Back in the US of A

Actually, I’ve been back since May but I haven’t had the time to update my blog. I’m glad it can still serve as a resource and source of entertainment even after I’ve left Korea.

A lot has changed since I left Korea 8 months ago. I traveled around the Philippines and spent time with my family there. I moved back home, hopeful yet fearful of being able to find a job. One of the reasons I went to Korea in the first place. It took me a few months to find a job. I applied everywhere – even Starbucks, Target, Macy’s, etc. No luck.

I finally got a part-time teaching position with Kaplan International College in Westwood, so I moved out to LA for a part-time job. I was so grateful for the opportunity to work and teach again that I was willing to put up with an itinerant lifestyle for a while. I lived in 4 different apartments and even commuted from Garden Grove for a week. And I only worked there for 3 months!

Then I moved down to San Diego in October to start a position with LISC AmeriCorps. This was the chance I was waiting for. Like my friends said during the times I was frustrated with job hunting, it usually takes 6 months to find something. And it did take me 6 months.

It was a rough ride. For a while, I regretted my decision to come home and I hated the turn my life had taken. I worked my ass off to get back to San Diego and I’m grateful and humbled by my journey back.

Hope to update more about the past few months when I find the time!

Not really. I had such a great year teaching, traveling and having fun in Korea. I didn’t leave my heart behind completely, but it feels like something’s been missing since I left. Unlike many of my friends who went straight home after finishing their contracts, I decided to extend my time abroad and stay in the Philippines. I haven’t been home in over a year now, but I don’t feel ready to go back quite yet.

I’ve been thinking about Korea a lot lately – wondering at odd hours of the day what my friends must be doing (deskwarming, hanging out downtown, or drinking in any combination). Wondering if my students miss me or if their beloved Maria Teacher has been replaced ㅠ_ㅠ (I hope not!). Wondering what new cosmetics must be out. I could go on. Instead, I’ll make a list of things I miss from my life in the 대한민국.

Korea Miss List:

  • 제 친구들 – My friends!! I met so many great people and I miss seeing their goofy, drunken faces. Just kidding, we weren’t always drunk, right?
  • My co-teacher – She is such a great person. I miss her! Seriously, I was crying on the bus ride to the airport after she dropped me off ㅜ_ㅜ.
  • My students – I loved being a teacher. Not trying to gloss over the stress and frustration I often felt while teaching in Korea. But, my experience was overwhelmingly positive and most of that is thanks to my students.
  • Foods – Let me make a brief list: kimchi, samgyeopsal, samgyetang, kimchi jjiggae, doenjang jjiggae, Korean wings and fried chicken, bibimbap, freakin banchan, kimbap, rice cakes, ddoekbokki, street snacks
  • Egg Tarts – Not what Korea is famous for, but I always used to hang out at the egg tarts place with my pals after dinner.
  • Shopping – Because let’s face it, where did half of my salary go every month.
  • Cosmetics – There are so many and they’re so cheap! I’m also obsessed with cosmetics and Korea just made it worse.
  • K-pop – The soundtrack of my life in Korea. What’s new nowadays??
  • K-dramas – DUDE what’s new nowadays??
  • Nature – Never thought I’d say it. I kind of like nature now thanks to Korea.
  • 4 Seasons – I think it’s a nice concept.
  • Internet – I miss the high-speed internet!
  • Mobility – It’s pretty easy to travel in Korea. I can’t travel as easily here in the Philippines so I feel very limited.
  • Hair salons – I need a trim! I miss Ji-won at Serrano!
  • Korean – I miss hearing Korean! I feel like following around the Korean students I see here. I know, that is just creepy. I won’t do it 😛
  • Traveling – There was always somewhere new to see or return trips to Seoul or Busan. I felt like I could do anything I wanted at any moment.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things. I’m so glad that I took a chance and went to Korea. I learned so much and I have lots of great memories and stories to share with everyone when I finally return home.

Indefinite Stopover

I took a one-way flight to the Philippines instead of going back home right away. Technically this isn’t a stopover since Manila was the final destination on my flight. But, I consider this part of the path that eventually leads me back home.

This is actually from my flight to Dumaguete 😛

Time flew by so quickly! It’s already been a month since I left Korea. I wasn’t sure what to do with my blog after I left, which is why I haven’t updated with new posts. Of course I wanted to keep it around as a kind of record of my adventures in Korea. But, I’m not sure how to continue this blog now that I’ve left.

I really appreciate all the comments from people who stop by to read the blog. Thank you!!!! I hope you have a great experience in Korea or have the opportunity to travel there sometime. Like I’ve said before, everyone has a unique experience – for better or for worse. I’d like to hear some of your stories from Korea.

I’m always available to answer questions if you want to contact me by leaving a comment. I’m sorry if I don’t respond to your comments or emails right away. Sometimes I don’t have time to respond quickly and the emails quickly get buried by random facebook updates. Have to disable those…

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to return to Korea, but I definitely plan on going back! Hopefully within the next couple years so I can say hi to my little first graders before they go off to high school. Aww, yeah I got attached.

Korean Classes in Daegu

Calling all Daegu-kins! (Daegu + waygookin)

Just got an email from the YMCA in Daegu about Korean classes this spring. I recommend first-timers in Korea to take at least a basic-level Korean class to learn how to read hangeul and to learn some survival Korean. You don’t have to take Korean classes. But, I found it very helpful to take a class because I’m too lazy busy to study on my own. And overall, learning Korean helped make my experience in Korea a lot easier.

Also, the instructors at the YMCA are great (they volunteer to teach)! They’re really nice and helpful. I took the Regular Korean Class Level 4. The class sizes are usually small, so you’ll get plenty of opportunities to practice and ask questions.

Daegu YMCA Korean Class Schedule:

(1) Regular Korean class (Each class 12 weeks), 130,000won ~$115

① Saturdays, 11:00-13:00, April 2-June 18, Level 1-8

② Tuesdays, 19:00-20:50, April 12- July 5, Level 1-5

Four language skills are cohesively integrated into the class curriculum. Each class is taught by 2 instructors and is held 1 time per week. Compared to Intensive course, the Regular courses concentrate more on Speaking skill by putting more time into practice and review speaking in Korean.

(2) Intensive Korean class

① Tue & Fri, 10:30-12:20, March 15-April 29,
3Levels (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced),  180,000won ~$160 (7weeks, 14classes)

② Mon & Thu, 19:00-20:50, April 4-May 26,
3Levels (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced), 180,000won ~$160 (7weeks, 14classes)

This is for students who want to master Korean in a short period of time. The classes are held 2 times per week and is taught in fast pace in a smaller environment(6 student max.) This course focuses more on grammar based speaking to enhance preciseness and fluency. The Intensive course will suit those who are willing to put their time and effort in learning Korean.

(3) Korean Grammar in Use

① Thursdays, 10:30-12:20, March 24-May 19,
High Beginner to Intermediate, 90,000won ~$80 (8weeks)

② Wednesdays, 19:00-20:50, March 23-May 11,
High Beginner to Intermediate, 90,000won ~$80 (8weeks)

This course will boost students’ Korean skills by looking into differences between similar grammatical constructions and practicing variety of expressions used in same situations from true to life dialogs. The course also covers all grammar points covered by TOPIK levels 1 and 2.

(4) Talk Time

① Mondays, 11:00-12:50, March 28-May 23,
4 Levels (Beginner 1/2, Intermediate, Advanced), 90,000won ~$80 (8weeks)

② Wednesdays, 19:00-20:50, March 30-May 18,
3 Levels (Intermediate, Advanced, High Advanced), 90,000won ~$80 (8weeks)

This course is for those who want to practice SPEAKING in Korean. The class aims to help students improve their conversation skills without memorization by creating their own dialogue according to a given situation and explanation of the flow of the dialogue and vocabulary.

(5) Dynamic Writing

– Saturdays, 14:00-15:20, April 2-Jun 11,
High Advanced, 90,000won ~$80 (10weeks)

This class aims to help students to write properly and logically in Korean. Starting from preparation, this course will throughly guide students in writing in Korean by leaning techniques to write and exploring various types of dialogs.

(6) TOPIK Preparation

– Saturdays, 14:00-15:50, March 12-April 16,
High Intermediate to Advanced, 50,000won ~$45 (6weeks)

This course is designed for students who prepare for TOPIK(Test Of Proficiency in Korean) administered by the Korean Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation. The test is divided into four parts: vocabulary & grammar, writing, listening, and reading.

(7) Special Class “Korean start”

– Mon & Wed, 10:30-12:20, March 14-March 23, 40,000won ~$36 (4weeks)

– Tue & Thur, 19:00-20:50, March 15-March 24, 40,000won ~$36 (4weeks)

This class enables students to read Korea and through basic grammar students will learn simple conversations such as introducing themselves.

– For students who came to Korea recently and want to learn Korean for the first time.

– Content : Korean alphabet, basic vocabulary, basic grammar, basic conversation.

Those who have taken this course are eligible to enroll in Regular Korean class LEVEL 2/ Talk Time Beginner1.

(8) Korean Art Program “Minwha”

* Morning class: March 16 ~ May 4 (8weeks), Every Wednesdays 10:30~12:30

* Evening class: March 21 ~ May 16 (8weeks), Every Mondays 18:30~20:30

* Tuition fee: Each class 50,000 won ~$45 (Extra materials charge. approx 50,000won)

Minwha is paintings in which the artists paint folk tales and the lives of middle and lower class Koreans in ancient times.

★ Application period: From Feb 21~

★ Application procedure: E-mail or visit the YMCA to fill out the application

You can sign up the class through e-mail or visit the YMCA. Also you can take a placement test to determine your right level if you want through email (ymcatg@naver.com) or visit YMCA.

Directions to the YMCA:

Line 1 or 2 to 반월당역 Banwoldang Station. Take the escalators out of Exit 13. Look to your left and the YMCA is across the street. Their main office is on the second floor.

Shots Shots Shots

This song always plays here in Korea. Doesn’t matter where you are. Except, a lot of people in Korea think it refers to gun shots and will make a gun-shooting gesture with their hands. PEW PEW!

Actually, the song refers to drinking shots of alcohol, which Koreans should be familiar with, if you know what I mean. According to a recent article, people in Korea consumed an average of 12.5+ liters per person between 2002-2005.

That’s like a lot of soju and maekju! All I have to say is, I know I’ve had my share of alcohol this past year.

I’ll be leaving after the end of my contract this month ㅠ_ㅠ. I’m sad to go, especially since I’ve had a great experience teaching and living in Korea. I’ll especially miss my co-teachers and my students. They made my year in Korea a lot of fun. I gave each of my co-teachers a small notebook to have the students write goodbye messages for me. I just got them back and I have to say their messages brought tears to my eyes. Because some are truly touching while others are downright hilarious.

Here are a few of the best (and hilarious) goodbye messages that my students left me:

Thank you. and… party tonight!

Oh my God… Good bye~

Maria Teacher!!!
I’m glad to meet you. Because I met you.

Teacher! Translate this: [a whole paragraph in Korean] I love you!

Hi nice meet you! nice meet you to! thank you for the honey. bye bye
(this was copied word for word by the next student)


Hey Maria Hi~~My name is ___ what your name? I can’t speak English so I love you <3<3<3<3<3  – Mr sin –

Hello. You are very beautiful teacher. I want you are my sister.

I believe you can fly! See you later~!

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains,
You raise me up to walk on the stormy sea
I am strong when I am on your shoulder,
You raise me up to more than I can be.
(this is very sweet)

Maria love ❤
I want you
my ride is fagani zonda f

GooD boy give me Lamborghini

ZOMBIE remember!!

Can you play Call of duty? (this was the entire message)

I am handsome guy.   <-CRAZY GUY (written by another student)

teacher. hi! I love you ❤
your class is shock!!! >_< thank you ~

To Maria
Hello, Maririria! I am ___
Maybe, you think me handsome guy.
You are very nice teacher.
I want to see you next time, Good bye.

Hello! Your smile is pretty. When you are smiling, you are beautiful. You are good teacher! Ill missing you. goodbye teacher ㅠㅠ

I’m always feel happy when I study with you. Because you teach me easy to learn. When I heard that you will go your home, I feel sad. But I wish you are happy and take care.

Maria teacher. My class attitude is bad. I’m so sorry. But I respect you. Teacher good luck. Take care! I miss you~

I will miss you ㅠ_ㅠ;; What is your address????? I’m want going to your home!! I was pleased to study with you for a year >_<

Maria is very cute
Maria is very funny
Maria is very short
So very cute

*I’ll want to eat California orange. ^^*

Dock-Do belongs to Korea lol   Japan (X) <- fuck!!!

Remember it! please…

Someday you meet good boy and marry… congratulation!!

You are so cute, beautiful and you has big eyes. I so envy your face. You leave Korea and go back your home California. I’m so sad. When you have a time, visit Korea and come our middle school…

[Drawing of the Korean flag and a map of North Korea, South Korea, Jeju and, of course, Dok Do]

Dear Maria teacher.
Hello. Maria.
I’m your student.
I heard that you will go to U.S.A.
Why are you go to U.S.A?
I studied with you only one year!
I don’t want to study with another teacher.
I don’t want… but you want to go U.S.A.
Please Don’t Forget Us
Bye teacher. Happy in U.S.A.

Sometimes I wonder, what did they learn from my class? Actually, I wanted them to learn to express themselves without the pretense of getting good grades. And, as shown above, I think many were able to accomplish that! I’ll really miss these kids and I hope they know that the feeling is mutual.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve become obsessed with one of SBS’s latest weekend dramas, 시크릿 가든 (Secret Garden), starring Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-won. I heard from a few friends and teachers that it was pretty good, so I figured I’d give it a shot. It’s about Kim Joo-won, the grandson of a chaebol (a family-owned multinational corporation, e.g. Samsung), and his unlikely romance with Gil Ra-im, a hard-working stunt woman.

There are plenty of blogs and websites with descriptions and episode summaries, so I will link a few of my go-to sites if you’re interested in finding out more. They’re much better than anything I could write on this drama :P.

Yes, they switch bodies!

Here’s how I usually watch dramas:

  1. I watch the episodes on TV in Korean and understand about <8% of the dialogue (studying Korean fail) and most of the interactions and facial expressions. The series airs on SBS on Saturdays and Sundays at 22:00 (10:00pm).
  2. Then, I watch the episode again online with English subtitles on mysoju.com or in higher quality on dramafever.com (US and Canada only) once they’re posted. It usually takes a week or so before they are subbed and posted online. Sometimes sooner!
    Or, you can download the raw episode in Korean and find a compatible subtitle file (.srt) for that episode. It’s a bit more complicated, but the quality is much, much better. And these files are usually available quite soon after the episode airs. You need VLC or GOM Player to play the video and subtitles.
  3. Finally, I read the episode summary and commentaries on the latest episode.  I usually go to dramabeans.com because I enjoy reading their commentaries and I like their writing style. They’re also quite fast at posting episode recaps.

My co-teacher said that after taking all these steps, I must be an expert on Secret Garden ;).

Not only is the drama beautifully filmed and the acting sincere and emotional, the music is also pretty good. It sounds cheesy, but whenever I hear the songs while I’m walking around, it kind of warms my heart. I know, I’m such a sap. I can’t even believe I said that. But, it looks like I’m not the only fan of the Secret Garden OST – they’ve all SOLD OUT.

Secret Garden OST 2

Get the Secret Garden OST online:

Secret Garden OST 1

Secret Garden OST 2

Secret Garden OST 3

Secret Garden OST 4

Secret Garden OST 5

Listen to the songs on youtube:

  • 나타나 (김범수) – from Secret Garden OST Part 2
  • 이유 (신용재) – from Secret Garden OST Part 3
  • 그남자 (Hyun Bin’s version) – from Secret Garden OST 5

The final 2 episodes of the series will air this weekend. I’m anxiously awaiting the series finale!

Photos: from allkpop.com – Asia Economy via Daum, Korea Economy via Daum, Joy News 24 via Daum; Sports Chosun via Daum