Saturday, January 23, 2010

AYLP Summary - It's done!

AYLP is over and done with. I'm happily sitting on my yo in Gurye, planning what needs to happen before I leave for SE Asia. I cannot wait for 90-degree weather. Overall, the week was good. The kids had a good time; me some new people. I sat next to a student on the way back to Gurye who was happily texting her new friends the whole way (and filling me in on every detail). Cute.

Needless to say, I think I need to avoid children for at least 24-hours.

Here are a few pictures from the week. I re-uploaded the videos from the past two posts, so those should be working now. Yay!

We had several lectures at the U.S. Embassy. And what U.S. embassy is not complete without a Barack Obama cut-out? This is a picture of the 5 students I brought from Gurye High. (Names from left to right: Chan-ho, Seong-yong, Dong-myeong/Michael, You-jin and Hey-in) What you don't see in the picture (because my students made me promise to edit it out) is all of my students standing on their toes in order to look not-quite-as-short next to the president. Height is a really weird issue around here.

My Gurye students and me at KBS News. KBS News is the major news broadcaster in Korea. It was weird; 30-seconds before this picture, some lady was recording the 5-o'clock news. The students really loved going behind the scenes.

Picture taken at the front of the KBS news history museum. This is the group of ETAs participating in the program. We all teach at different schools around Korea. (Names from left to right: Laura, Leigh, Eric, Jenny and Veronica).

On Friday we visited the DMZ. It was one of the highlights of my week because, since our program is through the U.S. Embassy, we kind of got a special tour. We started by having lunch with the Swiss and Swedish U.N. representatives. For those that need a refresher (I sure did), the DMZ was created by an armistice, not a peace treaty. The armistice basically says that the DMZ is the official line that South Koreans and North Koreans cannot cross. If someone crosses over, it's considered a threat and the defensive side can kill/capture/whatever the person(s) that crosses the line.

There's also a lot more involving weaponry, number of troops, trading rights, etc. but that's the basics. So, to make sure that the armistice was being followed, the U.N. allowed North and South Korea to choose two neutral parties each to monitor the DMZ line. Russia, on behalf of the North, chose Poland and Czechoslovakia while the U.S., on behalf of the South, choose Switzerland and Sweden. Today, 5 Swissmen and 5 Swedishmen man the post at the DMZ. (Czechoslovakia isn't a country anymore and Poland's not communist, so the North doesn't really have anyone on their side there anymore. #Fail)

After lunch, we toured the official diplomatic meeting area. This area is where any diplomats come to talk. The place is completely split into two, as you will see.

Jenny, Veronica and I spelling out "DMZ." We couldn't take a picture of the actual North due to military restrictions, so we did this instead.

Our tour guide. He was actually really really entertaining. (I guess it's pretty cold and boring up there). He did a lot of funny self-monologue since the kids couldn't really understand him (military people talk way to fast, use way too many acronyms and use too much slang for our exhausted students to follow) But I enjoyed it.

The important part of the picture is actually the building behind our guide. That's North Korea. There is a painted line that cuts those blue buildings in half. Once you step over that line, you're in North Korea. The building is the "welcoming" building for those who cross the line and enter the north. South Korea has one, too. It's behind me and it's called Freedom Hall.

Here's my favorite self-monologue:

"To the right you will see Freedom Village. 214 people live - well. There were 214 people living there. But one girl started dating a JSA (U.S. military). They're in Texas now, about to get married. I think her name was Sunny. Do you guys have American names? I guess not because it's not on an official document. You just choose your names like a nickname, sort of. Anyways. Now there's 213 people in Freedom Village."

He had me and Eric cracking up in the back.

This is inside those blue buildings pictured above. The blue buildings are where South, North and anyone else important talk. There are actually two different colored buildings. Blue buildings are for South Korea, grey ones are for North Korea. However, as you remember, nobody mans those buildings, so really the blue ones are the only ones in use.

Inside the blue buildings are two guards: one positioned in the middle of the building and one positioned on the North side. Both stand in 'ready' taekwondo positions. If anyone touches them, they'll switch to attack mode. Doesn't matter who you are.

At the end of the day, the guards have to lock both the North and the South doors of the buildings. One day, a solider was locking up the North door when a North guard attacked him and tried to pull him over. So now, two guards lock up at night. One locks the door, the other holds his belt.

Inside Freedom Hall (the South Korean welcome building).

Gurye High School on Saturday after the closing ceremonies

My team, named "The Sleepers." They were great.

Okay, that's it for now. Thanks for reading! Time for me to catch up on my sleep...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Blog videos

For some reason, Youtube/Blogger/Google won't let me upload videos. Sorry! I'll do it later!

Korea still surprises me

Wednesday: We had some morning lectures, made our way to lunch with NGO professionals, visited an NGO and made PB&J's and hot dogs for dinner.

This just goes to show that I can never let my guard down. I should have become suspicious as soon as we stepped into the alley. You see, in Korean business districts, many business people go out for lunch in these restaurants lining narrow alleys. The restaurants themselves are usually depressing from the outside but really nice and good quality on the inside. They also tend to be seafood or Samgyeopsal - literally translates to "pig with three layers of fat." By "tend to be" I mean always.

So, our lunch was down an alley. We walked into a restaurant with a tank of octopus in front of the door. Okay, I told myself, you'll probably skip lunch today. I started planning how I would strategically eat all of the vegetarian side dishes and slip into a convenience store for something with more substance and nutrition before our next activity.

We sit down and the waiter puts this in front of us. (Warning: graphic content)

What you don't see is me coming to the terrible realization that this poor creature is being boiled to death. As soon as the camera stopped, I spun the other way, trying everything in my power to keep myself from throwing up and crying.

Needless to say, I was too nauseous and upset to even think about eating anything for quite sometime. The video still makes my stomach roll.
Kim Dong-myeong (AKA: "Michael") is my only actual student that is in my AYLP group. When he realized that the only meal option was octopus, he nearly left the table to hunt down some vegetables. Cute kid.

Solution? My group and I made dinner at the hostel. I showed them the different techniques for PB&J's (standard PB+J, PB only, PB+potato chips, PB+bananas). For those that didn't like bread and/or peanut butter, I offered hot dogs.

It was a success. Not only did the kids have fun making strange sandwich combinations, but I got a good dose of American comfort food.

The NGO we visited dealt with foreign refugees living in Seoul. It offered assistance in something like 7 languages, had night classes and offered rooms for holiday celebrations (because there are more holidays than Christmas and Korean Thanksgiving). The hospital was your typical underfunded NGO hospital, packed with second-hand everything and nestled in a musty, cold, narrow building. But it did the trick, I guess. I was a little disturbed by the cafeteria. We walked in to find an ahjummah (old woman with nothing better to do in life than sell fruit and make food) cutting through rotten cabbage sprawled out on the dirty, wet cafeteria floor. Shocked, I asked my Korean co-leader if people would actually eat that. She replied, "No way! She'll only use the non-rotten parts."

The non-rotten parts of the cabbage (sprawled on a wet, dirty cafeteria floor) would make kimchi (cabbage seasoned and then allowed to ferment) to be fed to sick, scared foreign refugees. In a hospital too poor to reject any kind of free food that comes their way.

Be careful what you take for granted. Maybe give a little more moment's thought to how lucky you are to be eating your apple skin without worrying about some terrible germ. Or how you can walk into a restaurant without even thinking about the state of the silverware and plates.

But who am I to preach.

Visiting a broadcasting company tomorrow. The kids are excited. I forgot to mention that Day 1 one of my Gurye students got a bad case of the stomach flu. I was up until 1:30 am with her in the emergency room. So, I'm happy that the kids are healthy and *fingers crossed* hope they'll stay that way until at least Saturday. Damn, lovable ankle-biters.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sorry, I've been busy

My internship in Seoul ended last Friday. I moved out of my apartment on Saturday and went back to Gurye ... for 30 hours. Sunday morning, five or my students and I piled into a train for a 5-hour trek back to Seoul.

I'm spent in the travel department for a while.

But, my students are adorable, and the train ride only confirmed this already-held belief. (They couldn't eat lunch because they were too nervous/excited)

Sunday was orientation and games. 6 schools, each brought 5 students and the ETA. Then, we mix all of them up and put them in new groups. So, my small group of 5 only has one of my actual students. We do everything in large groups during the day and then in small groups at night.

Monday we had some speakers and visited Harley Davidson-Korea. I did an advertising project on Harley Davidson in college, so I was super excited about the tour. And it was fun. Yay. We capped the night off with bowling.

Tuesday we went to the American embassy and heard from embassy officials, including the U.S. ambassador, Kathleen Stephens. Good to see her again. :) We had Quiznos and Cheetos for lunch.

Happiest. Girl. In. Korea. (being at the army base has it's perks)

The afternoon we visited Seoul National University (the famed "best university in Korea." It's a really big deal. No one from my school has ever been accepted). The students were so excited.

We finished off the night with pizza dinner and noraebang (karaoke room). Man! Those kids can sing.

We are very busy, so here are some very rough videos for your enjoyment. Averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night, so sorry if this doesn't make sense. I had to post because my family thought I got lost in North Korea. *^^*

Also, the students have to keep a Web page about their activities. Check it out!

Upcoming schedule:
Jan. 23 - AYLP ends
Jan. 24 - Skiing with the host family
Jan. 27 - Leave for southeast Asia
Jan. 27-Feb. 3 - Thailand kayaking trip
Feb. 4 - Feb. 6 - Malaysia
Feb. 6 - Feb. 10 - Cambodia
Feb. 10 - Return to Korea
Feb. 19 - Mar. 4 - Megan and Roni (friends from high school) are coming to visit me!!!

I'll post as much as I can!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An E-mail From A Student

It made my day:

Hello this is "michael"..

nothing special.. just letter^^

I think It's hard to meet and play the song with plute

so unless you stay our school in New year,

there are no time to play..--;;

if you are o.k please send me your playfiles anytime.

and I will give you my play ^^

and homeworks...haha I WILL DO MY BEEEEEST!!

there are lot of snow in gurye. even though not much

like seoul.. it's rarely in here

I was wondering my spelling is not collect.. OTL

little(?) late.. but happy New year^^

see you~