Friday, March 27, 2009

fun times . . .

as much as we have gotten used to being in korea there are still some things that we just don't quite understand since it is still a different country, and we are foreigners in a foreign land.
so because of this it leads to some funny stories, so here is one.

one morning i was getting ready for work and i noticed that there was a button in our bedroom that i hadnt noticed before. it looked like this:

we have been in the apartment for months and i was really intrigued as to what this button was since i never noticed it before. the button is only about six inches off the ground, and why would there be a button if you arent supposed to push it? so i pushed it with my big toe!

all of a sudden a ringing alarm bell started to go off! logic being at the forefront of my mind i surmised that if i pushed the button and a noise started, then if i pushed it again it would turn off. i was wrong.

tova was getting ready in another room and ran in the bedroom and worriedly asked what was going on. i told her i pushed the button with my big toe. she was pretty annoyed with me (almost upset) she said that i shouldn't push buttons in a foreign country if i didnt know what it did.
i logically told her that they wouldnt install a button if it wasnt meant to be pushed. seriously, that would be cruel to the button's purpose in life, it was made to be pushed!
she then walked (ran?)to the living room and pushed some buttons on our apartment phone and the alarm went off.
tova said something like "you might have called the police or fire department . . ." and i dismissed her cause why would a button in our bedroom be linked to the police?

she still wasn't fully happy, but she was ok and went to school. when she got there she asked her co-teacher to explain why there was a button in our bedroom because i pushed it.
her co-teacher (not so calmly) explained that it was a button to call the fire department, and that we should NEVER push it! the reason why its so close to the ground is because since smoke rises you should be on the ground. (makes total sense)
so then tova had all the ammo and came home and told me to never push any buttons EVER, even if i did know what they were linked to! all i had for a response was to eat crow and to say "yes dear" with my head hung low in shame :-p

so, again, as much as we think we know whats going on there are still things that trip us up every now and then, and will possibly involve the authorities :-p

moral of the story: always listen to tova :-D

Monday, March 23, 2009

schedules . . .

so again, another milestone has passed. we have been in korea over 100 days! pretty awesome.

we are really in the daily grind of a normal routine. this is something that is very very important to tova and i. we NEVER have had the same schedule, even remotely, for our dating and marriage. this is something that is really important to us. there were times when i worked at 5 am, and she started work at 8:30, then there were times when i started work at 8, but had to leave the apartment at 6:45 and get home around the same time, leaving us only 2 hours together every day. we understand that there is a time when you might need to "suck-it-up" and deal with the schedule differences, but we think we have put in our time :-)
having the same schedule is really important to us, and i dont think we really understood how important it was to us until we got here. i just think that both of us dont want to feel like we are two different people who happen to see each other every once in a while. now, we know that people are different and thats ok, tova and i are very much the same in this regard, and ironically it was a major factor in us moving over here. we both wake up at the same time, get ready at the same time, leave for work at the same time, and she gets home about 20-30 minutes before me, unless she meets up with me on my walk. it is so wonderful for us, and so much what we have been wanting for years!
the funny thing about it though is that as much as we LOVE our schedules koreans dont like schedules at all. having things "sprung up" on you is the norm, and its a normal thing for koreans, unlike us westerners who like to get a memo 3 days in advance about changes: -p (which i LOVE) for instance, today 4th period was over and my co-teacher said that we needed to go out for lunch since there was a party during lunch. i was planning on eating lunch in the cafeteria (15 minutes tops) and then spending the other hour and 45 minutes lesson planning. OH WELL i wont be doing that! its just expected that you get up and go.
its not being rude, its not anything like that, its just a HUGE cultural difference. just 2 years ago i dont think i would have been able to be here in korea. i was so strictly tied to my schedule(s) and any changes in those would make me furious (in a bad way) over the past 2 years though i have been working on that a lot, and the scheduling thing is now just an annoyance, and something that i laugh at (even though i still like to schedule things, and love my day-planner!)
its amazing how God uses the little things to help you grow, and yet another lesson that we are learning/growing from here in korea. (WE LOVE IT!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cultural Differences

Please keep in mind that this post is in no way a criticism of Korea or the United States. I absolutely love both of my "homes". There are differences between the States and Korea that I find interesting, and I am only making observations.


In the United States, depending on where you are, it's an every man for himself mentality. In some places of the country (the south, small towns), it's much different, but in the majority of places (in my mind), people pretty much fend for themselves. No one really reaches out to help each other.

In Korea, it's a very community-oriented culture. People always want to take care of each other, even to the point of telling them what to do.

The other day, at a restaurant, we were given our food and began eating. The waitress left to go get napkins or something, and when she came back she observed that we were all happily eating. Instead of putting the napkins down and walking away, she turned the plates in front of each person to make sure the food was acceptably close to the eater.

A small action, but the implications were endless.

I have had someone walk me through a grocery store and point out the kind of food I should buy. It wasn't a good bargain; it wasn't the best of the bunch from what I could see. I was told I had to get it because it was healthy...

Again, a small action, but the implications are there...

I have had students at my school hold my arm and physically drag me in the direction they think I should be walking... Not where I want to go, but where they think I should go...

That is actually pretty funny... :-) I like my students! But still -- the implications...

However, there are some circumstances where the community-oriented mindset apparantley doesn't apply. For example, if an elevator arrives, there is no rule... people push and shove in a battle to see who will win -- the people getting off or the people getting on. I have literally seen physical pushing to try to get onto / off of an elevator.

Also, if you're walking down a sidewalk, there's a huge battle. Even if the sidewalk is big enough to fit four people across comfortably, it can sometimes be a game of chicken. And, no way is either person going to move! It's interesting...

What's really interesting to me is that the United States is so not community-oriented... There is a huge sense of every man for himself. No waitress would ever turn a plate to make it better for the diner, and no person would tell another adult that they don't know what he or she should eat. However, there are definite rules for the "small stuff" like elevators and sidewalks. The person on the elevator has right of way, and you try to walk on the right side of the sidewalk... And, you move out of the way of people...

It's interesting -- there is never a moment where I don't feel taken care of in Korea. I always feel like people are looking out for my best interests and being considerate. On a public blog, I can't go into the details, but suffice it to say that I am taken care of in EVERY aspect of life in Korea. It's a little overwhelming at times, but very sweet. If this is the hardest thing to get used to in Korea, then this is the life.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

1st week of teaching

wow, sorry its been a week since we updated, it was our first FULL week of teaching since we got here, so it was rather busy!

some updates . . .

the first week of teaching went very well for both of us. we both did some basic introductory things in class. its rather interesting how different our classes are in a couple of ways. . .

1st: we are teaching such different things to our students. tova has a huge arching theme for all of her classes, while mine is a little more loose planning wise

2nd: each class has its own personality. we each have 20 classes with 35-40 students each. each class is very different. i already have my "favorite class", some classes are loud, some quiet, and only one or two are going to be handfuls :-p

so teaching is going to be a lot of fun. we are both really excited about the opportunity and we are having a blast!

another thing . . . last week marked 3 months of us being in korea!

how crazy is that? on one hand it has seemed like its been a million years, and another its seemed like 2 seconds.

when we talk to family and get awesome facebook updates from people who we love and care about it makes it seem like we have been gone for so long. then during the regular days of being here is seems to be going by so quickly.

here are some awesomer things that have happened in the 3 months since we have been here.

1. we have been able to pay down quite a bit of our personal debt (THANK GOD)

2. we have gotten closer to family members, which seems like it should have been the exact opposite.

3. we have met some amazing and awesome people

4. we have both started on our masters programs

5. and we've experienced a culture totally unlike our own, but wonderful and amazing in everyway

looking back on three months we really feel like this was the best decision that we have made, and we feel like it was the right decision then, and now, and even if/when things get difficult we can look at many opportunities that we have had and be comforted that this was the right thing for us to do.

we miss family a ton, we miss friends a ton, we miss our church a ton, but we are so happy where we are, what we are doing, and what God is doing in our lives preparing us for the next phase in our lives that we are happy as clams!

thank you for all of your support, we wouldnt be half as happy without it!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

EPIK Orientation

A few weeks ago (February 21st through the 24th), Daniel and I had the incredible opportunity to participate in an orientation for EPIK (English Program In Korea -- that's us!) and TaLK (Teach and Learn Korean -- for college students). We stayed at a gorgeous resort outside of Yang Yang up in the mountains. It was a great hotel -- rooms for the events, beautiful hotel rooms, great food, a spa -- everything you could ask for! We stayed at the Oseak Green Yard Hotel. It was gorgeous!

We arrived late for the events (winter camp didn't end until Saturday, Feb 21st, and it technically started on Friday the 20th), but I don't think we missed all that much.

On Saturday, we arrived in time to eat a late lunch (spaghtti -- yum!) and then start attending lectures. We learned about team teaching from an actual pair of team teachers (an EPIK teacher and his Korean coteacher), then had an hour and a half lecture entitled "Let's Learn Korean!" After dinner, there was a rather...interesting movie ("When the Spring Comes") -- it was designed to show us Korean culture and traditional Korean singing.
The next day (Sunday), we had a Q & A session that was totally open for any questions we had about ANYTHING. That was really nice! Then we learned about what to teach and about adjusting to life in Korea. Very cool!

After lunch on Sunday, we had a cultural tour -- an old Korean home (it was gigantic!) and a fish market. It was a little sad -- we didn't get to stay very long at either one -- but it was so cool.

We got a few pictures and videos at the fish market that are really cool!! :-)

The fish market was about a zillion little tubs of fish, lots of water pouring through them, Koreans scattered around to sell you the fish, and TINY lanes to walk between the stalls. There were about four lanes total, but they were pretty long. There were also a couple of restaurants serving up the amazingly fresh fish.

We also got to see the sale of an octopus... There were a couple people who were very picky about which octopus they wanted, so they made the guy pick up multiple octopii (sure...). Then, the guy pulled it out of the water and bagged it up, while yelling for someone to bring him a box. The people pay for the octopus (20,000 won) and put it in a white styrofoam cooler. After the video ends, they wrapped it in lots of bright red tape to make sure it stayed shut the whole way home. It was interesting!! (It looks like they're out of order, but the videos are in chronological order!)

Sunday night, we had a social event at the hotel -- it was a giant norebang, but it was closer to states-style karaoke than anything else. It was fun!

Monday morning, we went to Mt. Seorak park -- it was AMAZING. We took a cable car up to a SUPER high point on the mountain. It was really scary, but well worth it!

Monday afternoon, we visited GILI to tour their school. It's a really awesome school that does weeklong camps for sixth and eighth graders. GILI also does six month teacher training courses for Korean English teachers. GILI was absolutely amazing -- I was so impressed!

Monday night, we saw a performance by a group of women and girls. It was breathtaking -- I fell in love with the traditional singing and performance. It's amazing how rich the culture and history of Korea is.

Tuesday morning, we watched the ceremony for the new EPIK and TaLK people. It was so funny -- we watched as a bunch of new people sat nervously in the same position we were in a few months ago. They had just arrived in Korea, they had no clue what they were getting themselves into, and they were about to meet their coteachers for the first time. It was nice to realize how far Daniel and I have come in a few short months -- we're so settled and happy, much more so than I'd expected!

After the ceremony, we had lunch at the hotel, then began the huge adventure that was getting home. I'll tell you that story another time. ;-) Feel free to visit our Picasa photo albums to see more pictures of orientation. They wouldn't all fit in this post! :-)

We are so grateful to be living this adventure!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

First days of school...

First days of school, and last week recap . . .

Last weeks recap: we will put up pictures on picasa and you’ll read through it, sorry L

Ok, on to this week, starting of the new semester! Their school year starts at the beginning of March and ends in the middle of December. December through February is a time where they plan for the next year, and they also have intensive learning camps. So Monday was a big day for all the schools.

Tova and I were really stressed about the starting of the new year. We had a lesson planned and we were ready to teach. When I got to school on Monday I was told that I didn’t have to actually teach until next week! Tova doesn’t really have to teach until next week as well. The pressure was off (a little) but then we attended the beginning of the year ceremony. This was crazy!

I enter the gym, and there are hundreds of teenage boys were standing in the middle of the gym facing the stage. They then were directed to say some pledges all at the same time, stand at attention, at ease etc . . . It was very different since you would never see anything like this back in the states.

There were seats situated on the sides of the standing students. When I sat down I realized that I couldn’t see the stage or anything that was going on. This is really tough since the whole ceremony was in Korean and the only thing that really would have made it enjoyable is seeing what was happening, so I sat there and applauded when everyone else applauded.

Then they introduced all the teachers. The teachers would walk on stage and their names would be said. The interesting thing is that the students would cheer louder for the teachers that they liked better. They were also jumping up and down trying to see their favorite teachers which made the floor shake. It again dumbfounded me since this was a blatant show of who they liked and disliked. Now, I was warned that I was going to have to go on stage in front of everyone. I wasn’t too worried since I thought I would be with other teachers. Then one of the Korean teachers told me that I would go up last. I was sitting there trying to hear my name, but when there are hundreds of young men yelling and screaming!

Then I looked ahead, and one of the administrators is waving frantically towards my direction, motioning me to go to the stage (I cant even see the stage). When I get to a point where I actually see the stage I realize that they are going to introduce me all by my lonesome in front of everyone! This normally wouldn’t scare me, but when it is SO important to do things culturally proper and you have conditioned yourself to watch other people so you don’t make any mistakes, and you have to do something culturally proper without any kind of hints, it was terrifying! When I started to walk on stage all the boys were trying to get a glimpse of me, I felt like a rock-star. Some of my boys from English camp were saying “Daniel, Daniel” again, kind of cool. Then something inexplicable happened . . . They called my name from the podium and the place went CRAZY! Seriously, they all love me without even knowing me. Again kind of cool!

Tova had the same experience as I did, just change Daniel to Tova, and change the he’s to she’s and there you go! :-p

We will update more when we get more time. We have beginning of the year “meetings” to attend, so we are pretty busy. (and sorry for no pictures)