December 11, 2011
In the photo of us all together Jungwon is to the far left (she was the one I visited in the hospital really early into the year and was out of school for a couple months), then JiHyea (my official on paper co-teacher even though I don't teach with her she just does all the paperwork), Mina (who we just found out is pregnant congratulations again!!) and Mirim.
December 7, 2011
December 4th was one of the more painful days I’ve had in Korea. And that’s because it was spent proctoring the CFA exam.
My weekend started off with a great dinner with my co-teachers. We found out that Mina just found out she was pregnant so we were mostly making jokes about that and enjoying some really good Italian food at Uncle Tomato our go-to restaurant for teacher dinners. I got home and packed to spend the weekend and Monday in Seoul training to proctor, proctoring and eating dinner with Rick.
Saturday morning started early so I could get to the Fulbright building at 11am to start my proctoring training with Mrs. Shim and no one wants to be late for a training session with Mrs. Shim. So I got there signed in and met with some 45 other ETAs to start a lovely 2 hour session of learning about the perils of proctoring a CFA exam in Seoul. First of all, it’s not like the SAT where there is one person reading in a room behind a desk while a bunch of high school students try to get the best score they can. It’s a huge WAREHOUSE that is blocked off and has a kajillion tables in it with 30 different sections of 60ish late 20 year olds trying to pass a test to move on to the next level of testing. They have to pay $1000 just to take it and apparently the stakes are high enough that they will try anything to cheat. Especially because of the high stress test taking culture of Korea. Anyway we were told that we have to stay on our feet for 2 three hour sessions which, come on, shouldn’t really be a problem right? WRONG. Walking around for three hours is a pain in the legs.
So after the training session we went to Hongik University to go to the MEXICAN RESTAURANT one of the like, 5 in Korea. Yummm the avocado burrito was so good. Then we went to myeongdong where I took about 10 people to A Land my favorite store there. After that we pretty much just split off and I didn’t buy anything J proud. Well, I did buy coffee. Then some of us went to Ilsan where the test would be to have dinner and find a place to stay near the testing area so we wouldn’t have to wake up at 4:30am. Anyway, the hotels cost 80,000 won per room which was a lot more than we were used to! So that was depressing but we DID have some really good food at a Korean BBQ restaurant (I was with Hogan who was the president of the Student government at UNC and one of the stars in their a cappella group, Charlie who used to row and has a girlfriend in TALK one of the other programs that brings over Americans to teach English, Paddy, and Emma who lives in Busan and is a very tiny girls but is mostly infamous for eating A LOT.) We went to bed around 11pm and got up at like 6pm to get ready for the long day ahead of us in which we had to arrive at the testing site by 6:50.
We signed in with Mrs. Shim who was keeping a close watch on who arrived on time and got to put on these super cool neon vests that we had to wear all day then went to our various stations. My station was front row center to the entrance. We had to get there two hours before the test starts because, well, no one knows why because everything was already set up. Ok, normally I wouldn’t be doing this but that means we spent those other hours standing because we weren’t allowed to sit in the chairs the test takers would sit in in case we were going to write down some formula that they could use on the test. So after an hour or so of standing around the test takers, a bunch of zombie stressed out thirty year olds, walked in and were stressed about where they were supposed to sit so mostly I had to direct them to where their station was since I was basically the first person that they saw. For the people that WERE in my section I had to ask if they had a cell phone and make sure that they didn’t bring in anything that they weren’t supposed to which didn’t even matter because out of the 5 people proctoring the station we had a lead proctor and 4 other proctors who actually did the walking around thing. One of them was an old man who was checking to make sure their calculators were ones that were allowed and made them empty their pockets which was a little awkward. One of the proctors didn’t show up (it was a Korean not an eta) and so a floating proctor joined our group. Floating proctors are people that make sure the station is filled at all times.
Anyway, then when everyone was finally settled in we started the 3 hours of walking around making sure no one cheated. It was kind of funny to listen to the other ETAs talk about their take on proctoring because some were super crazy/hilarious about making sure no one was cheating and others (like me) formed invisible/non existant bonds with some of the test takers and mentally cheered for them. Basically, we all went a little stir crazy being in a warehouse with nothing but florescent lights, test takers and steel beams to entertain us. The sections were connected on the sides so while we were walking we could kind of make eye contact with each other which started games such as, find the hottest Koreans taking the test, make fractions of the people wearing abercrombing and fitch sweatshirts (they cost like $200 here so that means they’re rich, yo) and guessing who would fail or wig out half way through the exam. My section had two Canadians which was somewhat interesting but it wasn’t like I could talk to them anyway.
After the first section we got to have lunch which was actually amazing. It was teriyaki chicken cooked in a western fashion and soooooo good.
Then came the second session. Ahhh kill me my legs hurt and it was so boring. The only thing I looked forward to was when they flipped the signs saying how much time was left.
Anyway, it was a long day but when everything was collected and I was allowed to sit down (yes!) it was time to go get dinner with Rick! (my dad’s cousin in Seoul on business).
It was an hour and a half subway ride to get to the Park Hyatt hotel where Rick was staying and after briefly getting lost I made it to the lobby to meet him. The hotel was really nice and the lady at the desk called a taxi for us then there was someone downstairs to direct the taxi to the restaurant where we were going. It was a great bbq restaurant where we didn’t have to do any of the cooking and it was great to see Rick. We had some Cass (Korean beer) and caught up. We had both had a long day though so we went back to his hotel and I took the subway to the Fulbright building where I would be staying.
I picked up a bottle of soju and some beer as a birthday present/thank you for letting me stay at your house present for Jim whose apartment I would be staying at. When I walked in Anthony (the boy I did the dance with) Emma (who I stayed with before the test) Hyesung (a Fulbright researcher who just graduated from Wisconsin) and Jim were all sitting in his apartment celebrating Jims birthday. Jim had forgotten I was staying there because he had been studying for the LSAT that he took that morning. It didn’t matter though because Jim regularly has 5 ETAs in his apartment for their trips up to Seoul, it was probably the 4th time that I’ve stayed there.
It was nice though we went up to the roof of the building (surrounded by a tall fence no worries) and continued celebrating in a picnic style party. We then went back to Jim’s and fell asleep. I woke up the next morning and sat around with Anthony and Emma because Jim had to go to work then I got the bus home to Cheongju for my club class at 2pm. Overall, it was a good visit to Seoul even with the day of walking foreverrrr.
The weekend after the real Thanksgiving Leslie, Lucy and I completed the triangle of host family visits in Cheonan with Leslie’s homestay family. You might remember them from the time that I went with Leslie to go watch her hike a mountain, ended up climbing it with mostly Papa bear (Leslie’s host dad) and earning some major jung (Korean version of brownie points) with him, then sitting with him and the adults at the grown up table (sorry for kicking you out leslie) and eating LOTS of meat and having to drink beer after a major hike and before a two hour car ride. Doesn’t matter now because the point is they love me and I will always have a free space to stay in Cheonan.
This trip was the first time that Leslie’s host brothers sort of opened up though. Her youngest host brother is in 5th grade and he has been learning a few steps from Leslie who minored in dance (she choreographed our whole dance and pretty much stole the stage with none of us were bothered by). He wants to grow up to be a B Boy (boi?) and did some moves for us.
For dinner we had some really good sphagetti, ever since I said that my family doesn’t feed me that much meat they’ve been obsessed with making sure that I love everything they make. It was really nice and afterward Leslie, Lucy and I went downtown to window shop (in preparation for tomorrow) and check out a new bar that had opened where you go and get your own beer (THEY HAD SAM ADAMS!!!!!!! Yes it was $7 but that’s ok). They were super excited to see foreigners and gave us free food which I always feel a little weird about but I decided that them starring at us was the price of free food.
The next morning we got up early to go shopping (Lucy had to catch a train back because she had a wedding to go to the next day) and we hit up H&M where I used my self control and only got a cardigan and then we browsed the socks on the street vendors and bought some really thick tights which I LOVE because they are soooo warm and warmth is something that I need in my life.
We also took some really awesome STICKER PICTURES which everyone who visits me is going to do because yes, they are really lame but they are completely necessary, and only for true friends. In fact, I need to find where they do them in the US. After sticker pictures we went to lunch at my favorite Korean chain restaurant that serves dakboogi which is like fried rice chicken with rice cakes filled with mozzarella cheese and it’s so so so so so sooooooo good. SO good. After lunch we went to the Princess Café which was really a terrible experience the coffee tasted SO BAD (maybe because I ordered Princess coffee). Anyway, we tried to watch a movie after that but the ones that were available weren’t ones we were interested in seeing. Sorry Moneyball.
After downtown we went to go buy Lucy’s train ticket and go to an Indian restaurant that is famous in the world of foreigners living in Cheonan called Mountain Fishtail or something and it’s right across from the train station and it was AMAZING AND CHEAP AND I’M MAD I DON’T LIVE IN CHEONAN. Oh it was glorrriioousss and the family that owns it just had a baby and they were showing it around and it was so cute! Anyway, the meal was amazing. Basically, we ate a lot in Cheonan.
We said goodbye to Lucy then Leslie and I went back to her apartment to settle down and watch a movie. She had just downloaded Taken so we were watching that in her empty apartment (her host family was in Seoul for the night visiting relatives) when we heard someone COME INTO HER APARTMENT. Which was scary. The person took the time to take off their shoes in the foyer (do Korean burglars take off their shoes before breaking into a house??).
Turned out her dad couldn’t take the in laws anymore and came home early. He then offered me a drink. I sacrificed some jung and said no to that and went to bed early.
The next morning Leslie and I slept in then went to the bus station to send me to Cheongju. It had been a very fulfilling weekend.
On the real day of Thanksgiving (November 24th) I came to school trying not to think about how it was a holiday that I was supposed to be eating a lot of turkey and stuffing (the turkey they served to the Fulbright ETAs was very small and the stuffing was definitely no where near being as good as my dad’s) but when I came to my desk I saw that my thoughtful co-teacher Mirim had gone to a bakery and tried to pick out some baked goods that would simulate a thanksgiving feast for me (like sweet potato pastries). It came equipped with a card written in cursive which I have been teaching her on our downtime. School was really busy and then I ended it with the 6th grade club class where we compared Korean Thanksgiving (Chosuk) and American Thanksgiving.
I’m going to take this time to explain to those who don’t know the differences a little bit about the culture of each Thanksgiving. While our Thanksgiving celebrates a successful harvest where we give thanks to God for giving it to us Chosuk celebrates the beginning of Harvest praying for a good year. Chosuk is always on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar and our Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday of November. BOTH holidays involve coming together and sharing a feast with friends and family in the fall.
The performance was really good though, I have seen the traditional drums and the cool hats that swing around (I want to find one so that the Hubbard clan can win the HAT PARTY fo sho) but the performers were really good. There was one lady among all the guys and she was realllyyy short but she had a great stage presence. Mirim also fell in love with one of the performers which we won’t tell her husband.