Monday, May 31, 2010

times this by 20 and you have my life.



and you also have about 600 reasons why Korea ain't so bad!

North Korea

(believe it)


i love this sign because it makes me think of disneyland...only not the happiest place on earth

I went to North Korea on Saturday.

NBD (no big deal).

Some friends and I headed up to the Demilitarized Zone (the area that separates North and South Korea) on Saturday to hang out with the guys up north.

Like this guy!


He had some binoculars for awhile and was staring at us through them. The Army guys/tour guides who took us around gave us strict instruction to not point or make gestures of any kind towards these guys because they take note of everything that happens. (sooo it could be bad?).

We even had to sign a "Visitors Declaration" stating that "The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom will entail entry into a hostile area and possibility of injury or death". DEATH


I like this picture because the guy in the forefront of this photo is a South Korean and the guy in the background is a North Korean soldier. And they stand in this position. All.day.long.

This is me...in North Korea! BAM:


We also hit up one of the four tunnels that North Korea dug out in anticipation for future hostility between these two countries. They created multiple tunnels and while the North denies these tunnels are from them, it is obvious they are lying. South Koreans have found four tunnels so far, but they believe there are several more.

Anyways, one of the tunnels is open to the public (at least part of it is) so we got to crawl through that. You could tell it was an Asian tunnel because it was tall enough for Korean soldiers, but not anyone else. I was hunched over the entire time. (no photos were allowed so if you feel so inclined you can go here)


We also went to the train station that was built in hopes of connecting all of Korea. It ran for a while but then it was closed down after a woman was shot down by the north. So now this station stands empty. So sad.

(i love the yawn)

All in all the DMZ tour was pretty interesting, especially with the current raised concern for this area of the world. I will just say that I'm pretty sure everyone at home in the USA is wayyyyy more nervous about anything happening then the Koreans. There was an obvious tension on that line that separates the two countries, but I also could tell it was just the way it is. I had heard you could hear propaganda over the loudspeakers right now, but we heard none. Sad.

DMZ: recommended.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Alex

The second installment of "Meet the Ptaek Family"

ALEX.

(alex has left us physically, returning to the states earlier than we would like, but her presence is still felt in every step we take)

I think of her every time I see a hot dog.


Alex is a bundle of fun! We love her because she makes us laugh, she can quote movie lines with the best of them, and she is a whiz at dizzy bat (among many other things).



I am really lucky to have Facebook stalked her when I first got to Korea. And I'm really glad she didn't think I was creepy when I did it. And that we went to Beyonce together. And that we've had so many blissful memories since then.

Also, I hope the YMCA appreciates her as much as we do.

In the words of Mariah, "there's a hero, if you look inside your heart. You don't have to be afraid of who you are".

Long live Harry Potter. And Catch Phrase.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lotus Lantern Festival Pictures

Just because I want them on here. And, say it with me, I do what I want.


(an accurate representation of the boy to girl ratio among the singles in the church here)


I love Buddha's birthday!

Chase

This is the first installment of my new segment:

MEET THE PTAEK FAMILY!

There is a great group of friends down here in my little city and they have become my peeps. We are a family of sorts. A dysfunctional and sexually crazed (or frustrated) family.

But we have whats important: LOVE.

First up...Meet Chase!




Chase is funny. Koreans love him. We love him.
We share a passion for mullets. He is currently sporting this look. I respect it.
And he falls asleep on my shoulder a lot.

(ok so maybe...twice?)



Favorite Chase quote: "I really want to black out tonight. Being sober sucks"

Talent Show

I feel like I can consider myself a seasoned talent show performer. It started when I was younger and I have participated in many a nights on stage.
Align Center
We won't mention how many of these times my alter ego Cher-indy came around.


So last week when I stopped by the adjacent high school after school to talk to my friend, and ended up walking in on a group getting ready for their talent show the following day, and having them asking me to join them on stage, I wasn't shy about saying yes.

Does that make sense?

They were doing a medley of two songs. The first was some Korean pop song I didn't know. The second was "Let's Get it Started" by Black Eyed Peas.

I remember I used to kind of hate that song.

But after spending so much time listening to it last week with my new Korean friends, I love it.

It all started with a simple request from them for me to dance in the background.

Because why wouldn't a random white girl dancing behind them on stage NOT help them out in their talent show competition?

I jumped at the chance! I love dancing. I love talent shows.
And I love random experiences like this.

We practiced a couple times and I got roped into adding some vocals to their already stellar show. Seriously. They were rapping the entire song (in English!) perfectly. I was impressed. I only didn't want to distract from their talent.

The next day we practiced a few more times before the show started. We were the LAST performance (never my favorite time to go, but it worked this time). They had some things up their sleeves that they hadn't told me about, and during those parts I just stayed on stage and danced. A dancing fool I was.

Welp, turns out the crew won SECOND PLACE! Bam! I was so proud to be a last minute addition to that.

I'm hopefully going to get footage of our performance soon. But until then, enjoy this horribly put together video of backstage!



PS The three boys from this experience are my new best friends. seriously. more on them later.

Asian Stereotypes

Coming to Korea has made me realize that Asian stereotypes are true.

All of them.

(when i say asian i mostly only mean korean because hey! i live in korea!)

Let's list a few, shall we?

1. All Asians look alike.
I know this is a harsh and broad statement to make. And while I don't fully agree with this statement (i can tell my students apart...sometimes), all Asians seem to agree with it. More than once I have been talking to an Asian and they have mentioned that sometimes Asians are the most dramatically dressed people because they need a way to separate themselves from the sea of similarity (also, I just watched this weeks episode of Glee and i feel like it supports this)

a. I have also heard a few people say that they think all white people look alike. I didn't really agree, but then I had random people tell me that they thought I looked like famous people that I don't look like at all. (i.e. britney spears and jessica alba?) So yeah. I don't look like them at all.

2. Asian women are the worst drivers in the world.
So, so true.

I haven't had a lot of experience with women drivers in this country, seeing as I don't drive. But every experience I've had with a woman driving has been horrible.
Most taxi drivers here are men. And while they can be punks, most of the time they are either silent or really funny and entertaining. I have had a female taxi driver once (i always avoid them). She drove in the wrong direction for a significant time while I shouted at her in Korean to go the opposite way.

Also, in the past few days I've driven around with a couple coteachers. In the maybe 45 minutes total with these two women, there were major traffic laws violated, included but not limited to: stopping at green lights, the worst reverse parking job I've ever witnessed, and driving down the wrong side of the street for at least 100 yards.

3. All Asians know how to give massages
I swear they teach this in the private schools. Otherwise I just don't understand it.
Proven by the fact that one day I was talking to some students and one suddenly grabs my hand and starts giving me a hand massage (yeah, super awkward).

4. They are smart
This is only true...to an extent. Asians study SO HARD! They are at school their entire young lives. So they are super book smart. Book smart. Key words. I'll stop there.

5. Asian men can't grow facial hair
Mostly true. This guy challenged this statement.
(don't worry. its real. i touched it)


I'll stop there.

PS: there is a wiki for asian stereotypes. awesome.

PPS: i promise i'm not racist.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why I need to make more bets with students

The day before our school's Sports Day (like unto Field day, only not so many ribbons), one of my students was in my office and was talking about how he would score
so many goals during the soccer games the next day.

He was so confident. So sure about it.

Of course with this kind of confidence, a bet was sure to happen. Either he would knock me off my chair with his soccer skills or he'd shatter into pieces in front of his English teacher.

I was really hoping for the latter.

So we shook on it. If he scored three goals the following day I would buy him a Coke. If he didn't, he'd buy me one.

I could already taste the sweet carbonation down my throat.

Oh Cheong-hoon. You with your matching jacket and hat. You with your soccer abilities. You came ready for Sports Day. And ready to win that Coke.


I sat in the sweltering sun for over 5 hours watching soccer game after soccer game, hoping Cheong-hoon would just stop. Stop running, stop playing, stop scoring.

But then it happened. He scored his 3rd goal.

The next day he came into my office and I made sure to pay up. He walked in with his chin held high and I walked to the fridge and pulled out a Coke. He looked shocked! Like I wouldn't hold up my end of the bargain. With a smile spread across his face, he took his spoils and walked out of the room.

I thought our deal was over...until Cheong-hoon pulled a Korean on me.

You see, Koreans are really generous people. They like to give. They don't like to take. If you give something to someone, they will give something back. And then if you give another thing, they will give another thing, until someone is giving a liver and the only way to repay this is to give a heart. It gets out of control.

So moments later Cheong-hoon walked back into my office with a gift. A box of chocolates. And then walked out.

Oh Korea.

Good Teacher/Bad Teacher?

Sometimes I think I'm teaching my young students something.

Challenging young minds, if you will.
Align Center
Take the current lesson I'm teaching. The chapter in their book is entitled "How MP3 Files Work" or something equally lame.

So from that, I draw out the lesson of "Music Mania" wherein I discuss different types of music we listen to in the U.S. of A.

For the country music selection I play some old school "Boot Scootin' Boogie" by the one and only Brooks and Dunn. And for a more modern 'country' song I play some Taylor Swift.

The moment she appeared on the screen, there was a gasp from the class. They were in love.

At first I wondered if this was too inappropriate. But I mean, its Taylor Swift. She's more modest than 98% of current music artists. So I kept it going.

They LOVED it. They didn't want me to change songs. Ever.

Also, surprisingly enough, they enjoyed my rock music selections: KISS, Van Halen (i thought about playing them 'hot for teacher' but decided against it), and AC/DC.

Kanye West was a favorite Hip Hop star.
And they were shocked to find out Will Smith was a rapper.
Gettin' Jiggy wit it.

I knew this lesson was a real success when I had three (3) students come up to me after class to ask me to write down song names and artists so they can go home and check out the music.

BAM! Good teacher.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Sometimes I think I'm a bad teacher:

Korea has this wonderful little holiday called "Teacher's Day".

As you can easily guess, this is a holiday for teachers. And funny enough as it is, I am currently a teacher.

What did I get for Teachers Day?

NOTHING.

(not awesome, students. not. awesome.)


Monday, May 24, 2010

Redo


That last blog post was meant to head in a different direction, but I just decided to let it go where it wanted to. So now I write this blog.

Last weekend I had the luxury of having a four day weekend.
WOOT WOOT.

Thanks to Buddha's birthday and my school's anniversary, I had four days to do anything I wanted to do. And I wanted to go to the beach.

So I went.

I packed up my bag and jumped on a train for Busan, located in the southeast corner of the country. It was about a 5 hour ride but luckily it went by fast.

And then, I was at the beach. Thank goodness.

The water was still freezing but the sun and the sand made my trip already worth it.

From there I saw a couple Buddhist temples (in my opinion, two of the most beautiful temples I've seen in this country) and for maybe the first time since landing in Korea, I thought it had striking natural beauty. I loved being in the mountains and being surrounded by nature.

I also headed into the biggest shopping mall in the world...but it closed at 8pm. What mall closes at 8? The restaurants were still open so I treated myself to a nice meal at Macaroni Grill (ps , its a billion times classier here. which was nice, but i missed being able to draw on the tables).

The next day I met up with a friend in Gyeongju, one of the most historically alive cities in this country. It is considered the 'museum without walls' as there are so many monuments spread throughout the city. As my luck would have it, I ran into some missionaries just a few seconds away from the train station who helped point me in the right direction and give me some tips. They would later come in very handy. Thanks missionaries!

This is more of a journal-y post, so I'll end it here. Well, after some photos. And as far as Gyeongju is concerned, my camera battery died about five minutes into our first outing so I have no digital photos. Once I get my handy dandy disposable camera pictures developed, I'll scan them? No, no I won't.

Anyways. Busan.



I'm back baby!

Lately I've gotten into calling people 'babe' and 'boo'. And when I say people, I mean every single person around me. I don't really know where it came from. I mean, I have been using these terms very selectively for the past few years, but now they come out of my mouth at an alarming rate. A couple weeks ago some of my students let out a "Whats up baby?!" to me and it took me a second to replay every conversation I've had with them for the past 8 months to see if they got that phrase from me.

I don't think they did. So now its kind of a joke between us. I love having inside jokes with students.

One time when I was teaching a lesson on giving advice, I told the class I had a problem. I said that I really missed my family because they are soooo far away and that I needed advice to make me less homesick. They threw out the standard things that I was hoping they'd think of: call my family, webcam, email, etc.

Then one student yells out "SHUT UP!"

I was so confused! I looked at him and kind of started laughing. What an appalling piece of advice. I asked him if he thought that would be a good thing to say and he said yes. I didn't know what was happening.

The class looked at me a little puzzled and I thought they were just waiting for me to punish him for bursting out such absurdities.

Then someone repeated him.

"Cheer up!"

I'm an idiot sometimes.

"Ohhhhhh! Cheer up! I get it. I thought you said 'shut up!' "

The class died laughing and we kept repeating cheer up! No, shut up!

So now this class and I have a lasting joke that randomly comes up. It is the best.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meet: The Punisher

So there's this guy at work who makes me feel a little uncomfortable. 90% of the time he's really funny and tries talking to me and on my second day here he dropped me off at a photographer studio, so I know he's a nice guy.

I don't know his real name, but in my mind I call him "The Punisher". Only today I found out he does more than punish the students. I seriously though that was his only job: keeping the kids in line. It's all I see him doing.

My school sits up on a hill. Every morning The Punisher stands at the top of the hill with about 8 students. I call this his "posse". So The Punisher and his posse are there to make sure all the students come to school on time and in full uniform. If they don't...well, you don't want to know.

What I do know is that I'm consistently 3 minutes late to school every day. My first class starts 20 minutes after the first bell, so I like to think I'm 17 minutes early.

The Punisher and his posse will yell at any and all students who arrive after the bell. "Hurry hurry" they say. They have started saying this to me but it usually forces me to slow down just so I can understand what they are saying.

We have a good thing going.

Well, another one of The Punishers favorite things to do is make awkward comments to/about me when I come up the hill at the start of school.

"Ohhhhh beautiful today"

"Ah beautiful eyes"

(Obviously looking me up and down)
"Something Korean that I don't understand"
(posse laughs at me as I nod and walk past).

These are the special moments we share.

So, without further adieu, meet The Punisher.

(If you're seeing what I'm seeing, on his head, its a hush hush topic.
We all know but can't talk about it.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

H to the appy Birthday!


Today is my eldest brothers bday.

David is soooo good that even if he were faint, he would never give up his birthright for a pot of pottage, true story.

Happy birthday brother!
You deserve the best.
Please go to Wingers and eat an extra wing for me.

Also, we need to work on taking more flattering pictures together. Throw that on the to-do list.

Until then, yes, this will be on the internets.

Buddha

I remember when I was in 11th grade we had to choose a book to read out of so many options and from that book we had to prepare a presentation for the class. It was one of my first 'big' projects, as the presentation would have to last about 10 minutes and I was nervous.

Whenever I have presentations like that I flash back to my most traumatic school presentation from third grade where my fake mustache fell off, causing me to forget my lines and tears to flow from my eyes.

Anyways, by 11th grade I had overcome my overzealousness for school and fear of embarrassing myself. So I knew I wouldn't have a problem.

Point of this story is that for my book I read the biography of Buddha and I made a sweet presentation (sweet meaning if i remember right i got a B. i blame mr. pruett. JK! some of my fave books ever come this class). From this simple school assignment, I found myself fascinated with Buddha and his teachings. The four noble truths, the eightfold path, it was all so interesting!

If I weren't LDS, I would be Jewish. But if I weren't LDS or Jewish, I'd be Buddhist.

Fast forward to my sophomore year of college when I had to choose another book and prepare another report. Yet again, there was a book on Buddha on the list. Done and done. This time my project deserved an A (thanks professor hamblin! still in my top 5 professors list, if only for your billowing chest hair and socks with sandals look).

Since being in Asia, I have a lot more time to surround myself in Buddhist traditions and teachings. I love it.

I also love Buddha because he has a birthday. And his birthday is on Friday. And we don't have school on Friday.

So the MAIN point of this post was to say thanks and early happy birthday, Buddha.

Oh, and I love the lanterns.

Even though every time I type lantern,
I forget the first n and have to fix it.

(please enjoy all the links. i worked really really hard on them)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Meet Elleo

I came to Korea and fell in love with a Brazilian man.

(do we see a trend here? first Kei in Japan, and now Elleo from Brazil. Sorry Korea).

It all started when we walked into the Brazilian restaurant on Saturday night (like unto Tucanos only less classy and better potatoes)

The dinner celebration was in honor of my friend Ange. We all gathered for a nice meat buffet and a good time, but I knew not what kind of good time would be in store for us.

I was starving, and, well, I like to eat, so pretty much the second I got there, I had a plate in hand and was loading it up with the variety of side dishes and salads.

And then, barely after sitting down, there was the meat man (you know, the guy who cuts the meat off the skewer for you).


We made eye contact and our bond was instant. Even with my plate full of whatever food I piled on it, I made it known to him that I wanted meat. (hahaha some things never change?). He quickly obliged to my needs and from that moment on, I was the first person he brought the meat to out of our group of 14ish people. (Sorry Ange)

His name is Elleo. He is from Brazil. And here we are in Korea. His English skills are limited, but I'm ok with that. It makes body language so much more vital. (bow chicka wow wow!). Thank goodness one of our party included a guy who spoke Portuguese so he could translate random sentences from Elleo (WOW! Are we sure those girls aren't drinking anything?!)

Things soon escalated after my friend Rebecca and I decided to vie for his attention. It became a game of sorts for us to see who could flirt the most with this dashing foreign stranger. Each time he walked past us, there was almost constant eye contact shared (and some winking). I threw down whatever phrases I knew in Spanish (I know Spanish and Portuguese are two separate and different languages but it was the only thing I had to work with. Plus, I'm pretty sure he got my message)

It was love.

But for who? Rebecca or me? I was not going down without a fight.


Of course, since it was a birthday, there was cake! Don't be shocked that I used this to my advantage. Elleo walked past and I quickly held up a fork full of whipped cream from the cake.

He replied with one word: "Later"


.....

It was time to leave so we knew we had to get a picture with him. I go into a standard "kissing the cheek of the boy next to me" pose (so close to Elleo...) and while my eyes are staring at the camera, I realize Elleo has turned his face towards me into what only can be called a kiss.


I won.

And I'd like to think Elleo did too.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cinco de Mayo!

(please read this post using the best Mexican accent you can muster, because that is how it is sounding in my mind as i type).

!Hola! Mi amigas!



Cinco de Mayo is a festivity celebrated every year with mucho gusto in my life. I love it. But we all know I love any day that gives me extra reason to be ridiculous in whatever way.

Usually I spend Cinco de Mayo in America, the land of the Cinco de Mayo. You know, because they don't celebrate it in Mexico.



Last year was a fantastic Cinco de Mayo and included a delicious meal at Cafe Rio and a half-dried self made pinata that was busted open in the middle of my friends apartment complex.

This year was also fantastic! (i don't want to say better but it might be true? for different reasons).
I spent the day in Suwon with some friends exploring, and that night I ended up going out for some Mexican fiesta in its truest form!

Meaning: mustaches



We showed Korea (well, more like American Korea) whats up.



Our Mexican family photo.

AND from yours truly:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This is whats up

I'm sitting at my desk with red arms and a crispy sunburned forehead.

Yes, its starting.

Summer.

Korea decided to go from below freezing to hotter than hellllo operator temperatures without so much as blinking an eye.

Just in time for today's activity: Sports Day!

Where all 800 students and teachers hang outside all day for soccer games, soccer games, and more soccer games. There was a dash of relay racing and jump roping thrown in there, but it was all over shadowed by the soccer games.

Which works for me because I bet one kid (hey, i taught him the word 'bet'. i'm such a teacher) that if he scores three goals I'll buy him a coke. So far he's only made 1. Meaning I'm one coke richer. Suckaaaa!!

I also met this kids mom and tried to tell her she has a good kid. But simplifying that down turns into 'good boy' which sounds more like a compliment for a dog. And he's not actually that 'good'. He's just really fun and we like the same music and he dances like Michael Jackson. So a better compliment should've been 'cool kid' or 'entertaining kid'. His mom seemed pleased enough.

I took maybe 80 pictures of Sports Day. I hope to get them up here soon, but half the time I write that on this blog I never actually do it. There are some gems though. Today I love my students.

(for the record-yesterday-i did not love them).

I'm pretty sure I'll post those pics though.

Monday, May 3, 2010

'55 Ford



To the person who has helped me achieve so many dreams, who has put up with my crazy, who has supported me, prayed for me, and let me be me, I hope you have the most amazing awesome fantastic day ever (well, as much as possible with me being gone...but Aaron being there more than makes up for it).

Happy birthday to my Dad!!! The best one out there. And the funniest. And the smartest.

Also, my Korean students saw your picture the other day and said "ohhh very handsome!" (fyi)

Miss you and love you!