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16 July 2007 @ 08:53 am
This week has been crazy. Overwhelming, really. I have lots to say about this past week and no time to write. I'm leaving Hwasun in a few hours, and I leave Korea tomorrow morning. Hopefully, I'll be able to post some thoughts and stories about the process that is "going home." Until then, I'm just going to leave you all with a little story.

My friend Ju-ho has an amazing English vocabulary. He's pretty shy though, so he hasn't had a whole lot of practice talking with native speakers. Although his pronunciation is great, he doesn't always know what words to choose. Instead, when he doesn't know the words, he gets around it by stringing together a lot of words that mean similar things. It's pretty funny. Once, when he wanted to tell me that he had a headache, he said, "My head is sick. Oh, head bang bang." My favorite thing he's come up with so far happened yesterday. We went to a water park where there was a huge water slide that you rode in big yellow tubes. At the bottom of one of the water slides was a pool. Basically, you rode down the  slide and then wiped out fantastically in the water. My friends and I were the only people over the age of ten there who weren't parents, and it was awesome. One of the hazards of the pool though, was that it was easy to get water up your nose if you weren't prepared for the wipe out. Since Ju-ho can't swim, he was a little nervous. After one particularly intense crash, he emerged from the pool sputtering water and blowing his nose. "Are you okay?" I asked. "Yes. But I drink some water with the nose," he replied, pointing towards his nose. Something about the image of Ju-ho getting into a pool and drinking water through his nose really got to me. I like his expression a lot more than saying, "I got water up my nose."
10 July 2007 @ 03:40 pm
What do "bucket head," "German soldier," and "ice-cream store" have in common? I have no idea either. Mr. Kang tried explaining something to me in the teacher's room today, and those three things were all I could understand. I have absolutely no idea what he could possibly have been talking about. I bet it was an interesting story though.
09 July 2007 @ 08:09 pm
Students have been stalking me with a video camera for the past two weeks. I finally weaseled the reason why out of a group of them. It appears my school is throwing me a going away ceremony, complete with goodbye video. I am simultaneously really touched, and a little creeped out. The fact that they are making the video is what I find so sweet; being followed and videotaped is slightly creepy though. It seems like every time I walk down the hall, someone jumps out to videotape me. It's really hard to teach when two students are sitting in the front row videotaping you. I think they've also been going around and taping students and teachers saying goodbye to me too. I found a piece of paper that looked like a script that Mrs. Na had written to herself sitting near my desk today (she and I share a wall desk). I can't wait to see what this video is going to involve.
09 July 2007 @ 08:01 pm
About a month ago, one of the rowdier girls in my 1-1 class showed up for class wearing these ridiculous halloween-ish glasses. They were huge and sort of looked like monster eyes. She was loitering outside the door, and as a joke I said, "Alright monster, come to class." Everyone in the class thought it was hysterical that I called her monster. She said, "No! I'm student, not monster!" As a joke, I called her monster for the rest of the class. She laughed along (she's a good sport), but I decided not to continue calling her "monster" in every class, lest it become some scarring experience for her.

Today I met with my 1-1 class for the second to last time. When I arrived in class, I noticed that a bunch of students had written different things on the board. On student wrote "Good-bye Kaite!" Another wrote, "Kaite, I want you. I love you. I need you." And across the top it said, "I miss you. From Monster."  It made me laugh. It's weird, but I'm happy to know that at least one student will remember me, even if it is just because I gave her the nickname "monster."
09 July 2007 @ 07:49 pm
I had to say goodbye to my orchestra last weekend. It was really sad. I've grown really close to a few of the members, mainly Mrs. Ahn, Dr. Cello and Twinkle Bass (or as Mrs. Ahn calls her, "Twinkle Base"). After rehearsal, we all went out for a late dinner. At dinner, I gave out the mix CDs I made and my e-mail address. EMT Doctor (which is also a Mrs. Ahn nickname) told me not to e-mail him. It wasn't anything against me though; as Twinkle Bass put it, "he doesn't want to get a dictionary when he see your e-mail." It was a nice dinner though, and I'm going to miss practicing together every week.

Today, Mrs. Ahn sent me the following e-mail:

It's monday,
today, i made 'remember book' of you. finally...
gathered photo, write memory,
while i making this book, i had so happy time too
i 'd give to you my 'work' wanna meet today
how about 6'oclock.or as you like.

I met Mrs. Ahn after school today to receive the "remember book." It was by far the cutest thing I've been given in Korea. She had printed out various pictures of the orchestra and put the pages together like a book. All throughout the book, she wrote cute sayings and memories of things we did together. It very nearly made me cry. Promising that she'd call me one last time before I left, Mrs. Ahn hugged me goodbye and left. Now it really feels like I'm leaving soon.
07 July 2007 @ 12:56 pm
Today is my one year anniversary of living in Korea. This time last year, I was doing my best to figure out what on Earth I'd gotten myself into. Today, I'm trying to figure out what to get people for goodbye gifts and wondering how I'm going to fit all of my stuff into just two suitcases. I've only got ten days left here. It's really weird.
03 July 2007 @ 11:29 pm

My host father is the king of asking questions that aren’t really questions. Tonight at dinner, he looked at me and said, “spicy chicken.” He then stopped eating, looked at me and waited for a response. I quickly looked around the table, wondering if he wanted me to hand him the spicy chicken. When all I saw was fish and kimchi, I wondered if maybe he wasn’t asking me a question at all, but merely making conversation. “Here’s a topic: spicy chicken. Talk amongst yourselves.” But no. He was still watching me, waiting for me to respond. “Ummm,” I replied. “You can eat?” he then said, as if he were explaining the question to a child. “Oh. Yeah. I like spicy chicken.” I refrained from explaining that, contrary to popular belief, saying the phrase “spicy chicken” does not constitute a question.   

02 July 2007 @ 04:38 pm

Last weekend, my Korean friends decided that we should go to a spa, meaning an indoor swimming pool. I explained that I didn’t have a swimsuit, but they simply replied, “buy one.” The entire time I was in Seoul, I kept my eyes out for suits. The only ones I found though were either ridiculously expensive, or only big enough for an elementary school student. Last night, my friend Byeong-chul called to ask for an update. Byeong-chul is a guy. Here’s the conversation that ensued, as closely as I can recall it:

Byeong-chul: Hello Katie. Will you go to the spa this weekend?

Me: I want to, but I don’t have a swimsuit.

Byeong-chul: You should buy one.

Me: I tried, but I cannot buy clothes in Korea. Everything is too small.

Byeong-chul: What size do you wear?

Me: Larger than they sell in Korea.

Byeong-chul: Large? Okay.

Me: No, no. I can’t buy clothes here.

Byeong-chul: Tomorrow, I will go downtown with my girlfriend to buy her swimsuit. Can you go too?

Me: No, I can’t. I have to go to orchestra practice.

Byeong-chul: Oh no. Okay, I will look for a swimsuit for you.

Me: (hysterical laughing at the image of Byeong-chul swimsuit shopping for me) You’re going to buy me a swimsuit?

Byeong-chul: (also laughing) I will look for a large-size swimsuit and call you.

Me: (still laughing) Wait, what?

Byeong-chul: Bikini okay?

Me: (laughing even harder) Only if you wear one too.

Byeong-chul: Okay. I will find large-size one piece swimsuit for you and call you tomorrow. Goodbye (hangs up phone).

Me: Wait! No!

He may have been laughing, but he certainly wasn’t joking. By tomorrow night, I may be the proud new owner of a Korean swimsuit chosen by one of my guy friends in my absence. I told my friend Cara this, and her response was, “I hope it has a skirt.” I'm just curious what his definition of "large-size" is.

28 June 2007 @ 07:12 am

Mrs. Na was really excited to meet my American visitors. I’m not sure if she really wanted to meet them, or if she was just being excited because I was. Either way, she volunteered to be our Hwasun tour guide. Before Rachel and Mindy arrived, I asked Mrs. Na how we could take the bus to Boseong, a city famous for its green tea fields and which is located about an hour outside of Hwasun. “No bus,” she said. “I will take you. It will be fun.”

And so Mindy, Rachel and I found ourselves crammed into the backseat of Mrs. Na’s car on Wednesday, driving to Boseong. Mrs. Lee (the second grade English teacher) was accompanying us, as was a great deal of fruit. As it turns out, the two teachers wanted to make a stop at our ex-vice principal’s new school in Boseong. The massive amount of fruit would serve as our friendship offering.

After a little over an hour of looking at rice fields go by, we arrived in Boseong. I’d heard from another ETA that the green tea fields weren’t that great. She was most definitely wrong. Rachel, Mindy and I were like kids at Disney World. “This is so cool!” we kept saying. “Oooh, look at that. That’s awesome.” Mrs. Na and Mrs. Lee thought we were more entertaining than the fields themselves, seeing as they had both been there on numerous occasions. The tea grew on bushes that had been neatly cultivated into rows. Hundreds of rows of bushes lined the side of the mountain, stretching all the way to the top. It was pretty impressive.

We took our time walking around the fields, and after taking a ton of pictures (or at least I did), we made our way back to the car. What I thought was going to be just a trip to the tea fields turned into the perfect example of "a day in the life” in Korea. First, we went to my ex-vice principal’s new school. This led to an awkward meeting where my friends and I sat around, not understanding what was being talked about. Sometime during this meeting, it was decided that ex-vp would give us a tour of Boseong. We then caravanned around the county, looking at sculptures and dams along the way. Once this was finished, we were taken on a scenic drive along the ocean (Boseong is near the southern coast of the peninsula). The most impressive section of the “scenic” drive was the part where hundreds of freshly planted palm trees lined the road. Truth be told though, it wasn’t that scenic. I bet it's great ten years from now, but since all of the trees are still tiny, it just looked like a midget tree road. Of course, by the time our ex-vp released us from his tour, we were so far outside of Boseong that Mrs. Na promptly proceeded to get lost. All together, we got back to my house about two hours later than I anticipated (because of course, there was a surprise stop back at school on the way home). It was actually a lot of fun though. Or, at least, I thought it was fun. I think Rachel and Mindy may have been a bit tired of rice fields by the time we got back. At the very least, they now know what I mean when I say, “Any number of things could be happening today; I don’t really know.”

Here's a picture of Rachel and Mindy at the tea fields with Mrs. Lee (left) and Mrs. Na (right).

27 June 2007 @ 07:56 pm
I have a new monk friend. His name is Su-jin, and he lives at the temple near my house. We first met when I was showing the temple to my friend Elizabeth. He had just finished singing evening prayers and was leaving the main temple when he noticed us foreigners wandering around. Even though his English was pretty rough, he made conversation with us. When I told him that I lived in the area, he made me promise that I would return another time. As Elizabeth and I turned to leave, he said "Wait! Here, wait!" and scurried away. He returned minutes later with his hands outstretched, repeating, "present, present." In his hands were two sweet potatoes. "Present for you," he said. "I am happy to meet you."

When Rachel and Mindy finally arrived in Korea (they did make it by the way), I wanted to show them the temple. It's a pretty long walk from my house, so we planned to spend a little while there. Armed with water and a deck of cards, we set off. When we arrived, we found that there was some sort of lesson/sermon going on, so we quietly played cards and waited for the talk to be finished before touring the grounds. When people finally started to spill out of the temple, we decided it was alright to start exploring. "I don't think Su-jin is here though," I told them, hoping I was wrong.

After walking around and taking pictures for a while, a monk approached us. "Hello!" he said. "Oh! Su-jin! Hello," I said. "Do you remember me?" I asked. "Yes," he replied. I introduced Mindy and Rachel, and we all did our best to understand each other. "I am tired now... much talking," he told us. "Oh, you were the person talking?" I asked, referring to the lesson/sermon. "Yes, so I am tired. But I want you return. Drink tea together. You come again. I want talk about temple to you." I quickly agreed to meet with Su-jin again sometime in the future. Having tea with a monk sounds like a pretty great experience, and to be honest, it still sounds so exotic. "Now, we must leave though," I told him. "We have to meet my friend for lunch. I will return though. I want to meet with you too." He seemed satisfied with my promise to return, and there was much bowing and waving as Rachel, Mindy and I made to leave. "Wait, Here, wait!" he told us before we got to far. "Present!" he said. "I think he might be bringing us sweet potatoes," I told my friends. Instead, Su-jin returned with three wrapped boxes. "For you. See you again!" he said.

The three of us waited until we were well away from the temple before we opened our boxes. Inside of each one was a beautiful beaded bracelet with a Buddhist symbol on it. Even if he didn't give me presents every time I came to visit, I still think Su-jin might be one of my favorite random people that I've met in Korea. Being obviously foreign has its perks sometimes, and I can't wait for our tea drinking meeting.