Tag Archives: teaching

Let’s wrap this up?

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I’ve been a neglectful mother to my blog that I began nurturing back in late 2011. Writing is like a good workout for me. I think about it daily. I put it off and make excuses because IT’S HARD. Yet, I crave the satisfaction of walking away from the computer upon hitting the blue ‘Publish’ button after writing a time consuming and well-crafted post. Coming home has been fantastic, yet I feel as though I’m walking around constantly missing something. Did I forget my make-up? Do I have pants on? I am no longer an expat or a teacher in Korea and on top of that I have lost my ‘Travel Blogger’ title. Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic for what is next and I know I am ready for it, but I also know it is going to take some time and I miss having the blog platform to go to late at night or when I’m feeling creative.

photo5I may complain about not having a full-time job at the moment, but I know in a few weeks (fingers crossed) I will be missing mid-week beach visits like this one.

I arrived stateside about a month ago and it’s been a crazy yet wonderful return home to New England. Mere hours after landing in Boston and still battling jet-lag, my family descended upon Schenectady, NY for my brother’s graduation from Union College. After a weekend of reminiscing and lamenting to my parents as we passed early morning kegger remnants and sleepy-eyed students that, “Oh, those were the days…” we packed up my brother’s life and headed home. In the back of my mind I was thankful I was currently post-expat and not simply post-grad. Looking at the newly diploma-ed youngsters did bring me back to memories of late nights full of you-won’t-believe-it stories, but I also recognized that although I was job-less and living with my parents like many graduates would be for the summer of 2013, I had 17 months of Korea under my belt and in some mysterious way I knew the adventure was going to guide me to what was next.

photo2Portsmouth, NH, oh how I missed you!

I’ve spent the past month catching-up with friends and family, enjoying New Hampshire’s beach-lined coast, and missing Korea, and all the friends I left there. Oh, and when I’m not stuffing my face with hummus, making small-talk with (English speaking!) strangers in Starbucks and Trader Joe’s, loving the salty air and familiar landscapes of my beloved Martha’s Vineyard (Where I WILL own a house someday.), and sweating it out at my dearly missed Bikram yoga classes, I’ve been learning the art of NETWORKING, because really people, THIS IS HOW YOU GET A JOB.

photo1Early morning lessons and networking with Stonyfield Social Media experts!

I won’t bore you with all the details, but finding a full-time job is a full-time job and as hectic as it’s been it’s also been kind of fun. I’ve entered rooms full of strangers and forced myself to mingle. I’ve woken up at 6am to eat bagels and sip coffee with other ‘Social Media Enthusiasts’ at the #PortsBkfstClub. I’ve reached out to company owners and New Hampshire leaders through LinkedIn and friends of friends of friends. I’ve answered questions about my past and done so honestly and I’ve gotten fantastic responses to my answer, “I was teaching and living in Korea and I just got home and now I am job searching…” Korea gave me Psy socks, a new appreciation for barbecue, and life-long friends, but it also gave me a sense of confidence and the assurance that everything is going to work out. I’ll have to revisit Korea someday and thank the old jimjilbang ajummas and my Korean students, because if you can survive a naked scrub-down from an old woman and manage to control a room full of horse-dancing Korean speaking children all in one week, you can do anything.

photo3Catching up with old friends is hectic. We couldn’t stop chatting to take a photo!

I’ve come to the realization that while living and teaching in Korea may stand out on a resume timeline, it definitely brightens the page rather than tarnishing it. I’ve had to formulate some creative answers to show people how my time in Korea prepared me for my future career in marketing and communications, but it’s been a good exercise for me to find multiple ways to tell a story. And isn’t that exactly what I was doing in Korea? Staring back at adorably clueless Korean faces after explaining a lesson in English forced me to find a different way of expressing myself. I want to continue to create stories and find clever ways of telling them and luckily I’m re-entering the world of communications where content marketing is “about continuous storytelling. It’s about a steady stream of storytelling innovations—large and small—delivered as an ongoing pulse. A drumbeat.” (Read more from Jake Sorofman’s blog post here.)

photo4You can travel around the world, but nothing beats a familiar summer sunset from your porch.

It is encouraging to see that people are still using this blog as a tool for living the ‘Expat life in Korea’ and I hope to remain a resource for those of you who have questions or comments. As my job search continues I am also working on creating a new blog for my new adventure. Who knows, ‘The Expat Comes Home’…and FINDS A JOB? Or perhaps overdoses on hummus? You’ll have to stay tuned. So, I guess this isn’t about wrapping it up, it’s just the beginning!

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Filed under devan teacher, korea in the news, travel, yoga

How to Stay Sane Until Spring (Korean Winter, we’re through.)

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I wrote recently about finding a summer-ish oasis hidden on a side street in my Korean city. Writing that post made me ponder a few other remedies that have helped me cope with winter in Korea. Because, like I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of you, winter. I didn’t even really realize I was in a winter funk until a week or so ago when I was walking to work and caught a whiff of that Spring smell. I think it’s made of one part melting snow and two parts bright sunshine. Oh, and there were birds singing, I swear. Although snow did fall a few days later, this morning commute added a bounce to my step and placed not-too-distant and pleasant visions of biking along the Han River and wearing cute skirts in my head. So, if you’re like me and need that final push to blast through the rest of Winter into Spring, here are 10 things I am doing or plan to do asap:

1) YOGA

I wrote about my love of yoga awhile back. Then my membership expired and I neglected to go back to my studio to pay for 3 more months. I told myself I would do yoga at home but I missed the hot studio, the disciplined yet nurturing instructor, the sense of class camaraderie and most importantly the elated and endorphin filled walk home after each class. I plan to return to my studio later this week and get back to improving my Triangle Pose.

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2) EAT HEALTHY

Just like your mom always told you: Winter is all about staying healthy! Go stock up on fresh veggies and fruits at the supermarket. I like to shop at Homeplus in the evening after work because I usually find discounted produce (for smoothies!) at that time of day. Also, if you haven’t already checked out iHerb you should. I like to order my favorite gluten free breakfast bars and coconut water from this website. The prices are reasonable and the products arrive 1 or 2 days later.

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3) SEOUL TOWER

Although it made for a cold afternoon, I recommend checking out Seoul Tower in the winter. With less foliage you can see for miles and the view is amazing.

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photo credit: my awesome friend James

4) GET ACTIVE OUTSIDE

Sometimes you just need to get outside and be active. Bundle up and go for a walk. I promise you will feel better upon your return.

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5) SOCIALIZE

Your apartment may seem tempting for a night-in, but get out and be social with friends. Find a favorite coffee shop or bar and enjoy each other. *bring playing cards*

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6) MUSEUMS

Winter is a great time to check out the many museums Seoul has to offer. In the past month I visited the MOCA, the National War Memorial and Museum and the Anish Kapoor Seoul Exhibition at the Leeum Samsung Museum. 2 of the 3 were free and the exhibits were fabulous.

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 7) COFFEE SHOPS

Spend a cold day in a coffee shop and study up on your Korean.

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8) STUDENTS

The winter months don’t seem to bother my students one bit. They burst into class each day excited to tell me about their time at school. They are always happy and so full of energy. They make me smile and laugh at the smallest things and just that can turn around a day.

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9) PLAN FOR SUMMER

Start planning that awesome summer trip now. Although Mud Fest is a few months away who says you can’t start taking notes for an epic trip. I also love outdoor music festivals, so I can get lost on the Internet searching for the summer line-up of acts coming to Korea.

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10) WINTER FASHION

When all else fails, throw on a cute fluffy animal hat and count how many strangers smile at you as you walk around feeling warm and fashionable.

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photo credit

How do you deal with Winter? Or maybe Winter is your best friend, and in that case, please let him know I’m ready to break-up.

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Filed under cuter in korea, devan teacher, food, seoul, travel, uijeongbu, yoga

Jimjilbanging: It’s kind of like eating kimchi, but you’ve got to get naked.

ktfacphoto credit

Korea is lovingly known as The Land of Kimchi, but I argue the slogan could lose kimchi and replace it with jimjilbang and no one would throw a fit. Kimchi and jimjilbangs are both well-known elements of Korean culture. Jimjilbangs are large public bath houses (mostly gender-segregated) and can be found on almost every street in Korea. Some are more fancy than others, but most have a handful of hot baths, showers, saunas, massage tables, lockers, sleeping areas and social meeting spaces. Jimjilbangs are usually open 24 hours a day and many people visit them to bathe, relax and sleep. Most rooms, including the saunas, have special minerals, woods and stones to create a soothing sanctuary and provide elements of traditional Korean medicine. The Korean jimjilbang is a familiar and calming oasis for all Koreans. Each is a mini spa that caters to your every need. They are more prevalent than Starbucks shops and you can spend a day in one for the cost of a latte and a snack. They sound perfect, right?

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photo credit

Kimchi is also found on every Korean street and it sneaks onto most breakfast, lunch and dinner plates. I bought a jar of kimchi back in NH a week before I left for Korea. I thought if I mastered the spicy fermented vegetable dish I would slide seamlessly into the role of ‘expat in Korea’. The jar’s pungent smell intimidated me and I reluctantly left the snack in my mom’s fridge for her to enjoy as she wept over my departure. After some time in Korea I learned to love kimchi. Some kinds are tastier than others and I prefer grilled kimchi over the cold stuff. It didn’t happen overnight, but I mastered kimchi and I figured the jimjilbang was next up. I could do this. I could adapt. I could be brave. The only thing is, I didn’t have to get naked in public to eat kimchi.

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photo credit (Yes, that’s me on the right feeling super comfortable.)

Last month I agreed to a Thursday night jimjilbang date after a few too many drinks the weekend before. My friends promised I could not leave Korea without a famous jimjilbang ajumma scrub. Although I was terrified of the ‘naked party’ they continuously cheered to that night, I lightly penciled it into my planner and mentally prepared a list of excuses to furnish a polite cancellation. Monday came and went and I forgot to decline the invite. In the midst of teaching on Tuesday and Wednesday I thought of cancelling and told myself I would get to it later that night. Then it was Thursday and it’s just not classy to cancel so late in the game. I was hungry but I couldn’t eat dinner. I nervously plastered a smile on my face and left work that night wondering if I would be a different person when I returned the next morning.

“It’s kind of like skydiving or bungee jumping.” My friend reassured me as we descended in the elevator toward the basement floor jimjilbang. She wasn’t helping. “The scariest moment is the first one and after that it’s just what it is.” Did she know she was giving a pep-talk to a life-long swimmer and lifeguard who, forget extreme jumping, was afraid to do a simple dive off the high dive? I spent a decent portion of each summer as a teenager disappointing the pool patrons who always watched in awe as the lifeguards enjoyed their 5 minute breaks. My male co-workers would bring the laughs with failed attempts at double flips. Others would gracefully dive through the air and slide into the depths of the deep-end headfirst with ease. I climbed the ladder as well, but once at the top I took a big breath and did a boring pencil dive into the icy blueness. I tried more than once to dive from the 1 meter ledge, but my brain just wouldn’t allow it. I liked the excitement of the jump, but I preferred the feeling of being right-side-up on my own two feet. I was in control somewhat, even while falling through the air.

As I stripped down and shoved my belongings into a locker at the jimjilbang I realized something about the scenario playing in my head. I knew one day I would dive from that high dive in NH. It would happen because I knew in my mind I could always return to my hometown pool. I could take my time and practice elsewhere. In other words, I could be lazy about it. A few months ago I jumped from a pretty huge rock in Jeju. Maybe this summer when I’m stateside again I will make that dive. I really hope this is true.

But here’s the amazing thing about living abroad in Korea: You don’t have time to cultivate fears here. If there’s something you want to try, taste or see you have to do it in a timely fashion. I know I won’t be in Korea forever and because I have so many other places to visit I don’t know if I will be back soon. It’s one thing to read those feel-good quotes about ‘Living in the Moment’, but it’s another to have no other choice.

I got naked that Thursday night and tip-toed from the lockers out to the bath and sauna room holding nothing but a hand towel. I found my friends and submerged in a steaming hot bath as I awaited my scrub appointment. In one corner of the room a maze of showers and stools held a dozen or so older women who meticulously scrubbed and bathed each other while chatting. Small children clutching goggles splashed around in the biggest bath. Single bathers who wished to relax and avoid the social hour could be found in baths with their hair in a towel, their eyes closed and their heads resting on the stone side. As our skin began to prune our moods softened as well. Our eyes stopped darting around the room at all the nakedness and we relaxed. The water was deliciously warm and we hopped from one bath to the next.

When the ajumma called me over for my scrub there was nowhere to hide. As she threw buckets of water over my body and signaled for me to roll over onto my back for the next round of scrubbing I simply did it. Maybe my friend was right, the scariest moment had already passed and the rest was just whatever would be. I walked home that night with baby soft skin and wet hair that reminded me of my swimming years, 3 friends who would always and forever be my ‘naked party’ girls, a new determination to make that summer dive, an item to cross off my Korea Bucket List and a craving for some grilled kimchi (I skipped dinner, remember?).

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My 2012: While you were busy Googling ‘What is a Gangnam?’…

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Any worries I had about ‘losing touch’ during my year abroad in Southeast Asia were quickly shattered one July night while I lay in a hostel bunk-bed in Taiwan. I opened my iPad to find an adorable yet slightly chubby Korean man decked out in hip glasses, a funky suit and an irresistible smirk busy bombarding every one of my bookmarked websites. That moment and many more in the following days and months reassured me that my move to Korea would not hinder my mission to stay relevantly informed about all things social. I could in fact keep in touch with friends, family and my growing passion (slight obsession) with social media creation and strategy. Gangnam Style gave me a slight home-court advantage. While most Americans were busy Googling: ‘What the heck is a Gangnam?’, ‘Where did K-Pop come from?’ and ‘Who is Psy and is that his real name?’ I had time to catch up on my backlogged and favorited Tweets from Mashable, Gawker, Social Media Examiner and more.

At first my fellow teacher friends in Seoul eagerly posted the horse-dance video, just for kicks, to all available social wall space. Then, when the YouTube view count refused to plateau, I casually mentioned the video in Skype conversation with a friend who was enjoying the summer in New England. She giggled at the elevator dance scene and commented, “Wow Devan, Korea looks like a fun time.” A week later a second reply was digitally served, “So, you know that video you showed me? It’s here. It’s everywhere. It’s blowing up.” And although I scoffed at my real-life and Twitter friends who continued to miserably misspell ‘Gangnam’ in posts and had never been out clubbing in the song’s swanky section of Seoul, I was proud of Psy and the small yet fiercely determined, extremely successful, technologically advanced and warmhearted country that I chose to call home in 2012.

As I prepare to return home to NH in the next few months and further my career in social media strategy and communications, many details are uncertain. Job searching is a job in itself, but throw in 7,000 miles and a 14 hour time difference between you and your target professional setting  and it becomes almost as challenging as mastering the horse-dance while fumbling through a few Korean lyrics about “a girl with that kind of twist”.

I know some may question why I up and left a marketing job in Boston to move to Korea to teach ESL and eat kimchi at every meal. I don’t think I will be able to answer this question fully for another few years, but I can say I am happier now than I was a year ago and I spent 2012 in close proximity to one of the year’s biggest social media stories. My time in Korea will always and forever be smack dab in the middle of ‘The Year of Gangnam Style’. Or maybe I have that mixed up: Psy’s year of fame just happened to occur during ‘Devan’s Korea Quest.’ Please, just for now, let me believe the latter to be true.

meandpsybest

photo credit

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Filed under departure, devan teacher, korea in the news, music, seoul, travel

“Call Me Maybe, Teacher?” -Phone Teaching with Korean Students-

Tonight I skipped out of work with a smile plastered across my face. I stayed an extra hour and missed my 9pm yoga class because I needed to call a long list of students and administer Phone Teaching. I call all of my students once a month and have a mini conversation with them while their proud parents listen (hopefully) in the background and come away from the call impressed (hopefully) with their child’s English skills. I practice for the monthly calls at the beginning of each class. The students groan when I pick up my fake phone, I usually use the projector remote, and dial ‘their number’ with a series of animated beep sounds and exaggerated button pushing actions. All of my students have mastered the standard conversation greeting and can convey how they are feeling. Common responses include, “I am very good today.” or “I am super happy.” Most will remember to politely ask the same of Teacher (me) and I praise them for doing so. Those who sit silently with blank stares after answering my first question are quickly reminded when I paint a disappointed look on my face. “And you, Teacher?” They quickly stumble to correct their mistake.

The rest of the conversation casually moves past the greeting to simple questions about today’s date, weather, birthdays, lunch time delicacies, favorite movies and seasons, daily fashion (“What are you wearing today?”) or lesson related questions. We chat for about 3 minutes or until I have completely stumped the child and I can sense his or her anxiety through the phone line.

I’ve never been a great phone person. I couldn’t understand the girls in middle school who could chat for hours on the phone. I am always stumbling over my words and talking too fast when I should be listening. I prefer to text about a plan and then meet and talk in person. Or Skype. During my first few months in Korea I dreaded the teaching calls. First there were the dreaded parent answers and immediate hang-ups. The parents would answer in Korean and I would quickly mention my name and school and ask to speak to their ‘Justin’ or ‘Amy’. Some parents wouldn’t recognize their child’s given English name or would be confused by my new foreign voice and I would hear the dial tone before I reached a student. When I did hear a child’s quiet “Hello…” on the other line sometimes the conversation would do downhill from there and I would be left to ask and answer my own questions while the student nervously listened.

Most students are eager to say their goodbyes and get back to whatever I interrupted them from in the first place, but some have come to gain confidence as the conversation proceeds and I have trouble finding the appropriate place to squeeze in my closing, “Great job, I will see you in class tomorrow!” Tonight one student warned me, as soon as he found his way to the phone, that our call would not follow standard procedure. The boy’s heavy breathing told me he had raced from his room to the family phone. Before I could jump in and guide the conversation he loudly interrupted my thoughts, “Hello Devan Teacher. How are you today?” I was speechless and immensely proud all at the same moment. He caught me off guard and I let him lead the conversation for a minute or so before I took back the reigns, although it wasn’t before he told me, “Devan Teacher, I have much time tonight for talk.” 8 minutes later I managed to say goodbye.

The monthly phone conversations have become a fantastic tool for measuring the increasing levels of confidence and understanding in my classroom. Many of my 7-year-olds are far from mastering English and my Korean is pathetic, but we have come to understand each other. I sometimes still hear the occasional annoyed sigh from a student as a parent hands her the phone, but for the most part my students know the routine. They know what I will ask and more importantly they know me. They know my personality on the phone. They understand my silence when I am waiting for them to expand their answer. They gladly accept my clues and helpful jump-starts (“The weather today is…”) when they are stumped. And most importantly, together we have mastered the most critical phone skill: having a sense of humor. My students have picked up on my sarcastic tendencies in the classroom and many have learned to laugh during our monthly calls. I left work tonight smiling  not because a student aced a phone call with perfect English, but because he outright failed to tell me his birthday day and month. The call had started like all the others. He mastered the greeting, told me about the rainy, cold and cloudy day that we had experienced and informed me of his kimchi (surprise!), rice (surprise!) and soup intake at lunchtime. Everything was moving along as expected until I asked the 4th question. “Can you tell me when your birthday is?” I asked routinely. “TEACHERRRRRR. YOU KNOW IT.  IT’S ON THE BIRTHDAY BOARD!” There was a moment of silence and then he broke into a fit of laughter and I did the same. “That is true,” I answered when my giggles had subsided. “Let’s move on.”

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Liebster Award

Sometimes I love my blog, I mean, it is my Korean baby that I have nurtured for the past year in my tiny closet of an apartment. There are nights where I find myself typing well into the night and laughing at my own dorky jokes that I try to nonchalantly slip between sentences of Korean observations. Other nights MyKoreaQuest is a pestering tot that nags for attention while I try and relax in front of the latest HIMYM episode (tot is one of my classroom vocabulary words this week). I ignored my blog for 6 days last week and it was the perfect time to receive a Liebster Award nomination from A Fat’s Girl’s Food Guide.   This is just what I needed: a simple reminder that people out there read my words and all of us crazy bloggers are in this together. Thank you so much fatgirlkr – keep doing your thing – I love your blog!

So…to accept the nomination you must:

1) Thank the blogger who nominated you and share their blog link in your post. Thanks again, Fat’s Girl’s Food Guide!

2)  Attach the award icon to your site. (see above)

3)  Answer some questions from the previous blogger and choose new ones for your nominees. (see below)

4) Nominate other bloggers for the award. (see below)

Ok, here goes…

1. If you could be a superhero which one would you be and why?

Catwoman – Did you see Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises? Enough said.

2. What would you eat for your last meal on earth?

I am not sure what I would eat, but it would certainly be home-cooked. I have worked in enough restaurants to know better.

3. If I gave you a $100 right now what would you spend it on?

I would splurge on cupcake ingredients. I just inherited an adorable cupcake-maker from a friend who was leaving Korea.

4. When was the last time you cried and why?

I was homesick on the phone with my mom pretending to not be homesick and crying on the phone, but shucks, that woman knows me too well.

5. Whats the last nice thing you did for someone else?

I just burned a CD for my friend.

6. What’s the best costume you have ever worn?

I was a hotdog for Halloween one year. I’m still bitter that my mom donated the costume to our local public library to work into their holiday display.

7. If you could go back in time which year would you choose?

1994 – summer

8. If  I gave you a free plane ticket where would you go?

I would fly to Boston to see my grandfather.

9.  What was the best present you have ever received?

This is a tough one…but I do smile when I remember receiving Jagged Little Pill (my first CD) for Christmas in 1995. I proudly popped out the Christmas ballads and blasted Alanis’s bitter and inappropriate words for the remainder of the holiday morning. I had no idea what I was singing, but I am sure my parents did, and somehow the CD ‘went missing’ the next day.

10. How would you spend your last day on earth?

I would love to be at the beach or at a stellar concert – maybe a concert on the beach?

11. Is a jaffa cake, a cake or a biscuit?

This is the first I have heard of Jaffa Cake, but after a quick Google image search I am going to go with biscuit because I love to shake things up.

Ok, here are the sources of inspiration for my own blog / aka my nominations. Check out these blogs about life in Korea!

Alien’s Day Out

The Wanterlust Project

Mapping Words

From Korea with Love

Lateral Movements

Live Life: A Girl’s Journey in South Korea

Waegook Tom

Margaret Tries Being

Some questions (from me) to ponder:

1) What was the first CD / tape you owned?

2) If you had to describe Gangnam Style with 1 word what would it be?

3) How many T-Money cards do you really own?

4) How do I prepare for Pepero Day?

5) When was the last time you felt embarrassed?

6) What’s a new song you recently discovered and think I should listen to?

7) When was the last time you danced?

8) What’s a saying you would love to make happen?

9) Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?

10) What time (9am, 11am, 1pm…) do you consider to be an appropriate time to wake-up on a weekend?

Thanks again for the nomination, be well and have great weeks all!

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a bad case of facebook envy & 5 lessons learned abroad (so far)

*Be the person you envy. Live the life you’d be envious of if you saw someone else living it.*

Here is my first travel piece published in my hometown NH newspaper. I hope to write a piece each month for the paper – wish me luck. I have included the first paragraph and you can click the link for the rest. What should I write about next?

Last spring I found myself up too late on a weeknight perusing the time sucker that is Facebook. I pathetically drooled over photo albums from my adventurous friends exploring the world. I fell asleep with a small seed of jealously planted firmly in my stomach. The seed grew, and soon I found myself daydreaming at work and realizing I had to do something to squash this unflattering jealousy. I undoubtably loved each messy, new, hilarious, challenging and delightful moment of my two post college years living with friends and working in Boston, but I was itching for change. It took me a few months and lots of advice and encouragement from my friends and family, but I finally decided to skip town and get lost.

Here are five things I have learned from living abroad (so far)…

Fosters Daily Democrat

 

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