Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Things in Korea I will not miss

As most of you know, I left Korea in November. I got insanely behind on my blogging. I greatly enjoyed my time, but there were some things that I did not enjoy. Here is a list, in no particular order, of things I will not miss in Korea. A list about things I miss in Korea will follow.

1. Finding terrifying or horrible fish in the markets unexpectedly.

Or sharks. Sharks were the worst. I am pretty sure it was caught accidentally, but still.

Also, the horrible shock of finding giant fangs in your food. I will not miss that.

2. My shower. For almost 4 years, I did not have a shower. I had a shower head attached directly to the sink that got the entire bathroom wet. While it made cleaning the bathroom easy, it was really irritating. It is so nice to actually have a separate shower again.

3. The washing machine. For some reason that I cannot figure out, no matter what I put in the washing machine, whether or not it had ties, were normal sweaters or t-shirts, my clothes would come out in giant knots, usually for no reason. I will also not miss having to air dry my towels due to the absence of a dryer. They always always always felt like shark skin, no matter how much fabric softener I added!

4. Watching CCTVs videos, even when I'd see things like polar bear hats on the screens. Watching those videos took up hours of my life I can never get back!

5. The bugs!! The bugs were the worst. House centipedes are creatures from hell. As are cockroaches that decided they needed to invade my first apartment by the dozens, occasionally sprinting across the room towards me for no reason. Or they flew, which was worse. I developed supersonic hearing that allowed me to hear the flying ones land in the middle of the night while it was pitch black. Horrific. I had so many that I stopped getting freaked out by them. My first few cockroaches would interfere with my sleep, but after a while I'd just kill them and move on. You know what that means? That means that I had way, way too many bugs in my apartment. The bug to the left was in my classroom one of my last days in Korea. My students refused to help me kill it.

6. I loved, loved, loved my students and I loved teaching them. But occasionally, they would behave badly. One of those incidents happened my last day in my favorite class. I had fully expected to cry at the end of the class. However, one of the girls brought something similar to gak to class. I asked them to put it away. Just as another student was about to start her presentation, I hear "How dare you! My hairrrr." I look over to see what you see to the left. Slime completely embedded in Sarah's hair. After much "How dare you! I was growing my hair out! I'm going to have to cut it off!" and a LOT of hot water, we melted and combed the slime out of her hair. It was a miracle. I thought disaster was averted until another student sat in it and it was all over her pants, which just happened to be her mom's pants. It was a very eventful last day with them.

7. Misconceptions about foreigners. This picture is not the best example, since it just shows a snack I've never seen in the US at the American food stand at an international food festival. But I did run into interesting ideas about foreigners that were completely false. It's also really nice not to get yelled at for speaking on the subway in a near whisper, just because I'm speaking in English.

8. The smog! The pollution in Korea is bad. It is not as bad as what I experienced in Beijing, but it was really thick and awful some days. In the spring, they have Yellow Dust season, when dust from China blows into Korea and turns everything yellow. It feels like you're breathing dust. Because you are breathing dust. I will definitely not miss those days.

9. Weird fashion. Also, being able to find clothes that were the proper size and length. Even when they fit, the sleeves were always really short!

10. Christmas in Korea! I love Christmas and celebrating with my family. But Christmas in Korea is a couples holiday rather than a family holiday, which is awful. Also, it was difficult to be away from family on those days. Even when I opened presents with my family over Skype, it was not the same as they'd be looking at a book I couldn't see or chatting while I couldn't hear. It was so nice to be back home for Christmas this year.

11. Winter! The sidewalks in winter were crazy. Korea has not learned to use sand or salt to melt snow and ice. As a result, after it snows, all the sidewalks turn into solid blocks of ice that you can't help but fall down on, all the time. I knew at least 2 people who broke their legs on one of those sidewalks. It was ridiculous. Also, I saw at least one restaurant owner throw water out his front door, so that the water froze into very smooth ice on the sidewalk. That was one of the many times that I fell in Korea.

Also, I have never been so cold in my life. The cold is biting and cuts through all clothing you can wear. I had nights where I was in my apartment with the heat and my nose was still frozen. It's cold.

12. Insane traffic! All the time! I knew a LOT of people who were hit by cars. It's so nice not to have to worry as a pedestrian. In Korea, pedestrians are the lowest on the totem pole.

13.  Age and level inappropriate reading assignments. The program I taught for assigned 4 books each term for the masters classes. Each term, there was book that was absurdly hard for my students to read and they considered extremely boring, but due to the fact that they couldn't understand what was happening, we had to spend most of our time going over what happened instead of delving deeper into the reading. It was not fun. I do not recommend teaching Robert Louis Stevenson's "Kidnapped" and Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" to 7th grade ESL learners.

14.Feeling like this when I speak in Korean.

Also people pretending they don't understand me when I was being extremely clear. Here is an example conversation that actually happened.

Barista 1: (In Korean)  Hello, what would you like?
Me: (In Korean) A white mocha please.
Barista 1: (in Korean) I don't know what you're saying. I don't speak English.
Me: (repeating in Korean) White mocha
Barista 1: I don't speak English!
Me: I am speaking in Korean. (Insanely slowly) Whitteeee mochaaaaa
Barista 1: I don't understand!!!
Barista 2: (In Korean)  She is clearly saying white mocha. She is speaking very clearly.

15. Noise and Light pollution. It's so nice to be somewhere where it's dark at night and you can see the stars and, in the morning waking me up very early, there aren't bull horns announcing they are selling things or picking something up. "Good morning! LAPTOPS! WE ACCEPT LAPTOPS!"

16. Crowds like this, at basically all events, even dumb ones. Or just crowds while walking. It could get very overwhelming and occasionally made me feel like I wanted to punch my way out of the crowds!

17. The Korean obsession with Frozen. Well, my temporary relief of hearing my student's obsessions. One time, in a cafe with Grant and Adrienne, they played "Let it go" 4 times in a row. The Idina Menzel Version, then Demi Lovato, then Hyo-Lin's Korean version, then Idina Menzel again. I had to ban all Frozen songs from my classroom. I also had to ban "What Does the Fox Say?"

Overall, I really enjoyed Korea and I am so glad that I went, but these were some of the things that were just a little annoying. They by no means are the entire list, but I felt this was sufficient!

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