One more reason I heart Yura Han

I am sick. As in put my head in a vice, I can't stop shivering, goddamn these multiple trips to the bathroom in an hour kinda sick. So I'm home.
I woke up this morning (or maybe it was last night) to my phone ringing and vibrating under my pillow.

Me- Hello (in my sickest and most pathetic voice.)

Little voice on the other end- Mindy Teacher, why are you sick?

Me- Yura, is that you?  

Yura- Yes.  Why are you sick?  When will you be better?  I miss you Mindy Teacher.

Me- I miss you too, Yura.  I don't know why I'm sick.  Maybe I will be better on Wednesday.

Yura- Okay.  My mother wants to talk to you.

Oh. My. Sweet. Jesus.  How stinkin' cute is she?  

After our short conversation, Yura's mom got on the line and asked me the same line of questions. Then she said she is sad for me as I am sick in a country with no family and no one to take care of me.  I assured her that my friends have been looking after me and I'll prolly survive.  Oh, she was having none of that.  She asked me if I'd seen the doctor, if I had any ginseng tea and if I knew where Baekje Samgyetang was located.  No to the doctor and ginseng and yes to the smelly Korean chicken soup restaurant, I answered.  Then she suggested a regime for my recovery.  First, she would send some ginseng tea to school with Yura for Tracy to bring to me.  Next, order the stuffed ginseng chicken from Baekje Samgyetang, a third of which I would eat now, and the remainder I could freeze for a later date.  Finally, visit the doctor.  Then I would be better.

She was so caring and concerned for my wellbeing (wellbeing is VERY important in Korea), that I could hardly argue with anything she said.  So now I await my ginseng tea delivery.


Korean kids know weird stuff

I'm a little obsessed with the Peter Bjorn and John song 'Young Folks'. As such, I have been forcing it down my kids' throats for the past week or so.  It's a good song -- chill beat and lots of whistling, and the video is pretty cool too.

On Monday night I pulled the video up and hit play while my kids worked on some workbook BS. And then a funny thang happened -- when it got to the chorus one of my KOREAN FOURTH GRADERS started to sing along. I was totally astounded and taken aback. How could it be that this Korean child is hip to some chill Swedish indie tunes, especially surrounded by the krap that is *most* K-Pop?! (My Wonder Girls are excluded, of course.) 

"Teacher, Nintendo," he says.  Ahhh, of course.  Apparently Peter Bjorn and John were featured on the FIFA 08 video game soundtrack, along with a bunch  of other artists from around the world. 

Nintendo: Making the world a smaller place, one gamer at a time. Pretty cool.


I heart Yura Han

I like most of my students.  Some of them I even love.  Then I have a handful who have truly stolen my heart and they can do no wrong.  One of them is Yura Han.  She is the most precocious, inquisitive, and clever student. But she's got some weird wiring.  This is prolly why I love her. 

I'd been teaching Yura since I started in May.  That is until I returned from Christmas vacation to find her name removed from my attendance sheet. I also taught her brother and was sad to see he, too, was gone.  For two months there was a hole in my classroom. Students come and go at hagwons, so it's not strange for a kid to be in class on Monday and gone forever on Tuesday. But Yura and Dongwook (her brother) were different.  They both contributed so much to their respective classes that I sometimes felt lonely without them. And none of the other kids had seen them since they left.

Then one afternoon I saw Yura and her mom in the hallway. Yes! Maybe this meant they would be returning.  I spent the better part of two class periods chatting with her mom and watching Yura play hide and seek with my fourth graders.  Mrs. Han said they pulled both Yura and Dongwook because their Korean was suffering. WTF?! And then she said she thought Yura wasn't smart.  Oh, I was having none of that. I then spent the next 20 minutes trying to convince Mrs. Han that her daughter was very intuitive and perceptive.  All she cared about was Yura's poor math scores. Whatever. She still invited me and Tracy, my co-teacher, to dinner at their house the following week.

Dinner was interesting. And the Han's are poor. Mom works a few days outside the house and Dad has a PhD from Texas A&M (Yura was even born in the states), but clearly any money they earn goes straight to Yura and Dongwook's education. The tiny apartment was barely twice the size of mine and every single space was crammed with books and DVDs and games. We had bibimbap and some hallabong oranges and then we baked some cookies Tracy made beforehand. Tracy also taught us how to play the board game Othello, then we played a round of Scrabble, where Yura kicked all our asses!

It was really cool to see Yura and Dongwook interact, especially since I'd read SO many papers Dongwook had written about how much he hated his sister. I mean kill her and plant her head on a stick kinda hate. But she idolizes him; followed everything he did.  He was so patient and kind with her, totally not what I expected. 

The best part of the night was when Mom pulled out all the old picture albums. Up to this point Dongwook had been sorta quiet and reserved.  I think he was a bit embarrassed to have his teachers at his house.  However, he really opened up when he got to show us his house and school and friends in the States. I think he realizes how different their life was in the US.

Anyway, Yura and Dongwook are back at school and I couldn't be happier. And now I've been invited to go ice-skating. Wahoo

Jimjilbang? Yes please!

Man, time flies.  I have exactly seven weekends left in Korea, and the next three are already booked up. Ahhh, where oh where has the time gone?!  I feel like I'm in a weird time and space limbo -- it's too soon for me to start *seriously* looking for a job in Korea for fall, but I feel if I wait much longer, I'll miss my opportunity to find a job in Seoul and I'll end up settling for one in Anyang or Suwon.  I'm tired of living in the 'burbs, goddammit!!!  I hate commuting to the city on the weekend and I hate that it takes me FIVE hours just to visit a damn museum. I want to live in SEOUL...

On another note, I had the ultimate Korean experience the other night.  Ellen and Amanda and Erica had been trying to get me to go to the jimjilbang for awhile, but ewww, there was absolutely no way in hell I was setting foot in a public bathhouse.  Well, I happened to be feeling pretty sorry for myself Thursday night.  And Ellen sensed my vulnerability.  She swooped right in for the kill and off to the jimjilbang I went. 

This particular jimjilbang is really close to my house, and for only 9000 won, I had full access to four different soaking tubs, two saunas and a cooling pool. Amy, Ellen and I paid and then stripped down. I was actually surprised with how comfortable I was with my own public nakedness.  I mean, I've got some T&A (and then some), not to mention numerous tattoos. Amanda had warned me the Koreans would gawk, but the really didn't.  Or I was just too dense to notice.  Whatever.  The saunas were sizzling hot and the soaking pools were just right. We all opted to pay the extra 15,000 won for what I call the 'ajumma salt scrub' -- a middle aged Korean woman sloughs off all your dead skin, then rubs you down with lotion. Nice.  All I gotta say is I have never been touched in so many places in such a non-sexual manner since I was a wee baby. Every part of me was scrubbed and smoothed and buffed. 

After soaking for an hour and a half, we were all prunes. We got dressed in our finest pink jimjilbang-issued suits and headed to the common area.  And apparently not all jimjilbangs are created equal.  Ours was good.  The common area had a cafe, a kiln sauna, sleeping quarters, an outdoor rooftop deck, a living room with a giant TV, internet (lest I be disconnected for more than an hour!), and many of those massage chairs I so love. We decided to relax with some popsicles in the massage chairs.  

The night was not without its weirdness, however.  Not five minutes after stripping down I was approached by a topless woman asking if I was a teacher. This is not an uncommon question. Kids and cab drivers and saleswomen and bartenders all ask this question.  However, the time and place were definitely awkward. Answering this woman's questions about tutoring and times and rates in the nude was WEIRD.  Then she offered me her card.  Ha. Where does one put a card when one has no pants? 



Object Sexuality.  Sometimes TV can be so educational.  Check the episode of Nip/Tuck here.