Archive for December, 2011

December 11, 2011

Hello Kitty Cafe

Hello Kitty was never my thing. I mean it’s a cartoon cat with a fat face. DON’T GET OUT THE TOMATOES JUST YET. Here me out. I have however always loved pink. Here’s proof:

Exhibit A: My dorm room at Walter Sickert Hall, London

 

Exhibit B: My room at East Central House, London

 

I was definitely always more of a Disney princess girl. (yuh think?!) BUT but. I may be becoming a convert. The decor of my future daughter’s room may  or may not have just changed from Disney to Hello Kitty. In a parallel/future universe.

And here’s how it happened. It all started innocently. You know a pink (hello kitty) trashcan… because there was no other pink option. A pair of pink hello kitty washroom slippers… pink hello kitty socks. You get the picture.

And then. Then Megan happened. She’s this beautiful, amazing (notice how it’s NOT awesome…thanks for the word sub suggestion Marcie!) girl from Atlanta.  And she randomly messages me one thurs afternoon asking if I wanted to get coffee at… wait for it… the Hello Kitty Cafe in Daegu. And I’m all ah I don’t know… and then I let my cool down and was like sure. Because I’m all about the spontaenous-ness. And I think she’s cool. Spontaneousness and coolness? I’m in.

And then I walked into this place. And. Fell. In. Love. No, really. I had the whole pitter -patter of the heart, that feeling of wholeness. And the clouds opening up to heaven. It was the equivalent of how I may have felt if I were to see, say, my knight in shining armour riding on a white horse through the storm. Ya, I’m dramatic like that. Here’s a short video I shot of all the cuteness.

Megan had a cappuccino and fudge brownie while I opted for the caramel latte + tiramisu combo. One word: deliciousness.

 

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December 10, 2011

On Teaching: the good, the bad & the Adorable.

The most popular question I get asked is how I’m finding my new-completely-unrelated-to-my-education-and-previous-work-experiences job. (I sound as if there are thousands asking. There aren’t. Although I should take this opportunity to shift your attention to the right a bit. Blog stats. Read the number under it. Yup. In the thousands, baby. Booyah.)

**Disclaimer: It has only been 5 weeks since I’ve started teaching and I’m sure my thoughts and opinions will inevitably change down the road so I’ll revisit this question at exactly the half way point (and my birthday month)- i.e. April. Did not mean to throw out any hints or anything like that but it! was! a! total! coincidence! It just had to be mentioned. ;)

So how do I feel about teaching? To put it simply:

It feels natural.

And by that I mean there was no steep learning curve. (which I was expecting) The lesson plans are already done for me. There’s a teacher’s guide I can refer to. For everything else, I have a best friend called Google. My only responsibility is to cover the assigned material in the allotted time. And entertain the most adorable kids in the world. So all of this makes it really easy. And maybe I’m just a natural.  Hey! It’s a total  possibility!

So here’s the low down:

The Good

1. That look in the their eyes when they finally get it and the way their faces light up.

2. The love. The respect.  If children in the west respected their teachers/elders half as much as Korean kids do, the future of our world would be in good hands.

3. My boss. Before South Korea and this teaching gig, I worked for 3 companies. And my bosses at all 3? Female. They were awesome. All their names even started with A! Digest that for a second.

3 jobs. 3 female bosses. Amanda, Amanda, Anita.

Coincidence? I think not. I loved, admired and respected all of them in so many ways I can’t put it into words. To say I wanted to be JUST like them when I grew up would be an understatement. So when I found out my director was male I was a little nervous. I mean, I was moving to a new country, to a job in a completely different field and I was breaking my female-only-boss-streak. To top it all off, I didn’t even know if his name started with A! (I still don’t but that’s another story for another day)

And I worried unnecessarily because I’ve been so lucky. And I’m convinced that I have The Best Director one could possibly work for in all of South Korea.

4. My coworkers. I’m pretty sure all my cheesy farewell emails at my previous jobs started with this line:

you spend a third of your adult years at work so sometimes it’s more important to love the people you work with than your actual job.

and while it’s cheesy, it’s true. Sure there are always a couple of people you don’t exactly love, but in general, I’ve been pretty lucky in the coworker department in the past. And the present is no different. To say I adore these girls would be an understatement. I have unique relationships with all of them. And they show their love in different ways. Whether it’s googling training chopsticks and where to get them or writing Korean translations in my phone or browsing clothing websites and pointing out the dresses they think would look good on me or educating me about everything there is to know about the Korean culture… they’re so awesome in so many ways. And again, I feel so lucky.

I feel like this post has too many awesomes and luckys.

5. The hours: 2pm-8pm. Which in my world is A-awesome. With a capital A

I clearly need to expand my vocabulary to include words other than awesome. Fabulous, maybe? Fabulous it is.

REDO: The hours. 2pm-8pm. Which in my world is F-fabulous. With a capital F.

No, that doesn’t work. it sounds like I’m trying to be all passive aggressive with profanity with the whole “capital F” thing. I think it needs to be a word that starts with an A. Suggestions? Please help me.

Moving on…

The Bad

1. The Coffee addiction. I can feel it when we run out of coffee and I haven’t had my caffeine fix for the day. By that I mean I may or may not have fallen asleep. Eyes open. Standing up. On numerous occasions.

Teaching is fun. And easy. But it’s also tiring. And draining. You try delivering 50 min presentations every hour on the hour for 5 hours straight. All the while smiling and sounding enthusiastic. Sure, your audience may be boring men and women in suits compared to my adorable children in the cutest hello kitty ensembles, but it takes the same amount of energy. If not more. And whoever associated the red shiny apple with teachers clearly wasn’t a teacher. It should be a big cup of piping hot coffee. Or two. Or three…

2. It can get repetitive. The lessons themselves and the number of times you have to deliver them.

3. My mom’s dream was for me to be a doctor. That didn’t happen. Wanna know why? Because I get squeamish at the sight of blood. Like really squeamish. Like I’m the type that still turns away when the doctor takes a blood sample. Ya, that bad.

And kids… they’re always hurting themselves somehow. I had a girl who had a really bad nosebleed during one of my classes. I freaked. And then ran to get one of the other teachers. The other teacher was a natural. Knew exactly what to do and was calm the entire time. I was a little envious. Of her cool and collected demeanor. And then I got to thinking how terrible a mother I’m going to be. I need to marry a guy who isn’t afraid of blood. Or bugs. Or ghosts….Off topic! Sorry.

The Adorable
1. Their laughter. Its addictive. I guess this is what does it for me. And determines my fav age group to teach: the younger they are, the easier it is to make them laugh. The older ones who are bright and can understand English a bit more are also fun. Because they get my witty jokes. And think I’m extremely funny.

2. The endless gifts. of cookies. of chocolate. of pepero. of fresh warm baked sweet potato. I don’t even like sweet potato! But when it comes with all that love and “here teacher, this is for YOU” How does one say no?!

This list isn’t exhaustive. I wanted to convey a general idea of what it’s like to be a teacher in South Korea. And share my personal experiences thus far. Every teacher will have a different story to tell based on many different factors like their own personalities, the age of the kids they teach, their relationship with their director and co teachers, etc.

I know there are a few of you who are considering taking the leap and moving to Korea or <insert your country here>. To you, I say this: DO IT. I’m only 5 weeks in, and I can already say this has been one of my craziest yet smartest decisions to date.

December 9, 2011

Baby Blankets: the edible kind & the wearable kind

Our director is all about stocking up the teacher’s kitchen with lots of goodies. Like the other day, we had these bun things stuffed with vegetables. No I’m not the kind of girl who gets excited about buns. Or vegetables. And this stuff doesn’t even look appetizing.
But what I ALL ABOUT about is microwaveable stuff. Especially yummy microwaveable stuff. This bun Is the mostest softest thing you’ll ever eat. Its like an edible baby blanket.  I know that probably created some weird imagery in your mind. But I don’t know how else to describe it. If you haven’t realized already, my vocabulary isn’t that extensive. Or scholar-like. My point is, this stuff is delicious. Which brings me to my next point…

I feel like family here. So our director used to get pork/beef stuff for the other teachers… until they realized they clearly picked the fussiest eater on earth to add to the team (i.e me). So the logical thing to do would be to buy meat stuff for the other teachers… and vege stuff for me, right? Wrong. The other teachers eat vege too. (like with that bun stuffed with vegetables instance)

Just when I thought it was just my director being all accommodating, Kayla has also jumped on the bandwagon. Pretty much everything we have during school hours is Tia-atarian. And I feel bad. And I’m sure there will come a point where they’ll be like forget Tia and her fussiness. But until then? Until then, I’m gonna bask in all this LOVE.

Speaking of love, Kayla told us about this really fuzzy and soft cardigan that she had found.  That was a Saturday. Tuesday most of the teachers had one, each in a different colour. And last week? Last week I got mine. It actually does feel like a baby blanket… and its SO warm. and SO soft.
I feel like they’ve officially initiated me into their inner circle. That’s riiiiiiiiight guys. I’m one of them now. OFFICIALLY.
Do the happy dance.
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December 9, 2011

Live Simply so others can Simply Live.

Kayla: your new washing machine will be delivered tomorrow.
Me: thankyoythankyouthankyou!
Director: but Tia, (in his most serious voice) it’s not pink.

Making fun of Tia and her obsessions transcends all kinds of barriers. Even language ones.

BUT I DON’T CARE. I don’t have to handwash any more. Or bake scones. Or churn butter. Or pop out 39 children.

On a sorta related note, let me get all reflectiverandeflection-ist for a second. So before my washing machine broke, I really wasn’t looking forward to doing laundry. (not that I look forward to looking laundry at all) but I reallyreally wasn’t looking forward to it. Why you ask? Because dryers are kind of a rarity here in Korea. And that means hanging stuff up. one.by.one. None of this bearhug big bundle of clothes to move from washer to dryer in one swift motion. (which I’m awesome at by the way)

But it’s funny. This thing called life. And it finds its way of putting you in your place.

While I wasn’t looking forward to doing laundry before, I didnt think for a second that ATLEAST I dont have to handwash stuff. Take it from me, hanging up stuff once its washed doesnt even compare to manually washing 3 weeks worth of clothing. (not that I actually did… but let’s pretend I did for the sake of this comparison)

And now? Now I’m just really thankful I will have a working washing machine.

Be thankful. Count your blessings. And make the most of it… because… it could be worse.

Cheers to the freakin’ weekend! And washing machines! And the century we live in!

Happy Friday!!

Speaking of Fridays, 5 fridays ago… I was home. In Toronto. At my going away party. WITH ALL THIS YUMMINESS. Each of them arrived with dessert. Or a book. Or both.

I know I’m not the greatest with words. Even worse at talking about my feelings, but I miss all of you. And I’ve watched your “what I’ll miss about Tia” videos at least 395 times. Each. But who’s keeping count…

Andddd on that note, here are some cheesey lyrics. BECAUSE I CAN.

It’s been too long and I’m lost without you
What am I gonna do?
Said I been needin’ you, wantin’ you
Wonderin’ if you’re the same and who’s been with you
Is your heart still mine?
I wanna cry sometimes
I miss you

So just as I was about to hit publish on this already hijacked post, a friend sent me this link:

Go hug your mom. And tell her how much you love her.

Speaking of moms, I’ll be seeing mine at the end of this month!

I’m trying to book my flights for Sri Lanka… And I’m looking at 18+ hours of travel. From TAE to CMB with Beijing and Singapore as transits. I’m pretty sure booking flights to the other side of the world would be easier. Or the moon. I’m thiiiiiiiis close to pulling my hair out. one.by.one.

Thank you for flying tiainkorea airlines, our sincerest apologies for the many detours and pitstops. Please come again!

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December 8, 2011

Love, Bunkers & Childhood Memories

Childhood memories are special. Not because they are innocent. But because of the way in which they are engrained in our memory: innocently.

I have two memories before the age of 3. Both are as vivid as yesterday. The first is of my paternal grandmother’s house. The yellow walls. The oversized verandah. The huge papaya tree.

And the second is of our family bunker. Yes, bunker. I was born in Tellepallai, Jaffna in 1986 and lived there until I was 4. The war that plagued the country for 16 years from 1983 to 2009 was in full swing during my formative years. So bunkers in my toddler neighbourhood were as common as… little blue bins today.

The bunker doesn’t foster memories of war or soliders or bloodshed. Instead the bunker and its smell remind of me of love, of family, of laughter and of togetherness.

And my washroom here in Korea? It smells** like a bunker. I’m not reminded of the war or helicopters circling overhead… or the sounsd of bombs dropping. Instead, I’m reminded of my family, of laughter, of love… and of being together.

Yes, homesickness is in full swing. Because of my washroom. That smells like a bunker. Go figure.

**The smell of a bunker, to me (and the way I remember it) is this really strong earthy smell. I love it almost as much as I love the smell of gasoline. Maybe a tad bit more. It’s one of those smells you either hate or love. Or learn to love. And why does my washroom smell like contained earth? I’m guessing it’s because it’s not insulated. And it’s made of stone and bamboo. I may or may not have made all that up. Or made an educated guess. I have an undergrad and half of an MBA. You decide how educated that is.

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December 8, 2011

The Simple Things

Tonight, I’m reminded that the simplest is often the most important.

  1. Finalllllllly a table to blogeatfacebook on. And it’s pink!
  2. Hello Kitty training Chopsticks. Yes, they’re made for kids. Go on, judge me.
  3. Music to remind me of home. Byebye Miss.Homesick. Helloooo Mr.Kiss 92.5.

 

Oh and that hand washing I was bragging about?

  1. Clothes are still in buckets.
  2. Mission Hand-washing has been aborted.
  3. Mission Find-laundromat and Mission Get-new-washing-machine are underway.
December 6, 2011

Struggles Dot Com… Part 1

My washing machine doesn’t work. Let me repeat that. You know that machine in your house that does all your dirty work? That! It.doesn’t.work. Magnitude of my situation sink in yet? Good.

So after praying and hoping and praying some more, I decided to man-up (or woman-up depending on which era you’d like to refer to- yes, in Tia’s world there is an era in which men do the cleaning and cooking. THE ONE WE LIVE IN! I kid. Sorta kinda sorta.)

Anyway, I walked over to homeplus this morning and got 2 big washing buckets. To hand.wash. ALL. MY. CLOTHES.

I haven’t exactly gotten to the washing part. I filled up the buckets with detergent and hot water and left them to soak for 5 hours (while I was at school) and now I’m gonna go tackle this mission. I’ll let you know go that part goes. You know, the actual handwashing part. But in the meantime…

I feel way pioneer-ish.

I mean, I have two full buckets. of clothes. with water and detergent. in my washroom.

I might just start churning my own butter or baking my own scones… with my 39 children. What 39 children you ask? The Korean ones I’m going to adopt before I come home. (my mom is on a plane right now with hopefully no access to my blog. or the internet… I can say whatever I want with no disclaimers. OH! THE! FREEDOM!)

But I have a feeling she’d be proud of my pioneer ways.

In other news: one of my dreams came true today. Well, sorta.

Dream: to be cast on Sailormoon.

Dream sorta coming true: student drew my avatar today. Isn’t she just SMASHING?! And she’d totally fit in on Sailormoon.

December 3, 2011

27 years & Road trips… to Picton

If my family had a middle name, it would be road trips.

And this was my dad’s idea of picking the ultimate-awesome destination:

  1. Hear random town name mentioned in random conversation with random person.
  2. Find town on map (this was before the days of GPS and mapquest)
  3. Sell town to mom, brother and I as if he had a best friend who just went there. And loved it.

Like this one time. He somehow sold us on Picton. Picton. PICTON!

My dad was always the spontaneous one. And my mom? She’s the let’s-take-this-random-situation-and-squeeze-all-the-fun-out-of-it type. So they made a great team. And they made me. Clearly that is too much awesome in one family.

And it all started 27 years ago today.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY AMMA AND APPA!

and here’s to 27 moreeeee. :)

December 2, 2011

2 Plates of Randomsauce: Living Life in the Fast Lane

Someone once told me that life should be lived in the fast lane. Oh wait. I think that was my own thoughts talking to each other. Don’t yours do that? No? Only mine? Oh.

So teaching English in Korea to kids may not exactly be living life in the fast lane.

It may be the equivalent to driving a Prius. In the fast lane.

BUT MY LIFE IS AWESOME OK.

And that leads us to another… Plate of Randomsauce!

GUESS WHAT I FINALLY FOUND!! It’s not the swiffer sweeper I know and love, but this will do just fine for the other side of the world. I’ve never been so happy to see an aisle of cleaning products. Ok. Who am I kidding. Cool cleaning products always excite me. Like the shake-and-vac! If you know what that is, major cool points on the cool-o-meter for you!

So this is the name of the Academy I work for. After 3 weeks, I finally found out what the G and B stand for! Hint: the logo gives it away. Isn’t that the cutest thing ever!?

And here’s a pic of some of my new awesome friends taken at Thursday Party in downtown Daegu.

December 2, 2011

And they do it with so much Adorable.

From spending the day with kids to hanging out with my Korean teachers (some of whom have kids a few years younger than me) to partying into the night with other foreign teachers who are mostly in their 20s, I’ve learned this: we’re all pretty much the same. And we all want the same things: to be heard and to be loved.

I’ve learned that you can make a connection regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or culture That all you need to do is look for the similarities and love the differences. That keeping an open mind means understanding who you are is constantly changing. And that staying true to who you are doesn’t necessarily mean drawing lines and keeping yourself locked in.

I’m reminded to play. During every minute of my work day. I’m reminded to laugh and be silly. I’m reminded that life is lived in the in-between moments. Those moments in-between the question and the answer.

And I’m beginning to learn to accept every moment as it unfolds and not question, expect or want anything else. Yup, these kids  are teaching me more about life than I could ever teach them. And they do it with so much adorable.
December 1, 2011

Peace Signs, Raspberry Wine & Girl Talk

We bonded over seafood stew and raspberry black wine, Victoria’s Secret and Brad Pitt, Korean words and their English translations (thanks to Naver). And if there’s one thing I learned that night, it’s this: girl talk is the same everywhere. If it wasn’t for the restaurant buzzer on the table or the Korean music blasting through the speakers, I might’ve mistaken the dinner for one with my girlfriends. At home.

I work with a bunch of awesome girls who’ve welcomed me into their little circle with open arms and have made me feel so at home. We went out for dinner and drinks. AND started the night off in style…

Peace signs, beer and seafood stew

And this was my absolute fav dish. Cajun chicken salad with kiwi sauce.

And then we decided to head on over to this place for drinks:

Ordered some dried fish (they actually weren’t that bad!) and yes, that’s Kayla cutting the fish with scissors. That’s totally normal here!

And no night is complete without a kiwi soju appearance!

Cheers to GIRL TALK and a great girls’ night out :)

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