Friday, May 22, 2009

Maddy Teacher

I have now been away from home for 4 months. I think that official makes it the longest time I have ever been away from my family and friends. I am starting to miss the small things, like a good sandwich or a big salad, real Mexican food, and all my snacks from Trader Joes but what I really miss is the beach. I long for just a couple days in San Diego but I think that is part of adjusting.
I’ve been warned about the stages of homesickness, the first three months are exciting and new, then you have lows around the 3rd and 9th month mark when everything that was different and new is now an inconvenience and annoying. I really never thought I could be victim, as I am always pretty optimistic and looking on the bright side. I once was told by a close friend “I would be happy living in cave” which is probably true but I think it is mostly a case of the summer time blues. The weather was gray and rainy this week, which I have never experienced that in May! So I am still wearing a jacket and gettign soaked on the way to work. I hate umbrellas and I refuse to get one especially in summer!
Weather a side I can’t complain. I have now been a teacher for a solid 3 months and I am really getting use to my new name “Maddy Teacher.” I absolutely love my students; they are always so enthusiastic in class and super friendly in the halls. I feel a lot more confident in the classroom, straying a little more from the textbook, take some more chances and getting more creative. Last Friday was national Teacher’s Day in Korea so a few students made me cards and brought me carnations, which always brightens the day.
Now that I have a camera I was able to take some photos of my school and the English classroom. It’s a typical English classroom for Korea. It’s pretty high tech but not as nice as some of the other schools I have visited. I have been told I will soon be getting a huge touch screen t.v in my classroom. I have even been enlisted by my boss to help design the new English room that will be constructed later this year. I have to come up with a catchy phrase for our “English Only Zone” …any ideas?

The education system is pumping a lot of money in their English programs, all new classrooms and more training for the teachers. Three days this week after school I had to attend a workshop for the Native English and Korean co-teachers. It wasn't half bad, learned some new techniques, games and meet some of the other teachers in my district. It gave my co-teacher and I a chance to really bond (or gossip over the handsome English teachers). It also reminded me how lucky I am to have such caring co-workers and a supportive school.
On Tuesday I went to see my first movie in Korea. Me and a couple of my co-workers went to see the new movie Demon and Angles film. Not bad, especially because I didn’t have read subtitles the whole time like everyone else in the theatre. That night I also had my first visit to a proper Korean home. One of the teachers invited us over for dinner. She made an elaborate spread of seafood and traditional Korean side dishes. I was really great to see how the typical family lives here and her son was so cute, jumping off the walls and continually babbling at me in Korean. Everyone here lives in apartments, usually three to four rooms, living room, kitchen, a small dining table on the ground, and a balcony. What stood out the most was the fact that the whole family slept in one room, mom, dad, daughter and son. The asked "How old when you stop sleeping in parents bed?" I said "ummm... we never start."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Seoul 3rd Annual DJ Fest

Wow!! i survived another eventful weekend. This one might have been the biggest achievement. Seoul host it's 3rd Annual Dj fest, two days of live electronic music and countless DJ's. We all got together for a pre-party bbq on the rooftop of a mates house and slowly made our way to the venue. I think I clocked in a total of 12 hours at the festival and even managed to stick around long enough to witness the aftermath firsthand.

After an over stimulating Saturday night, I decided to do a little hiking in my neighborhood. I took a little stroll through the park behind my apartment and found a nice trail up a small mountain. I got a nice view of the Bangwha birdge and the west-side of Seoul. The real gem was when I found an awesome century old Buddhist temple. Its seems I keep being rewarded for taking adventures.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Just got back from four days in Taipei and my official verdict is… I liked it!

There were a few drawbacks but some really unexpected highlights. I will start with the downside. Sunday we decide to go to beach and of course it was the only day it was cloudy and rainy, so NO BEACH. We did a little research and decided to take a train about 90 minutes north of Taipei to a little hot springs town. We found this great hotel there with a very helpful manager, Oliver. He put us in a very nice room, private mineral bathtub, plush queen beds and Japanese style sitting room all for about $60 bucks. This also included access to the roof top grotto style mineral pool and since there were no other guests at the hotel we got the pool all to our selves. Oliver even took the liberty of putting on a full on photo shoot for us. He set up his tripod and went to town taking pictures of us splashing around. I wouldn't be surprised if we end up on the cover of hotels next brochure or a billboard somewhere in Taiwan.

Oliver even arranged for us to get Oriental massages in our room. I think my masseuse use to have a job as a torturer because I spent about 75% of the time clenching my teeth and trying not to cry. I think my body is still bruised and it feels like all the toxins were literally kneaded out of my body. I know what a sad life I lead when my biggest bureden is a painful massage.

But my other minor conflict in Taiwan was the food. I was very excited to try all these great Buddhist vegetarian buffets I'd been reading about but no such luck. I ate more American fast food chains in four days then I have in the past year. But one night we went to this popular night market, where I fortunately ran into some fellow Seoul teachers. Including one the spoke Chinese that made finding some authentic food a little easier. Once I got over the sight and smell of pig ear soup and rancid meat, I tried some local food. I tried a decent oyster dumpling pancake thing and some of the fresh fruits that reminded of Thailand. I wasn’t daring enough to try the famous Taiwanese stinky tofu. Its fermented tofu and it smells god awful, so I passed. The other smell I couldn’t stand was these tea soaked eggs they had in every 7-11 (in Asia that means every 200 feet) they looked like rotten black eggs soaking in sewer water.

Enough about the downside because it doesn’t really even come close to out weighing the good. Best part of the whole trip was arriving late to the airport and getting bumped up to business class. All of us looked like we had just won the lottery when they told us they had to move us to business class at the cost of our vegetarian meals. I finally see what all the fuse it about up there. We got to stretch our feet, sip champagne and browse our personal TV’s all the way to Taiwan. I only wish our hostel was half as nice.

The rest of the weekend was filled with sight seeing, temples, monuments and Taipei 101, the tallest skyscraper in the world. I also got ride on the fastest elevator in the world, 88 floors in 36 seconds. And no weekend would be complete without some clubbing. Saturday night some locals directed us to check out a club called Luxy. The club was crowded and the Dj was quite impressive. I can’t remember the last time I chose the hip-hop room over my favorite dance electro scene but I actually had a great time getting down to the rap especially when they played California love.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Children's Day

I love Children’s Day! Why? Because it means I got paid to come to work on Friday and all I did was Skype all day. Plus no work Monday or Tuesday!! (Children’s Day is national holiday when everyone honors their children. The parents give gifts to their kids and according to my students they will be receiving Nintendo Wii and computer games. I wish we had this when I was kid.)
It also means my first trip out of Korea. Brittany, Lacy and I are heading to Taipei, Taiwan. I know kinda of random but it’s only a 2-hour flight and it was the cheapest place we could find on such short notice. I actually think it’s going to turn out to be a really fun trip. A bunch of other English teachers are going to be there too, so the more the merrier.
Did you know Taipei has the tallest skyscraper? Yeah! 101 stories, that should be cool but I am most excited about the beach. Only an hour away! My tan from Thailand has long since faded. Even though being translucent white is the all rage here, I mean every commercial is for skin bleaching. But I am a Cali girl and I can’t really fight the urge for the ultimate tan. I also heard there’s tons of good veggie food, of course lots of shopping and it’s cheap.
Earlier this week I treated myself to a little post birthday/pre children’s day and first paycheck gift. I bought a Camera! I took a little trip down to Costco and picked out a nice Olympus digi. I can’t wait to share all my photos!!!