Raw Audio: Teaching Kindergarten on Two hours of sleep

It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

My hagwon put on a speech contest for the kindergarteners, I started having serious issues sleeping (now I can’t sleep in the mornings or when I lay down to sleep), and I continued to cough horribly for the fourth week in a row. Several students also quit this week.

I also suffered that most horrible of a world nomad’s fears when my grandmother passed away. I am preparing a proper post for her, but this recording is from Friday the 27th Korea time. The day of her memorial in the USA.

I slept about two hours before this recording was made. All that above to explain why I sound a bit angry towards the end of this.

Featured in this recording:

  • A four-year-old wandering into my classroom unsupervised
  • Circle time negotiations
  • My heavy coughing
  • The mysteries of trying to add an hour to the time
  • Call and response teaching
  • 37

Click here for the raw audio!

One Last 2016 Hike: Geumnyeongsan to Gwangalli Beach

It was a great day here in Busan. Warm, calm winds, and clear skies like we used to dream of in Shanghai. We got up early with the intention of going on a hike with a group, but after we realised they were climbing the highest mountain in Busan and intending to do it in a mere three hours, we chose to go our own way.

20161231_123441.jpg

Best photo I’ve ever taken with a phone, right here.¬†

20161231_122152.jpg

Best photo I’ve ever taken with a phone, right here.

We’ve climbed a fair few mountains in Busan, including Jangsan this week (with the added excitement of land mines!). This hike started at Yangjeong Station and just went straight up the closest mountain.

20161231_125557_hdr.jpg20161231_122041.jpg20161231_125715.jpgWe walked through a neighbourhood of alleyways that would have seemed sketchy in most other countries, but in Korea is perfectly safe. Past a giant solar array and then up the ‘ajeossi route’ (read: kick your arse route) to the ridge above Gwangalli Beach.

It was a bright and beautiful day, and not too long of a hike. It’s a great route if you don’t want to spend 4-6 hours walking up a steep hill. Once on the ridge, it’s mostly downhill. I’m slow at going uphill and not exactly a professional athlete, but we made it from the station to the sea at Gwangalli Beach in just under three hours.

20161231_141746.jpg20161231_141750.jpg20161231_142224.jpg20161231_142330_hdr.jpg

Things I had forgotten about Korea

I lived in Korea the first time from February 2012-February 2013. I turned 25 here, which felt like a whole new era of life turning over suddenly. I actually felt like an adult for the very first time. This week I found out that (male) citizens of Athens at the time of Socrates could not vote or participate in politics until the age of 30. In all honesty…that’s not all that different from the current climate of over 60s dominating the political life of the US and UK.

But I digress.

I met my husband in Korea. I solidified my teaching vocation in Korea. I lived alone for the first time ever in Korea. I moved in with a boyfriend for the first time ever in Korea (and the only time, as we just celebrated four years living together this week).

I may have written a Thank You letter to China, but Korea and I have history.

Now that I’m back, some things that I had forgotten are coming back into full force.

img_5756Food is very cheap and also very expensive

You want 500g of ginger for 50 cents? Korea is for you! You want to pay $25 for a small block of cheese? Korea is for you! I could buy a feast at a cheap-ass restaurant for less than $10, but if I want to cook at home in my tiny-ass kitchen a small basket full of groceries at Home Plus often costs more than $50. Those are Whole Foods prices for basics.

Eating in Korea can be a paradox. Eating out is often cheaper than in, and unlike back home it is relatively healthy.

Cafe Culture is Pervasive

I’m writing this from a local coffee roaster cafe, which is just so very atmostpheric in the rain tonight. There is soft music in Korean and the hill outside is covered with people going about their afterwork business.

I could go to a new cafe every day and never be able to cover even just the ones in my local area. I could also go to the Starbucks down the road (a new addition when we lived here just four years back), but I like local. The couple running this place are kind and the coffee is genuinely great.

img_5152

Oh God, Soju. I Had Forgotten Thee.

I’m such a lightweight these days. A single half bottle of soju and I’m hung over completely the next day. When I last lived in Korea, I admittedly never had to be at work before 2 PM (except during the craziness of intensives). But still, I was four years younger and I was able to handle my alcohol a little bit better.

Soju now is a rare occurance in our Korean experience. It has to be a special occasion. We had a very stressful week and on Friday went out for galbi. We shared a couple beers and a single bottle of C1 soju. I woke up feeling like someone had run sandpaper through my intestines. I mean, we still went on a hike and all (because Korea). But it was rougher than I remember soju being.

Tiger Moms Are Real

They are impeccably stylish, have impossible standards, and care deeply about the success of their children. It is hard at times to understand where they are coming from, but the truth is that I’m a little bit in awe of the Korea Mother. I honestly don’t know how they do it all. I hope that at some point I can befriend women my age and be able to speak to them in Korean, if only to gather a bit of their insights into how to squeeze so much into their family lives while looking like a professional did their hair and makeup.

IMG_2251

Some People Are Genuinely Startled By My Eyes

Blue eyes are surprising in a sea of dark ones. To quote my students on the first day, “You are scary.”

It doesn’t bother me. Globally and historically, my colouring is ridiculous. Add to that my giant size and general penchant for clumsiness and I know I would stare, too.


We’re right on the precipice of the Three Month Slump here in Korea, a dangerous time for the mental health of any global nomad.

At three months, the magic (or in the case of Korea, happy nostalgia and vindicated homesickness) have worn off and the daily annoyances of living in a place grind heavily on one’s last nerves. At three months, you want to know why the motherfucking Post Office isn’t open at a reasonable hour. At three months, you pretty much want to leave.

But I know that this is temporary and that it appears with clockwork-like precision in every place I’ve lived in the last eight years (and it is nearly eight years now that I have not lived full-time in the USA). I do love Busan. I do love Korea.

I hope that I can stick it out.

walk to work with me

I walk to work now. Even if I have way too many teaching hours and I ache all over, statistics say I should be as happy as if I were paid 40% more.

In Shanghai I had a 35-60 minute one way bus commute. I don’t miss that at all, from this year of thirds in China, Iceland, and Korea. It was nice to listen to a podcast on the way home but it made my 45 hour work week into a 55-60 hour one.

Now I walk for 4 minutes to get to  work.

Come. Let’s walk.