Shoulders are just too sexy to be seen

Eunmi is wearing an adorable spaghetti-strap floral-print dress, with a t-shirt underneath to be appropriate for school.

Although as a rule, one sees very few shoulders around Korea.  I feel exposed today, sitting in my sleeveless top, habitually pulling up the beater underneath every half-hour.  It’s not just because we’re in school.  The fashion style in Korea emphasizes short shorts and skirts, and pairs them with tops and dresses that are often a few inches away from being classified as turtle-necks.

Legs are celebrated and flaunted, but heaven help the woman who dares show a peep of cleavage.  Style of dress will definitely be a size-able culture shock.  I might viciously judge every other woman I see my first couple nights out.  Or just wear tank-tops and v-necks with abandon.

Back to Eunmi.  I told her I loved her dress, and she said she had just bought it, “For Europe.”  (She and So Jung are going there for vacation.)

“But you know, in Europe, I won’t wear the t-shirt with it.”

That’s my girl.


Q&A: Education Setup in Korea

My lovely Aunt emailed me a loooooooooong time ago with bunches of questions.  Here’s my stab at answering them, based on my experiences and what knowledge I’ve managed to grab.

You can also check out my “17 Things You Don’t Know About School in Korea” if you missed it the first time around.  A couple of those overlap with what follows.

Edit: Whoops, already found somewhere I was lacking information!  Take all of this with a grain of salt, as it goes.  I just lived here people! I don’t know anything! Continue reading

Gotta get a visual

Pictures for Facebook-less-family!

I walk up these. Every day. Multiple times. 'Cause all the teachers are together in different offices, and you go to the different classrooms for class.

The smaller building at the end houses the gym and cafeteria. I go in one much more than the other.

Roses grow like CRAZY here!

So animated

Rae likes to bake. I like to eat. We're good friends.

A student showed me some pictures of her as a kid. She's adorable. She also talks to me every day and asks what the lunch menu is. I love her.

They're re-enacting a movie. I'm going to pretend they're fellow Star Wars fans, and call it a day.

She's crazy. We're the same. She also calls me, "Hender!" because "Henderson" is too long for most students to realize it's all one name.

Adorably avoiding smooches. Girl in the glasses brought a HUGE bag of snacks for the last after-school-class, bumping her up to favorite-status.

I don't know what will happen to my self-esteem when I leave this place.

"Teacher, let me see!....OK, good. Good picture!" Why? 'Cause there's no way to even tell who you are??

Love. Them. This absolutely cracks me up. --"English ?????? WHAT?"

A student took this for me--she wanted to make sure I remembered all the Korean snacks. "American snacks, not that good. Korean snacks, best!" To celebrate last classes, or to celebrate exams being over, you can tell you students, "Snack party!" and they all bring snacks. I now realize why we always had to make "cultural food" in Spanish class. Teachers get hungry, too.

Seriously. She's nutso.

But I wish we could be bffs.

I don't think she was ready...


I wanted to take pictures of them with their emails, so I could remember which was which. I'm not sure how much these pictures will help me...

Something along the lines of "teacher, thanks for teaching us English, come back from America, teacher we love you." Seriously, my ego will completely deflate after living here.

The student who wrote this said she wants to go to school in America...

Yes, I AM happy to go to America, but you have no idea how much I wish our countries weren't so far away.

There are no left-handed people in Korea

Or so I’ve heard.

I’d heard rumors, by way of message boards and idle chit-chat, of students who are left-handed being forced to write with their right hands.  Something to do with left-handedness being seen as impure.

It would make sense, as left-handedness has often been considered as evil or unlucky or other various forms of “bad” in different cultures throughout time.

Which brings us to my own observation.

I have a student with virtually no fingers on her right hand.  She has a thumb and four nubs.  Yet she writes with her right hand.  Well, she holds a pen with her right hand.  Even when I help her with answers, I’ve never seen her scrawl more than a couple of words on worksheets in my entire semester thus far.  She usually erases the haphazard letters right after writing them down.

It upsets me how she seems to left-behind in classes.

Out of curiosity, I did a quick scan.  Sure enough, every single one of my 39 students in that class write with their right hands.

Now, I know being left-handed is slightly more common in men than women (so maybe there is some truth to the superstitions after all 😉 ).  So it’s possible they’re actually right-handed.

I’m also not experienced with losing fingers.  Maybe if you’re right-handed, it’s still easier to write with nubs than switch hands.

Or maybe every single one of my 1200 students is right-handed.

Edit: Another teacher out in the country said she’s never seen more left-handed people than she has in Korea.  So I don’t know what’s going on.  Food for thought anyways!

I just like giving them things to talk about

I’ve taken to doing work outside during free periods and/or lunch, because otherwise I just will never see the sun.

Honestly, it’s ’cause I’m cheap and vain.  I want to chop my hair off.  I want to still be some shade of blonde.  My roots have grown in over the winter, and I don’t want to shell out for a color/bleach job.  So I sit outside and let the sun work its magic.

I’ll probably get fed up soon and just chop it off anyways.  It’s highlighted.  Good enough.

That’s not interesting.

What’s kind of interesting is, my coteachers have never heard of this concept of the sun giving your hair highlights.

Makes sense, I guess.  As you may have guessed from people walking around with umbrellas and buying all that skin-whitening cream, sun-worshiping hasn’t exactly caught on here.

Still…I don’t know.  Sun takes the color out of things.  Well, except your skin.  Maybe that’s where the disconnect is.

It’s just interesting how many things I’ve come into contact with here that I assume to be second-nature-knowledge but actually just depend on the culture you grew up in.  Like the deal with the whipped cream.

“I like sitting in the sun because my hair will get lighter.”

“What?  I’ve never heard of the sun doing that.”

OK.  Cool.  Well it does.  Just takes a freakishly long time.

I also wouldn’t mind a bit of a tan.

Clash of values, that last bit.