Thanks for being interested in my life as I navigate my life in Korea.
I am no longer crap taxidermy fox, but rather crap taxidermy “Cat Hands,” as my sister and I call it. I say “It” because I’m not even sure it’s a cat.
Cat Hands symbolizes a general “omg I’m in Korea,” or an “omg Korea…”, meaning I have reached the culture shock stage of having a general awareness of my thoughts and feelings, compared to last week when I would smile and nod and eat and sleep (see taxidermy fox)
Anyhoo, in short, I’m alive and well.
-Co-teacher is the bomb. We rock lessons together and share snacks. I’m trying not to be too much of pain in the ass, since it really is her job to make sure I’m alive at the end of the day. So far she likes me! I heard her say it.
-The other teachers tell me (through my co-teacher): I have the best chopstick skills they’ve seen on a foreigner, they like me, my Korean is good
–Top three questions students and staff ask me: how old are you (a Korean hierarchal/respect measure), how tall are you (taller than everyone’s dads apparently), do you have a boyfriend (no, but I’d probably be taller than him here so don’t try).
Actually, I said I didn’t have a boyfriend to my fav grade 5 class when they asked, and they all yelled I AM YOUR BOYFRIEND and argued for a while. I referred to question #2 and said I’m too tall for them and they understood. I love my students.
-Cafeteria food: I’m told it’s one of the best in Ulsan, however to me: rice rice rice rice rice meat meat meat rice strange fish salad (ANCHOVIES WITH FACES AND BODIES WHEN YOU LOOK CLOSELY) rice rice rice love handles rice rice new pants rice rice… etc.
To be honest it’s very tasty food, but my body is not used to any of it. The chef speaks English well and takes care of me and my crustacean allergy, so I’m happy. Only costs me about $2 a day and I don’t want to bring my own food because I’ll be the only person in the cafeteria, and I stand out enough.
-Students: For lack of a better word, I am famous. Kids point and run to me when they see me in the hall. I walk home and kids on the top of the playground point and scream my name. Kids grad my arms, ask to have my bracelets, and come in and see me every lunch time. It’s exciting, flattering, terrifying and exhausting. I love every one of them so much already! I can see how much they want to communicate with me, and I hope I influence their lives positively (and don’t just represent the oppressive Korean system that tells them they can’t succeed without English).
Here are pics of my school!
Constant balance of try-not-to-stand-out-too-much-Sarah and you-are-so-foreign-you-might-as-well-own-it-Sarah.
The former includes me copying what Koreans do.
For example, the bus drivers are the greatest threat to my life here in Korea. And I’m talking inside of the bus, not just on the street.
Koreans don’t wait for the bus to stop before getting up and waiting by the exit (exit ONLY in the back door folks), and so I’ve learned to do that too. Except, when the bus is manual and the driver doesn’t give a rat’s ass for the precious cargo onboard, it is easy to lose balance and fall on the floor and have everyone on the bus stare at you for… oh wait they were already staring..
No one asked if I was okay but I told them I was anyway, IN KOREAN, thank you very much.
I have a gnarly floor burn on my knee in that spot that never heals well (throwback to skateboard fall in Christchurch that took 2 months to heal #inthesamespot).
I forgot about it but my landlords noticed.
Picture this: Me on the couch reading the English books they have been studying, them on the floor with their legs crossed (classic foreigner vs Korean positions) and they see my wound. Since I’m basically a child to them (BTYB the language barrier and poor chopstick usage in their presence), they scolded me for letting it look so.. potentially infected.. and they got the ointments and cleaned it up. I smiled to myself, because there was nothing else to do.
It’s been -almost 4 weeks, and I have so many of these little moments. Small moments of mutual understanding between humans.
I’m an expert at talking with my body now, to get points across to students and strangers alike, so I was very happy to show them in a live performance of how I received my injury. I showed them the shift change and everything. I even threw in an example of Canadian bus driving in Canada (since I’m an experience bus driver now) and they loved it. I had them howling.
– So far the roles I’ve occupied here in Korea have been: English Puppet, Celebrity, Pet, and Child.
People need to stop feeding me though.
Including my students.
-The grade 5s dumped an armload of rice cakes onto my desk. When the boys tried to snatch some (because I had enough for a family), the girls yelled at them and slapped their arms away.
-On my way home from school one day, a few girls handed me a chip and I put it in my mouth and asked what it was. My brain was like “das shrriiiimppp” so logically, I told them “mmm yum thank you” and my brain was like “SPIT IT OUT” but my mouth had already let it dissolve down my throat. I was fine, but what the heck Sarah. The things I do to not offend here.
-I already told you about the mong-ge story.. See my last page for that experience.
-It’s Korean Thanksgiving next week (Chuseok) and people buy food as gifts to give to people. Including.. get ready… SPAM.
Spam is a common ingredient in the Korean diet.
My landlords tried generously giving me a can from a giant box of spams they had received or were going to give as a gift, and I politely let Google translate explain that I have no idea how to cook with it because in Canada, it’s viewed as a food that was only eaten in the war when there was nothing else to eat. Naturally, Mr. Jung made Mrs. Jung cook me some. I tried it on a spoonful with kimchi and rice (CLASSIC) and it wasn’t that bad. Salty.
I’ve made some friends and I’m so grateful! Good times to come.
It hasn’t been all roses.
I broke my laptop (the wind poured rain onto my desk while I slept..), experienced two earthquakes (also happen to be Korea’s largest in history) and I’ve had some very frustrating moments learning to humble myself in a culture that isn’t my own and admit dependence on others.
Im off to Seoul for five days for what is similar to Thanksgiving holiday (추석) and will take heaps of photos to prove it.