Lessons from a Taxi Driver


Ye Bin and I climbed into the taxi parked outside of Homeplus, our arms laden with groceries and shampoo. Ye Bin said our address to the driver, who did a double take when he glanced at the two of us in the back seat.

“Gimhae Jeil?” the taxi driver asked, glancing at me. He said something in Korean to Ye Bin, who laughed and shook her head.

Aniyo,” said Ye Bin. She answered something else in Korean. The only two words I picked out were yeodongsaeng (“younger sister”) and daehakkyo (“university”).

“Did he ask if we went to Gimhae Jeil High School?” I asked Ye Bin as the driver pulled away from the curb.

“Yes – he remember you!”

Continue reading “Lessons from a Taxi Driver”

Baking in Korea: Or, My Adventures With the Metric System

Ever since I told Ye Bin about the day-long baking marathon my family does before Christmas, she has begged me to make cookies with her. Finally, this weekend we picked out the recipes we wanted to make and went to the store to buy ingredients–chocolate chip cookie mix, an oatmeal mix and the fixings for homemade thumbprint cookies. Sunday was our designated Cookie Day, and I spent Saturday night dreaming of the intoxicating aroma of chocolate chips, vanilla extract, and freshly baked goodness.

Turns out I forgot that Korea uses the metric system.

Continue reading “Baking in Korea: Or, My Adventures With the Metric System”

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.

Continue reading “Conversations about Beauty”

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.

Continue reading “My Host Family: Or, The Cast, in Order of Appearance”

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.

Continue reading “Departure Day”

How the Journey Began

November 2014

“So, what are your plans after graduation?”

My uncle looked at me over the Thanksgiving table as he began carving the turkey. I cringed as he asked the one question every college senior dreads. While several of my friends knew exactly what they would be doing after May 15, I was still unsure. I knew only two things. The first was that I applied for a Fulbright ETA.

The second was that I hadn’t told my parents yet.

Continue reading “How the Journey Began”