Ya queremos pastel aunque sea un pedacito!!

Lesson #53) Koreans count age differently than we do in the states. The easiest way to explain this is that, for any given calendar year during which you were alive, even if just for a day, you count one year on your age. So, for example, when I was born in 1987, I was born 1-year-old because I had only been around during that one year. When ’88 rolled around, I turned 2, and I did so on January 1st because that was already the second calendar year I had witnessed. Everyone becomes the next year older on New Years (some use the solar calendar, some the lunar… whatever). Now that it’s already 2011, I’m 25, Korean age. I kinda like this better, though… I feel older than only 23, so 25 just seems more… natural.
Lesson #54) The tradition is that you must eat a bowl of a certain kind of soup for new years.  Once you eat it you become older, so, if you don’t, the joke is that you stay the same age. Or, if you are given two bowls of soup, people might playfully tease you saying that you gained TWO years to your age.
Lesson #55) If you tell a Korean that you’ll meet up for coffee with them, don’t be surprised if they get upset when you bail on dinner. Getting together for “coffee,” to them, means spending all evening together, first dinner, then coffee, then whatever.
Lesson #56) Coffee and/or hot tea pretty much ALWAYS follow a social meal.
Lesson #57) If you eat with Koreans, generally one person picks what the meal will be, and you don’t have a choice about it. Many times one person will just pay for everything but, if they’re used to foreigners, they might suggest that each pay their own way. So you may just happen to find yourself paying 6,000won for a bowl of sundae guk, despite the fact that they know perfectly well that you don’t like sundae… ick.
Lesson #58) The longer you live here, the more appreciative you become that you were born speaking English.
Lesson #59) Never underestimate the power of a good movie in influencing students.
Lesson #60) Prepare to be language confused. The other day I wanted to ask what something was, and the English, Spanish, and Korean translations all popped in my head, one right after the other. It took me a second to decide which one to use.

I don’t really have a whole lot to update you all on, though I know it’s been a while. These past three weeks have been winter camp at my school. Even though school’s on vacation right now, students everywhere are going to various schools and hagwons to study hard during their “break.” My school had three weeks of camp with the morning classes being more academic in nature, and the afternoon classes being more activity based. My co-teachers all taught grammar and reading in the morning while I sat at my desk doing nothing. Then, after lunch, it was my turn to do activities. The budget was really low this year, however, so I was given no materials to use even after I had been told I’d have money at my disposal.  So, since I wasn’t really supposed to be actually teaching anything, didn’t have a textbook, and had no money for resources, we played a whole lot of games and had some writing/drawing assignments. The students’ levels in my class were extremely varied, though, so it was hard finding something that appealed to everyone, resulting in almost always having at least one person be really bored. I wish I could have sat in on some of the other classes. Some of the teachers would bring in these bright, colorful bags of supplies, cd players, balloon animals (or other shapes), treats for the students… The office quite routinely looked like a circus. Just makes me wonder what they were up to.

We had our share of good times in my class too, though. We played some games that went over really well, like “Dice of Fortune,” which I made up based on Wheel of Fortune (the groups like chanting “bankrupt!!” while it was the other group’s turn, and “Top 5,” a game I found online based off Family Feud.” We also watched Akeelah and the Bee. I had been told by someone in my teachers’ class that it was a good movie for Korean middle schoolers, and he was right! First I explained to them about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and then we watched the movie. They got WAY into it and talked about it for the next several days even after we had finished watching it. The movie also convinced them that playing Scrabble is what the cool kids do haha. “Teacher!! I saw this game in the movie!!! Akeelah played Scrabble!” Um, yes student, she did. The movie also alluded to the fact that it was a game for nerds, but I’m glad you didn’t pick up on that lol. They asked me a few times to play Scrabble/Upwords after that and, even in playing only a few times, I could see they were getting better at it. ^^

Students also will constantly surprise you with what they do and do not know. I was asked what “yuck” meant, and, when I used the phrase “guess what” with one of my upper level students, she had no idea what I was saying. There was another boy who, while writing about what they would be if they could be/do anything for one day, wrote that he wanted to be a god so he could have all the power haha. I also had a boy who, though I knew he was advanced, proved to be way more advanced than I ever realized. He would show me these articles another teacher gave him as extra study material with questions to answer at the end of it. He’d ask for definitions or for me to check his answers. I was amazed that he was able to understand articles with such big words in them! And, not only does he understand them, but once he learns them (like, after I had given him a definition or whatever), he’s able to turn around and use them correctly. I mean, he used the word “distinguishable” for crying out loud! The last day, I gave them some free time to play Holly Golly or whatever they wanted. He asked if he could study… Over the past 3 weeks, I’ve really come to appreciate him. Though it can be somewhat intimidating when he starts asking questions like “What was your TOEFL score?” because, though I never had to take that particular test as English is my native language, no doubt if I had needed to take it, this boy’s score would have most likely been a lot higher than mine…

Still no word on when I’ll be moving to my new apartment…

The longer I’m here, the more I’m realizing just how much I get treated differently as a foreigner. There are definitely times people are rude to you or rip you off all because they know you can’t do anything about it. It’s really sad. The worst thing is knowing that this is how foreigners in the USA get treated as well, though, actually, they are probably treated worse. Growing up with my Hispanic background, I knew SO many people who immigrated to America (both legally and illegally) and I’d hear stories of how they were being screwed over but I never really realized what it was actually like. I didn’t really see it, and sometimes I thought they were just making a big to-do about nothing… but now I understand. And it’s really just disheartening more so than anything else. I just don’t understand why we all can treat each other with civility and respect.

I am OFFICIALLY on vacation!!! On Monday I’m off to Australia (hooray for summer weather!!) so don’t be expecting another update soon. It’ll probably be another 2-3 weeks before I get around to it. ^^

OK, here’s the deal. I just spent a long time trying to find a video I wanted to show you about a foreigner man and a Korean woman… but I couldn’t find it. So I’ll try and search for it for next time. In the meanwhile, please enjoy the videos below. Warning: they may not actually be funny to you unless you’ve been in Korea but… oh well. Also please note that these are generalizations and stereotypes and extreme situations, etc, and life here isn’t really like this…


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