the university, who I met while having my hair straightened at Frigo.
Friday, July 16: Chojeon Elementary students went on a field trip to SpaValley, a huge theme spa with a water park, bade pool, hot spring, & steam room. The place was inundated with screaming and squealing kids. The teachers were relegated to the cafeteria, but I basked for an hour in the hot tub and sauna. Later we went to the Daegu National Museum, where the kids did all kinds of hands-on activities. Meanwhile, since I had no duties, I finished my excellent book, The Piano Teacher, and dreamed of Hong Kong!
Thursday, July 15: ~~This afternoon was one of my loveliest here in Korea. My friend Julie, who is my Korean English co-teacher at both of my schools, took me to her hometown of Wegwan for samgye tang, a ginseng chicken soup: a game hen-size chicken, stuffed with jujube (Asian date) garlic, persimmon, and glutinous rice. Julie says it’s an “oriental medicine soup” and is often eaten in summer to lessen the effects of the heat. Before dinner, she insisted on stopping at her local hospital so I could get physical therapy on my knee (since I hurt it recently at yoga!!). We waited about 10 minutes, I paid about $3.50, and then had an hour of various heat treatments, suction cups, and exercise, which, miraculously made my knee feel a lot better. 🙂 Most amazing was how I felt the whole time with Julie. She is so easy-going and so sweet. She made me feel pampered, peaceful and thankful. I so cherish her friendship and kindness!
~~Mr. O and I no longer speak to each other during our 45 minute commute. I guess this silent treatment came about after I cut him off the 3rd time he tried to tell me how the men eat very spicy dog meat in summer for “stamina.” Possibly it was after I cut him off when he tried for the 2nd time to have another excrutiatingly painful conversation about Lehman Brothers. Anyway, it’s funny b/c I wished that he would just stop speaking. Now he has, but it’s not an amiable silence. This morning, he started a little passive-aggressive behavior, putting on a very loud English language cassette tape that might help him improve his English. I suppose he was hoping conversations with me might help him. Listening to this English tape, I now know where he got the expression he uses constantly with me: “Have you got it?”
Wednesday, July 14: I take my shower in the dreaded Korean style sink-shower: a portable shower head over the sink. The water drains partially into the sink and the overflow into a hole in the floor. Oh how I miss my baths!!
Tuesday, July 13: In U.S. schools, teachers are never to touch students. Here, that rule is a little murky… In fact, the children seem to have no concept of personal space. Today, in the 10 minute break between classes, about 9-10 3rd graders crowded around my desk, telling me their Korean names and asking me to repeat them, & teaching me Korean words for classroom objects. They cheered and clapped whenever I got it right. I can’t believe they were trying to teach me their names, which I still don’t know after nearly 5 months!! Why can’t they just use ONE name?? Even in the U.S., I would never remember someone’s 1st, middle and last name!! ~ Meanwhile some of the 10 were playing with my hair, rubbing my arms, and touching my clothes. I’m always taken aback by this…I feel like I should push them away and say Don’t touch! As a Westerner, to me it’s very strange. But is it to them? It seems like a natural part of their culture. I kind of wish we weren’t so uptight about this kind of thing in the U.S. All over Korea, you see on the streets girls holding hands, boys holding hands. Hmmm… don’t know quite what to make of this….
Monday, July 12: A night at Sydney St. Pub to celebrate Kathy D’s mother’s birthday. Her mom bought a bunch of visors to take back home to her friends. Reminds me of the countless “ajuma parmas” (old ladies with dyed-black hair and permanents) I see on the streets ~ they wear these atrocious visors, as do the middle-aged women. Yikes! It’s scary 🙂
Sunday, July 11: At Agape Church, where I have become a regular, my friend Maurice, a Kenyan theological student, encouraged me to fill out a membership card. I did. Little did I know I would have to stand and be introduced later in the service. The choir sang a welcome song to me, hands outstretched & palms open. Wow!! In the sermon, the preacher encouraged us to have a “heart of evangelism;” for an example of how lost souls need the gospel in their lives, he told the story of a person who cut her tongue with scissors. Very upsetting…. According to an Economist article dated July 8, 2010: “The never-ending push for achievement [in Korea], however, also has a dark side: depression is a serious problem, and the recorded suicide rate—around 22 per 100,000 people—is the highest in the OECD.” I see this push for achievement evident in the schools, where students spend countless hours in study….sadly kids can’t be kids in Korea. 😦
Saturday, July 10: A fruitless day of shopping in Daegu. I am continually amazed at the ugliest array of clothing on the planet. The salespeople stay on you like flies on fruitcake. They have no concept of “I’m just looking!”
Friday, July 9: Coffee J told me about Jesa, a type of family reunion in honor of dead ancestors. The entire family meets once a year in memory of the death of a grandparent. This celebration can apply to as many as 5 generations ~ that’s a lot of family reunions (!!); it’s an assured way for the family to keep in close contact. I like this – something like the Day of the Dead in Mexico. We need something like this in the US!
Thursday, July 8: While walking to Sydney St. for a couple of beers, I was almost run over by a guy on a motorcycle driving on the sidewalk, as they always do. He had a stack of business cards in one hand and was flicking them onto the pavement as he careened along. Everyday, the shopkeepers must come out and sweep up all the business cards that have been strewn on the street by countless motorcycle-riding advertisers. I wonder if anyone ever goes along the street and thinks: Wow! I must pick up one of these business cards so I can do business at this place!!
Wednesday, July 7: At the street crossing, I am yelled at by one of the ajumas who stands there every morning with a flag, giving pedestrians the okay to cross the street (…as if the walk signal isn’t enough!) These ajumas wear yellow sashes, huge ugly visors or hats, masks, long sleeves, and gloves even in the heat of summer. She yelled at me in Korean because at the Keimyung Gate I never wait for the walk signal and just cross. There’s NEVER any traffic at that hour going into the university!! I just ignored her.
Tuesday, July 6: My Korean English co-teacher, Julie, and I split up the third grade class we have on Tuesdays because there are 29 of them and they are a bunch of hooligans!! However, we found that when the teacher split the class in two, she happened to put all the rowdiest kids in one group and the best-behaved kids in the other. We have now dubbed the two groups: “OH MY GOD!” and “OH MY GOOD!”
Monday, July 5: At yoga tonight, the instructor has us doing an extensive array of kneeling exercises. I can feel my knee crack, but do I heed the sound? No…. and now I think I may have set myself back by months on the healing of my knee! And this right before my vacation to Turkey…..
Sunday, July 4: Ben makes tacos and Seth, Anna, Xee, and I go to Duryu Park for a 4th of July picnic. Then we go to Camp Walker in Daegu to watch some pretty pathetic fireworks. Anna and I both comment that there are some rough-looking dudes on the army base and Seth says it’s the first time in Korea he’s felt like someone might pick a fight with him. ~ Earlier in the day, I went to the hospital to visit Kathy and had to make my way through throngs of hospital-gown-clad patients walking aboEditut outdoors dragging along their urine and IV bags; some were smoking! I felt like I was in the midst of a bunch of hospital escapees…. 🙂
Saturday, July 3: My first haircut in Korea. It took me about 2 hours to find a hair stylist who was recommended to me. When I found him, he told me I could come back at 3:30 (it was 1:00). I found another place I heard did hair-straightening, Frigo, so I figured I could get my hair straightened and then go back to the 1st guy for the haircut. I spent the next 4 hours having my hair straightened, then I went ahead and had them cut it (since I missed the first appointment). The whole process cost me 65,000 Won, or about $58!
Friday, July 2: At Chojeon Elementary, there is only one throne-type toilet, and it happens to be in the men’s bathroom. I use it unabashedly. When Coffee J first asked me why I used the men’s room, I said because women are built to sit. Men stand; this toilet should be in the women’s room!! Now, none of the adults say anything, but when the kids see me go in there, they love to pound on the door and run away; sometimes they turn the light off from outside, leaving me in the dark! I don’t care… I steadfastly continue to do what I must do:-) I will only use the ubiquitous squat toilets when there is no other choice and I am absolutely desperate!!
This evening we meet at Seth and Anna’s house for dinner and a Bible study.
Thursday, July 1: Kim, the Korean 1st grade teacher at Byeokjin, today tells me that she wants to take me to her favorite hair stylist to have my hair cut. This hairstylist will apparently recommend the best cut for my hair and face. Then she mentions she notices that I never wear makeup. (I do!) This is so typical for Koreans to comment about your appearance, even if it’s derogatory.