Sunday, April 27, 2014

Payday Treats, Sewol Sorrows.

Here's another weekly update from over here in Seoul. I am quite busy these days (I have lots to do for applying for renewal for next year) and I haven't been overwhelmingly happy, mostly because of the Sewol incident, so this week was a little subdued

I found cheese sticks at the store!!

Koreans are very affectionate with their
friends. My kids hold hands all the time
My life: Part English teacher, part craft maker

Wednesday lunch special: Porridge, pineapple, a dinner roll
with a hot dog stuffed inside, and DDEOKBOKKI!!

And then we went to our favorite Mexican
restaurant for pre- Korean class margaritas.
And burritos. I swear, the margaritas make my Korean

Thursday was payday, which means we finally had the money to spend guiltless-ly at the new Godiva store in Hongdae! 

This is like $100. Still too expensive
for my salary... somedaaaaay

Cool boxes. I should hint that whoever sent me
my mystery birthday chocolates should consider
sending me some godiva next

But seriously, I STILL don't know who sent me that box of chocolates on my bday. IF YOU'RE OUT THERE, TELL ME WHO YOU ARE. SERIOUSLY. OR SEND ME A CLUE. PLEASE. THANKS.

Got a milkshake instead of an expensive box.

DELICIOUS. They live up to their name,
"Chocolate decadence." 

It was also Thursday that the "Yellow Ribbons of Hope" campaign made it's appearance in Hongdae, so I will address it now.

As you know, the situation has turned quite a lot more solemn in Korea in regards to the ferry. Last week, when I posted, there were still glimmers of hope. But, with nobody rescued since the day the ship sank, with the misinformation and the time that has passed, it is with great sadness that the operations switch over from rescue of survivors to the recovery of the dead. The death count is officially at 187 (tho they cannot access a room where they know around 50 bodies are).

If you want to break your heart, you can read this beautifully written article by a professor from Seoul National University, "To young students under the sea"

I don't agree with his point about cancelling trips- it is not the students' fault this happened, and cancelling the trips won't solve anything. Regulations need to be updated and enforced so this doesn't happen again, but cancelling the trips isn't the answer. That just means that the practices can continue until another tragedy happens. Korea needs to wake up and make sure that it is doing everything it can for their youth and citizens, which includes proper training, up to date inspections and tougher safety regulations.

My heart is broken and angry. There are reports of heroism in the tragedy, but there is also heartbreak. Students are being recovered with broken fingers, showing their desperation to fight to get out of the ferry. A pair was discovered with their lifejackets tied together, apparently in the hope that they would not have to face death alone. Many of the bodies have been found desperately clutching ID cards, probably in the ope that, knowing they were doomed to die, that their bodies could be identified, so their parents would have someone to mourn. 115 are still missing. Some of those bodies that were pulled out were only hours, minutes dead. The rescue was mismanaged, miscommunicated and mishandled, and as such, so many young lives were lost, the incredibly poor judgement of the captain notwithstanding. By the time evacuation was ordered, for many, escape was impossible. Many of the navigation crew now face criminal charges, but that won't bring the children back. Messages of hope have been posted on classroom doors, chalkboards, and around Danwon high school. Even in Seoul, messages of support have sprung up, like this week, near Hongdae.

Prayers and messages of hope

Yellow ribbons of hope

It hurts that so many lives were so carelessly handled and then abandoned. I can only hope that South Korea, and the rest of the world, grows from this tragedy. And I hope that the students trapped under the cold sea can find peace among the stars.

I've been pretty upset about the whole incident, but life has to go on, especially when I am not directly involved. Not wanting to be alone on Friday, I met up with Lauren for dinner.

BBQ with lauren

then we stopped to share dessert

 I also got a random towel at school on Friday?
Apparently the Aramdan (scouts) had extra towels, so I got one?

On Saturday, Sarah, Lauren and I hit up Myeongdong to prepare for the nicer spring weather. This also meant that we ate a lot of street food

ddeokbokki and mandu

lemonade bag!

Cat cafe mascot just, chilling?

We took a break for some Caramel Ribbon Crunch
frappucinos. YUM

something bright catches my eye. then i look closer

looks kinda like someone had too much fun
in the craft store. Oh, Korea.

Cute notebooks to motivate me to study
more Korean ^^

And now, some education on what the air quality looks like in Seoul on various types of days.
This is a "the air quality is normal/good" day
in Seoul. A mask is not necessary, and it's fine
to be outdoors.

This is a "the air quality is poor" day, where
you shouldn't really go outside unless you
have to. A mask is a good idea now.

This is what the yellow dust looks like
when the levels are unsafe, and outdoor
activity should be avoided, especially
for children and the elderly. This doesn't
happen suuuuper often, but it is annoying.
You definitely should wear a mask if you
go outside.

This is an old video I forgot to upload waaaay back when I went to the fish cafe in Myeongdong. Lauren thinks it's weird, and Sarah says "this might be a once every 5 years kind of a thing" haha.

To keep my spirits up, and to keep my Kpop of the week going, I present to you the awesome Super Junior with "Sexy, Free and Single." Why does this amuse me so much? Just listen. I defy you to tell me that you don't hear "Sexy, free and single, I'm ready to bingo!"

That aside, it's a pretty good hair era for them, and damn do they rock that guyliner.

In all seriousness though, please continue to keep the families of the Sewol tragedy in your hearts. It's an incredibly tough time for them, and the revelations are only getting worse. Hopefully Korea will become a stronger, safer place because of this tragedy.

Also, less important, but wish me luck on my renewal process in the next few weeks. I'd love to stay here another year. Good vibes to you all.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

8 months in the Land of the Morning Calm

Happy 8 months from Meercat Christina!

That's right! Friday marked 8 months since I arrived here for this adventure in South Korea. It's been a crazy ride, and it feels like it's been a long time, but at the same time, 8 months have flown by.

This week was busy, but also very subdued. As most or all of you know, there was a disaster here in South Korea, where a ferry carrying hundreds of high school students capsized and sunk on the way to Jeju Island. The students were going on a class trip, and about 250 people are still unaccounted for at this point in time. Sadly, as the sun sets here in Seoul as I'm writing this, they've recovered a few more bodies, bringing the count up to 58, and most people fear/are accepting that that number will be much, much higher, and this will probably be South Korea's worst maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Being a teacher here, this tragedy hit me hard. The students were going to enjoy a trip to Jejudo, a place I visited and loved. They were only around 16 years old, just a few years older than my beloved students, who were also supposed to go on a trip to Jejudo this year (though I'm sure that isn't happening anymore). I see young students every day, including high schoolers giggling with their friends, probably discussing boys and hope and dreams... I am not a parent, but my students have become my babies, and I cannot imagine how the teachers, parents, friends and families must be feeling right now. I wanted to give all of my students a big hug and hold them tight this week...

I will give lots of kudos to South Korea right now. To acknowledge the scope of this tragedy, most things paused this week. No kpop comebacks, no variety tv broadcasts, no new drama episodes. My school picnic was cancelled, as I imagine others were, in order to pay respect to the victims of this tragedy. It probably doesn't help much, but I think it's a pretty neat thing. It's not all roses though. There was some serious mismanagement of the situation and information (it was first stated that everyone had been evacuated off the ship- sadly, we know this wasn't true), but what's done is done. Mistakes were made and a terrible accident happened. My heart hurts for everyone involved.

As the operations transition from rescue to recovery, I ask that you keep the families and friends of the victims in your hearts. Thank you to everyone who asked about me, messaged me or thought about me. Your love and support means a lot to me.

It's hard to deal with, what with the tragedy hitting close to my heart, and it's hard to swallow. It's hard to imagine that the world keeps turning and life goes on, when for so many, it feels like their worlds have ended. I can only hope that everyone has learned from this, and that those who were lost are never forgotten.

Sorry all, it's been a draining week. But here are some things I ended up doing.

I found this picture of Swan Lake on my camera. It's pretty
clear, so I just wanted to post it. 

On Monday, I got my hair done. Apparently, they don't use heat lamps in SK, so it takes and extraaaa long time to get my highlights done. But the lady who owns the salon lived in London for like 7 years, so we had a lot to talk about! I feel kind of bad when I get my hair done, because I'm not much into small talk, but after a little bit of chatting, I felt more comfortable and opened up. I always want to tell them I'm not trying to be rude or ignore them, I'm just a quiet person!

such a glamorous process, I know

I should wear it like this all the time, right?

getting my hair misted?

Flowers outside of my school

Dancing cows

Christmas pillows? It's APRIL!

Wednesday lunch is the best lunch!

A cozy cafe, where Sarah and I studied before our Korean class

Another shot of the pretty flowers. 

Mom and Dad's Easter package arrived at the perfect time.
It was definitely a pick me up after the sad, stressful week
we'd been having

On Friday, my students were launching bottle rockets. Apparently, it was a schoolwide competition. It was fun to watch!

action shot

Setting up the rockets

I met up with Sarah to study for a bit, and we also celebrated
8 months in Korea with some chocolate covered honey butter

I had a productive Saturday- I cleaned, studied, worked out, cooked and caught up on TV. It may seem boring, but after the ferry (and other stress at school- the nurse asked me to tutor her, and I had some anxiety issues telling her no because I hate saying no to people, but I am not allowed, nor do I have time. But I needed Young Ah to help me because the nurse's english level is low and I couldn't explain it to her myself. Ugh.), I needed some peaceful, no-rush, no-stress down time.

And then Sarah sent me this pic.
Her caption was:

Sometimes we take creeper pics on the subway. Sue us. Korean style is usually real cool. This is... not...

On Sunday, I went to a park by the Han River to have a picnic with my friends Sarah, Janell and Mona. We stayed there fore quite some time. We bought snacks, fried chicken and wine, and had a lovely day, chatting, joking and people watching. It was a beautiful way to spend Easter.

Janell, Sarah and Mona


This guy saw us squeeing over his dog, so
he brought it over for us to pet. It was SO

We had a beautiful day!

In happy news, I finally got asked about my renewal. Well, more like my handler came up to me, said "Hey Christina, I heard your sister is coming and that you want to stay here. You want to renew for next year, right? Let me get the paperwork." Except she hasn't actually given me the paperwork, haha. 

I'm nervous though, because I have to do an open class for the Principal, the VP, my co workers and maybe parents? I'm not sure. But I DO have to have an open class, and it's with my newest co teacher, and we are still figuring out how to work together. I think it's just a formality, but I can't help but be scared! I reaaaaally want to stay, and my handler basically told me not to worry too much, but you all know me. Worry is my middle name. So, in the next few weeks, wish me luck so that I can stay here for another year!

And for your enjoyment, here's a video of my students. The first part is my 4th graders singing a song to help them learn about time, and the second one is 2 of my crazy 5th graders acting out "Let It Go." They're funny, even though I now despise that song.

And for this week's Kpop, here's Super Junior M with Swing.

Keep a lookout for Sarah's bias (Eunhyuk, with the glasses) and my bias (Kyuhyun) at the copier at the beginning of the video.

BUONA PASQUA!! Happy Easter everyone! Please keep South Korea in your hearts, thoughts and prayers!