Mishaps at the Mart

We now return to “Janine Does Something Silly Because of the Language Barrier.”

Host Mom, host aunt, and host nephews picked me up from school today so we could go to a Korean BBQ restaurant for dinner. On our way back to the apartment, we stopped by the mart next door. As we walked inside, Host Mom placed a basket in my hands and said something rapidly in Korean. The only word I understood was eumshig or “food” (which, based on context, should have been evident).

Okay, I thought. I guess she wants me to get some food I’d like to eat this week.

“For me to cook?” I asked, gesturing like I’m stirring a pot.

She responded in Korean, and I did not understand. But she didn’t shake her head no, so I assumed it was affirmative and I was cooking dinner tomorrow.

Given my limited cooking abilities, I walked toward the produce aisle and picked up some broccoli and carrots. Then I put some noodles in my basket and figured I could make something out of that. Hmm…why was Host Mom laughing so much?

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Conversations about Beauty

I have always been uncomfortable if someone compliments my appearance. Usually because I don’t think about it too much and tend to focus on aspects of my character instead. Fortunately, the student choruses of “Teacher, pretty!” are finally dying down, but the issues of Western and Korean beauty standards are still at the forefront of my mind. Especially after today.

This afternoon, I met one of Ye Bin’s friends at the mall. We ate pizza, practiced English and Korean, and then went to a photo booth. Even though  I usually dislike taking pictures of myself, it was surprisingly a lot of fun to make silly faces and poses.

But when we went to print the pictures, a Photoshop application popped up on the screen. That’s where it went downhill.

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My Host Family: Or, The Cast, in Order of Appearance

This year’s show will be performed by the following actors:

The Main Cast

Host Mom – My host mom is so hospitable, I have to wonder if all Korean moms are like this! Even though she does not usually leave the apartment until late morning, she wakes up at 5:30 like I do to make breakfast for my sister Su Bin and ensure that we are ready to start the day. My host mom is also highly involved in the school community, and she is always well-dressed. It is a little awkward that my host mom and I do not speak the same language, but we are finding ways to communicate. Right now there’s a lot of gestures and very basic Korean words. Sometimes I resort to pointing and saying “oohs” and “aahs.” Even as a child, I did not feel this much like a child. Maybe by Christmas, I will be able to have a real conversation with my host mom.

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Departure Day

Goodbye Jungwon, hello Gimhae!

Today was yet another ceremony to serve as a farewell to the friends we made in Goesan and as an introduction to our co-teachers and schools. In the morning, the ETAs and OCs said tearful goodbyes and took pictures with each other. I never imagined that I would become so close to my fellow Fulbrighters in such a short amount of time. Luckily, we will all be together again for the fall conference in October!

Avalon crew

After taking pictures, the ETAs, both new and renewee, entered the auditorium the same way as for the Placement Ceremony. We stood in a horseshoe around the audience, and we stood with the other ETAs in our provinces. This time, the audience was filled with co-teachers, vice principals and principals from our schools. The OCs called our names one by one so we could step forward and bow. Some co-teachers stood up or presented flowers to their new ETA, while others took note of what we looked like. Fulbright also gave us flowers as a goodbye gift, which was a pleasant surprise!

After we finished our bows, all 120+ ETAs rushed to find their co-teachers in the audience. My co-teacher did not stand when I bowed, so I hoped he would remember what I looked like (there was a reason for my bright red blazer!). After a few minutes, my co-teacher, Mr. Hong, introduced himself and we went to the goodbye luncheon in the cafeteria. After lunch, we started the long drive to Gimhae.

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“It Was the Best of Classes, It Was the Worst of Classes”: My First Teaching Experiences

It was the best of classes, it was the worst of classes, it was the age of maturity, it was the age of middle school monsters, it was one class of hope, it was one class of despair. Such were my first two teaching experiences.

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Placement Day

Earlier this week, the Orientation Counselors called a surprise meeting. As we filed into the classroom, the OCs couldn’t hide their smiles and excitement as they announced:

“You are getting your placements on Thursday!”

My plans to study for the Korean quiz this week were shattered. How could I concentrate on verb conjugation when I would finally learn where I would be spending the next year?!

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