Wow. Wow wow wow. Where does time go in the land of the rising sun? I've done a million things, been a million places, and written a million things since I've been under the spell of 2014's amazingness, but to my friends and family, it has probably seemed as though I've been an idle ghost in an idle land. I haven't updated for quite a long time, which makes me feel both good and bad. It makes me feel bad because I always said I would keep up with my blog/journal before I got here. But it makes me feel good as the reason I haven't updated is because I've been so busy pushing my life forward; expanding my boundaries as a person, a student, and a teacher, to a degree that simply would not allow me to update this as often as I'd like. For whatever reason, I've always felt like my mentality is younger than my actual age, but now that I'm 30, I feel like my mind is finally catching up in certain ways. Definitely not in all ways, as my friends will all confirm that I'm still a slightly wild, hard-to-tame kid at heart. But I've come to many realizations about myself in terms of what I'm good at, what I'm not good at, and where I should go from here. Although our brain chemistry changes an extreme amount every handful of years, there should come a point for most people when they can put their foot down and say, "THIS... this is who I am". I have definitely passed that point, and now that I know who I am to the core of my being, I can look forward and learn how to better myself and evolve with more education and experience than I was able to in my 20's. So anyway, what in the hell have I been doing in 2014? Everything, man... everything. I changed schools in February from Munseong Middle School to Dongshin Elementary School. This is a big deal. The change was major, and the change couldn't have been better. I am so grateful to have taught Middle School the first year here, because it really thrust me into an environment where I was forced to perform with no real aid. Being a person who was never a good public speaker, it was a bit strange and difficult at first but I feel like I rose to the occasion and delivered a year of strong teaching to the 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. I'm still friends with a few of them and talk to them on a regular basis. Now I'm at Elementary school, teaching grades 3 through 6, and I couldn't be happier with my situation. The environment is so much more happy and bright than it was at middle school. Korea schooling is tough and the higher-aged students in this country are often stressed, over-worked, under-slept, and agitated. That kind of worrisome behavior isn't present at all at Elementary school. Everybody is happy and the kids are excited to see me every single day I walk in. I can't describe the feeling I get when I see my favorite students in the hall and they run up to me and try as hard as they can to speak with the best English they possibly can, both curious about my responses and also looking for confirmation that they are speaking well. My boys are my rough-housing little maniacs that I can relate to with video games and comic books whenever I need to (because as a nerd for decades, I still know more than them about entertainment!), and my girls are little angels that truly light up my day with kindness and smiling faces. My school decided early on that I was proficient enough with the Korean language to not have a co-teacher (a Korean teacher that you teach the lesson with and who translates everything and often does most of the work), so I walk into a class of 30-35 kids and have to figure out how to calm them down and capture their attention for 40 minutes every single day. It's difficult, it can be stressful, but my public speaking and control skills have been improved so much thanks to teaching at middle school that I feel like I could take on any class thrown at me. Teaching by myself has definitely made me a more skilled person in multiple major aspects that will be beneficial in the workplace in the future. Outside of school, I have a lot on the table and I love it all. Korea is seriously, truly, unarguably... the shit. On Mondays: We play Futsal, which is Arena Soccer, at the city's Futsal field. It's 90% foreigners and 10% Koreans that have joined us or are friends of the field owner. Started by a South African guy named Jean, and now lead by my friend Candace, we have about 15 people coming out to play every week. I have found my true sports calling for the first time in about a decade through playing Soccer every week. And that calling? That calling is playing GOALIE. I love playing Goalie so much that I often daydream about the physics of split-second decisions involving a human and a ball. It's stupidly nerdy, I know. But I feel I understand the position and when we go to the field, I'm running at full sprint towards my home (the net) before anyone even takes the field. On Tuesdays: I'm one of the 5 to 7 foreigners that helps out and learns at the Gimcheon Science College 'Language Exchange'. About 20-25 Koreans and 5-7 foreigners attend this program led by Serena, a university professor friend, and we have conversations in our native tongues. It's good for learning about how to be more colloquial when speaking Korean in casual settings. Plus there are dozens of attractive Korean girls that never miss a class, so there really doesn't have to be any other incentive than that. But there is. The food. We get free food (Pizza, wraps, chicken, etc.) en masse every time we go thanks to Serena's amazing appropriation of funds. I'm extremely serious about my Korean studies this year... more-so in the last couple of months than ever before. I'm learning 20 words a day, every day, and instead of listening to music, I study and listen to Korean audio lessons. I plan to be near fluent as soon as humanely possible. I don't care that I'm 30 and have an age handicap for long-term memorization. I have this in my hands and I will succeed with a fiery. On Wednesdays: My FREE day! Oh my god, I need one of these. Well, actually, it's not a free day. I still go to work 8:30 - 4:30 per usual. But afterwards, I have no extracurricular things to do. Sometimes I go to the PC BANG with my best friend here, Alex, and his amazing girlfriend Clarissa. A PCBang is a place that is set up with the highest price computers in existence, huge screens, and top notch equipment. Many people of all ages go to these establishments to use technology in its most modern form, whether that be playing high-speed games, casually linking up with each other on an internet forum, or just hanging out drinking free coffee and tea. These PC Bangs are the main places I see my students outside of school, and they are surprised to see one of their teachers using a computer like an elite superstar (yes, I said that. I can't apologize for being this good at computers... in front of the keyboard is where my humbleness ends). On Thursdays: I hang out with the Gimcheon University professors as well as a few others (Alex and Clarissa just joined) and play Dungeons & Dragons, which is a social, dice-rolling, role-playing game. It's sort of a board game but there is no board; one of us has to draw the world every time. This is where I've become good friends with two of my current best friends here, Gerald and Tae-Hwa (태화). They've been married for a few years. Him, a long-time hardcore/punk-rock fan from Texas, and her, one of the most unique and caring Korean girls I've met since being here. These two are definitely life-long friends and that became apparent very quickly. I will post more about all of these people I'm talking about later because my friends mean a lot to me, and once someone is my close friend, they are never escaping, and will forever be forced to deal with my eccentric and sometimes unpredictable personality. On Fridays: Well, I usually don't have anything I have to do on Fridays, but 90% of the time, it happens that this is the start of whatever journey I'm going to be heading into during the weekend. Sometimes it means a 2-3 hour train ride to Busan, Seoul, or Daegu, and sometimes it means drinking shitty Korean beer at the fun little bars around our quaint town with the other foreigners. Shitty Korean beer is shitty, but at least you don't get very hungover from it. It's sort of like Coors Light, except it has really poor English slogans and quotes on the cans. My eternal favorite is the "Cass Fresh" slogan, which simply says: "The Sound of Vitality". What the hell? Seriously? Your slogan for a 4.3% alcoholic beverage is "the Sound of Vitality"? Are they talking about the sound that's made when a bum is dragging a huge bag full of empty cans behind them at 6 A.M. in an alleyway in Oakland? Why would you ever use the word "sound" on a slogan for a drink? Honestly, every time we drink Cass, I immediately start ripping on the slogan, and I'm sure anyone who hangs out with me knows how much I love to bring the topic of that slogan up. "Ok, we get it, it makes no sense, now shut up about it, dude." On Saturdays & Sundays: LOL! This one is for the 2nd update. I've traveled more of Korea than probably any native Korean I'm friends with. A lot of us are like that, though, so it's not like it's anything special. It's just that there are very few towns one can name in this country that I won't have some sort of gauge on in terms of location or what it's popular for. Koreans love to assign places with notes and facts of what the place is famous for. So for even the smallest towns, you'll hear things like "Namhae is famous for its black garlic", or "Yeongdeok is famous for its fresh crab". I went to Yeongdeok. That place was about the size of the soccer field we play on every week. Which does make it funny to me... but I do love the labels. It's a good way to remember specific regions, and honestly, when you drop some straight Korean culture or geographical knowledge on a native Korean, they will be so blown away and amazed that you actually know that little tidbit. In fact, I can't count how many times I've said "Annyeonghaseyo" (the word for Hello) to an elderly person or child, only to literally see their jaws drop and respond in their language "Oh my god you speak KOREAN!". The best part is when they think that because you said hello, you are fully fluent, and they'll start talking to you about Korean Neurosurgery Theories and Astrophysics of the 1920's at four hundred words per second in their extreme regional dialect of their language. And then you just respond with, "... Nay." and go buy more beer and kimchi. Well, I'm a fast typer but this update took a while to make because I'm doing a couple other things that I have to get done before I head to Daegu tonight for my friend Tom's birthday. And tomorrow I have to wake up at 4 AM or 5 AM for the World Cup games that I'll be watching with some friends at some-person-I-don't-know's house. But I do plan to update with more details on some of the specific weekends I've had here. Lots to talk about, and the camera will be back out soon for more videos. Been too busy to record the last few months. Hope everyone in America is doing well, and I miss all of you. There isn't a short period of time that goes by that I don't think about every single person in my life back home. I want to give a special shout out to the people I think about the most, in no order except for the first few: My Mom, my Dad, Christian & Alec, Palmer & Chad, Kyle & Shannon, Daniella, Dook, Lipho. And literally every one of the 1k or so people on my Facebook who I haven't deleted and have kept on there for a reason, and will look forward to sharing more memories with you all.
- Language Mishaps #1
- 2014 Summer Trip: Mongolia