Tag Archives: teaching

cuter in korea

cuter in korea

I love being inspired by Korea’s continued cuteness that I spot in random places almost daily:

1) My students furiously fight for a place at my white board during the 5 minute class breaks. I beg them to use the bathroom or get a drink of water so as not to interrupt the next class session with inconvenient breaks, but they always want to take the precious break time to impress me with their drawing skills. How can you not love this drawing of ‘Devan Teacher’?

2) I love spotting splashy eye-popping colors plastered on such mundane objects such as this delivery truck. The pink is just perfect!

3) Dunkins is continuously impressing me with their iced-coffee holders. This one is just adorable!

4) Who doesn’t love finding a reason to smile while you are fighting with the pencil sharpener? My students are often interrupting class to sharpen their pencils. Korean children are obsessed with maintaining perfectly sharp pencil tips. I urge them to hurry the process along – but I can’t help but smile at the sharpener.

“You have to be willing to get happy about nothing.”
– Andy Warhol

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May 28, 2012 · 2:21 pm

back to Bikram or how I will soon be able to calm down an angry Korean

A friend from college who spent two previous years in Korea quickly became my go-to source for random questions and concerns before my final decision to sign, stamp and send my teaching contract back to my recruiter. She planned to return home to the US shortly before my own departure date. I was lucky enough to meet up with her in Boston for a quick drink and a much needed pep talk that reassured me I was making the right decision by moving to Korea (“Korea!?” – all my friends/family at holiday gatherings).

I left our rendezvous slightly terrified but extremely excited – speaking with her made my upcoming move seem very real but her apparent infatuation with Korea was contagious. I madly scribbled notes across pages of my planner that were soon forgotten, but the piece of advice that I most appreciated was something I did not write down but put into practice last week. Her advice was this, or at least this is what I took from her words: Teaching will be your day job, but it should not be the only thing that defines you in Korea. Make sure to do the things you love in your free time, even though it may be a bit challenging at first due to the foreign language and culture.

I kept this advice in mind and slowly settled into my life in Korea. Fresh off a job in marketing, it took some time to adjust to teaching. Soon I found myself comfortable and enjoying my time in the classroom. I spent my free time meeting new people and exploring Korea. I took my friend’s advice and kept up with my (and in many ways increased) blogging and creating a home within the world of social media. I have enjoyed working in social media professionally in the past and I majored in writing in college, so I thought coming to Korea would be a perfect opportunity to expand on these passions. But after countless nights spent staring at my computer screen, I knew I needed to balance my online time with something social, active and mentally rejuvenating (don’t worry – I won’t get too yogi on you). Running does this for some, but it just doesn’t cut it for me. I consider myself lucky to live so close to the river and its carefully manicured path, and I enjoy a long walk or run a few times a week, but my first love will always be yoga, specifically Bikram yoga.

I put my feelers out among foreign and Korean friends and came up with a few different options for yoga. Online searches were a bit disappointing because the only certified Bikram studio appeared to be in Seoul and the rest of the hot yoga websites were in Korean or unsearchable with an English Google search. I found a few hot yoga studios within 20 minutes of my apartment, but I was a bit put-off by their mandatory expensive 3+ month packages and inconvenient locations. A few weeks ago a friend pointed me to a studio that is a two minute walk from my work. S Hot Yoga is located in the corner of the 4th floor of one of many 10+ floor buildings in a business area – I don’t think I would have found it myself. Knowing that it was hot yoga and not Bikram, I was a bit hesitant to commit to the studio. With the help of my Korean co-teacher I found the studio website and was elated to learn that the hot yoga class followed the Bikram postures I know by heart. I bravely visited the studio one evening after work and soon realized no one at the studio spoke English. It was a struggle to acquire a small business card with the schedule and pricing printed in Korean. The woman at the front desk appeared flustered at the sight of a foreigner, I just kept smiling and saying thank you in Korean as I pointed to the stack of cards behind the desk and gestured that I wanted one. I later learned that I was the first foreigner to visit the studio, so I regret surprising the staff and creating a sense of stress in the serene studio entry-way.  It took me a few weeks to muster up the courage to once again face the nervous front desk staff and also part with a significant amount of my paycheck. I finally woke up ready to get my yoga on last week and now I can’t believe I waited this long to do so.

Luckily there was a fellow yogi checking in at the front desk who knew a bit of English when I arrived. I pointed to the three month package price and attempted to hand my credit card to the front desk staff. They were hesitant to take my card, I think because they knew the classes were in Korean and they didn’t think I understood this fact. I tried to explain that I knew the yoga and did not expect an English class and finally the other yogi chimed in explaining that I knew (to some degree) what I was getting myself into. Eventually I was able to pay, fill out a new member form, leave my shoes in the entry-way (1 thing I knew from Bikram!) and get ready for class.

The locker room was easy to maneuver and impressively equipped with individual lockers and locks for each yogi, plenty of space to change and do hair/makeup, hair dryers, floor length mirrors, a handful of showers and free products galore. The actual studio was standard and provided yoga mats and towels free of charge for each student. (Not having to lug a sweaty and disgusting mat and towel home after class – score!)

The class commenced with a slight bow and a “Namaste” from the teacher and I was immediately at home on my mat as she rambled on in Korean. Some of the other yogis couldn’t help but look over at me during the class, and I can’t blame them. It must have been strange to suddenly see a tall American fumbling through the poses in the front mirror. Although the class was entirely in Korean, I was able to follow the movements and poses by remembering the Bikram dialogue and by observing the other students when the poses were altered a bit.

The class was Bikram-like, but differed slightly:

* *The room was not as hot as Bikram. The website states that the room is heated to 38 degrees Celsius, although it seemed a bit cooler. I do miss the extreme heat, but it is still hot enough to sweat and move fluidly in and out of each pose.**

* *We did the two breathing exercises twice, but all other poses were only performed once. I do miss the chance to go deeper into each pose during the second attempt, but now I just have to make sure I don’t slack in the first and only pose. (1 hour class!)**

** The teacher came around and actually touched us! This seldom happens in Bikram. At first it was strange, but after a few fantastic adjustments and deeper stretches I was secretly hoping to be corrected as she scanned the room.**

** The Savasana (Dead Body Pose) was not a leisurely recharge. I only had time for one breath before setting up for the next pose or sit-up.**

** There were a few times I found myself confused by slight class alterations. For example, once after Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose the studio erupted in loud clapping and slapping noises. Instead of gracefully centering oneself on the mat to prepare for the next pose, everyone was hitting their legs with a great amount of force. I quickly recognized this as a method Koreans use to loosen up their muscles after stretching. Small changes in class bring a smile to my face and make for an interesting class. I do love the regimental nature of Bikram, but while abroad I don’t mind if my yoga comes with a Korean twist.**

After a week of classes I found myself understanding a few of the teacher’s corrections and commands. I am in no way flaunting my Korean language skills, but I can now sense when the she wants us to “go deeper” into a stretch or “center our hips”. I have also picked up on a few specific Korean words and hopefully soon I will be able to repeat them and not just recognize them: “inhale”, “exhale” and of course “relax” (after each pose). So, I may not be ready to order at a restaurant or direct the cab home without the help of my smartphone, but I soon could potentially bring an angry Korean down from a state of outrage: “Inhale, exhale and relax.”

Here are two of my most challenging / favorite poses:

pictures/descriptions from http://www.shotyoga.com/hotyoga/info4.html

“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are”.  Jason Crandell

“The real pleasure, the real peace,  the real enlightenment is to give. The more you give the more you get. If you give 10, you get 100.” Bikram Choudhury

Namaste for now.

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Filed under uijeongbu, yoga

ARC: so official

hunger games <3
hunger games ❤

This past week I found myself feeling a tad jealous of my friends and family back home in New England soaking in the unseasonably warm weather. As if missing the HUNGER GAMES PREMIERE wasn’t enough (I have to wait until next month)!!! I felt the most resentment when I was running against fiercely cold wind and the sky began to spit snow on Saturday. I’m not a fan of the cold or snow, so I was very lucky to have such a mild winter. My months in NH before Korea were snow-less, except of course for a freak small snow storm on Halloween weekend. Since arriving in Korea I have experienced a few cold days, but nothing extreme. The weather has been pretty predictable spring weather…what the weather should be in NE. I guess I will just have to deal with all the annoying Facebook statuses for now: “BBQ and drinks outside!”, “I just got a sunburn during my lunch break!” and “Heading to the beach!”. I did discover that my apartment building has a great roof-deck this weekend – I am pumped to soak in the sun as soon as possible. Enjoy your short-lived tans New Englanders!!

I received my ARC (Alien Registration Card) this week – so I am OFFICIAL! It’s nice to have an ID to carry around. Most of my friends from training had to wait until they got their ARCs to set up a bank account or purchase a cell phone. I was lucky and was able to do both of these things without one.

I finished my 4th week of teaching on Friday and completed mini report cards for each student I teach. My time in the classroom has flown by, but it was interesting to look back and realize how much we have accomplished in the past few weeks. Many of my students have become much more confident in their English abilities. A few were so shy and it was a struggle to get them to utter a few words of English in week 1. Now they are raising their hands and are so eager to read or answer questions out-loud in class. Of course it didn’t hurt that I encouraged the “points” system. During class I have all of the student names on the white board and each time they earn a point for doing something fantastic I mark it next to their name. If they earn a certain amount of points during class they can collect official paper points from me at the end of class. They can use the points to buy snacks and candy from the school. It is amazing how much these students value their points. If someone acts up during class I simply erase one of their points on the board and the student quickly ceases any disruptive behavior.

I went into Seoul on Saturday with a new friend I met in Uijeongbu. We met up with 2 of my college friends for dinner and then headed back home early around 11pm to avoid the subway shut-down. If you go out in Seoul you have to either head home early at 11pm or stay out until 5:30am when the subway re-opens (or pay for an expensive cab). Every time I venture into Seoul I gain a bit more confidence in my subway navigation skills. It’s great to know if I want to I can get myself into Seoul and home again no problem. I have also mastered a few of the buses in my town. I can get from my apartment to downtown Uijeongbu or to the subway station. I still have a lot to learn of course…

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Lastly, here is an excerpt from an article about Obama’s trip to the DMZ today. He was in my backyard (kind of):

CAMP BONIFAS, South Korea (Reuters) – President Barack Obama peered across South Korea’s tense border with the North on Sunday in a show of solidarity with U.S. ally Seoul and a message of resolve to Pyongyang’s new young ruler in his country’s nuclear standoff with the West.

Arriving on the eve of a global summit on nuclear security hosted by South Korea, Obama flew by helicopter to a U.S. base on the edge of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) as a solemn North Korea came to a halt to mark the 100th day after “dear leader” Kim Jong-il’s death.

“You guys are at freedom’s frontier,” Obama told about 50 troops crammed into the Camp Bonifas mess at one of the world’s most heavily fortified frontiers.

“The contrast between South Korea and North Korea could not be clearer, could not be starker, both in terms of freedom and in terms of prosperity.”

He spent about 10 minutes on a viewing platform at the DMZ, talking with some of the soldiers on guard as the flags of the United States, South Korea and the United Nations flapped loudly in the brisk, cold wind.

(http://news.yahoo.com/obama-visits-tense-korean-border-ahead-nuclear-summit-024028940.html)

 

 

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Filed under korea in the news, seoul, uijeongbu

internet is life

So first of all…I apologize for my tardy first official blog post IN KOREA! I made it through training week (phewww!) & I am now settling into my apartment/teaching…and I finally have internet!

It has been a crazy few weeks since my last post. I learned on Tuesday 2/14 I would have to apply/collect my visa before Friday 2/17, catch a 6am flight in Boston –> NYC –> Seoul on Saturday 2/18, arrive in Seoul 6pm (Seoul time) on Sunday 2/19, and then start training (medical exams & teaching exams) at 8am Monday 2/20…and I thought I was leaving AT LEAST a week later. Oh boy. I rushed through my last few days at home packing, completing my lingering to-do list, and of course saying goodbye to many friends & family! Thanks for making the time to see me on such short notice!! xoxox all

I didn’t really have much time to get nervous…I had so much to do! I don’t want to drag on…but I made it to Seoul! The trip was surprisingly straight forward. My heavy baggage was a struggle, but I managed. Chungdahm (the company I am working for) was great with explaining the entire travel process….I felt like I was following a scavenger hunt map. Ex. 1) Make your way through customs 2) Find a bus at 4b that is black and red 3) Exit the bus and find a cab that looks like –> a drawing . . . it was so simple!! I made it to the hotel and was about to crash when a few fellow trainees invited me to dinner. Why not? We went to a Korean BBQ restaurant and although I usually do not eat meat I found myself consuming crispy pork stuffed into lettuce leaves. I quickly realized that I will have to be more adventurous with eating here – Koreans love their bbq meat!

Training week was intense – but I believe that it did help prepare me for my first day of teaching. I am teaching young students. Some of my classes know little English and others can read at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. My school recently implemented the young student program, April English, they used to just cater to older students.

I hope to use this blog to post various thoughts/loves/frustrations/adventures etc. of my new life in Korea. I am not sure where I want it to go but I know I don’t want to neglect it! We will see what happens

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Be well.

Goodbye (ahn-nyong-i kah-se-yo)

Devan

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