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I asked my students to give suggestions for what my mom should do if she were to visit me in Korea.

Outside of the usual, like eating kimchi and going to Gyeongbokgung, I got some pretty creative answers:

  • You should make some Korean friends. Koreans are so kind so they will lead you.
  • She should wear short clothes.
  • You shouldn’t go anywhere because everywhere has many people.
  • She should wear cool clothes.
  • She should meet Psy.
  • She shouldn’t go PC Room.
  • She should eat horse meat. She should sleep. She should ride horse.
  • She should see Jenna.
  • She shouldn’t ask how to go somewhere. Because people can’t speak English.
  • She shouldn’t call the sea between Korea to Japan “Sea of Japan.” There name is not “Sea of Japan,” there is “East Sea.”
  • She shouldn’t go to our school.
  • She shouldn’t go to the club.
  • She should eat Oreo cereal.
  • She shouldn’t hit someone.
  • She should take a gift for me.
  • She should master Korean.
  • She should live.
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Happy Workers Day?

So apparently tomorrow is “Worker’s Day” in Korea. I’m assuming this is a Labor Day-esque excuse to have the day off in celebration of workers. I didn’t know about this day because public school teachers are apparently not considered “workers” and therefore don’t get the day off like most other Koreans.

However! My coteacher just got an email from the local Board of Education “strongly suggesting” that native English teachers be given the day off even though kids will still be in school and all Korean teachers will be expected to work.

On one hand, I suddenly have an extra day off tomorrow which is never a reason to complain. But my coteacher had to say this in front of all the teachers in the office, who still have to come in to work tomorrow. Once again the chorus of “좋겠어요…” makes me feel awkward and guilty for the special privileges that I get at work.

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Last full day in Luang Prabang:

- Hummus wraps and fresh mango cheesecake
- Rented bikes and exploring the outskirts ofthe city
- Best massage of the trip followed by ten minutes in a sauna so steamy you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face
- Spring rolls and banana flambé overlooking the Mekong at sunset
- Final souvenir shopping and had enough money left over to buy myself a gorgeous hand embroidered skirt

Not a bad ending to a great vacation! Now just one overnight bus and two flights away from Korea.

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Only three hours in Laos and I can already tell it’s going to be better than Cambodia. We ate delicious food with beer and extra drinking water for $3 each, and got a fruit cup with mango, papaya and dragon fruit for desser on the way home. Tomorrow we’re going to hike out to a waterfall. Loving everything so far!

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All done with Cambodia, now we’re off to Laos

Cambodia was great - spending two full days in Angkor Wat being the obvious highlight. Now we’re heading up to Laos for five days.
We decided to forego a 30+ hour bus ride from Siem Reap to Luang Prabang, and decided to purchase a last-minute flight instead ($200 a pop, which is more than we were expecting to spend but considering the fact that spending more than a full day on a bus would still cost $80 each we thought it was worth the extra).
I’m really interested to see how the two countries compare. According to the guide books and the Internet research we’ve done, Laos is far less touristy than Cambodia. Angkor Wat means Siem Reap basically revolves around tourism, which means that there are tons of services and it’s easy to get around, but in some ways the city ended up feeling pretty manufactured - so it might be nice to be in a more authentic environment.
Laos is also known for its slowwwwww pace. The guides warn again and again that nothing is going to happen when it’s supposed to - we’re planning more than a few extra hours for our final bus ride down to the capital to catch our flight back to Seoul. This is perfect though since our plan for Laos is to enjoy our vacation time by taking it slow, getting some massages and eating copious amounts of food.

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It’s currently 28 degrees in Korea. It’s 77 in Cambodia.

1. CAN’T WAIT TO FEEL COMFORT AGAIN.

2. Uhhhh…getting to the airport is going to be an adventure. There’s no way I’m bringing my winter coat down to a place that doesn’t drop below 70 degrees at night and carrying it around for two weeks. So the plan is to wear only a light jacket, sprint for a taxi to the bus terminal and grab a bus directly to the airport so we don’t freeze too much.

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Winter Break Life

Why is it that the more time I have to work with, the less I get things done? Namely, blogging.

I have been so absent the last few weeks, and there’s really no excuse. So I’ll try to catch everyone up a bit on what’s been going on over here during winter break so far.

1. After spending an incredibly chill Christmas resting up from a long semester, I was excited to spend New Year’s with my really good friend from high school who decided to come over for a visit.

She was only able to stay for a week, so we decided to spend a few days down in Cheonan and then head up to Seoul to do all the typical touristy stuff. For a few reasons, we really didn’t get as much done as I thought I would. For one thing, she was here during a record breaking cold snap, which made it incredibly difficult to do anything outside (aka shopping, seeing palaces, walking anywhere including to and from restaurants bars and clubs at night.) Plus this was basically her vacation from running a small business, so she wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of rushing around trying to cram activities into a short visit. 

In any case, we ended up spending a lot of time just hanging out and catching up, which was perfectly fine with me. We did make sure to go to the spa and soak in an outdoor hot spring bath for a few hours, and I think I can safely say that her favorite thing about Korea was the food. I showed her all my favorite dishes, and I think there wasn’t a single thing that she really disliked.

2. After my friend went back to the States, I started up my Winter Camp. Like last year, my camp was with about 10 students for four hours a day. Rough. But unlike last year, it was only for one week rather than two, which made a HUGE difference.

Once again, I will point out what a BAD IDEA it is to bring ten middle schoolers (half of them boys) into school during their winter break and stick them in a room at nine in the morning and not let them leave for four hours. I don’t care how well behaved the kids are, they will go a little crazy by the end (and so will I, to be honest). Now, imagine you get three or four boys who signed up for the English camp because they assume that the foreigner teacher will just let them goof off and play games the whole time. These not so well behaved students go REALLY crazy by the end of four hours in a classroom.

It wasn’t as bad as last year, because even though the boys clearly didn’t want to be there, they at least didn’t act out like the students did last year. And having to plan only five four-hour lessons rather than ten was quite a relief, let me tell you.

My overarching theme for the week was media, meaning we talked about newspapers, commercials, weather forecasts, music and movies. Unsurprisingly, the music and movie days were the favorites, but I think they also enjoyed things like writing and presenting their own weather forecasts and creating an infomercial product. Well, the girls enjoyed it anyway (the boys were a little too cool for most of the activities, of course, but at least they grudgingly participated.)

3. Finally…my winter break travel plans! I’m actually going to Cambodia tomorrow. Even though I’ve had plenty of time and I’m all packed up, I guess I still haven’t mentally prepared myself for this trip (this is a total theme for me - I never feel like I’m really travelling until I get to the airport.)

One other friend and I are heading down tomorrow and meeting another friend there who has already been travelling around Thailand. We’re spending about a week in Phnom Penh and Siem Riep (Ankor Wat!) and then heading up to Laos for a few days and then back to Korea. I’ve done some reading up and planning for the trip of course, but my friends have done more of it, so I’m really not sure what to expect in some of the places that we’ll visit. But I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted!^^

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"In conclusion, to parents and teachers, vacation is time for students to play and rest. Think of our future. Do you think studying is the best way to make bright future of the country? I don’t think so. Experiencing something we don’t know is more important than learning new knowledge. You might say studying is what students have to do on their age but, reality is different. We think it’s time to change your mind. Think carefully."

— From an essay for the school newspaper by one of my second grade middle school students arguing for a longer summer vacation (this year they had two weeks of vacation).

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Before Sunset. On Penang, Malaysia.

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Under my Umbrella. On Penang, Malaysia.