Solan Elementary School (A Review)

Ah, it’s time for me to move schools and I thought that it’s about time that I wrote a review for my school now that I’m not going to be here any more. Also for any of my potential replacements, I don’t want there to be just one negative article about my school. Almost every teacher I’ve talked to since coming here has seen it. I know the teacher that wrote that article and I won’t say that what he experienced was invalid or that he was just being over dramatic. He felt that he was treated unfair and that’s his thoughts, such as these are mine.

I came here around 2011 after a very long first year at a hagwon in Suwon. When I first interviewed, I didn’t talk to any of the other foreign teachers as one was absent and the other was teaching, but instead just listened to the requirements needed of me from the Korean teachers. I’m horrible at interviews, but the teachers were very kind to me and I was very happy when I got the job. Granted, I wasn’t being very picky at the time. I knew I didn’t want another hagwon and I definitely didn’t want to live far away from Seoul again. Hence, I moved to Bucheon.

Obviously when you start a job, you get taught the ropes. The former teacher, the one that wrote the bad article about this school, taught me as much as he could about the in and outs of the school. And about the, quite frankly, silly little fight he was having with the Korean teachers. I could see that there was a level of dislike between them and I decided not to get involved. I didn’t want drama. I just wanted to finish my year here and then move to Japan.

Four years later, and I’m still here.

There is obviously things that annoy me, but they are inherent to all jobs and not a thing that’s particularly negative about this school. I don’t really like the principal, he’s kind of sexist, but he’s never really done anything particular to me except saying I should find a Korean boyfriend and learn more Korean. But he’s an old man and you kind of expect that kind of thing from people like him. Oh, and you only see him like…once a semester.

As I don’t want to mention names, I’ll just call the manager of our office, H. Sounds kind of cool when you put it that way, doesn’t it? Like a Bond film hahaha

Anyway.

H has always been an amazing manager. I think that our former teacher (from now I’ll just call him J) just didn’t know how to read her moods well? She will tell you directly if she doesn’t like something and as long as you comply she won’t really harp on you about it. She tries to tell us about the going ons in school but she sometimes doesn’t get a message until the day and you’re left floundering around much like she is. It is true that her English isn’t as good as maybe the other co-teachers, but it’s not like she’s that bad. She’ll have a problem remembering the word, but she’ll look it up. She’s also ridiculously easy-going. I admit I have a problem with coming in on time, but she’s never really harped on me about it. It’s this that makes me want to be a better person so I try to come in on time more (I’m terrible employee, I know)

The co-teacher in the English morning classes, who I’ll call ‘C’ (ㅋㅋㅋㅋ) is really amazing and allows you so much leniency in how you teach your classes but also controls the class at the same time. She doesn’t allow the students to really get out of hand and is just all around amazing as a person.

There is a part time Korean teacher now, instead of a secretary as our student base has grown since the time of the previous teacher, her name is ‘K’. She’s so sweet and adorable and will probably have to manage our office soon as H will have maternity leave soon.

But you don’t want to hear about all the good stuff, do you?

I will admit that it can feel like a very big workload, but sometimes you’re left with so much free time that you don’t know what to do with. Not to mention you have TWO computers at your disposal. I just watch anime and tv shows during my breaks (shhhh…nobody’s supposed to know that…). Prep for class is almost too easy. There’s a book. You do whatever’s in the book, and then you let them play games. Yes, you have to make up your own classes once a year, but it’s not that hard. They almost always try to hire a teacher that’s had at least a year or so of teaching experience so that they won’t feel too overwhelmed. I feel like J might have been overwhelmed by the initial workload. The first semester is always the hardest, but once you get a hang of it, you’ll do well.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s the main part. All Korean teachers here are extremely helpful and fun. Especially the PE teacher. He’s a blast. I love talking with him. You’re also not restricted as to what to put on your report cards either. This isn’t a Hagwon so you can sometimes be brutally honest with the parents. I try not to, but sometimes there’s just that one kid…

Anyway, you will work about 6hrs of teaching every other day, 4 on some days. And other days, just 2. Those 6hr days can be really tiring, but don’t let it intimidate you when considering this job.

I…don’t know what else to say. J had a petty fight with the teachers and ended up writing his article. I’ve been teaching here for 4 years and never really had any problems and neither has any of the other teachers who have come and gone. If you want to talk to me about this school personally, just leave a message here and if I have time, I’ll talk with you about it 😀 It’s a really amazing school and no one makes fun of your hobbies haha They think it’s cute and encourage it a lot. Also the students are AMAZING. Like, totally adorable. Always looking up to you, giving you hugs and they almost always listen when you’re scolding them.

Except for that one student…

But anyway, yeah. I don’t want to make a counter argument to J’s article and neither did I do this article at the urging of our school, but I do love this school and I’m really really sad that I’m leaving, but I’m too comfortable here and I like adventure, so off I go!!

 

PS. I should mention that I actually took a break from teaching for 6 months and they REHIRED ME right off the bat! They’ve been so freaking understanding like really. This school is so fun.

Advertisements

The $58 fruit fly: my experience with emergency medical assistance in Korea.

So I had probably the worst night of my life in Korea, and all because of a stupid fruit fly!!

Was fucking around, reading some late night mcspirk when a fly buzzes around my ear and i go to swat it away. It decides to take refuge IN MY EAR. Obviously I panic and start batting at my ear. It decided TO FLY IN DEEPER.

AND THEN IT GETS STUCK IN THERE. At first I’m like: okay WHAT DO. As batting at my ear wasn’t making it better, I panic and start shaking while I’m trying to type on my phone what do when things in your ear. and then it starts buzzing and then it starts ACHING. And then the hyperventilating starts.

That’s when I was like I CAN’T DO THIS I’M HAVING A PANIC ATTACK AND I CAN’T DO THIS. so I look up emergency numbers. The one I remembered offhand wasn’t picking up (the 02-1339) for some reason so I just was like ‘you know what, they must have someone who speaks English on 119’

I called 119 and they didn’t have anyone that spoke English. I start panicking some more. They said ‘AMBULANCE?’ I’m like ‘NO ENGLISH SPEAKING MEDICAL PHONE HELP?’ because there is no way I can afford an ambulance, even in Korea right now with just going to Japan and a huge country move and the possibility of Rome and Greece.

All I really wanted was some advice and whether or not I should go to the hospital or if I’m just being paranoid and there was things I could do at home instead so I don’t waste anyone’s time. But he insists for my address and I give it to him.

Five minutes later, the ambulance arrives with a wheelchair and I’m like ‘I JUST HAVE A BUG IN MY EAR.’ and they look at me with judging eyes. I was like ‘I’M SORRY I’M A FOREIGNER I TRIED TO TELL HIM…’ but they were like…whatever, come with us.

So they take me in the ambulance to the hospital right down the road. I’m still in the middle of a panic attack and everyone is staring at me because I’m a foreigner who looks like they’re having a panic attack. because I’m HAVING A PANIC ATTACK.

The nurse, bless her soul, is the only one who seems to not be judging, only really eager to get my information and smiles really kindly and I finally calm down to a simmer of anxiety.

The doctor comes over about 10min later with a scope and REALLY LONG SCARY TWEEZERS OF DEATH. and I’m wide-eyed and the trauma nurses are looking on with interest from across the way. He proceeds to try to DIG IT OUT OF MY EAR. I’m OBVIOUSLY unable to stay still because he’s DIGGING INTO MY EARDRUM WITH THE TWEEZERS OF DEATH. He’s impatient and can’t get at it because he just can’t see it. It’s small and digging its way further into my ear. And I’m here panicking because first of all, in a place I’m unfamiliar with, and two, there’s a FUCKING BUG STUCK IN MY EAR AND YOU’RE TWEEZERING INTO ME WITH THE TWEEZERS OF DEATH.

Obviously I am ridiculously close to fainting by now and the trauma nurses are trying really hard not to stare and giggle at my plight as they watch as I grimace in pain as he pokes and prods repeatedly into my ear.

Finally, after about 5 tries, he gives up and calls a different doctor. This doctor is the ear, nose, throat doctor, the one that people usually go to for shit like severe colds and stuff. The lead me toward this doctor, who is located on the other side of the hospital.

I come in and he’s like ‘sit here’ and turns on this machine that makes this horrible whirling noise.

I remember this noise. this noise is the noise from that time they sucked stuff out of my nose and traumatized me from Korean hospitals. I try not to cry from fear.

He puts a scope into my ear, tells me something in Korean and then I feel a burning in my ear. I ask ‘why does it hurt’ in whining Korean but he’s already got the sucker going into my ear and I can feel the fly fighting for its life as it buzzes insistently in my ear.

And then it’s gone.

The pain, the horrible buzzing, it’s all gone.

I rejoice with the man who has become my saviour and he looks at me with amusement and tells me to go back to the emergency room. I almost skip all the way there and give a little cheer and am promptly embarrassed when the security guard hears me and gives me a shibrow.

The doctors and nurses watch as a waltz in again and they smile at my smile. they know I’ve been cured. they ask, curiously, what it was. I told them it was a small bug. a fruit fly as I had suspected. they seemed unimpressed but I was like ‘that dude could have done major damage who cares if it was small’

And then I had to face the biggest problem of it all. beyond the pain or the buzzing or the anxiety that had evaporated along with my passenger.

The Bill.

Now, I have been living here in Korea for quite the while, so I’m not particularly scared of bills when it comes to medical. but I took an AMBULANCE. to the EMERGENCY ROOM. and that just SCREAMS debt in the worst ways.

As I took my medical sheet over to the ‘home base’ as the doctor had called it when I had asked where to go next, the cashier seemed unconcerned by my trepidation. it was a long night for him as well I’m sure.

He rings me up.

57,800 won. I blink. I ask if card was okay. It was.

For those of you who don’t know the conversion, that’s about 58$. For an ambulance and emergency services. I know I shouldn’t be shocked but i was. I mean yeah, I knew medical was the cheapest in Korea but that should have cost way more than just 58$. I took an AMBULANCE for christ’s sake.

58$ and a panic attack. that should be the title of my memoirs. or at least the blog post I’m going to make of this. The moral of the story is to not have panic attacks when flies buzz their way into your ear. Or, at least to my American friends out there, not to panic over the medical bill whist in Korea.

Racial Slurs in Korea

 

Since this is quite the sensitive topic I decided to make a post about it detailing what I know about how Koreans interpret foreign racial slurs. I am not ethnically Korean and neither do I claim to be a know-it-all expert on the topic, only that I would like to share what I know through living here in Korea and what I’ve gleaned off of my Korean friends.

Recently, Bangtan Boys sang Shinhwa’s TOP where the n-word is used and an outrage sprang up in the international community. Apparently this isn’t the first time Rapmon had used this word so shame on him, but this article is to explain why the PD did not censor this as they would other derogatory English words.

Some time back there was an incident on a bus where an African-American man and a elderly Korean man had an altercation on a bus that lead to a nationwide outrage. At the time, I had been teaching in Suwon, a city just a bit south of Seoul. I came to school to teach my students and one child, a boy of about 10 years of age, raised his hand and asked me “Teacher, is (the n-word) a bad word?”. Patiently I conveyed to this boy the severity of the word he had just uttered and cautioned every one of my students to NEVER EVER SAY THAT WORD TO ANYONE EVER. I told them that it was even worse than saying the f-word and I hope to god that he remembers that lecture.

This is but one of the many times I had to caution my students against using that word in public.

Korea is a homogenous country, meaning that Korea consists of Korean people and pretty much nothing else. When I had approached this topic of racial slurs to my Korean friends they seemed to understand that yes, the n-word is a bad word. But when they hear it, they don’t think anything of it. One of my friends even went as far as to say that to him, it was just an everyday word. When I questioned this friend about the fad of black facing I’ve been seeing on Korean television he told me that it was “funny” and didn’t even know it was offensive at all! I almost screamed at him before I realized that we were in a cafe and that was inappropriate and told him in a slightly lower voice than a shout that no, it is not funny and omg do you want to die?!

In short, Korean people are not even aware of how bad it is and probably why the PD didn’t even think of censoring this word on a broadcast. The international community has a duty to educate, not incriminate as I’ve seen a few people do online. Yes, this was a bad thing, but it was done out of ignorance. Hopefully our voices will be able to reach them, but let’s also be mature about this and not devolve into a hideous hivemind of scum and villainy.

Fan life in Korea: Sukira

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Super Junior’s Kiss the Radio is one of the main things you’ll experience as a fan in Korea. Even if you’re not a fan of Super Junior members, you’ll still enjoy being able to see your favorite star grace the small little box that is the Sukira radio studio. This is a great opportunity to get a glimpse of your idol even if it’s just a five second look in the lobby or the hour or two spent by the studio (if you can get close enough to the glass, that is…)

In this particular video, I went to see Heechul at his very first come back to Super Junior and it was quite crazy. So many people! A matter of course when you have one of Korea’s most beloved coming around for a visit, especially right after military service! This shows Sukira on one of it’s busiest nights so that you know what to expect. It can be both a wild night, or a calm every day sort of thing (if you’re a Super Junior fan). I suggest going at least once because what is life if not being able to brag that you’ve went?

If you want to visit yourself, I suggest you visit my official post on how to get to Sukira here. Thanks for watching!

REVIEW: Elisabeth, The Musical (Korea)


CAST: Xiah Junsu, Park Euntae, Jeon Dongseok, Kim Seungdae, etc.
WHERE: Blue Square Musical Hall, 서울 용산구 한남동 727-56
TICKETS: Interpark

SUMMARY: (From Wikipidia) The Musical tells the story of Elisabeth (“Sissi”) the Empress of Austria from 1854 to her murder in 1898 at the hands of the mad Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni who is in turn working for his master, Death, who pursues a love/hate relationship with the Empress that lasts throughout her life.

REVIEW: Pretty much one of the BEST musicals I’ve seen in Korea and it’s not at all because of Junsu. The entire cast does an amazing job and the costumes and stage and everything about it was so beautifully made that I’m almost tempted to say that they probably spent more on production than what they’re making off of it if it weren’t for Junsu.

I hate to say it, but a lot of people seem to think that this musical was made awesome because of Junsu, but if you knew anything about the play you’d know that Junsu barely even makes much of an appearance. The person who makes this musical shine is Park Euntae, whose portrayal of Lucini is so amazing that you can’t help but get goosebumps. He’s an amazing actor and beautiful singer and I really can’t wait to be able to go to more of his musicals.

I will say that the reason I wanted to see this musical initially was because I knew there was supposed to be a kiss between DerTod and Rudolph. I feared that they would cut or play it down but all the DerTods I’ve seen, including Junsu, really went for the kiss and I was so happy about it! They stayed true to their word and kept the musical as close to the original as they could.

My final conclusion is that you all should go see this musical with or without Junsu. I can say for certain that you won’t regret it!

Food Review: Teriyaki (Japanese Family Restaurant)


Teriyaki is a chain of Japanese Family Restaurants in Korea. I just recently visited one myself and found it to be upclass but cheap.

WHERE IS IT: Everywhere in Seoul. For a full listing, please check here: Teriyaki Website
PRICE RANGE: Most of the food is in the 8~12,000 won range and there is options of sets that can be shared between friends.
TYPE OF FOOD: Katsu, Udons, and fish.
WHAT I HAD:

My friend had their Rainbow roll, which is a californa roll topped with slices of raw fish and shrimp, fish roe, and some sort of green and orange sauce (i think one is spicy mayo). She found it delicious and thought it was worth coming again for.

I had their Cheese Katsu Roll which was katsu was folded up into a roll with cheese oozing out of the middle. It sounds quite nasty when I write it up, but the pictures outside of the establishment made me want to try it. It tasted like any other cheese Katsu I’ve had, but the presentation itself was quite interesting and worth the money I paid for it.

Each of these meals came with a small udon, a cream soup, and a number of sides (kimchi, dakon, cabbage salad, and pinaple pieces).

REVIEW: 3/5
As of course, most of the food here has a Korean twist on it. Though it says Japanese Family Restaurants, I find it more accurate to say Korean Family Restaurant, except a little more pricy and a bit more fancy. I can’t say it’s the best restaurant around, but it’s not bad either. The atmostphere is definitely more calming than say a Kimbap-nara and the dishes are presented with better finesse. It also isn’t upscale or a place I’d visit just for the food. It’s what I’d have to classify as a middle restaurant: a place I’d visit again if I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to eat.