*This was written 6 years ago, a year before I left Korea for Canada*
I get asked this question a lot and so here…here is how I ended up in Korea:
Recently, I called a lawyer.
A lawyer in Canada, no less. This lawyer I called was very polite and helpful, apparently it’s the Maple Leaf disposition. He asked how I found out about his company as I was calling all the way from South Korea (‘South Korea, wow!’ ‘Yeah, I get that a lot when I call overseas from here.’). I explained I googled what I was looking for and clicked the first one I found with a Facebook page. Although it is also worth noting I was drinking a vodka and orange in an Irish bar on a school night while calling him….
This morning, I had a visa medical exam. A pretty standard test. One I’ve had a few times for my Korean visa so I knew the drill. Blood, chest x-ray, pee in paper cup, see doctor, deny knowing what an illegal drug is, the usual. On one of the stack of forms I had to fill in to give permission for them to view my medical records, test me for a wide varity of diseases, declare I wasn’t lying in any of my statements, give them custody of my first-born and the rights to name him Bob (one those is not true), it asked for my future occupation in my intended country of residence. Pointing out I wasn’t moving for another 12 months and hadn’t planned that yet, I was told to put ‘housewife’.
And so I did.
I laughed and shook my head and wrote the word on the page.
In a mere 48 hours, I’d called a lawyer, had a visa medical and declared myself a future housewife.
My entire life I’ve just kinda fallen into thing. Not really making conscious life decisions. I’ve just been presented with an opportunity and going with it, confident in the knowledge that it’ll all be fine. It’s no coincidence one of my favourite phrases is ‘Let’s see how this all plays out, shall we?’
I stumbled into going to university in England. I was unsure about what I wanted to do with my life and unwilling to choose computing suggested by one career counsellor and to ‘give up the idea of directing a movie because my teeth were not straight enough. So when I talk or give direction people will not understand me and HOW can I direct a movie if people can’t understand me’ (direct quote that will stay with me for life) by another career counsellor after I said I wanted to write movies.
To the UK I went, to study writing and film (a completely useless degree in hindsight). Unlike universities in the US where you can study many different things in the lead up to your eventual degree, in Ireland and the UK at 17 we have to choose our path and stick to it. Every course I took lead directly to the degree I applied for. I applied to ten universities, got into four, picked the one with the open day that was soon, flew over, looked around and signed up to attend in September.
Graduating at 20, I fell into working as a project supervisor at my previous job.
I was there when the previous project supervisor quit. That’s it. That’s all it took. I just happened to be there in the building. Later, when I moved into human resources, again, it was because I was there when the previous HR girl quit. For a while I was doing project supervising, HR, interviewing potential staff, running training seminars, doing wages (a terrifying month) and flying to Germany to brief new center managers. I took a two week holiday and went to Washington DC. It took three people to do my job while I was gone.
Having gone to Salzburg on a Sound of Music tour with my mother for her 50th birthday, I returned to my job bored and unhappy. I didn’t like it. It was depressing and I could do it drunk, hungover, half asleep, on the tail end of a bar hopping pub crawl (I kid you not!) and could coordinate client documents while talking on the phone, supervising staff and playing on the Internet all at the same time. The challenge was gone and thus I put in for a transfer. To London. My transfer approved, my contract drawn up and ready to be signed, apartment hunting was a go-go and I was packing my house up.
Six weeks later I was on a flight to Korea to start a new life.
It’s funny how these things just….happen.
So what happened?
Nothing at all.
Nothing major or dramatic or life changing. Nothing I can pinpoint on my life map and say ‘this was the event that caused it’. I just woke up one day and realised if I don’t leave now, now, this very second….if I don’t make the decision to leave when I get the chance, when my current contract is up, I’ll never leave. And then I’ll stay. I’ll stay here in a job I don’t like. In a country I really have no reason to be. With a car I can’t drive and a lethargic attitude towards work that ranks it just barely above ‘napping’. I’ll stay and be that person in the bar who stayed too long.
I needed a change. I needed to leave. And I needed to do it now while the idea was new and fresh and I was suddenly motivated. My contract at work was up for renewel. My current landlord was looking into selling off his house and thus, I’d have to move anyway. The stars were aligning and it was my shot!
A quick phone call later and i was offered a chance to either move to Korea the following month or Japan in 6 months. I choose Korea, because it was sooner and hanging around for 6 months would lead to a change of heart, second guessing and I have a short attention span. Left for 6 months to stew and think, I’d back out. I told my job. (‘I moving to Korea.’ ‘Korea…where’s that?’ ‘KOREA.’ ‘Ohhhhhh KOREA….I seeeeee.’) I sold everything that wouldn’t fit in my Opel Corsa on eBay and my mother drove me back to Dublin to await my Korean visa.
A few weeks later, visa and one way plane ticket in hand, large suitcase borrowed from my mother, and a world of opportunity ahead of me, I left on a plane to start anew. It would be a few weeks before I got around to reading the Lonely Planet guide I’d brought with me and a few more before I discovered what ‘Skype’ is…and I worked for eBay when they acquired Skype which made that so much worse.
Oh, how badly prepared I’d been when I arrived.
But alas how could I know that one decision, that decision to pack everything up and start again would change my life the way it did.
I took a shot.
And now, as I prepare for yet another country move, people keep asking if I’m scared, apprehensive, what if it all goes wrong, what if it doesn’t work out…etc.
To them I say, maybe it will. Maybe it will go wrong. Maybe it’ll be great. Maybe it’ll be the greatest decision I’ve ever made. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
I don’t want the ‘maybes’ to rule my life. For every ‘maybe yes’, there’s a ‘maybe no’. For every person that says ‘Maybe it’s a good idea’ there’s another saying ‘Maybe it’s a terrible idea. You should stay here’.
When I moved to England, people said I’d be back within a month. I said ‘Maybe.’ I returned 6 years later.
When I moved to Korea, people said, ‘Ohhh it’s so dangerous there! You won’t be safe!’. I said ‘Maybe.’ I’ve been here 3 years and 4 months. The most dangerous thing that has ever happened to me was almost being hit by a taxi cab when I walked out in front of it.
In less than a year, I move to Canada. People say it may not work out. That couples who meet in Korea and leave together don’t last. That we’ll regret it. That we won’t find jobs. That we’ll have no money. That it’s cold. That I’ll hate it. That it’s a risk.
To them, I say ‘Maybe.’
But for now, let’s just agree on one thing, let’s all sit back, relax and see how this all plays out, shall we?
(Oh and that’s The Canadian One with my Pingu the Penguin in his backpack in the pictures above on the day we moved me from my apartment into his!)
People always ask me ‘How did you and The Canadian One meet?’, ‘Why is your blog called The Ketchup War?’ and ‘Why is the printer beeping? Can you come fix it?”
To answer that last question first, I have no idea. I’ll turn it off and turn it on and if that doesn’t work, I’ll call IT.
Except it always works. And then people think I know how to fix the printer.
Looking at our beginning, if how The Canadian One and I met was a TV show, it would be full of annoying near-misses that keep the storyline alive and almost-meet-cutes around sweeps week.
How I Met Your Mother The Canadian One
Season 1: Spring 2008 – 12 Days In And Still Jetlagged
My second weekend in Korea back in May 2008, I got invited to a poker game at my supervising teacher’s home and it was there that I met a long-haired guy we shall dub Drummer-Boy. He had lived in my apartment and worked at my school the year before and was swiftly beating me at poker. I’ve covered my skills (or lack thereof) at poker previously but the fact that he took all my money is not the point here. I liked Drummer-Boy. He was my first new friend outside of my workmates that I had made, he lived an hour and a half away in Seoul and the subject of how his mother made Teletubbies quickly came up.
After a brief chat, we discovered we’d both worked in the same chain of betting shops in the UK around the same time a few years prior. We even figured we may have even spoken on the phone a handful of times as it was often required to call other branches to verify information.
While living in Cheonan, an hour and a half south of Seoul, I had somehow managed to live in a three bedroom apartment alone for the first few months until Em arrived. Drummer-Boy would often come visit old friends (and new friends) in my town and crash in one of my spare rooms.
We would go on to become firm friends, hanging out in his town (Seoul) and my town (Cheonan). He introduced me to his friend H, from Scotland, who would go on to become my travel and touring buddy (and partner-in-crime) in the years to come.
I, meanwhile, would visit Seoul a lot over the next 2 years, sleeping on H’s floor and spending our evenings watching Drummer-Boy’s band, Angry Bear, play in local bars and clubs.
And that, kids, is how I met…your Uncle Patrick.
Season 2: Christmas 2009 – A Trip Back To Cheonan
In 2009, Patrick brought his British friend, Sam, to Christmas dinner at our poker buddy’s home. Both Em and I had moved out of Cheonan by this time – having completed our year-long contracts there – and were living separately up nearer to Seoul. We met up and journeyed down to our old home town together, stopping in at a Burger King for a pre-dinner lunch of burgers and fries.
Now, Sam was memorable for three things:
1. He was also drummer but in a different band
2. He was also British, like Patrick
And 3. He insisted on calling me British for the entire night.
Some weeks later, as I’m leaving a magazine launch party with Em not paying a bit of attention to the band on stage, I suddenly spot my British nemesis from Christmas dinner on stage playing drums with the band. A passing “Hey, isn’t that Sam from Christmas dinner?” and a confirmation that yes it is and we were whisked out of the club and onto somewhere else.
The band Sam was playing with was Bedroom States…
It was their first live show…
And The Canadian One was their lead singer.
Season 3: Spring 2010: An Album and a Retreat
Between March 2010 and April 2010, I would move back to Cheonan and The Canadian One and I would attend two Angry Bear events in small venues and never meet.
The first was the Angry Bear first album launch that I attended with H, maybe Em and my date from speed dating a few weeks before. Yes, I went speed dating. Yes, it was awesome. I’ll tell you about it sometime. Actually, there’s a picture of me attached to an article online written by the guy I went on the date with. However, due to a dispute I had with that publication, I’m not linking to it. The guy was nice though. He was there covering the event for an article he was writing and I ended up dating him for a short period of time. For the record, my dispute with the publication and the non-successful continuation of my dates with my speed-date date were unconnected. That ridiculousness would come years later.
The second event both The Canadian One and I attended at the same time was the following month. H and I had signed ourselves up for a Buddhist Temple Retreat and I was up in Seoul to catch the bus with her early the next morning. The retreat seemed like a really good idea at the time however Patrick’s band was playing a gig the night before and since I was up in Seoul for the retreat anyway, we figured, meh, let’s go.
They were playing in a bar behind a coffee shop with a man dressed as a clown tending bar. I want to say it was 80’s night but it was Korea so it’s entirely possible it was just a regular Friday.
As we were early we went off to play darts in the corner and take advantage of the cheap shots that were on offer that night. The band arrived, we stood around with them for a bit, then went off and danced and hung out by ourselves. We were working on drumming up support for our cause to pressure the band into playing an old song of theirs. We loved the song but they rarely played it anymore as it was several years old (although it would be the last song I heard them play live at our leaving-Korea party). Our plan that night basically consisted of us gathering a small crowd to yell the name of the song at the band during every song interval until our plan worked.
After several rounds of drunk people yelling ‘Clementine’ at them, they caved.
Hours before our tour bus left and we were still at the party. Or rather, we were outside the party on the street with one of us throwing up (H) and the other not helping at all (me). At this point the Buddhist retreat was seeming like one of those plans you make for a Saturday night on a Tuesday but when Saturday rolls ‘round you’re thinking ‘Someone cancel, SOMEONE CANCEL, GOOD GOD PLEASE!!’ so you can just stay home.
But we still made it.
I remember being hungover, wearing inappropriate shoes for a hike I wasn’t warned about and ultimately becoming upset and frustrated during a ‘relaxing’ lotus flower making session.
I also recall eating flower pancakes and no, that’s not a misspelling. I do mean flower.
As it turned out, in that very same bar on that very same night was The Canadian One. He was at the same clown-man-behind-the-bar-show as us and had we hung out with the band more and not been off downing colourful shots and gathering a posse, we would have met.
Season 4: Summer 2010 – The Almost Meet
At the end of July 2010, I had a week off work which coincided with the Jisan Valley Rock Festival in Icheon. H, Em and I all decided we would go and camp for all three days of the festival. We bought our tickets, planned our weekend and I jetted off to Jeju-do for the few days prior and did exciting things like beach drinking and visiting sex parks
When I got back, I was dying of a cold (probably due to the massive amounts of beach drinking I did) and not feeling the tent-sleeping aspect of the trip. I eventually turned up two days late but had missed meeting The Canadian One who’d been there hanging out with Patrick and left a few hours prior to my arrival.
This would also become the weekend everyone referred to as ‘Remember that time Jenny was 2 days late for the musical festival?’
Season 5: Fall 2010 – A Train of Wine & Dance
Skipping forward to November 2010 and Patrick’s band had acquired a fourth member. The fourth member actually joined prior to summer but this was the first opportunity we would have to see them as a new four-piece. When Patrick called to tell me about adding a guitar player, I made fun of him.
“Why would you need two guitar players?”, I said. “Get a keyboard player. Keyboard players are cool.”
H and I were invited to their show and planned to go, however, it did clash with a Wine Train we were going on for H’s birthday.
‘What’s a Wine Train?’, you say.
Well, let me tell you.
A Wine Train is tour-guided day of drinking wine on a train, in a vineyard, at some kinda museum type place and then some arts and crafts to round out the day. It ends with more wine and bad dancing on the train home.
I found out later that in preparation for us perhaps actually turning up for the show, the band had practiced the song H and I loved with the new guitar player. They had fully explaining our peer pressure antics and general ‘play our goddamn song’ mentality to him.
Patrick, however, theorized that we would not make it due to an overabundance of wine and merriment.
Patrick knew us very well.
We didn’t make it anywhere near the gig.
In fact, I’m surprised we all made it home at a decent hour.
Season 6: Winter 2010 – Six Seasons and A Movie
Days after the Wine Train, Patrick announced his band would be coming to my town, Cheonan, and playing at our local hangout. I busied myself promoting the band’s gig. First I made my own tiny poster:
And then Patrick mailed me some ‘official’ posters.
H was coming down too and we quickly made dinner plans for his band and us and another friend. December 3rd rolls around and I arrived to dinner.
At least I wasn’t two days late for a musical festival kinda late.
When I got there, no food had been ordered, only drinks. I sat down next to Patrick, who was sitting next to their new guitarist:
The Canadian One.
I struck up a conversation with the little information I had: He was a guitarist. He was in a different band. Then he joined Patrick’s band. I was disappointed he was not a keyboard player. I thought perhaps I shouldn’t open with that. And that was literally it.
Our first conversation went something like:
Me: “So, I hear they stole you from another band?”
The Canadian One: “Well, no. I’m still in the other band. And in this band.”
Me: “What’s the other band?”
TCO: “Bedroom States.”
Me: “SAM’S BAND?!!”
TCO: “You know Sam?”
Me: “Yeah, he came to Christmas dinner last year. He kept calling me British.”
TCO: “You’re not British.”
We chatted a little about his other band and this new band and then he says: “I was in a band before Bedroom States called Animal Dads.”
And I stopped.
Me: “Wait…what?! I have your album on my iPod….”
And that was true.
As it turns out, waaaaaay back in March 2009 (so over a year and a half prior) Patrick had invited H and I to his friend’s band’s album launch. We went because we’re supportive like that and the bar had a great happy hour deal. Let’s be fair, we were probably more leaning towards the latter reasoning.
We paid to get in, got our albums, drank our drinks, danced our little hearts out and went home. We paid zero attention to the band on stage and moved on with our lives. Back at my apartment the following day, I put my CD into my laptop which automatically copied albums onto my iPod.
And thus I ended up with this album on my iPod.
The band: Animal Dads.
The lead singer: The Canadian One.
After the gig in Cheonan, he offered to buy me a drink for my wonderful ‘postering’ and promoting of the gig. I explained how, due to a misunderstanding, the barman actually bought me flowers as he thought we were promoting my birthday.
I also told him about how I was unimpressed that he wasn’t a keyboard player.
He spoke to Patrick about if I was single and if it was OK if he asked me out.
We chatted some more…
And then later that night….
He asked me out aaaaaaaanddddddd….
Series Finale – Part 1: Winter 2010 – Seoul-Mates
Our series finale, 2-parter episode opens on December 4th 2010 at a train station in Cheonan a mere 12 hours after I declined The Canadian One’s date offer.
Patrick, The Bass Player and I are all catching the same train up to Seoul as I was going work at a music festival for the most of the day and night and they lived there. The Canadian One and The Other Guitarist had left earlier in the morning.
While The Bass Player watched over the guitars, Patrick and I ventured to the ticket line. We were standing in line…waiting…waiting….waiting…and when we got to being the next to be served, an old man cut in front of us like a ninja and was at the ticket desk.
Patrick exchanged some words in Korean with the old man and then sighed, looking forlorn and defeated. He looked down at me:
“I said ‘no, it’s ok, you can go first, that’s fiiiine’ to him but clearly I don’t do sarcasm very well in Korean because he just thanked me.” – Patrick
The next 12 hours would be a montage of me working at the Rubber Seoul 2010 World AIDS Day Music Festival (a festival I would later go on to run for two years). Included would be:
My friend and I modelling the small beaded doll pins we were selling.
Being paid to stop trying to sell tickets to a group of people:
“Stickers are $1? If we pay you $5 and take no stickers, will you go away?” – Guys
“YES!” – Us
Me dressing as a condom and trying desperately not to be knocked over by drunk people.
I can’t find a picture.
But drunk people are mean. They kept trying to trip me up!
I had memorable conversation while handing out free condoms (dressed in normal clothes, my condom-costume hour was up). I hand one to a girl, who turns to look at her date, looks back at me and says:
And hands me the condom back.
And then finally, I vividly remember dancing with my friend to ‘We No Speak Americano’ by Yolanda Be Cool at the after-party and spotting The Canadian One and Patrick standing nearby. The Canadian One asked if he could buy me a drink and I said yes. I told him about my speed dating adventure from earlier in the year and we decided to pretend we were speed dating.
We sat opposite each other at a table.
We took it seriously.
And then we got kicked out of the bar because it was 3am and they were closing so we all headed home in our different directions.
To be continued….
Season Finale – Part 2: Christmas Day 2010 – First Date?
We montage through the next few weeks.
Given the 1.5 hour distance between us, The Canadian One and I would chat briefly and intermittently on Facebook and via text. Then it became less intermittent and more frequent. And then it was no longer brief and no longer intermittent and was pretty much taking up all of our spare time.
And here’s where the coincidental only-on-TV thing happens: The Canadian One was supposed to head to Ireland – where I am from and where he had never been – for a wedding over Christmas while I was off to sunny Malaysia with H for some winter beach time. A misspelling in his name ended with his ticket being cancelled last minute and he ended up spending Christmas in Seoul (while his friends jetted off for the wedding). Meanwhile I found myself in Seoul on Christmas Day to see a ballet and to fly out to Malaysia with H early on Boxing Day morning.
The Canadian One and I had arranged to meet for a drink near where he lived after I had said goodbye to my friends. After a miscommunication about which train station to meet at, we eventually located each other and headed to a bar and then to his place to watch a Christmas movie we’d earlier voted on.
He’d said Gremlins.
I’d said Die Hard.
Clearly we both have the same idea of what a Christmas movie is.
But we watched Gremlins.
He gave me a one half of a small penguin magnet set as a Christmas gift as I’d mentioned my favourite animals were penguins. I put it in my purse and it travelled to Malaysia with me as I flew out the very next morning with H.
He kept the matching one on his fridge.
A year and a half later, it would be reunited with The Canadian One’s penguin and now they live together on our fridge holding up our wedding photo from exactly a year ago today.
A serialistion of the popular Quote Friday book: Watch Out For The Hedgehog, four years of hilarious kids’ quotes from the ESL elementary school classroom in South Korea.
Chapter One: On Love & Relationships
In every school I’ve ever worked at the kids have always been a little more interested in my life than in anything they study in class. Usually after dispensing with pleasantries, names, where I’m from, etc, the kids undoubtedly wander upon the most asked question in Korea: ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’
Some kids ask it before they even find out where I’m from.
I was working in a private school for a while where the kids took extra lessons outside of elementary school. It was across the road from the elementary school. Two eleven-year-old boy students tried to set me up on a date with their elementary school’s native teacher:
Kid 1: “Teacher, Smith, very nice. You 26. He 27. Perfect. I will give you his phone number. Marry?”
Kid 1: “You can be dating then. I will bring you his picture.”
Kid 2: “Oh yes teacher, it’s a romantic story….”
Kid 1: “You can write a love letter to him.”
Practicing conversations about letters and mail in class:
Boy 1: “Yes, I write letter. To my friend. She move to another land. She write to me ‘love me’. I was scared.”
Boy 2: “I write bottle letter. I throw at my friend’s house. It broke his window. Our friendship exploded. We are not friends.”
Kid: “Teacher, Irish tradition, get married where?”
Me: “In a church usually.”
Kid: “Ahhhh, Christian country…I see.”
Kid 2: “When you marry Smith Teacher, in church, yes?”
Me: “I am not marrying Smith Teacher.”
Kid: “But why?!!!”
Kid 1: “Teacher, you have boyfriend?”
Kid 2: “He Korean?”
Me: “No, he’s Canadian.”
Kid 1: “Ou Teacher! He is handsome? Like a singer? His skin is bling bling?”
Me: “Ha, yes, he is very handsome.”
Kid 2: “REALLY??”
Me: “Of course!”
Kid 1: “Ou, you are lucky girl!”
Kid: “Teacher, you boyfriend, he will you marry me, you, ok??”
Kid 1: “Teacher…you like….boys….um….big arms?”
She makes a muscle gesture with arms.
Me: “Eh…no…not really.”
Kid 2: “Teacher, you like…boys…they….ou, chocolate chest?!” She looks to her friend for help.
Kid 1: “SIX-PACK!!”
I was laughing so much and I couldn’t speak!
Diary quote: “When I 30 years old, I will wedding. I hope my bride will be beautiful” (He’s 10!)
Kid 1: “Teacher, your boyfriend name?”
One kid looks at me, then stands up, walks across the room to where I keep all the Grade One workbooks and starts sifting through them. He pulls one out of the stack and holds it up.
Kid 1: “Like this?”
I look at the book. It belongs to one of the little boys in the Grade One class named Ian.
Me: “Yes…How…did…you know that I have a student called Ian?”
Kid 1: “I don’t know.”
He puts the book back.
Kid 2: “I…An.”
I write it on the board.
Kid 2: “Hahahahaha Teacher, change ‘n’ to ‘m’ and write one more time, I AM IAN.”
Then she laughed for a full 30 seconds.
Kid: “Today is my mom and dad wedding anniversary but I’m not give my present but my parents say ‘we’re precious in your and be born’. That time my heart is moved and my heart happy cry.”
While watching a video about Koko, the talking Gorilla, and her owner, who’s a woman, Koko and the owner hug.
Kid 1, pointing at the TV: “They married?”
Kid 2: “She’s old.”
Like that’s the ONLY reason the woman and the gorilla aren’t married.
Kid: “Teacher, you boyfriend?”
Me: “Of course.”
Kid looks at me skeptically.
Rumors spread through the school that the school had hired a ‘hot, Chinese-American boy’ as the new official school English teacher. This is two days later:
Kid 1: “Oh teacher, we have new English teacher.”
Kid 1: “Yes, Haley Teacher.”
Me: “Oh, a girl?”
Kid 1: “No, a boy.”
Me: “Haley’s a girl’s name.”
Kid 2: “No, it’s not.”
Kid 1: “Oh, teacher, you and Haley teacher, together, love.”
It’s break time and I’m sitting at my desk on the computer, writing school reports and drinking coffee. A kid stands in front of my desk. She’s not doing anything; she’s just standing there. The kids do that a lot. Just stand there and stare at me. Sometimes it’s weird. Other times, I just ignore them.
Kid: “Why you sadly?”
Me: “I’m not sad. I’m tired.”
Kid: “Why you tired?” She scrunches up her face and nods understandingly. “Teaching the kids?”
Me: “No, I’m just tired, that’s all.”
Kid: “No, bed early?”
Me: “No, get up very early.”
She nods and goes quiet. I return to writing my reports.
Kid: “Teacher, you boyfriend?”
Kid: “You dangdangdada?” (the wedding song)
Kid: “When the dangdangdada?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Kid: “How long you boyfriend?”
Me: “Two years.”
Kid: “Two years? Really? You lovely?”
Kid: “You boyfriend many many love?”
Kid: “Boyfriend look like?”
Kid: “Jenny teacher…tall…?”
Me: “Taller than me, yes.”
Me: “Short hair.”
Me: “Brown hair.”
Me: “Go away.”
Kid: “Just one more..and?”
Me: “And, I don’t know.”
Kid: “Handsome eyes?”
Kid: “Why no dangdangdada?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Kid: “But ring.” (pointing at the ring on my right hand)
Me: “Not wedding ring.”
She goes quiet.
Kid: “In December, you went to Canada.”
Me: “No, I didn’t.”
Kid: “YES!! You vacation!!”
Me: “No, no, I went to Ireland.”
Kid: “Ohhhh yeah, I think boyfriend Canada, you go to Canada…in my head…You go to Canada?”
Me: “Yes. In March.”
Kid: “Visit boyfriend parents?”
Me: “No, to live.”
Kid: “WHAT?! WHY?! HOW?! Jenny teacher no English class???”
Me: “No. I’m leaving.”
Me: “February 28.”
Kid: “Show me.”
Me: “Look, here, this day.” I show her the calendar.
Kid: “You go to Canada?”
Kid: “With boyfriend.”
Kid: “To live?”
Kid: “Teacher, boyfriend meeting parents?”
Kid: “THEN WHY NO DANGDANGDADA?!!”
Kid: “Teacher, me go to Canada and to you dangdangdada?”
I run into the school’s male foreign teacher on my way back from the bathroom and we were chatting. I come to class.
Entire class: “You and Haley teacher friends?”
One Kid: “LOVE!!”
Entire class: “NO!! Friends!”
Another boy pointing at the boy who said ‘love’: “He’s crazy!!”
Two kids are having a conversation while I’m correcting homework.
Kid 1: “I like tiger.”
Kid 2: “You like Tyler?” (Tyler is a kid in the class)
Kid 1: “No, tiger.”
Kid 2: “Tyler?!”
Kid 1: “TIGER!!”
Kid 2, turning to Tyler: “Oh Tyler, fantastic!!”
We read a role-play where a little girl calls a little boy and asks him to go to the park. I read the first line.
It’s been eight weeks since The Canadian One and I swapped The Land of The Morning Calm for The Land of The Maple Leaf but there are some mornings when I wake up just a little teeeeeny bit confused about which country I actually live in.
Take my 5 minute journey from our house to the train station in the mornings:
On the train I also pass a bunch of Korean stores, a Korea hair salon, Bow Bul Go Gi restaurant and Insadong BulGoGi restaurant. Oh and that E-Mart is exactly like our mart in Korea. EXACTLY. It’s weird. And freaky…Mainly freaky.
Then take our lunch at the weekend:
There’s also a Korean man who owns our mini-mart (he’s from Gwang-Ju and watches Korean soap operas on a small TV under the cash register), a Korean man who owns the liquor store (and sells Soju for $10 which should be a crime) and there were a bunch of Korean youths playing football in the car park opposite our house last week all yelling at each other in Korean. I felt like busting out my teacher-stare and my Kindergarten ‘shut up and be quiet’ in Korean phrases.
It’s sometimes hard to remember we DID actually leave Korea.
The best of this week’s quotes from my elementary students in South Korea (and some thrown in from friends too)
And so we come to the penultimate edition of Quote Friday. In a week where we hit our first birthday, details of the book emerged and the 200th post was written, it’s with great sadness that I write the words and sooooooooo the end is near, and so we face, the final curtain….or something like that. Is that it? I can’t be bothered to Google it, someone will Facebook me and correct me. Someone always Facebooks me and points out a blog error. Always.
This week, I saw this:
And it got me thinking. The most asked question that people approach me with is: ‘Are all your quotes real or do you make some up?’
My usual response is: ‘I’ve never made a quote up, what I wouldn’t give to be that creative.’
This is almost always followed by: ‘So how do you remember them all?’
Well, here’s my little secret: Whenever a kid says something funny, I immediately write it down. Now, I don’t want you thinking as soon as a kid says something Quote Friday-ish I rush from wherever I am in the classroom, sprinting like a marathon runner to my desk least I forget the little golden nugget of funny before I have a chance to write it down.
It doesn’t happen like that.
70% of the time, the kids say something funny while I’m actually AT my desk correcting homework, grading a paper, taking the attendance or whatever it is that I’m doing that they’re not doing so they have time to chat amongst themselves…or to me…and by ‘to me’…I mean just ‘at me’. The rest of the time, I’ve usually got a pen and a clipboard in my hand or the book with a post it note stuck on the page in case I need to jot something down. Nothing gets published unless I can remember it exactly and believe me, there are random notes knocking around my desk that look like they’d be hilarious quotes, I just can’t remember how they transpired.
After each lesson, if a kid is absent I have to text their parents to tell them what homework the kid has. I’m sitting at my desk, looking up a kid’s mother’s phone number when another kid comes and stands next to me. She looks at my phone, then at me and leans over to whisper:
“I know you code.”
And runs away.
I’m walking to school. A kid yells and stops me.
Kid: “Teacher!! Me mommy no message!! Me no homework. OK?” and then he makes the ‘OK’ sign with his hand.
Two little boys are fighting in class. Another little boy sitting nearby stands up and yells:
Me: “Do you want to be in a movie?”
Little Boy: “Yes.”
Me: “What kind of movie? Action? Drama?”
Little Boy: “Lovely.”
Me: “What do you do with your family?”
Kid: “Kakao talk.” (a form of text messaging)
The options were play sports, watch movies or go to the park.
Me: “What’s dry?”
Kid: “A grape.”
One kid is yelling another kid’s name trying to get her attention to borrow something while she’s ignoring him and shaking her head.
Kid 2: “No. No. You’re ugly boy. No.”
Me: “What’s your dream?”
Kid: “I don’t have a dream.”
Me: “What’s patient?”
Kid: “Many blood.”
Me: “It’s like if you’re at a bus stop and you wait and wait and wait and you don’t get angry.”
Kid 2: “Ah, disabled.”
Me: “Next week you will be my last ever class I teach. When I go to Canada, I might not teach so you will be my last class ever.”
Girl: “What will you do in the future?”
Boy next to her, without missing a beat: “Shopping.”
Me, to a kid regarding the test: “Are you ready?”
Kid: “No. Very very no.”
A kid points to a pen on my desk.
Kid: “What is it?”
Me: “Oh no! I took it from a kid in the class before, I forgot to give it back. It’s an invisible ink pen.”
Kid: “You are thief.”
Me: “No, I’m not! I just forgot to give it back.”
Kid: “Don’t lie.”
From April Lynn Amador:
A girl in my 7 year old class said that she didn’t like boys..and she wanted to marry Sunny teacher, the female Korean co-teacher. Another student said pointed out the problem there, but the first girl responded, “No it’s ok. Mr. Obama said it’s OK!”
Also from April:
One of my girls said the other day, “Teacher, do you know what I will do when I grow up?”
“What?” I say, getting ready to feel all proud as her teacher.
Kid: “I will marry a rich man and get a Chanel bag.”
And April’s students strike again:
From Joe Jenkinson:
What a twist!
From Michelle Diep (and further proving it’s only my students that think I’m leaving to get married):
I once whacked a child across the face with a CD player. His name was Blake. He was five.
It was my first year of teaching and I’d been placed in a Kindergarten school named Wonderland. I spent my mornings teaching two back-to-back 90 minute English classes to a group of 5 year olds and a group of 6 year olds respectively. It was in the former, at roughly a minute into class, that I hit him.
The thing is I really liked Blake. He was smart, never spoke Korean, had wonderful comprehension skills and he was genuinely a cute lil kid. Round head, hair that spiked out, always smiling, even as he hit the fake-wooden floor in the classroom.
My eyes widen as I realized what had happened. Blake may have been cute but he was sneaky. As I entered the classroom and set down my CD player on the desk, he’d tiptoed up behind me and stood very very still. When I decided moments later to move said CD player, I picked it up, spun quickly and knocked him on the side of the head, just under his eye.
Dropping the CD player back onto the desk, I rushed to his aid as he bounced back up with all the exuberance and resilience that only a small child could have. If I were to be floored by a CD player to the head today, I’d probably just die. Although I was once hit by a falling steel pole from a ceiling in a conference room. I became confused and was ordered to the emergency room, which was unfortunately in the next town over. Not feeling like travelling, I insisted I was fine, an underling was ordered to watch me for ‘signs of a concussion’ while my manager went ‘out’ and I lay on my desk on my job-before-teaching for the remainder of the day while an IT guy fixed my computer.
I asked Blake if he was ok. He smiled and said ‘yes’, his eye already starting to puff up. Other than the slow, swelling brewing on the side of his face, you wouldn’t know anything had happened to him.
I darted from the classroom in search of my co-teacher for the class, a very serious teacher by the name of Sammi.
Sammi and I shared two kindergarten classes and a few after-school elementary classes. We weren’t friends. I barely knew her despite working with her for 6 months at this point. She was in the middle of class and I knocked and entered before she’d even had the chance to register I was there.
“Hey, I…there was an accident in my class.” I blurted out, flapping my arms.
She looked up at me from the homework book she was correcting.
“Blake is hurt. Sort of.” I continued.
She ushered me outside and we stood in the hallway.
“I hit Blake with a CD player.”
“Oh my God.”
“No no, he’s ok. But…you need to come see him.”
One look at him and Sammi grabbed him and took him to the nurse…AKA the receptionist.
Blake returned to class 30 minutes later, his eye significantly bigger, the assistant frowning at me slightly, me breathing a sigh of relief it was Friday.
The weekend was spent prepping the Haunted House in the school gym and with me explaining how I hit a kid with a CD Player to the other.
“I hit a kid with a CD Player.”
“Marcus?!” would be the reply everyone responded with.
“WHY would you hit Blake?! He’s so lovely!” would be the reply everyone responded with.
Hitting Marcus would have been forgivable though, even if it wasn’t an accident. My boss had condoned hitting Marcus as a punishment one day but I’d opted against it. I just can’t hit a small child. I mean on purpose. Marcus, in the same class as Blake, was a nightmare. He’d hit other kids, teachers, me. He bit me once. (The most coincidental moment of that incident, a month into my teaching career: My boss: ‘Have you had a tetanus shot?’ Me: ‘Yes, I got it with my other shots before I came here. I told my doctor I was moving here to teach Kindergarten and she told me to get a tetanus as little kids bite.’) He’d also stabbed me with a pencil in my hand and later, after I’d moved to another school, took a knife with him to Kindergarten in his backpack.
Monday morning, Halloween Day, it was all go-go-go. The parents are coming in to watch a show we’d been prepping for what felt like weeks, everyone needed to be in a costume, we needed to practice, I needed to bribe the kids to not mess up with candy and stickers.
Standing the Teacher’s Room getting ready, I turn to find Sammi making her way towards me.
“How’s Blake? Is his mom mad?” I said, a slight undertone of panic in my voice.
“No, not mad. She understands it was an accident. Blake told her it was an accident.”
“Just…she is not happy today is the Halloween show and he has a big eye.”
“You should stay away from her. She speaks English.”
And off Sammi went, leaving me to figure out how on earth I was supposed to know who was Blake’s mom.
The Halloween Show went off without a hitch…well, no one was hurt during it and nobody fell over which was a step up. The moms seemed pleased. One came up and thanked me in English. I was so nervous over whether or not it was Blake’s mother, I froze and just smiled and nodded. Sammi ushered me out of the room and back upstairs with the kids to eat candy and play games.
Several months later, I’d approach Sammi with a problem student in my Grade Five class and her suggested solution: “You should hit him on the head with the CD player.”
There’s a muffin shop near where I work that’s part of a big chain of muffin stores throughout Seoul. It’s my favorite muffin store and whenever I’m sad, The Canadian One will invariably trek to the nearest one, a subway stop away, and buy me a muffin. When I first got this job, I was slightly more excited about having to pass this muffin shop every day than I was about the actual job. So much so, straight after my interview, while on the phone to The Canadian One, I was ordering a muffin and explaining how the interview went.
NOW, however, I go out of my way to avoid the muffin shop.
There’s an epidemic over here which we’ll call the Foreigner Interaction Giggles, or FIG, for short.
FIG happens when a foreigner comes in the midst of a Korean staff member, usually an under-25 member of society, and said staff member does nothing but giggle.
Loudly and often.
This is what happened between me and the muffin store worker. Everytime I went there, he laughed. I ordered IN KOREAN and he laughed. He laughed at me so much that the three people behind me in the line one day were starting to look a little uncomfortable and the man in front of me, who already had his coffee and muffin, came back to say something to the worker. This seemed to be the cure for this man’s FIG as he solemnly handed over my muffin and charged me for my order.
Another case of FIG happened at the weekend with me and The Canadian One. In line at Kyobo purchasing a book, some highlighters and ink for the printer, we come upon not one but TWO staff members, a girl and a boy, whose discovery of us not being able to understand them had them giggling and talking amongst themselves. When I made a disgusted face at them and leaned back slightly, a manager promptly appeared out of what seemed like nowhere. Words were spoken (I don’t know what) and the boy padded away while the woman rang up our goods in silence. The smiley manager packed our bags for us, thanked us, I had to ask the girl to give me my receipt as she was just standing there and then we stomped off.
Another outbreak of FIG happened at the bank once, the post office, the reception of a doctor’s office (several times, my doctor’s receptionists are…) and during too-many-to-count subway rides where people spot a foreigner amongst them and they feel the urge to chuckle.
Although in saying that, a breakout of FIG is a lot more pleasant than an outbreak of FIY, Foreigner Interaction Yelling.
I’ve experienced FIY in crowded post offices, crowded clinic receptions, on the street, on the bus, on the subway, waiting for the subway, in the coffee shop, this morning at the pharmacy, the list goes on.
Sometimes, it’s innocent nervousness that causes the giggles or sometimes it’s frustration that causes the yelling. Both of those, I can understand.
I take issue with the small section of the population that giggle, talk about you, look at you and giggle again or the ones that yell at you, yell at you again, and then yell at you a third time deliberately slowly like you’re suddenly going to understand them and that all this time, volume has been the problem.
Or the staff members that see a foreigner and run the other direction…literally. Like at the pension office recently or the bank or several times at restaurants and more often in coffee shops for some reason.
On the other side of the scale, there are the really excited members of society who want for nothing but to talk to you about everything. Like the taxi driver who told me about his wife’s drooping breasts and his growing disappointment in them. Or the old man on the train who wanted me to go hiking with him. Or the middle-aged woman who came up to my sleeping friend and I on a train to ask us to correct her English homework. ON THE TRAIN!
I just don’t understand it. If I saw a foreigner at home, I wouldn’t feel the need to laugh at them or yell at them or shout ‘Hello’ in their language at them and laugh like it’s the funniest thing anyone’s ever said ever or point at them or stop them in the street for no reason because I’m sure they have better things to be doing than to be harassed by me.
Like take the train and read their book sleep off their hangover in peace.
‘When your Kindergarten school give you cherries, you should make cherry muffins.’ – said Noone. Ever.
Recently The Canadian One had a parent-teacher’s meeting at his school at which he was given roughly $50 worth of fruit as a gift. Now, to YOU that may seem like a lot of fruit but here in Korea, it means 6 clementines, a small box of cherries, some green grapes and a small bottle of orange juice. Fruit is expensive here. Majorly expensive and whenever free fruit is going, we’re all over it like fruit flies.
Last week, The Canadian One sends me a text which read ‘You should see the fruit I scored‘ and immediately I began to get excited about a) what fruit it could be and b) what I could bake with that fruit.
In the end, I decided to try my hand at cherry muffins and once they were cooked, I promptly ate three of them and lay around feeling ill from the muffin overload. My advice: DO make these muffins. DON’T eat three at one time…no matter how badly you want to. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Cherry Muffins with Coconut Topping
1 tbls baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar / Splenda
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Pinch of cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped cherries
2 tbsl desiccated coconut
1. Pre-heat oven to 375F / 190C.
2. Mix together salt, flour, sugar/Splenda, vanilla essence and cinnamon in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and melted butter.
4. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine.
5. Fold in chopped cherries.
6. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full (if you want, sprinkle with coconut – I did half with coconut and half without) and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes (check after 20 minutes).
***I became concerned when the muffins remained only slightly browned and mostly white when they came out of the oven. My mother happened to call while I was checking on them. After a minor conversation about how the muffins were white and how milk is white and it all makes sense….I accepted the muffins were safe to eat…and then I promptly waited 20 minutes for them to cool and then ate one…and then another…and then a third.***
Ah, Irish stew, there’s nothing more warming on a cold winter’s night (or summer’s night if you live in Ireland, where on days when the sun shines people stare up wondering what the big, yellow ball in the sky is).
I make this all the time here in Korea. It’s tasty, homely and the ultimate comfort food. I usually make a big batch and freeze some of it to have on days when I don’t feel like cooking.
2lbs beef stew meat
2tbs all-purpose flour
1 pinch of salt and pepper
1-2 large onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cups carrots, chopped
2-3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
500ml beef stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sage
1 tbs parsley
The herbs are guesses. I grew up watching my mother just fling things into a pot and hope for the best. I also add some marjoram to mine if I have it handy.
1. In a plastic sandwich bag, mix beef, flour, salt and pepper. Close the bag at the top and shake, shake, shake until the beef is coated in the flour mixture.
2. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the beef and flour mixture, onion, carrots, herbs, potatoes and beef stock to the pot. Add enough water to cover an inch above the mixture. Bring to the boil, stirring and scraping any bits that stick to the bottom of the pot.
***Some recipes say to fry the meat and flour mixture first until browned and then add the other ingredients and others say add everything at the same time. I’ve tried it both ways and find the meat comes out better (and more melt-in-your-mouth-awesome) when it’s not pre-browned.***
3. Cover pot, reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot in a bowl with fresh crusty bread to mop up all the stewy goodness.
(If you find the mixture to be too thick, you can add more water to it. If you find it’s too watery, simmer with the lid off for 10-15 minutes until it’s the desired consistency. If you freeze/refrigerate it and find it’s too thick when you go to reheat it, feel free to add a bit more water to it and stir it thoroughly.)
So some of you may noticed last week’s absence of Quote Friday. For this, I apologise. You see between last week and this week, my students have been finishing their old books and starting their new books. This has involved a lot of writing in class and very little speaking other than the occasional, ‘I don’t like the new book’ comments I get with each new book.
The students were also informed this week that Open Class is soon upon us. Ah, Open Class, a day in which the classes are combined via time NOT level (really, where’s the logic??!) and their parents get to come in, watch me try to teach one book to a vast spectrum of different ability students and they write down their thoughts on my class. They essentially grade me on how good I am at, not teaching a normal class under normal everyday circumstances, but how well I fare at teaching kids doing the wrong book at the wrong level with other kids that are waaaaay more advanced than them…Oh and it’s got to be fun too.
This, combined with the new books, the fact that my air conditioning is controlled by a central school system and they don’t deem it hot enough for it to be switched on yet leading to a rise in heat and sleepiness during class and a majority of my students being on field trips recently, has lead to no new and/or interesting quotes from my students.
Today, I go down the classroom to break up a fight between two little boys who are calling each other ‘a baby’, moments after I told the entire class off for faffing about and acting like kindergarten students.
Kid 1: ‘You baby!!’
Kid 2: ‘YOU BABY!!’
Kid 1, stands up, pointing at Kid 2: ‘Mommy’s milk, you go, drink!’
I immediately burst into laughter to the surprise of the entire class and had to hide my face behind my book.
And so I present to you my Top 11 (cos I couldn’t pick just 10) Quotes From The Wall!
Having just read the sentence: ‘Baby wallabies are born without fur.’
Me: ‘What are baby wallabies born without?’
Me: ‘What’s a baby chicken called?’
Kid: ‘An egg fry.’
Me: ‘What’s back to life?’
‘Dead…then no dead.’
‘Jesus was a zombie!!’
Me: ‘No…well, maybe.’
‘Yes teacher, Jesus was a zombie!’
Me: ‘Fine, but …don’t tell your mommy I said that!’
Me: ‘What’s your favorite book?’
Me: ‘What’s the story?’
‘It has no story.’
The two BEST definitions I’ve ever gotten:
Me: ‘What are eyebrows?’
Kid: ‘People’s eye fur.’
Me: ‘What’s a ‘tail’?’
‘A dog’s antenna.’
I asked my class what is ‘dark’. One student stood up, all excited and proceeded to explain the word dark using very animated hand gestures and random English words. He made no sense but I could tell he knew what it meant. His friend calmly raised his hand. I looked at him and he leaned over to the light switch next to him, knocked off the light….
…and then looked at his friend.
I stare, wide-eyed at a child making noise in my class while I’m talking. We had just learned the words ‘egg’, ‘chicken’, ‘lay’ and ‘hatch’.
Kid 1: ‘Teacher, your eyes, so big.’
Kid 2: ‘Teacher teacher, your eyes will hatch!!!’
Reading a story about a mother and two kids:
Kid 1: ‘Where is father?’
Me: ‘Maybe on vacation.’
Me: ‘OK, or maybe on vacation.’
‘Yes teacher, a forever vacation.’
Me: ‘Name a state in America.’
‘Yes, it’s a state.’
‘No it’s not!’
‘Yes, teacher, my mother and my father go to Loveland and give birth to my brother.’
Me: ‘Your mother and your father went to Loveland in America and had your brother?’
‘Yes…it’s a state.’
I literally couldn’t teach for five mins I was laughing so much!
Me: ‘Does a penguin lay eggs?’
Kid 1: ‘No.’
Kid 2: ‘YES!!And daddy penguin sit on egg like this’…Mimics sitting on an egg.
Me: ‘Right, very good.’
Kid 3: ‘Yes, and mommy penguin goes to the nightclub and eats fish.’
Usually the kids aren’t allowed out of the classroom during class as they run about the school.
Naughtiest kid in my class (boy, 11): ‘Teacher, can I go to the bathroom?’