Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Highs and Lows

Middle School kids. For a middle school teachers, I feel like that phrase in itself is actually a complete thought with emotion behind it. These kids drive me bonkers at times and make my day some days. With a single action, they can affect my mood. I've never felt so bipolar with emotions since middle school. One great class and lesson can make me wish I could renew; the next class go horribly and make me want to count down the days til I go back to America. It's a whirlwind of emotion and it honestly doesn't seem like it will pass until I leave Korea. These kids. The highs are definite highs. The lows are definite lows. A few weeks ago, I had class 3-5, one of my third year girls class. I told them that I was going to leave Korea in July and they told me to stay another year. It actually broke my heart (in a good way). They asked why I was leaving; it was really adorable. I was writing on the board and asked them who was the ETA before me and they said Daniel. Then I asked who was before Daniel and they said Sean. I then asked how long Sean was there; they said one year. I asked how long Daniel was there; they said one year. Then I proceeded to ask how long I would be there (so they would see the pattern); they said one and a half years (because they will graduate if I'm here for half a year longer). I literally clutched my heart, it was so endearing. That same day, I saw my old vice principal (the new high school vice principal) at lunch. He told me to sit next to him. We then proceeded to use broken Korean/English to talk and he expressed to me the school's desire for me to stay another year. He said the school chairman really likes me and Tracey and is hoping that we'll both renew at the school. This too broke my heart. There are honestly some days I think I would be very happy not just renewing, but renewing at my school. However, one of my favorite sayings is, "this too shall pass." I believe that holds true for good events and bad events. That said, the feeling of wanting to renew passes too.

On personal life aside from school, here have been my recent travels:
I went to Daegu on April 19th so I could go to the Cheongdo Bullfighting Festival on the 20th. We joined a tour group which included a visit to an organic market, samgyeopsal lunch, drive to and from the festival, and strawberry picking. Out of all those events, the strawberry picking was by far the best part and made the entire day worth it. The bullfighting festival was kinda cool.

Two bulls get into a ring and they go at it until one of them runs away; the one who runs away is the "loser". Each of the bulls has either a red circle or blue circle painted on his side and spectators can go and place bets on which bull they think will win. Bets can be as low as 100 won (10 cents)--which is how much Tracey bet. >.< I placed a 1,000 won bet ($1) on the blue bull but it lost. Tracey and Maggie placed their bet on the red bull and they won but it wasn't a huge winning; it was a 20% win so Tracey won 20 won (2 cents) from her 100 won bet. Overall, it's the first bullfighting I've ever seen so I'm glad I went. I still must say though, the strawberry picking was the best part of the day though. On Sunday, we shopped around Daegu before we left for our respective cities.
On the 26th, a lot of Fulbrighters came into Mokpo. A lot of them were trying to go to Jindo for the Miracle Sea Parting on Saturday. I met up with them on Friday night to hang out but I wasn't able to go with them to Jindo that Saturday because I had free concert tickets in Seoul. So, on April 27th, I went to Seoul in the morning to make my free Lush concert. I got there in the afternoon to grab some lunch with Lyla and to catch up. Lyla was in the business school with me at Michigan and I didn't realize she was living in Korea until a few days before I met up with her. I saw a picture she had posted on her Facebook about her being on TV and recognized it was a Korean show. I asked and found out that she was living and working in Seoul so we made plans to get together when I went up on Saturday. She's originally from Korea so it wasn't so far fetched that she was living here but last I checked, she was in Spain and trying to find a way to live in New York. She's been back in Korea since last June and wasn't even aware I was living here either. So we grabbed lunch and caught up before my concert. Turns out, she's working in fashion/entertainment now. She told me that she met Song Joong Gi (whom I love) and she kind of killed his image for me because she told me he chain smokes. Anyway, she's trying to get back to New York now. After meeting with her, I headed to the Olympic Stadium where the Lush concert was going to be held; I got a free ticket when I bought a few products from Lush. The lineup was: 딕펑스 (Dickpunks), 더원 (The One) & 몬스터즈 (Monsterz), 에일리 (Ailee), 울랄라세션 (Ooh Lala Session), 백지영 (Baek Ji-Young), and 인피니트 (Infinite). Honestly, I only went for Infinite; I love one of the members, Hoya. It was so worth it. After seeing Infinite, I can understand crazy girl fandom. They were SO good and awesome dancers, especially Hoya. Yep, I'm stoked to see them again in concert at the Dream concert (the concert I'm going to next Saturday). After the concert ended, I rushed to the bus station to grab a late bus back to Mokpo since I didn't want to pay for a place to stay overnight and I was trying to go to the Jindo sea parting the next day.
That Sunday after the Lush concert, on the 28th, I went to Jindo for the Miracle Sea Parting by myself since everyone else had gone the day before. So every year, a few times a year (I think), there's some mysterious force that causes a very low tide between Jindo (one of the biggest islands in Korea) and a neighboring island, Modo. This phenomenon is caused due to the difference in high tides and low tides, which creates a 2.8-kilometer-long road measuring 40 to 60 meters in width. The Jindo Miracle Sea Festival takes place at the same time as this phenomenon. A path from Jindo to Modo LITERALLY appears so people can walk THROUGH the ocean to the island. It's pretty epic. It's like Moses, except we're not as cool. When I was there, it felt like a giant exodus though which was cool. The pictures don't give justice to how many people were actually there.

So low and behold, when I was there, I ran into Robyn, one of my fellow Mokpo crew members. She had gone on Saturday but liked it so much she came again on Sunday but forgot to mention it to me. Anyway, we ended up walking the path together. It was really cool. I got to pick up starfish and met a guy who caught a small crab. I can now say I've walked in the middle of the ocean. While I was walking and taking pictures, all the real Koreans, especially the ahjummas, were digging for clams, oysters, crabs, octopus, seaweed, etc. They were going at it. It was entertaining to see them do it too.

The parting was from 6pm-7pm so we headed back to Mokpo after the festival ended.
This past Thursday and Friday (May 2nd-3rd), my kids were taking their midterms so I didn't have class. I had to go into school that Thursday to insa but left early. Christina came into Mokpo from Gumi and we visited Annie and Sara's school. They teach at an all girls high school and middle school, respectively. I actually saw four of my girls who had graduated last year at Annie's school. I was going up the stairs and I heard, "Ammy teacher!" being yelled. I saw four of my girls running towards me. They were surprised and I was surprised too. They told me that about 25 of my graduated girls from last year now go to Annie's school and she's their new teacher. It was good to see a few of my old students. Seeing Annie and Sara teach was really interesting too because everyone has such a different teaching method. At night, I showed Christina around Mokpo and the fountain area. On Friday, Christina and I headed to Jeonju in the morning for the Jeonju International Film Festival. Lizzie and Katelyn were already in Jeonju so we met up with them to catch a few films.

We watched "My Paparotti" (a Korean film), a few short films in the short film competition, and the closing film, "Wadjda". "My Paparotti" and "Wadjda" were great film; the former is probably one of my new favorite movies but the short films were pretty bad. In particular, the first of the short films was absolutely horrible and disgusting. One of the short films was about 9 minutes long and the theme of this short film was "depth". Within this short film, there were three scenes. The first scene was a guy turning on the camera in a field and then running away from the camera in the field. The third scene had two guys sitting across from one another repeating a sentence back and forth while the camera zooms into the wall behind the table. I leave the second scene description as the last one because it was absolutely disgusting and despicable. It was pretty much a porn scene for 3 minutes. Shot from the angle of a male, it was looking down on a girl as she was giving the guy holding the camera a blow job. Yep, it was graphic and disgusting. Pretty much all the girls in the theatre had their heads down and the guys were watching. It was absolutely disgusting. I never want to watch any short film competitions in film festivals ever again.
Christina and I wanted to do a hanok stay since we figured it'd be a cool experience. We got to walk around the Jeonju hanok village between films and it's a pretty awesome place. There's a lot of culture and it's just very pretty. We stayed in a two-person room hanok that had its own bathroom. It was small but well maintained and pretty nice. Katelyn and Lizzie left that day but Christina and I stayed until Saturday morning (today). We had the famous Jeonju bibimbap for lunch and it was okay. To be honest, I guess I expected something crazy good but it didn't taste like the best bibimbap I've ever had. For dinner we had this famous kalguksu from a place called "Veteran". That place had the best kalguksu I've ever eaten in my life. It wasn't the noodles that were special, it was the broth. It had a bunch of spices and I had no idea what they put in it but I could drink that broth all day. It was delicious.
This morning, Christina and I explored the hanok village a bit more before heading out for Gochang. We checked out the UNESCO World Hertitage Gochang Dolmen sites and the Gochang Fortress.

Gochang is a pretty small town but it was cute. After we finished the fortress visit, Christina headed to Gwangju where she's crowd surfing for the night and I headed back to Mokpo since it was only an hour away from Gochang. Tomorrow, we're meeting up in Gwangju to head over to the Damyang Bamboo Festival. More about that tomorrow!

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