Opening Ceremony

Today is the first day of the school year. The first day last year was a crazy day. First, all of the new teachers were introduced to the entire school through the morning TV announcements. Later, I was introduced to an auditorium full of parents. In both situations I had no idea what was being said. I just waited until I thought the principal was done talking about me and bowed. The actual opening ceremony was outside and I was asked to hand balloons to the 6th graders (who would later pass them on to the new 1st grade students). I was given a giant bundle of balloons and had to pass them out, one by one. I was terrified of accidentally losing one or all of my balloons and was passing them out slower than they liked. I knew this because about 3 teachers rushed over to help me. I was proud of myself. I only lost one balloon.

Today’s events were much more relaxed for me because it’s my second year and I no longer qualify as a “new teacher.” Also, the opening ceremony was indoors and didn’t involve any balloons (thank goodness!). The school’s auditorium was full of 6th graders, 1st graders and the parents of the 1st graders. One of the mothers that attended my summer and winter camps was so excited to see me. She came up, shook my hand and said, “Long time no see!” It was cute. I really like her.

I’m not really sure what the opening ceremony consisted of. The 6th grade students each escorted a 1st grade student into the auditorium. Later, each 1st grade student was called to the stage and they were given some sort of necklace and a hat. It was really difficult for me to see because the auditorium was full of proud parents with their cameras at the ready. JuHye and I sneaked out a bit early, but I did manage to snap a few pics.

Here are a few of my 6th grade girls.
They were too amused by my iPhone to pose for the picture.

Some of the 1st graders at the ceremony.
Also in the picture are my principal and new co-teacher.

I have to wear indoor shoes at school. When we have events, the parents are allowed to wear their outdoor shoes, but the school provides little booties for everyone to slip over their shoes. I found these little girls to be extra adorable in their booties.

Teachers Day

Sunday is Teachers Day in Korea, and it also happens to be my birthday. Right now the 6th graders are learning about birthdays so a few of them know that my birthday is coming up.

I taught 5 classes of 6th graders today and it was not a fun day for them because they had 3 tests: vocabulary (writing), listening and speaking. Even though it was the busiest day I’ve had, I enjoyed the day because it meant I had one-on-one time with all of my 6th graders.

During my second class, one of the boys got up from the speaking test (he only answered 1/4 correctly) and very sweetly told me, “Happy birthday!” Moments like that make my heart melt. Ahhh they’re so sweet!

During another class, I was still out in the hall giving speaking tests during the passing period when 3 girls came to class singing me happy birthday. It was super sweet. After class they came back with gifts for me. I got a card, a letter and two artificial flower bouquets. I absolutely loved it! You can click on the pictures of the gifts to enlarge the image, but in case you still can’t make out the writing, I have typed it out below.

You deserve whatever you get.

Hello! Magean~^^
I’m Grade 6-3 Kim Min-Ji.
You’re happy birthday!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
I celebrate you~
Teacher! Happy Birthday
and Happy Teacher’s Day

Bye! Bye! – Min Ji -Kim-

Magean teacher..

Hi~Magean teacher~ my name is Kim da un.
teacher ~ May 15th is Magean teacher’s birthday~!
Happy birthday to you ^^
And, teacher is very beautiful ~
Thank you!

-Da un-

Later in the afternoon my co-workers surprised me with a birthday cake. It was a good day.


Meagan Teacher

The best part about being a teacher are the students. Some of my favorite moments happen outside of the classroom, though.

One of the first lessons the 4th graders had this year was “Good morning/afternoon/evening/night.” Now I have one 4th grade girl who greets me with the time of day every time I see her, and it’s usually multiple times a day and usually in the morning. She definitely seems excited when she sees me after lunch so she can use “Good afternoon.” And just once I saw her at the end of the day and you can imagine the smile she had when she was finally able to say “Good evening.”

I have another student that loves to ask me, “Teacher, how are you?” When I ask her back, she almost always says she’s “Happy!” We have this exchange several times per day.

I always talk to my 6th graders before class and they are the biggest self-esteem boosters. The girls always love my hair, my accessories and they notice every time I change the color of my fingernails. “Teacher, your hair good!” “Your manicure beautiful!” “Teacher… S-Line!” I did get an interesting comment from one of the boys one day though. I asked him, “How are you?” and he said “Scared.” When I asked why, he said, “I saw your eyes… and they scared me because… blue!”

I know you’re not supposed to have a favorite class (or favorite students), but I definitely do. The 6th grade boys are so funny. I’m not sure what the fascination is, but many of them have renamed themselves some variation of my name. It started out as Meagan 1, Meagan 2, etc., but now they have named themselves things like Angelina Jolie Meagan, Ke$ha Meagan, Lady Gaga Meagan and Meagan 10,000.

I only teach 3rd-6th grade, but I love saying hi to the younger students because I get some of the best reactions from them. Many of them actually respond back with a shy “hi” or “hello” but a lot of the time I get a bow and “annyeong haseyo.” I’ve also gotten embarrassed giggles and then I hear the student saying something to their friend about “waygooken,” which means foreigner. They probably are just saying something like, “The foreigner just talked to me!”

Sometimes students just come and stand next to me and stare. You can tell that they really want to talk to me, but they just have no clue what to say.

I really want to take a video camera around with me when I walk through the halls sometime because it’s chaos. I’ve had students that were literally in the middle of a race down the hall with their friends stop dead in their tracks and turn around just to say, “Oh, Meagan! Hiii!”

The kids run around the halls like crazy people and it’s just something I’ve gotten used to. I was pretty much sick for the first two months here. One day I was feeling awful and just wanting to go home and go to bed when I saw a student running down the hall. I didn’t think anything of it until I realized she was running down the hall to give me a hug. Things like that make even the worst days better.

Food in Korea

When I told people back home that I was moving to Korea, one of the questions that was asked the most was, “What are you going to eat?!” I really didn’t know, to be honest. I knew Busan was a coastal city so there would be lots of seafood so I was just hoping that there would be options for me since I am not a seafood lover. I do tend to take a lot of pictures of the food here because I know everyone back home is curious about what I’m eating.

I’ll have to admit that when I first got to Korea I was worried that I was going to starve. I wasn’t impressed with the food at orientation and my neighborhood didn’t really seem to have a lot of options. I definitely craved Western food.

I do have a few options close to my house. I have fallen in love with a bakery called Paris Baguette. The one by my house is quite small in comparison to other locations, but I have found some things there that I love. There is also a Caffe Bene close by. They have tiramissou!

I have become great friends with one of the English teachers from my school. She took me to Home Plus to help me find some things I need for my apartment and treated me to dinner in the food court afterwards. It was different, but pretty good. We had some sort of fried pork. It was nice. The salad was good also. I still don’t know how I feel about the rice stuffed omelet thing, but it was a nice meal overall. The longer I’m here, the more the food grows on me. There are a lot of really great restaurants in Busan and it’s fun trying new things.

I was pretty pleased when I went to the movies in Korea for the first time. I saw Rango (in English with Korean subtitles) and enjoyed it quite a bit. It was also quite lovely because I got to eat nachos!

My friend Faith and I went to Seomyeon one Friday night to meet up for dinner. Seomyeon is like the city center and has loads to see and do. There are also many restaurants, including several Western options. We opted for TGIFridays. It was so yummy. I had a burger and Faith had fajitas.

I don’t just eat Western food here. There’s a lot of really good Korean food, as well. One weekend I got together with my friends Cilla and Sonal and went for lunch. We ate at a really great chicken place. The chicken was lovely, but it was quite spicy.  The waiter scared us a bit because when we ordered this dish, he did his best to warn us that it was spicy and even pointed and something different on the menu. I really enjoy the spiciness here. We all shared the spicy chicken and then did some walking around before we dropped by Angels in Us Coffee for some dessert… hot chocolate, cheesecake and a blueberry waffle.

Meeting my Co-teacher

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday I woke up regretting going out the previous night. I’m not sure why we thought it was a good idea to stay out so late the night before we were supposed to meet out co-teachers and move into our new apartments. I still hadn’t even packed yet! I hurriedly packed my things, but was starting to feel that same overwhelmed feeling I felt the night before I left for Korea. I decided to go get some breakfast with the girls and then come back and pack. I couldn’t eat. I went to the EPIK office to get a large sack to put my dirty clothes in. The only one they had was absolutely massive, which was fine because I had a lot of dirty clothes. I didn’t want to pack them so I thought the huge sack was a good idea. So now I had 2 large suitcases, a laptop bag, a backpack and a gift bag from EPIK.

At 9:00am we all headed over to the classroom to wait to meet our new co-teachers. Mine greeted me with an outstretched hand and a smile. We made small talk as we walked back to the dorm together. The dorm is about a 10 minute walk from where we had class. We went up the elevator to get my bags. On the way, I asked “Is school very far from here?” She said, “Yes, very far.” I was kind of disappointed and she said, “It’s about 15 minutes.” Then followed up with “By subway.” Wait… What??? We were told that our co-teachers were going to pick us up in their cars and then take us to school to meet the principal and vice principal. I didn’t even imagine being met by a teacher that didn’t have a car, especially with as much stuff as I had. When she saw all of my stuff she changed her mind about the subway. She said we would take a taxi, but we still had to get all of my things from the dorm room to the street, which was, again, about a 10 minute walk. It was such a struggle. That giant bag of dirty clothes (plus my pillow and jacket) weighed a ton. We were fortunate enough to find a taxi before we hit the street because it was graduation day at the university we were staying at and someone had just been dropped off. My things barely fit in the taxi. We had to put one of my suitcases between my co-teacher and I.

I know I was warned to take Dramamine before the car ride (thanks for looking out for me, Mary!), but I was just too busy to take it before I left for the classroom and didn’t anticipate being so rushed afterwards. On top of being prone to carsickness, I was already feeling pretty awful. The taxi ride to the school was torture. I was very close to getting sick, but fortunately I didn’t. What a first impression that would have made! I felt so much better after getting out of the car.

Meeting my principal was an interesting experience. I waited in the teacher’s lounge/secretary’s room and then I was escorted into the principal’s office with my head co-teacher and the former head co-teacher. My principal didn’t speak much English to me other than “Nice to meet you.” The co-teachers and principal spoke to one another about me in Korean and occasionally they would ask me questions about my age, family and what I learned at orientation. I was only in the principal’s office for about 5 minutes, then the co-teachers and I went outside. The former head co-teacher (of last year’s guest English teacher) had her husband come pick us up to take my things to my new apartment. Last year’s guest English teacher was still here when we got here. He was packing up his things and getting ready to head to the airport. He left the place in good enough condition. He left a lot of things here. Some I threw away, some I kept and some I gave away (like his giant collection of Magic The Gathering cards).

I left my things at the apartment and my co-teacher took me out to explore my neighborhood and to get supplies for the apartment. We walked from my apartment the closest subway station (which takes under 2 minutes), then to school (which takes 7-10 minutes), then we walked to the Dongnae Station, and then to a giant grocery store, which I would compare to Super Wal-Mart. She bought me bedding and these rice cake things and I bought some food. Then, we took the bus home because we had a lot to carry.

Once we got back to my apartment, the former guest English teacher was gone and my co-teacher helped me clean up. She also had me make a list of things I still needed for my apartment. I couldn’t think of much because my apartment was stocked pretty well. By this point it was almost 3:00pm and I still hadn’t really had anything to eat or drink all day so I was starting to feel awful. My co-teacher said she was hungry so she made us some ramen and we sat on my bed and ate. I didn’t really eat much ramen because it was too flavorful for me. I really just wanted a piece of bread or something. I ate enough to make it seem like I ate. Afterwards, my co-teacher left. I went down with her so she could show me how to sort my garbage and recycling. I had such a long day so I was looking forward to coming back up to an empty apartment. When I got back upstairs, the landlord was in the hall and he followed me into my apartment to set up my TV for me. I communicated to him that I would also like for him to setup my internet (my apartment has free internet!), and he happily started working on my computer. After about 30 minutes of trying, he asked me to follow him to his and his wife’s apartment so he could try plugging my computer into his ethernet port. After an hour at their apartment, it still wasn’t working. I told him that it’s okay and went back to my apartment with my computer. About a half hour later, he rang my doorbell and started speaking to me in Korean. I guess I should have mentioned that my landlords don’t speak English. Anyway, the only two words I could make out were computer and tomorrow. I figured it couldn’t hurt so I handed him my computer and off he went. I figured he’d bring it back tomorrow, but in about another 30 minutes he was back with my computer. This time, Google was pulled up so I knew that he had fixed it. I thanked him and then I finally had my apartment to myself.

Since I still didn’t feel well, I spent the rest of the night in bed watching Grey’s Anatomy and eating bread (finally). It was a good night. haha

I should also mention that my co-teacher came back around 8:00pm with a box of gifts from the school, and she had also personally gotten me a gift… a giant package of toilet paper. It was all very sweet. Below is a video of me opening my gifts I was given by the school…