Friday, November 25, 2011

And It's Back to Love...

I just have to say that I have the best kwanjangnim (gym owner) ever! I am not going to lie to you he has got to be one of the most genuinely nicest guys ever. Even though my attitude lately has been poor, and I've created so many problems for him, he still does everything he can to help me.

So if you read my last post, you know that I've had trouble at the gym while trying to train jiu jitsu. If you've followed me for quite sometime, you might know that I had similar problems at the last gym. I am training in South Korea, so there is a bit of language barrier. Even though I sought help from the first kwanjangnim repeatedly (at least 10 times, I even had real translators each time), he never really tried to do anything about the problem. He always told me that he wanted me to train there for a long time, and that he really valued my commitment; but really it didn't seem that way because he never did anything about how unhappy I was. Eventually, I couldn't not handle the stress from work and the added stress of training at that gym, so I quit. I decided to train at another gym. At first, it was pretty good, but then the guys realized that there was a chance that they might have to tap out while sparring me so they decided not to spar me. The kwanjangnim at the time spoke perfect English, and although I shared my frustration, he did nothing. I decided not to train jiu jitsu for a while and just do muay thai and fitness training at the same gym. Of course, after a while I got bored and wanted to train jiu jitsu again. All of the old guys that wouldn't train with me had left the gym (it's quite common in Korea for people to train for only a short period of time), so I figured it was worth a shot even if it was just for a little bit. While I was training muay thai, we got a new kwanjangnim. His English is good, but not perfect. We often have problems communicating, but he is very understanding. I trained with the guys for about a month this time before I noticed that I was sitting on the sidelines too often again. Kwanjangnim noticed it too. He also noticed that I didn't like how the guys treated me. So he started instructing the guys to spar with me. Still some would come up with the excuse that they were hurt somewhere and couldn't spar with me (obviously not too hurt to spar with a guy that's 20 pounds heavier than me and significantly stronger). Before I even talked to him he understood that I was disappointed. He understood my anger and frustration. So, he took the time to spar with me. Even before I talked to him about how I felt. One day while we were sparring, he asked me why I was upset. So I asked him if he were me and everyone refused to spar with him, would he be happy. He said, "no". The next day, I talked to him for a long time (with the help of Google Translator of course...which by the way has got to be one of the worst translations, but to give it some credit Korean and English have very different sentence structures and styles of speech so it is difficult for a computer to translate accurately). He said that he understood and that he had the same problem when he trained at a gym in Australia. The guys didn't want to spar with him because they thought he couldn't understand anything because he was Korean. Eventually, it all worked out, and he was able to spar quite a bit. Obviously, its not going to be the same for me. I have two strikes against me. Even if I wasn't foreign, I'm still a woman and no guy wants to tap out to a girl. Even though I have been training for over a year and a half so I should be better than some guy that's never done grappling before, they don't understand that. Their pride doesn't understand that. I know this. Kwanjangnim knows this, but he wants to change it. He told me that I shouldn't worry about the guys that don't want to spar with me because they aren't worth it. They probably won't be training for very long. He promised me that he would help me train more and that little by little he wants the gym to change. He also said that he wants more girls to train. I honestly don't mind training with guys (like I said before sometimes girls are a pain and there's too much squealing), but I don't mind paving the way for other girls who seriously want to train. Talking to kwanjangnim really helped, I feel better about everything. He still asks the guys to spar with me, and I still spar with him after. If one of the guys asks him to spar, he makes them spar with me first. Sometimes, if a guy refuses to spar with me, he makes them spar with the big hyungnim who in return kicks their butt because he loves me! Hahaha. Seriously, I spar with him everyday; I do get my butt kicked, but in a much nicer way.

I also read some articles about some of the professional MMA girls that train jiu jitsu. They said that they had similar experiences. Even after winning multiple professional matches, the guys still won't train with them. I also read that some of the girls won't spar with guys that aren't at least blue belts because the guys cannot control their strength. To be honest, there are only a few blue belts at each gym here in Korea (like I said most people don't commit to a gym for a long time in Korea). Most of the time, blue belts don't train every day because they get bored training with beginners (and women). So, I have to train with white belts. I'm not complaining as long as there are people to train with. When I spar with a guy for the first time, I always take it slow, and I let him make the first move. If he moves quickly, I will move more slowly than usual. If he is really strong, I will tap faster. I do try to give them a good spar, but I still let them win in the end (unless they do something stupid, like basically handing me an armbar). I do this out of respect for Kwanjangnim, not because I like the guy. Kwanjangnim asked me to go easy on most of the guys unless they are really good. There are only two or three guys that I'm allowed to seriously spar. I think that it is better this way for my safety and for the guys' safety as well. Even though, it's their own fault for being too prideful; I don't want to be responsible for hurting some one seriously. There have been several times that I do a submission on a guy, and they do everything they can to not tap. I know that they are in pain, but their pride is in the way. So, I just roll away and make them start again.

I really admire people like Kwanjangnim. He is an all around good guy...a genuine hunnam.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jiu Jitsu: Love and Hate

Seriously, jiu jitsu , at least for a woman living in Korea, is bipolar. One day, its fun and challenging; the next day it's dull or angering. Is this a problem other women jiu jitsu players have?

Okay, to be honest with you, I hate sparring with most women, too. I will not blame a man there. The truth is if you squeal when I do a move or cry when you get a slight bruise; I don't want to deal with it. If you have long hair, I don't want to deal with it. If you have long nails, I definitely don't want to spar with you. These are things that I have experienced doing jiu jitsu with women, and I hate them. Therefore, I cut off all of my long, beautiful hair. Do I like having long hair, of course, but at the same time, I don't mind having short hair and it's a little more convenient when playing jiu jitsu. Am I saying you should cut off your hair? Of course not. You can play with long hair, just make sure it's secured firmly on top of your head and out of the way when sparring. As a consideration to those I am sparring with, I also clip my fingernails weekly. They are never past my fingertips. The truth is when you grab someone to do a move, there is always a chance that you will scratch them; no one likes for you to draw blood. Of course, no one really likes bruises either but bruises aren't really messy and its a part of the game so you kinda have to get used to it. Also, it's dangerous for you too. Nails get caught on clothing often and get get ripped off which is very painful (and me on this one.) And now to the squealing part, yes, jiu jitsu is painful, but no one is really out to intentionally harm you. Everyone is just trying to get in a position of submission or win the game. That is the purpose of jiu jitsu. If you get bruised or a bump a long the way, do not cry or squeal. That just makes other people feel bad. It really is poor manners. Have I wanted to cry? Yes. Have I wanted to scream out in pain? Yes. But out of manners, I don't. Also, I spar mostly with men; so I know that if I scream or cry, they will not spar with me any more because they will think that I am too weak. All of these dislikes go for men to....I hate sparring men with long hair, long nails, and that squeal and cry. (****Ok side note here: I know from the sound of it, I seem like a very boyish sort of girl. I can assure you that I am not. I am quite possibly the girliest girl you will ever meet. I wear skirts or dresses everyday. I am definitely a high heels and make up person. I always have my toes painted. I'm girly even down to my favorite color, my favorite color is pink. Koreans consider me very much a "cutie style" person. I have what they call "egy-yo".)

So with so many sacrifices, I am continually asking myself why do I play the game. I play because this kind of fighting came naturally to me. I instinctively defend myself. It is fun at times, but it is also very painful. So why do I keep doing it? In my heart, I feel that I have to for two reasons. One, self defense. Two, it is a full body workout. We'll start with the latter. If you have met me in person, you know that I am not a small person. I could easily be very fat. If you know me well, you know I eat very little and still am not small. Therefore, I have to exercise excessively to stay fit. Jiu jitsu provides a good exercise for a short amount of time (I do not depend solely on jiu jitsu though, I run for my cardio workout). Now on to self defense, as a woman, I know what it is like to be in a situation in which I was completely helpless. I wished with all of my being that I was stronger and knew how to defend myself and others. I wanted to learn a kind of fighting in order to defend myself and others. I tried tae kwan do, but it was really repetitive and kind of boring and I never really got to try anything for real. It just seemed like a lot of pointless moves. I also tried kickboxing but once again too repetitive and it required a lot of repetitive prep work before actual sparring. There is judo, but that's mostly just take down here in Korea. The mat training here is kind of limited. Also, I would run into the same trouble in judo as I do in jiu jitsu. So jiu jitsu it is...

Now, here are the reasons I love jiu jitsu. As I said before, it is a really good exercise. Also, I am good at defense naturally. Also, it requires flexibility which I have a ton of. It requires technique which I am good at learning. I have a lot of technique. So most of the time, I get to spar the more challenging people because of my technique. I spar the biggest or the strongest or the quickest. But usually, only one time. I only get one chance. If the guy feels like I am not challenging enough, he will refuse to fight me again. If the guy feels like he could lose to me, he will not fight me again. Very rarely, here in Korea, will I find a guy that will except the challenge of fighting me continually. Do I mind fighting guys that are too big and could crush me every time? Not really. I want to practice. The truth is, if someone attacks me in real life, they aren't going to take one look at me and think "eh, she's not challenging enough...I'm just gonna walk away." Yeah, that doesn't happen. It makes me feel good when I am asked to take on the big guys. To me, it is the highest praise you could give me (on my jiu jitsu skill of course). Many people tell me my jiu jitsu is good, but they never want to spar with me which is pretty insulting to me. I feel like you are saying that I'm good, but I will never be good enough. These are the same people that are chatting me up after class or asking me out on a date. Really??? I'm sorry if you really cared anything about me, you would help me to learn to defend myself properly. So I feel like to them, I will always just be another pretty face. So, I dislike them intensely. No matter how much they compliment me; I will always dislike them. Yes, I know I keep getting back to the negatives...ugh...grrrr. Okay, so another positive, because I have technique, people often ask me for advice on what to do in certain situations. Even though my Korean is bad and there are other people that speak Korean that are better than me, they ask me because I'm weaker so they know that I can teach them how to fight the bigger and better people. Strong people don't always realize that it is difficult to do certain moves. Another positive, if a person really wants to train jiu jitsu, they ask to spar with me so they can learn. There are very few men, here in Korea, that are willing to sacrifice their humility to spar with me, but there are some. I also love the challenge of fighting someone that is bigger and better than me. It doesn't matter to me if I win or lose. I want to be the best me that I can be.

Lately, jiu jitsu for me has been unpredictable and very up and down. Even in the same day. For example today...I walked in and one of the long time kickboxers asked me if he could spar with me. He explained that he wanted to learn jiu jitsu, but he wanted to train with me because I had technique but I wasn't very strong. So he felt like he would learn more. After sparring for a short time, he was tired. So I was left alone. I sparred with no one. Seriously, I came down from a serious high quickly. The truth is jiu jitsu is a good exercise...only if you are sparring. I honestly have no clue how to get people to spar with me. I tried to go easy on people...even just taking positions with no submissions. I tried going my hardest and submitting people continually. I have never once complained about being hurt. I have never cried out or screamed when I was hurt or in pain. I have done everything I can to play this game...what am I doing wrong? What do I need to do to be able to practice? Seriously, I just want to exercise and learn how to defend myself. Has anyone else been through this? How can I get past this challenge?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

할머니 and 할아버지

Ok back to back posts are weird I know, but I just had an amazing thought about the experiences I've had here in Korea. This post is going to seem especially weird since it is so opposite of the last post. One of the biggest reasons I love Korea is because of the 할머니 and 할아버지. Old people in Korea are the best as long as you are respectful and treat others kindly. See, Koreans believe that you can feel if a person is good or bad without exchanging words. I believe this too. Mostly because I have such good relationships with people that I cannot communicate well with. Anyways back to the old people. A big example of their kindness is a couple of experiences I had today. I had gone shopping at Costco and I had a big backpack full of groceries. This old lady asked me several times to sit next to her and I told her that I was ok standing. Finally, I told her that my stop was next. She was so concerned about me, a person that most people consider a foreigner and could careless about (and if you read my last post, even kick me out of their restaurants). Seriously, it was very touching. Then, on my way home I decided to get 만두빵. The old man serving it teased me because I didn't say how many I wanted at first. He said you want twenty? I told him I only wanted one, and he said no you have to buy twenty. It was funny. I really thought he was serious at first. So I was like, yeah I guess I'll have twenty. Then, he told me it was going to be twenty dollars instead of one dollar. Hahaha. Then, he asked me if it our transaction had been fun and I told him that it was. He definitely recognized that my spirits had been lifted a bit and so he told me to always be happy. Old people are so much wiser than younger people. I'm sure if I met that man everyday I would always be happy. The truth is everyone has difficulties. Everyone has a hard life. Everyone has stresses. We think that the people we run into everyday have it easier than we do, but the truth is they don't. No one in this life has it easy. You never know what anyone is going through at any time. A person may get angry at you or do something to hurt you for seemingly no reason at all. Sometimes you just have to let it go because the truth is you don't know what they are going through. The old man I met today may or may not have been able to feel how heavy my heart was, but he knew that after meeting him my heart was much lighter. You never know what differences you can make in another person's life just by treating them kindly. It is because of people like the 할아버지and the 할머니that I met today that I love Korea and wish to stay here a very long time!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

cuz i'm all white...

So, it has been a really long time since I updated this thing once again. I really like experiencing things rather than sharing them others. I suppose I'm being a little greedy especially since I don't get to talk to the people back home very often. I'm sorry! I will try to make up for it. So, here's the latest:

The super quick update on my life for those of you too busy to read past the first few paragraphs. I'm still single, still working out, still fighting, still making friends, still going out, and of course still having many adventures.

Now to expand on these points. Yes, I'm still single. There have been some men that I'm interested in and are interested in me. Logically speaking, it really doesn't make sense. The truth is while they are friends of mine, we still cannot communicate well. We understand each other based on actions and how we treat others. So for now, I'm single.

I go to the gym everyday. Living in a foreign country can be difficult, but I love working out my frustrations at the gym. It keeps me sane for the most part. Sometimes it is difficult especially with new people coming and going all of the time. Many Koreans (like many Americans) don't have much of a commitment for exercising. Of course, they realize it's good for their health and they should do it. So they come to the gym for a month or so and then quit. The people that are committed to the gym accept me as a Daejeon person and call me sister. They consider me part of the gym family. However, sometimes the new members call me the foreigner not realizing how hurtful it is to be considered that or how much more they are a foreigner to these guys than I am. The guys do try hard to make me feel comfortable and they do treat me well. However, the girls can be a problem sometimes. The girls are the worst. Maybe 1 out 20 will stay longer than a month at the gym. They all recognize the relationship that I have with the guys, and so they try to play nice. Most of the time, they want me to set them up with one of the guys or they want to practice their English. I don't mind doing either for them. However, I do mind their attitude. They like to talk about me in Korean which I don't mind as long as I can hear what they are saying (I do understand most things as long as I can hear them). However, when I walk away to get water or something they will talk about me so I cannot hear them. If I ask them to repeat what they said they ignore me. This has gone on for quite sometime. Lately, it has become annoying because the gym is no longer peaceful for me. One of the girls asked me to dinner and asked me if I liked hamburgers. I told her no. She continued asking me about fatty foods like pizza, steak, samgyupsal, and bulgogi. I told her that I don't really like greasy foods or beef. She then, told me that she didn't believe me because she could see that I was fat. I'm sorry say what? You come to the gym once a week and eat crappy food, and you are calling me fat? Yes you may wear a smaller size than me, but we can't all be small, and naturally thin Korean women. But whatever, its one girl and she really can't help being narrow minded when she hasn't experienced other cultures. And I was fine until the week after that, I went to dinner with some of the older guys, and one of them got really drunk and thought it would be fun to tease me. He said that I was very pretty, but only my face. Not my body. I was so angry. He did apologize when he was sober and said that it wasn't true and that he says that to all of the girls, and the other guys came up to me and said the same thing that he does say that to all of the girls. He promised never to say stuff like that ever again and so while I still don't feel fine and I don't trust him I don't want bad relationships at the gym so I gave in. But then, the next week, my friend Juli was talking to the girls telling them that her students say she looks pregnant. Then, the girls laughed, said my name, and spoke softly in Korean when I couldn't hear them. I wasn't comfortable especially with all that had been said lately so I asked them to repeat what they said. I asked them over and over in Korean and in English and they said nothing. Juli even asked for them to repeat and they didn't. So instead of starting a fight, I said goodbye and went to change my clothes. As I was trying to leave, the girls stepped in my way and asked me not to leave. I got very angry and I yelled in Korean at her, and then, I walked away angrily. Not how I wanted to leave because in Korea that is extremely disrespectful and I didn't want to be that person. I received a message later informing me that everything was my fault and the girls were very sad about what I did because I am not Korean we will have misunderstandings and I should have been more understanding. However, you cannot have a misunderstanding when words were not spoken audibly. I told them I will not be held responsible for this because I did ask them to repeat what they said, and it was them who disrespected me by not repeating what they said. I received a message back in Korean asking me to repeat what I said in Korean because they couldn't understand. I told them in Korean that I didn't want to speak in Korean because I can't speak Korean well. Honestly, I am too far away from home to be brought down by such negativity from a place that usually gives me serenity. I do hate that this has happened because I really don't know how much longer I can stay at this gym, but the truth is there is no other place to go. The gym owner asked me the next day if I felt better (obviously I didn't and I still don't because the truth is even while they may say differently to him I will always be the outsider and he will always side with a Korean person). He did tell me that he understood my feeling because when he lived in Australia he hated when people talked about him as well. And it has been better since then. I've been going at a different time so I don't see the girls, and the guys are even nicer to me now. Even still, there are times that I'm uncomfortable because the truth is there is really no one to do jiujitsu with me at the gym. The only guys that will spar with me are super strong or are high school boys. I do win against the high school boys (although I let them win too; otherwise they will never spar with me again). One boy makes it so awkward though. Everytime he sees me, he winks at me. Ew. Then, one time while we were sparring, he said, "Your eyes are blue. Very pretty." Seriously CREEPY!!!! I really don't want to spar with him, but as the people that will spar with more are limited I kinda have to. So there's whats up with the gym. I still run every day too. I have cut it back to only 3km because I think I'm getting worn out. I do have another marathon that I will run in November. I just hope it won't be too cold.

I do often go on trips with my friends as well as go out on the weekends. A few weeks ago, we went paragliding in Ulsan. There wasn't enough time for all of us to go so I didn't get a chance to paraglide, but the trip itself and the view was amazing! We did get a chance to go ATVing which was fun. I go out with my friends almost every weekend. Yesterday, I went out with one of my good Korean friends and his friend. We started out at a restaurant in Old Downtown. The guys had already started eating when I arrived. Shortly, after I got there, one of the workers asked my friend if we would leave. He asked what the problem was, and the lady said that she didn't like foreigners eating at her restaurant. Hahaha. Ok, stuff like that I don't mind because the truth is she doesn't know me. She's also just a worker at a small restaurant. I have way higher connections in Daejeon than she will ever have. She is more of a foreigner than I am. So it doesn't really matter. Plus, I made the guys leave their spoons in the dish when we left (some Koreans believe that if you leave your silverware in the dish when you are finished eating that it invites evil spirits.) The rest of the night was fine, no problems. My friend was really upset though; he kept saying that he was going to make sure that the restaurant was closed quickly. It doesn't matter though karma will get her eventually!

So I think that's about it. Even after all of that, I probably won't leave this country anytime soon. I'm still very much in love with it. Where else can I get paid this much money for my ability to speak English and still have time to have fun? Plus, besides my family and friends what is there to come back home to right now? A really crappy economy and an overworked society? No thank you, I will continue to have my fun and make my money.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

mud festival and all that

So this past month has just been about relaxing. It seems like since I came to Korea every weeknight is spent at the gym, and my entire weekend is spent with friends. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love, love, love this about my life. But, I'm so tired! So while I'm still going to the gym and running every day (I've even upped my run to 7km), I've cut back on my weekends. I still go out a few times over the weekend just not every moment I'm awake. Will I stay like this? Probably not. I enjoy hanging out with people way too much! But this month I was able to save quite a bit of money even though I went on a weekend trip to Daecheon Beach. I do save a good bit of money every month, but this month I was able to save more.

So about that weekend trip....
As a foreigner in Korea there are certain things you know right away and certain things it takes time to learn. The Boryeong Mud Festival is something you know about as soon as you land in Korea (maybe even before). It's this festival with mud...shocking right? Who would have thought the mud festival would have actual mud? There are all kinds of games that you play...with mud. Who wants to get muddy right? Well, actually this mud is really good for your skin. So many people go to have fun and to give their skin a little therapy. Word on the street is that it used to be free. Now, they are charging people to get in...not bad or anything its $5 no big deal. But, they are also limiting the number of people that can go in at a time which means if you come too late (like we did) you don't get to go. Bummer right? Well, to be honest I didn't want to get muddy...I just wanted to be with friends. So we just went to the beach. I felt bad for the others because I know they really wanted to go to the festival, but we had fun at the beach nonetheless. Well, at least until I got sick. Like, really sick :( I had a migraine and I was vomiting a lot and couldn't sleep. I haven't had a migraine in probably over 10 years and even when I did I was always able to sleep. So my friend called an ambulance. We rode in the ambulance to the ER. We stayed in the hospital overnight. I got an IV and meds for the day. Guess how much I paid? $10. Yeah, American Healthcare System take notes. You can't even ride in an ambulance for $10 in America. In Korea, its free. Did I find out what was wrong? Not really...hahaha...jk...I found out in Korean and loosely translated my intestines were sick. The IV was amazing (until they took it out). The meds were good too....they kept me from vomiting and keeping the headache minimal. However, they only gave me meds for one I had to go to another hospital when I got back to Daejeon. When I got to Daejeon, I decided to go to Eul Ji Dae Hak Pyeongwon (Eul Ji University Hospital). It is one of the most expensive hospitals in Daejeon, but I like it because they have an English translator on staff, its close enough to my house and work, and they are very thorough. There I was able to find out in English what they tried to tell me at the other hospital. I had an infection in my stomach caused by bacteria from food or water. So basically, food poisoning. They gave me another IV and some more meds (some were even the same as the other hospital). This time it was slightly more expensive a whopping $20, but I also got a week's worth of meds. Still not's cheaper than a doctor's office visit in the US (and you still have to buy the meds). My only complaint was that the IV was a five hour IV and I was left alone with nothing but my cell phone for five hours and the IV stopped 4 times. Nothing too terrible. Anyways, now feeling quite a bit better. I'm still a little weak from not being able to eat much and being sick. But much better than before.

This past week was my vacation week. While I was sick for most of the week, I was able to stay home and rest. I even studied! Shocker! I actually did my Korean homework too! Not gonna lie to you, I hate studying and even worse I hate doing homework. Two things I really never had to do when I was in school. I love learning new things...I'm not kidding there. I love learning new things, but I love learning through experience...not by studying, bookwork, or reading. Reading might be the worst. Anyways, my Korean is really bad, and my friends kind of make fun of me for it. They tease me that I've been here a year and a half and all I know is "Hello". Of course, that's not true...I know a bit more, but I still have a long ways to go to be proud of myself. You remember I said that there are somethings you know right away and somethings it takes time to learn. The Korean language is definitely something that takes a long time to learn. Something Koreans don't always recognize is that a lot of foreigner's listening is way better than their speaking because they don't fully understand the Korean sentence structure. For me, I rarely answer in Korean unless I can do so in one word sentences because putting things properly in a sentence confuses the crap out of me. Anyways, in order to improve my Korean and learn proper sentence structure and grammar, I am taking a class. I've already learned so much. I still don't quite understand the sentence structure, but I'm learning more and more. Even my vocabulary is improving. I knew a lot of words to begin with, but now I know more. Wow, I'm pretty sure I've bored you enough for until next time....

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Beginnings of Summer

So after a long and brutal winter, summer has arrived. I'm pretty sure we skipped spring. At least, I didn't notice it being here. I love summer. I love the hot weather. However, I am not a big fan of the humidity here in Daejeon. Mostly because the humidity outside effects my apartment significantly!!!! Laundry takes a very long time to dry and often starts to smell bad before it dries completely, and the bathroom does not dry well after showers so mildew develops. In order to keep these things from happening, one must buy a dehumidifier or run the air conditioner. I opted for the air conditioner because dehumidifiers in Korea are super expensive. Unfortunately, my air conditioner did not come with a remote control, and the setting on the air conditioner was so low that it wasn't effective. My school provided me with a similar remote control that I was able to get to work randomly one time. However, I set the temperature super low because I thought it wouldn't work. Then, I couldn't get the remote to work anymore so I had to leave the air conditioner on, and my apartment got really cold. Well too cold for me anyways. 60*F. I was walking around in sweatpants and a hoody. Ugh. If this wasn't bad enough, my sink in the bathroom kept shutting off while I was taking a shower. Seriously? I was so grumpy! I walked into school almost in tears. My boss was like ok we'll fix it. Really? I had asked many times in a month's time in a calm cool manner, and it takes me almost crying for them to do something. Whatever, I got my remote for my air conditioner, but the landlord wouldn't do anything about the sink. So yours truly had to do the handy work for that one. Really, all of this added stress could have been avoided if they had given me the new apartment I had asked for when I extended my contract. I think my boss just hates me.

Anyways, now that everything is fixed, I'm a pretty happy Melanie. Just hanging out with my friends. Doing the same things I always do. Nothing really new. Oh except, Monsoon Season is here which means constant rain! It has rained almost non-stop for the past several days. All of the weekend plans got canceled because apparently everyone likes to hibernate when it rains. Thankfully, today we had a little break. So I went to the bike shop and got some splash guards for my tires and a basket that I can take off whenever I'm not using it. I really liked the shop owner. He spoke English really well. So naturally, I was curious as to how he could speak so well. He said he used to work for Microsoft (yeah, he was one of those guys that you called customer service and talked to...although, you probably actually would have understood what he was saying). He also had many foreigner friends that he trained and competed in triathlons with. He suggested that I should train and compete too. He told me of some public swimming pools in the area. It would be interesting. I love running and biking, both I do on a daily basis, but swimming...eeeeeeekkkk! I've only done swimming with friends before. Not that I've ran races or biked races before, but still. Maybe? It seems like it could be fun. I don't think I would race seriously to get first place, but just do it to challenge myself. It would be good. So really, nothing big and exciting going on. Just being me!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Night Life in Daejeon

Ok, so for those of you who've never set foot in Korea probably don't understand that the serious, studious Asian that you assume is a very responsible, non-partying adult does not exist. From the day they are born, Koreans are thrown into an everyday competition of who can be the best, the brightest, and the smartest. To achieve such an honor, they sacrifice most if not all of their childhood. Their childhood vanishes because as soon as they turn five years old they are given an adult-sized dish of stress. Many Korean children do not know exactly what it feels like to play because everything they do they are forced (by their parents) to be the best at. Their after school playtime consists of swim team (where they have to be the best), maybe baseball or soccer, and of course English school and/or Math school. Their elementary and middle school years fade quickly into high school which is significantly harder than Korean college. They have to study hard to get into a good college (even though once at said college its not as difficult). They want to get into a good college that will look good on their resume so they can get a high paying job. Once in college, they continue to study English so that they will have the best TOEIC score because a high TOEIC score almost guarantees a top job. So with all of this stress and no childhood memories what do these hardworking Korean adults do to stay alive? Drink. A LOT. Seven nights a week. While most of the world saves hardcore partying for the weekend, for Koreans, every night is a party. There is no prejudice. Which brings me to the beginning of my story...

Every morning I wake up at 7am and every night after school I go to the gym so I like to get a good night's sleep; so I go to bed early, around midnight. Last night was no different. I went to bed and was asleep for a good hour and a half or so when I woke up to a noise at my door. I laid still for a minute assuming it was my neighbor going into his apartment, but my heart sank when I realized someone was trying to unlock my door. I got out of bed and walked to my door to confirm whether it was in fact my door. I stood a bit shocked for a second and reminded myself that I did have three locks on my door. Two of which can only be unlocked from the inside. I also reminded myself that Korean men often come home drunk. So, I assumed after a few minutes he would realize his mistake and leave. A few moments later he did in fact walk away. He went up the stairs to try one of those doors. For some reason, he decided that those weren't right either and came back to my door once more to try again. This time, he wasn't giving up. Finally, I very rudely yelled at my door in Korean for him to go away. He spoke back to me in Korean asking me to let him in. Once again, I told him to leave. Then, I asked him what he was doing. Once again, very rudely. He would not leave. So I called my best friend, Jeffrey, to have the police come to my apartment. The guy hears me talking to Jeffrey in English. He realizes I don't understand what he's saying so he starts speaking to me in English. Say what?!?!?! How was he too drunk to figure out he was at the wrong apartment, but not too drunk to understand and speak to me in English? So then, I tell him in English that he needs to leave because it wasn't his apartment that I've been living in this apartment for over a year. It definitely wasn't his apartment. So then, he asks me to open the door and let him see that it wasn't his apartment. Hahaha. I was I am not opening up my door to some drunk man. He was like please just let me in. After that I just stopped talking, shortly after that he left to try upstairs one more time before leaving the building. Two minutes after he left the building, the police show up. Guess who didn't speak English? That's right the police. How can a completely trashed man who can't find his own apartment speak better English than the police? Fortunately, I was able to get my point across that the guy had left and Jeffrey was on his way to my apartment to help me out. They told me (in Korean) to keep my door locked until he got there, and then they left. Very helpful right? I did have a description of the guy, but they didn't wait around for Jeffrey to come and help out. Anyways, Jeffrey comes, and he's like I kind of want to see if the guy is still walking around. So he suggested we go get some juice from GS25 across the street. As we are walking toward the front door of GS, I look at the window and notice its covered in bugs...hilarious right? I'm telling Jeffrey, "Ew, disgusting look at all those bugs..." when I look past the bugs and inside the GS is none other than the guy trying to get into my apartment. What??? I shrieked and ducked down and was squealing "That's him. That's him." does that even happen? Only in my world does this stuff happen. Jeffrey went inside (I stayed in front of my apartment) and asked some questions. The guy said that he didn't do it and the cashier said that he'd been at the GS since about 1:30 which is just after the whole door incident (it was definitely him, I know it was), Jeffrey said the guy just made a mistake, and he waited with me until the guy went home. Wow, what a night, and of course, I still had to get up at 7am to go to work. Ugh.

This is the world I have come to live in, and oddly enough fallen in love with. Even though there are people that don't make it pleasant sometimes, that is life and I still love it here. It's the same everywhere. The thing is while it wasn't pleasant last night. It was hilarious in many ways, and I'm still not afraid to live in my apartment alone. Now, don't get me wrong, not all Koreans are like this. Most Koreans do know their limitations and are not drunkards. It is only every now and then that a situation such as this pops up. Who can blame them for wanting to have a bit of fun after missing out on such a precious thing as their childhood?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Big Things Happening

Wow! Reading a little bit of my last post made me realize I should probably update more often. So many things have happened since I last posted, its crazy!!! So the guy I talked about, Glen, and I dated for a few weeks before we decided it wouldn't work. We still hang out a bit, but our schedules are so different it's difficult to figure something out.

I did end up quitting the gym near Hannam. It wasn't solely because of the stripe testing. I quit before the test. It was a big combination of things. It was too far from home, it was stressful and people were being rude. I found a gym closer to my house that I started in April. Its in Dunsan Dong. Jiu Jitsu starts later, and its so close to my house that I go home before going to the gym everyday. It's nice being able to unwind a little before working out so I am able to enjoy my workout a little more. I am not quite as stressed or burned out from the gym anymore. Plus, the environment at this gym seems to be a little more relaxed. So its nice.

Now on to current events...hahaha. My schedule at school lately has been pretty nice. One of my afternoon classes got canceled so now I only have two afternoon classes, and the vice principal arranged my schedule so that I can go home early everyday. On the other hand, I do have to sub for the other teachers quite a bit. Every teacher we have found to replace the Korean teachers that quit have decided that they cannot work with children and quit too. I really hate it for the students because they keep seeing new teachers and new teachers. Its not that big of a deal for me to cover the classes, but the students are the ones that are hurt by this. They often ask me why there are so many new teachers, and I don't think I can explain or should explain whats happening. On top of that one of the private schools nearby shut down unexpectedly (I'll explain more later) and so we have a ton of new students. We have a lot of students that want to enroll in our kindergarten classes, but none that want to enroll in our afternoon classes. Director Kim said that if we had to open new classes in the afternoon as well as in the morning he would have hired another foreign teacher, but that is not the case. We have to open two new classes only in the morning. So now we need another Korean teacher. I do not have any breaks in the morning so I do not have to take on the class, but two of the other foreign teachers do. Now all of the foreign teachers have a full schedule with no breaks except me. At the beginning, I had one of the worst if not the worst schedules, but I got used to it and everything was fine. Then, one of my afternoon classes got canceled and now I have the best schedule. Plus, in the very beginning none of my students spoke any English, and we weren't using books. So it took a lot of energy to teach every single one of my classes. Now, the students know more, and we can start using books which makes teaching quite a bit easier. I really enjoy my job now, and I love my students. Sunday is Teacher Appreciation so we got lots of presents from the students. A lot of students gave us lotions and flowers. One of my classes gave me a pot of flowers and 100,000 won bank gift card to use anywhere. That's always a nice gift.

Now about the private school that closed. As an English Teacher in Korea, you have to be very careful about the places that you work. English is very important in Korea so private schools can make a lot of money if they are good. However, not a lot of private schools make it big. They often run out of money and have to shut down. In most of these cases, none of the teachers receive their last paychecks, and the foreign teachers are left in Korea with no plane ticket home. However, sometimes there are rare cases where the school is successful, and they still shut down unexpectedly. That is what happened this week. One of the largest private schools in Daejeon shut down unexpectedly. I am not fully aware of all the details, even though one of my friends told me most of it. The school had a lot of teachers and a lot of students. Especially for a private school. I cannot be one hundred percent sure if the school had money problems or if the owner just wanted to keep the money for himself. Here is what I have heard. The foreign teachers there often complained that they didn't get their paychecks on time. I heard it from several of the teachers as early as last summer. When the school shut down on Wednesday, the teachers were told that they would not receive their last paycheck, their severance pay, or their plane ticket home. The landlords, however, would be sympathetic to their cases and allow them to live in their apartments for six months even though the bills for the apartments had not been paid either. The Korean teachers did not receive their paychecks either and are out thousands of dollars in wages and bonuses. The teachers at the school said that the director took the tuition money from the students and moved to New Zealand without giving any of the teachers their final pay. The teachers have worked for a month without pay. As I stated before, private schools shut down all of the time so it is no surprise that one shut down now. What is surprising is that such a large, reputable school closed down. To kind of give you some idea how big this school is (I can't be positive how many students there were) my school has 4 foreign teachers and maybe 200 students. At one point, this school had 20 foreign teachers. If the school has a similar student-teacher ratio that would mean there would be about 1000 students. Many of the parents immediately called other schools to enroll their students. Even though they paid one month's tuition already, they are willing to pay that tuition again to enroll their student in another school immediately. They don't want their child to miss one day of learning English, and these kids are between the ages of 5-15! Now back to the teachers as I said before I'm not sure how many foreign teachers there were when it closed but at one point there was 20. If that's still the case, 20 foreigners are stuck in Korea with no job, no money, and no way home. When a small school closes, its sad, but its not quite as devastating because it doesn't effect as many people. There are maybe one or two foreigners that work there, and maybe 100 students attend the school. This school's closing has effected most of the private schools in this area of Daejeon. I apologize if my details are not accurate; I have written what I have heard. If you know more information and can clarify things a bit more, please feel free to comment and correct things. I only wanted to share this event so that other foreigners that are interested in teaching in Korea are aware of things that happen here and can take caution. I didn't mention any names because even the news kept the identity of the school a secret.

If something like this happens at Wonderland, I do not want anyone to worry about me. I will be fine. Even though it would suck that I didn't get paid. It wouldn't be horrible for me. I would probably find another job here in Daejeon. Even if I wanted to go home, I do have some emergency money saved up. Also, my boss called an emergency meeting on Friday to assure all of the foreign teachers that nothing like that would ever happen at Wonderland, and that he will do everything he can to protect us as foreigners in Korea.

I guess that's all I have for now. I will try to do better about updating more often.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wow back to back weekend posts!!!

Hey! I might actually be able to get back into this...just kidding. Don't get too excited this probably won't happen very often. I would be shocked if it does. So much happened this week I just have to share!

So Monday was horrifyingly busy!!!! All of the foreign teachers left school, so Max and I had to cover all of the foreign classes. That means, no breaks. Thankfully, Tuesday was Independence Movement Day or something which means NO SCHOOL! I needed that break after Monday.

So Tuesday night, I go to the gym. At the gym, I'm told that one of the girls that has been coming to the gym for one month is going to test for two stripes on the next test. You are supposed to wait about three months for the second stripe. Kwanjangnim said that since I'm her senior classmate he wanted my opinion. I told him that it didn't matter what my opinion was because he was the boss, and my opinion would not be fair or unbiased. Because truthfully, I've worked my butt off more than anyone else. I've trained harder than anyone else, and I've tried harder because I had to. For ten months, I've been going to this gym and never once have I gotten a break like that. I even had to wait even longer for my third stripe test. I am still really angry about this. If she receives two stripes as I'm receiving my third stripe, I will most likely quit the gym. The gym has been so good to me this year, and Kwanjangnim has been great. So I hate that something like this would make me want to quit. But the truth is, lately I've been feeling really left out at the gym. For several months, I was pretty much the only foreigner and the only girl at the gym, but it didn't seem to matter I felt like I belonged. Lately, there have been a lot of new people at the gym, and they have formed a sort of clique or something. I'm not the only girl any more and there are some more foreigners, but I get left out of good spars. I have to spar with the new people and the girls. For several months, I sparred with only the guys, and now, I have to spar with people that cannot challenge me. On top of that, Kwanjangnim wants to give the new girl two stripes???? That's not cool, and it really hurts that he didn't think it would hurt me. It was nice that he asked me for my opinion, but why would he not think it would hurt me?

Anyways, so after that, I really needed to go out! So Jeffrey and Mr. Park met me at the gym to go hang out for a bit. While I was waiting for them, these two guys walked by and wanted to talk for a minute. One of the guys, Glen, and I exchanged numbers and then I left with Jeffrey and Mr. Park. And like most good Korean boys, Glen texted me ten minutes later. Hahaha. While I'm hanging with Jeffrey and Mr. Park, Alex decides to come and join us. We had so much fun we stayed out till 5am. Which sucks for me because I had another busy day at work on Wednesday starting at 9am. Hahaha. Oh well, I survived.

Nothing really big or special happened on Wednesday, but I did receive about 15 text messages from Glen! I was kind of happy about that. He seems like a really nice guy!

On Thursday, Glen called me and asked if I would meet him later that night. Of course, I said yes! His friend, Jun Pyo, came along too which was perfect it made it quite a bit more comfortable. Those guys are amazing! Jun Pyo has a diplomatic girlfriend literally, that's her job. It was interesting learning more about them. Both guys are Korean, but they speak English amazingly well. They both are from Seoul but have jobs and live in Daejeon. They promised me next weekend they would show me around Seoul. I'm kind of excited about that because people always offer to show me places, but they never make plans to. At 2am, Jun Pyo decided to head home because we all had to work early, but Glen asked me to stay out a bit longer. So I did, we stayed out till 4am just talking. It was crazy! He's a super nice guy, and I really like hanging out with him. He's so much fun.

Which brings me to Friday, Friday sucked! It might have been because I was super tired, but most likely it was because I got all of the new, non-English speaking students. That's right, all of my lovely English speaking students that I trained to behave well went to all of the boy teachers. Who gets stuck with the untrained ones? Me. Ok, two of the classes aren't bad. The baby class killed me!!!! Seriously, one kid was grabbing my butt with both hands while another kid was pulling down my skirt yet another kid was stepping on my feet and still another kid somehow managed to reach up and pull my hair all at the same time. I wanted to scream, and I spoke Korean. I'm not supposed to, but it was necessary. Apparently, that's the standard baby class here in Korea. I'm told that sort of thing happens often. The only thing that brightened my day was text messages from friends and Glen's phone call. The end of school could not come soon enough!!!

Now party people, its the weekend!!! Friday night was Lindsey's birthday so I went to Yellow Taxi for a minute to tell her Happy Birthday. Seriously, it was probably a minute. The place was crowded, I was feeling sick, and I was tired. So I went home and slept!

Saturday, I met up with Alex and Ji Hyun for lunch at an Italian restaurant. Yummy! Then, we went for some coffee. Later Saturday night, we met up again this time with Douchi. We went to Musa's in Hannam. Musa is one of our favorite bars. They serve both American dishes and Korean dishes. Our favorite order is a combination of Korean and American dishes. It comes with gimchijan which is a sort of pancake thing but not really...its so yummy!!! It also comes with sausage, cheese sticks, french fries and tater tots. Yay! When we got there, we noticed that the whole staff was new. As usual, our waiter brought us some free soda as a "service". Normally,they do it when the owner is there because he's friends with us. However, we didn't see him. So we asked about it, and they said that the owners had changed. I'm not exactly sure why they gave us free soda then. Hahaha. It was really funny because all of the servers kept looking at us. One of them stared at me for the longest time. It was really kind of funny because he wanted me to look at him, but I wouldn't. So then, he took out his phone and started fixing his hair using the camera. It was hilarious. I mean he's not a bad looking kid, but seriously he's probably 19 in Korea which is 17 internationally. I would go to jail. When we left, he raced to the check out counter, so he could be the one to take our money. To my surprise, he spoke in English of course he had an accent that showed English was not his favorite subject in school, but at least he tried. I'm not so harsh that I'm not going to give the kid credit for trying, but still he's probably at least 5 years younger than me (I can almost guarantee he's 9 years younger). Anyways, it was a good time. I love my friends!

So I guess all that is left is today. Today, I went to Costco. I found New England clam chowder and chips and salsa. That's the jackpot in Korea. Then, I came home and did some housework. Later, I decided to go to Time World and spend my gift certificates from my students. I had received 300,000 won gift certificate to the Galleria which is all of Time World this year. I spent 100,000 on a backpack. So I had about 200,000 more to spend. Thankfully, they gave me mostly cash back when I didn't spend the whole thing this time. I bought some pearl earrings because I left mine in the States, and I bought a Swatch. I still have 20,000 left in gift certificates, but like I said they did give me a lot of cash back. It was definitely a good day for shopping! I am proud of all my purchases!

My wish for next week, please let the baby class be better.

Monday, February 28, 2011

One year Complete

So this week was my one year anniversary of arriving in Korea. I still love everything about Korea. I do get frustrated every now and then because it seems like people don't fully understand everything I say, but its a part of being in a foreign country. I am almost always confused about something, but for me, I think that is a good thing. I lived most of my childhood not challenging myself to do anything. If you knew me in school, you probably know I didn't study and I did my homework during my classes. I didn't study because I didn't really have to as long as I did the work, not too mention I didn't know how to study, and I hated the task of doing it. I never really had a challenge. Now, I live everyday in a challenge. Its a challenge to understand things. Its a challenge to understand people's feelings because they don't express them here. Its a challenge to learn the language and the culture more. Its a serious challenge to learn the manners and the social rules to go out with people. But I have never met a person, that never wanted to see me again because I forgot to give them water first at the table. It can be a bit embarrassing at times because they correct you in front of everyone, and of course, they all laugh. Its fun for me because its new, and its fun for them because I act like a Korean child even though I am an adult. Most people love teaching me about their culture and traditions. Most of the Koreans I have met have adopted me as part of their family, and they treat me as such. It is an honor for me to have met such wonderful people in such a short period of time. The hardest part of living in Korea is that everyone leaves. The past three weeks have been the hardest for me yet because I absolutely hate saying goodbye. Many of my younger brothers at the gym were called to serve in the army this past month. I knew Tae Su, Song Sok, and Simpson would leave this month, and I knew it would be hard for me, but I didn't know that Du Song, Jin Taek, and Seung Gil would go too. Tae Su and Song Sok were my best friends. It was really, really hard for me to see them go. They were really the only ones to take their time to show me things, and we would hang out after. I really miss them already. I don't think they will come back to Daejeon and that's what makes it so hard for me. This past week the foreigners that I worked with this past year left. No one decided to stay except for Max and me. So I had to say goodbye to them too. Also, this week many of the other foreigners I have become friends with this past year have left to go back home or to other places. I also have many Korean friends that graduated from college and are trying to find jobs overseas or have already found jobs overseas. This past weekend alone I had four goodbye parties that I attended. It was very hard for me emotionally. It has been hard for me at work lately too because Max and I have had to cover the classes the other foreign teachers used to teach. It has been stressful because we are supposed to make lesson plans for our new classes, talk to our Korean partner teachers about our new classes, train the new teachers, prepare them to take over our classes, prepare ourselves to take over the new classes, and at the same time finishing the curriculum for our current classes. On Monday, I only had one twenty minute break between afternoon and morning classes, and that was used to get the books I required for the afternoon classes I was substituting for. One time during the day, the Vice Principal came to find me while I was teaching one of my regular classes; apparently, they scheduled me to substitute in a class during the time I was teaching my regular class. She told me that I was supposed to be in the other class, and I told her that I have taught this class all year and asked her which class she wanted me in. Seriously, I cannot teach in two different classrooms at once; don't get angry with me when I didn't set up the schedule. This month has definitely been stressful and overwhelming, but I think it will be worth it. The rest of the year should be amazing. I have the same age group for morning classes that I had this past year, and I have the baby class. The baby class is so cute! I'm excited! I think I have good afternoon classes as well. Now, if only I can get through the rest of this week. Thank goodness we had Independence Day today and got the day off. I don't think I could have done this everyday this week!