Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Now that I've been here almost 2 months and feel rather settled (well, as settled as you can be in the middle of Korea after 2 months), I thought it would be fun to share a few assessments I've made. This entry comes with a small disclaimer, because as you'll see, there are no direct quotes from co-teachers, students, or anyone else to support what I'm saying.

But this is my blog, so let's just roll with it. Just remember this is all from the mouth of a waygook (or 'foreigner', for all you Westerners).

What I think of the food.

I still love Korean food. In fact, most blog ideas pour from my brain after a long day at work as I sit in this one little kim bap shop across the street from my apartment. It's adorable, family-run I think, and has a huge menu with really inexpensive food. The owners know me and my favorites now, which I'm really happy about. Big breakthrough today: they offered me more soup for free. I think they like me.

Also, for those who have been curious about how my vegetarian status was holding up: I have made the decision to eat chicken meat on occasion, mostly for the sake of my school dinners and evenings out with foreigner friends. In my close group of friends, we had a seafood allergy, a lactose-free diet, and me playing the part of vegetarian. This ruled out basically any dining options... what a nightmare. So me eating chicken here and there has helped us all immensely. Besides, after the tripe incident, I figured it would be safer to know I was eating chicken than not know I was eating cow stomach.

What my co-teachers think of me.

Firstly, they recognize I'm very young and remind me on a daily basis. This has not stopped them from continuing to point out every available male teacher, despite their age.

They think that the students like me because I have blue eyes. Like I mesmerize them with my 'special' eyes. What I fail to tell them is that if I actually had this power, I may not have left the US to begin with.

My left-handedness is becoming a new topic of interest. Today at lunch, my Korean father actually looked a little concerned that I was left-handed. He asked me if I was actually right-handed like I use my left hand just for fun. Then everyone wanted to know how I became left-handed. When I said it was my choice (slash genetics, I pointed out), I got some strangely amused looks. The weird looks only got weirder when I got up the nerve to ask if anyone in Korea is left-handed. Guess not. Now, I already knew the left hand was 'bad' in Korea, but it is getting a little frustrating for people to tell me that I do things well "even though she uses her left hand."

Today, my Human Services self remembered an essay I wrote last fall for a class on Diversity and Social Justice. We wrote about our privileges and disadvantages in society. I talked about my left-handedness as a disAbility at the most mild level. Well, here in Korea, it's seen as more of a handicap than anywhere I've ever been. Once again, I'm so thankful for my major.

Okay, I can't help it; I worked so hard to get this degree. Here is a small excerpt from my essay:

I am proud to be left-handed, and the fact that I am a minority in this area makes me feel unique. Being left-handed does not make me feel like a minority, and society does not make me feel excluded outright for being left-handed (although historically, organized religion used to consider left-handed people ‘evil’). However, US culture is generally built for right-handed people. Scissors, desks, and many instructions for skills such as knitting create a divide between people who are right-dominated versus left-dominated. Sometimes, I am frustrated with people’s shock at my left-handed quality, or their assumptions that my handwriting is not as competent as a right-hander’s. These stereotypes are a concise analogy for the hierarchy between majorities and minorities in society; the minority is viewed as different (and therefore less functional) than the majority.

One last interesting comment I heard this week was about my "S line." I don't think they knew that I understood what they were saying, but I learned from my friend Angela (who basically paved the way for me in Korean culture) that the "S line" is a term used to describe an ideal body type in Korea. If you look at the shape of the S, perhaps you'll understand: something of a chest, small waist, and ample hips. Needless to say, it's not too difficult to have an "S line" when you're being compared to Korean body types, but it was pretty hilarious to hear it from my lady co-teachers.

What my students think of me.

All smiles.

Well, mostly.

Nah, they've been pretty good, actually. I'm getting to know several of them on more than a name-basis (and believe me, when they don't have an English name, the name-basis alone is pretty difficult!). Some kids come in for tutoring in the afternoon, so usually they are deferred to me. I really like it. It's natural and more personal. It's why I came here.

They think I'm silly. I sing in class, dance, and am probably a good mental health break from their insanely stressful lives. On the first day of my lessons, I did an introduction slideshow with pictures of my family. One of them had a picture of my mom and I making a funny face. Apparently this image really stuck in their heads because two girls came up to me this weekend and wanted to know how to make 'the face.'

This was it.
We had an English Festival this weekend (pictured above) and it felt good to work with my kids outside of class... we had fun, despite the fact that our booth was a Jenga Spell game and I still cringe when I think about the sound of those wooden blocks crashing (as you can see, it was a pretty crazy, loud booth!).

Again, my co-teachers claim that our booth was popular because of my eyes, not the bags of candy we were giving away.

What I think about learning Korean.

It's a slow process but I'm still working at it everyday. I feel like my comprehension is definitely getting better, but my speech is lacking. It's incredibly difficult to muster up the energy to learn a language when I'm already teaching a different one all day.

I'm self-teaching with the help of my co-teachers, students, www.talktomeinkorean.com, and cell phone Korean-to-English dictionary.

By the way, I tried to think about Spanish today, the other language I used to know moderately. I couldn't even get my mind around it. I really admire anyone who is multi-lingual.

What I think of Korea (everyone asks me this so I'm just going to answer it).

I absolutely love it here. I miss you all, sometimes a lot, but this is a great experience for me. If you would ever like to send mail or packages, I can definitely return the favor with something special from Korea.
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  1. your left-handedness doesn't make you evil??? my whole belief system is shattered. actually i think you're as far from evil as anyone could be! and yes, your eyes are pretty mesmerizing.

  2. I second all that...I've been paralyzed by those mesmerizing eyes...

  3. Oh jeeze. You girls are too much. I miss you both!!