Saturday, April 5, 2014

Thoughts of a (still green) foreign teacher

I realized that I have been in Korea for about six-and-a-half weeks.

I also realized that today is Arbor Day, which is fitting, because I've seen some beautiful trees lately:

Many of these trees remind me of spring in DC. I've enjoyed looking at them. I've also been able to do some other things (such as serving in the temple and doing a bit of hiking) that have brought me a sense of peace. Thus, as I write, I'm in a reflective mood, and I'd like to share some of those reflections with you.

  • Even in my late twenties, I was still pushed (metaphorically) into the seat of an emotional roller coaster that most people ride when they move anywhere. The past few weeks have been filled with feelings that range from "Wow, I think I'm doing pretty well at this teaching gig!" to "There's no way I can go into that classroom and be at the mercy of those bright-eyed little cannibals," from "Look at me, I've got myself a posse!" to "Gosh, it's sure lonely here," and from "HOLY COW KOREA IS AMAZING LOOK AT ALL THE THINGS I CAN DO!!!" to "Get me out of here. Now." The bright side in all of this is that with this move, I was expecting the ups and downs. This has helped me to not feel so blindsided/cheated when the low moments come.
  • Korean spas/jjimjilbangs/찜질방 are amazing. There's one in DC (Spa World), and the one that I visited here was basically the same as that one -- hot tubs, themed sauna rooms, a gym, a cafe -- except the Seoul spa visit only cost 10 BUCKS! AND (there's more), the one we visited in Seoul has a theater! This is a thing that exists, folks.
    Orange towel included.
  • Learning Korean as a language is a challenge that I am slowly working on, but I enjoy it and find it rewarding as I'm able to use more phrases as I'm out and about.
  • Understanding Korean culture is a challenge that is daunting to say the least. Koreans, adults and children, work very hard, and they seem to have no choice in the matter. The only choice is work. I see a sliver in my classes. I'll give the Reader's Digest version, though there is a lot to say on the matter: College entrance exams are of crucial importance in determining a child's course into adulthood. Part of that entrance exam is an English comprehension component. To give their kids the best chance possible, many parents enroll their kids into hagwons (or private institutes, such as the one I teach at). Kids attend these in addition to attending public school. Many of these students study late into the night, every night. Needless to say, the motivation for some of these kids can be very low. From what I can tell, these kids just want to be kids, but the culture doesn't seem to allow for much play time. Hopefully I am wrong about some of these observations, but what I have learned as well as what I have observed have led me to see things this way. As a result, I feel that the role of my job is to make learning as enjoyable and positive as possible for these kids.
  • Costco pizza makes life amazing. Seeing someone eat Costco pizza for the first time isn't bad either. Sometimes it takes an awesome Korean friend to help you go through the paperwork of getting a Costco may also take his help to actually find a Costco store, too.
    I explained to my friend Kevin that Costco pizza is both bad for the heart and good for the soul.
  • I'm thankful to have rubbed shoulders with some amazing people thus far. For example, some of my coworkers include a South African man who spent the last five years in China, an Englishman who went skydiving in Australia shortly before coming to Korea, a Korean man who lived in the US for ten years (and basically traveled across every inch of it that could be traveled), and a Korean woman who studied in the Philippines for a year. The great thing is that these people are all nice; in fact, it's because of the Korean woman that I'm able to blog from the comfort of my apartment.
So, there you go. Musings aplenty.

I hope you're doing well. If you're reading this, chances are that I know you. And if I know you, and you aren't in Korea, then I miss you. There, I said it!

Take care till next time.


  1. Brad, I miss you, too.
    1. I love your wet curls post spa. I wish you had wrapped your head in an orange towel.
    2. I remember the roller coaster and the best way I got through it was remembering that my stay in a foreign country was temporary and I would soon be able to flush toilet paper, avoid a toilet clog, and drink from a drinking fountain. It is the little things.
    3. I don't like Costco pizza. I will be attending Kevin's funeral. Death: atherosclerosis.
    4. the blossoms were incredibly beautiful.
    5. Please keep blogging.