Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A monumentous occasion

SO, it finally happened. After almost 3 months of teaching kindergarten in Seoul, one of my students peed her pants in my class.
Backstory on bathroom breaks-- In my class of 5 year olds (so really, they are like 3 and 4 years old), certain kids ask to go to the bathroom every time I set foot in the classroom. I'm sure you know, we've all tried it, to get out of a boring lecture or as an escape (why they'd want to miss even a minute of my stimulating class, I'll never understand).
When they do actually go to the bathroom (as a group), it's like a ten-fifteen minute ordeal. First, they have to line up. This alone is a challenge. Trying to direct 11 ADD Korean 4 year olds to get into a straight line without hitting each other or eating crayons is a real task. So then, we walk to the bathroom where the boys split off from the girls and end up locking themselves into the stalls in pairs and all you can hear is giggling and little voices speaking in Korean. After much prodding from the mean American teacher (aka, Shemen teacher), they exit the stalls and get up on little stools in front of the sinks where instead of actually washing their hands, they think it's a great idea to splash around and get soaked. So needless to say I usually don't take them to the bathroom when I am teaching (the Korean teachers have more control over the students).

So, as I mentioned before, I'll get the random student asking me once in awhile to go to the bathroom by themself during class. It's always a risk to let the 3-4 year old child go to the bathroom alone. They may never return. So when this little girl asked me to go, I said no (thinking that she really didn't have to go). If the child asks me more than once, usually I'll let them go. Because they have attention spans the size of gnats, I figure if they remember that they have to go to the bathroom 5 minutes later, they must really have to go.

Anyway, the pee-er's name is Pink. She's a little slow. She's very sweet and everything, but a coworker and I think she's on drugs. She is off in her own little world more times than I can count and is the type to stare off into space and you can just tell she's thinking "look at all the pretty colors........."
So she asked me once to go (which I denied), and then the next thing I know she has her hand raised and I go over to her (forgetting all about the fact that she asked to go to the bathroom) and there was PEE all over the floor and chair. We were making construction paper crowns that day so there was some pieces of construction paper laying in it too. Nice touch. So I immediately remove her from the classroom and tell my supervisor what has happened. Everything got cleaned up rather quickly and Pink was given new pants...but I couldn't stop laughing.
When you've gotta go....

Sunday, January 15, 2006

More Barbie pics

I'm a Barbie girl, in a Barbie wo-orld

I went to the Seoul Barbie exhibit with my good friend (and supervisor) Angie. She is my best friend here, and she is truly awesome. She speaks English really well, and is soooo funny and helpful and just great.
Anyway, there were over 2,000 Barbie dolls displayed. There were so many different themes, and outfits, it was amazing. Many famous designers designed outfits for Barbie (Christian Dior, Bob Mackie, Burberry, Vera Wang, Gucci, etc...) some of the dresses on the dolls were valued at over $200,000! It was amazing. There were also Barbie dolls in traditional Korean hanbok costume, Harley Davidson barbies (I was so excited about that one) and every imaginable display you can think of: Barbie at the gym, pregnant Barbie (although her body was still skinny, just big belly), wedding Barbies, Lord of the Ring Barbies, 1950's thru the year 2000 Barbies, Hollywood barbies (Audrey Hepburn, Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, etc...)and even trans-gender Barbie--(or at least that's what he/she looked like) It was truly amazing. They even had Barbies that look like real models (Giselle, Kate Moss)...I took soooo many pictures, so I will let them do the talking. Can you guess which one is transgender Barbie?? Hopefully it's not too difficult to figure out.

Ah-sah!!! ("Awesome" in Korean)

Friday night, I made an appointment at a spa for a facial. I have been looking into massages or other relaxing things here, but evidently the Korean massage is not so relaxing. They pound you and pull you around, and that's not my idea of a relaxing time, so I decided to try a facial. It was recommended by my trainer at the gym. I went there Friday night after work. It was a very nice spa--soft lighting, waterfall statues in the corners, nice smelling...so I go in and the lady instructed me to strip down and put on a robe. Then I went into the room where I was to get my facial, and laid down on the table. It was heated, and it felt sooooo good. The hour-long process was wonderful, so many creams and masks were put on my face, and they all smelled so nice. They massaged my face and head a little bit too. And they played relaxing music--or at least tried to--there is a bar next door called "Sexy Bikini Bar" so while I was laying there I could here their rap music being played! It was ok, since I liked the songs that I heard. It was just funny as I was laying there being pamered, to hear Ludacris.
To top it off, the hour-long experience was only $10!!!!!!!! Back home it's at least $60/hour. So I will be sure to get many many facials while I'm here. It was fabulous!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The doctor

Well, I made my first trip to the doctor yesterday. I've been getting sick almost every week since I've arrived (maybe it's because kids wipe their snot on me...hmmmm), and this time it felt like a sinus infection. I decided to kick this thing once and for all and get some antibiotics. I went to a doctor across the street from my work building. You just go in, give them your insurance card and alien card. The receptionist didn't speak English, so that was fun. I got right in to see the doctor--there was no wait, and I hadn't made an appointment. He didn't speak English either, so I just sort of acted out what was wrong with me. I pushed on my face around my nose and under my eyes, and made a "blowing nose" motion. He looked in my throat, then shot some spray up my nose and looked in it. Then he said "nasal infection". Ok. fine. The doctor called the nurse in, and she ushered me into the next room, where she proceeded to pull out a needle. She motioned for me to PULL MY PANTS DOWN and bend over the table. Sweet. A shot in the ass. Haven't had one of those since I was 5. I had no idea what they gave me. Then I went back to the front desk. I had to pay 3,000 won ($3). Then, after noticing that I can't understand a word of Korean, the nurse took me by the hand and dragged me down the street with a piece of paper. She brought me to a pharmacy where luckily, the pharmacist spoke English. He gave me a 2 day supply of pills, which they neatly package into each dose (see photo). Evidently they usually only give you 2 or 3 days of drugs, and then they ask you to come back to see the doctor in 2 days (unlike the U.S. where they give you a whole bottle of pills). So I am supposed to go back tommorow. That's fine with me since the whole process took under 15 minutes.
The pills and the shot didn't really seem to help the first day. I went home after work and slept from 8pm until 7am the next day. Today at work my face hurt. There was a lot of pressure. Tonight I feel a little better.
The whole experience is funny, it just shows how much trust we put in doctors. I have no idea what I am taking (for drugs), but just because I acted out that I have a sinus infection I assumed that he understood. And I guess the shot in the butt is standard practice. Unfortunately, I didn't get a Snoopy band-aid.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I just planned a trip to Vietnam over my Lunar New Year break. I have a 4 day weekend, so I wanted to take advantage of that time. It's at the end of January (28-31). Everyone in Asia seems to travel over that holiday, so prices are higher, but I think we found a pretty good deal. I am going with a girl Kelly from school, and her friend Jen (from another YBM school). It should be great. We are trying to take a boat trip along Ha Long Bay, which is famous for its beautiful scenery (see picture). There thousands of limestone mountains in the water. Hopefully I'll get to take pictures like that....it's sooooo beautiful.
The more I talk to people who have traveled in the Asia area, the more I hear that Vietnam is one of the favorite destinations. Everyone I talk to say how beautiful it is, and how friendly the people are!
Things seem to be insanely cheap there, from what I've seen in my research. A 2-day boat tour including meals and one night lodging is $18 US!!! Almost too good to be true!!!

If any of you have been to Vietnam or know people who have, any pointers would be appreciated!

Conflicting messages

Here are some funny things I came across recently....

First, the sticker. I found that sticker in a store and couldn't resist buying it. Wow, what great encouragement!! Such positive attitudes! Can you believe it?

Second, the sign. That was on a street corner. Hmmmm, I guess the toliet and KFC are both necessities. Or maybe they are correlated somehow. Go to Kentucky Fried Chicken, and you'll need the toilet...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Fireworks are not illegal

Wow. My New Year's Eve was awesome. I didn't know what to expect, because Koreans don't celebrate the December 31/January 1 New Year as much as they do for Chinese New Year (which falls at the end of January this year). Of course, we planned to go out anyway. To put the icing on the cake, I had a 3-day weekend. Perfect.

The regular group of foreign teachers, their Korean girlfriends, and my supervisor went to the city center to celebrate. On our walk there from the subway, there were people everywhere selling these long stick-like fireworks. We bought some, of course. They shoot up about 30-40 feet in the air and there is a small sparkle. They closed off the main street around 11 pm, and people started going crazy shooting their fireworks in the air for the next 2 hours. Nonstop. The air was thick with smoke and bright shooting fireworks. There was also a traditional Korean band dancing and playing their instruments in the street close to where we stood. At midnight, the city shot off big fireworks off the top of one of the taller buildings. We couldn't see them too well, but the street we were on was so amazing and filled with fireworks going off that it didn't matter. I took some pictures but it doesn't do it justice. I also took video with my camera. I wish I could share that with you...
Oh, by the way, it's also legal to drink in the streets of Seoul. Anytime. Even when shooting off fireworks. Weird.
It was an amazing site. Thousands and thousands of people were in the street, and there were big TV screens up on the buildings (like Times Square in NYC) so we could see the crowd. These are pictures of the crowd shooting off fireworks, and the backside of one of the Korean bandmembers.
I hope you all had a fabulous New Year's celebration and may 2006 bring many enriching experiences!

Happy Birthday to all Koreans!!

Weird. So I just found out that in addition to the weird aging system that Koreans are 1 year old the day they are born (not after a full year of life), all Koreans turn a year older on January 1 of each year, NOT on their birthdays. All the kids in my kindy class today were saying "teacher, I am 6 years old now" and I'm thinking "god, all their birthdays couldn't have been over the weekend". So I asked and yep, the Korean system of aging keeps getting weirder and weirder.
So here's a thought...a kid who is born on December 30 is 2 YEARS OLD 2 DAYS AFTER S/HE IS BORN. True that. Double true.
So, even though I am 27, I am 29 Korean. Too confusing for me...

You heard it here first folks. Who knew?