Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ski Weekend at Muju

This past weekend was a blast. CDI took everyone on an all expenses paid trip to Muju Ski Resort! We met at CDI at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. They warned us if we were late we would get left behind. They were smart though and told us 8:30 sharp knowing people would be late, so we didn't end up leaving until 9 a.m. I knew that I would only be gone for one night, but somehow I ended up bringing a huge suitcase. Everyone else had a small bag or backpack. Oh well, I've never been a good packer. We took the Chungdahm school buses which aren't your typical big yellow buses, they're like Greyhound buses and are super nice. I would've loved going to and from school in them.

So Muju is about an hour and half south of Daejeon which isn't too bad and driving that distance you usually wouldn't stop. Well, I guess it's common for Koreans to stop at EVERY rest stop along the way when traveling even a short distance. Luckily there was only one and it had a little more than just snack food and restrooms. There were vendors lined up selling everything you could imagine from mops and brooms to stuffed animals and mini bowling sets. So after some browsing, we got back on the bus and drove the rest of the way to Muju.

When we got there they fed us lunch and handed out the equipment. It was a great deal. I got snow pants, a winter jacket, goggles, and rentals for free! The lift tickets were good for four hours which was a perfect amount of time. I was worried because I didn't see snow until I got to the actual mountain. I'm pretty sure it was all manmade because under the chair lifts there wasn't any snow. I conquered the bunny hill first. Instead of a tow rope, there was a moving sidewalk type thing to bring you to the top. I think skiing is like riding a bike, even if you don't do it for a few years, it comes back to you once you start doing it again. The hardest part was avoiding running into people. The hills were packed. I had to wait in line for an hour just to get on the chairlift! The hills were comparable to Michigan ski resorts and there were about 25 slopes. The weather was perfect for skiing, the sun was shining, and I avoiding getting a goggle tan line.

The people who didn't go skiing or snowboarding went sledding and snow mobiling. I wish I could've done it all. Everyone met back at the buses around 4:30 p.m. and we headed back to the pension to get ready for dinner. Another CDI branch was there so we all had dinner together. There were probably around 75-100 people altogether and the night only got better. Dinner was a delicious Korean BBQ and there was pizza and hot dogs. They provided us with tons of snacks later too including cheese puffs annnd chips and salsa. So good! Anyways, knowing this was a Korean party not only was there enough food to feed an army, but they also bought 200+ bottles of soju. We played games all night and there was karaoke too. I felt like I was at summer camp.

In the morning we all had breakfast and headed back to Daejeon with of course stopping at a rest area along the way.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Name Game

When I took Spanish and French in middle school we had to pick Spanish and French names. I remember I chose Mercedes as my Spanish name because it reminded me of the car brand and I kept Michelle as my French name. Well at CDI April, the students have to do something similar and choose an English name. Actually, it's the teachers responsibility to choose the name for them. So far I haven't needed to name any of my students, but I'm looking forward to the day I do. Other teachers name their students after their favorite movie or TV characters, so being the entertainment junkie that I am, I will probably do the same ie: Bella, Jacob, Edward, Blair, Serena, Chuck Bass, and Nate.

Top Five Best Student Names:

5.) Oscar
4.) Hans
3.) Xaviar
2.) Harry Potter (his name used to be Bank Robber)
1.) Captain Jack Sparrow

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

BA in Advertising

Graduating with a degree in advertising, it’s hard not to notice it around me.

Coming home to find restaurant magnets on my apartment door never seems to fail. Because of the language barrier I’ve never ordered their offers over the phone so until I learn Korean, the magnets will be used as refrigerator decorations. Since I got my TV, I’ve noticed that advertisements play at the end of shows instead of during them. I don’t know how effective this is, but I enjoy watching commercial free episodes. Not only do they play at the end of shows, but the frequency of the same advertisement is a bit much. I’ve seen the same ad play four times in a row. Talk about high frequency or maybe it was just a cheap sales package.

One day when I was walking home from work a car stopped right in front of me. Thinking they were stopping for me to cross the street (not normal in Korea), I started walking. A bunch of papers flew right at me. The car wasn’t stopping for me… they were stopped in the middle of the road to throw advertisements on the ground. Picture the scene from 10 Things I Hate About You when the party invitations gets thrown down the stairwell. That’s exactly what it felt like. Surprisingly though, there’s never litter on the ground. So maybe people actually stop and pick up the flyers.

I read somewhere that single trip subway tickets in Daejeon are plastic tokens instead of paper ones, like in Seoul, because they’re easier to advertise on. One of the coolest ads I’ve seen was on the subway in Seoul. You know when you’re at Disney World and vendors sell you those lights that you swirl around and they spell something. There was an ad like that in a tunnel on the subway. The subway was moving so fast that an electronic sign flashed an ad. I also noticed on my bus ride to Gimhae, that there weren’t any billboards.

When I studied abroad we visited Cheil Worldwide in Seoul. It is ranked as the 16th largest global ad agency so it was a rare opportunity to visit there a few years ago. Well, walking around Seoul this past weekend, I came across Cheil Worldwide! I was so excited to have noticed the building that I asked someone to take a picture of me in front of it. Unfortunately, mid-picture, a security guard came out and stopped me, but luckily it sort of came out.

This is my study abroad group and I in front of Cheil back in 2007.

And this is me now... post getting yelled out by a security guard. Good thing the photographer had good reflexes.

These are a few of my Favorite Things

-Heated floors: Koreans love it hot, including the floors. Heated floors make it (almost) enjoyable to step out of bed on a cold winter morning. I’m not sure what it is about heated floors, but if I lay on them, I can fall asleep in a second. I’m definitely going to need to install some in my (future) house.

-Shopping: When I studied abroad for a month I came home with two extra suitcases filled with fun souvenirs, purses, clothes, etc. At that rate, I’m going to come home with 24 extra suitcases so I’ve been trying to pace myself. So far I’ve been very good about shopping, minus my obsessive accessory and headband purchases. Right before I left my mom told me “Don’t buy junk! You should buy something worthwhile.” So I’ve been thinking of something memorable to save up for, something that will remind me of Korea. I’m still thinking, but until then I’ll channel my inner Blair Waldarf and keep buying headbands. I’ve been to the shopping districts in Seoul and Daejeon and I feel like I’m in heaven every time. On the streets and underground there are rows and rows of vendors selling everything imaginable. You can bargain with vendors, but I have yet to try it. There are also regular stores like Zara, The North Face, Nike, H&M, and Polo.

-Home Plus: It’s like Target on steroids. This is where I go grocery shopping. It’s about four floors (no big deal) and literally has everything. Home Plus is your one stop shop plus some.

-Korean Side Dishes: They come with every meal and I love them. Kimchi is the most popular side dish. It’s pickled cabbage and has spicy chili paste on it. I think I’m a fan of all of the side dishes because they’re all pickled. You know how I’m obsessed with sauerkraut? Well, it’s kind of like eating sauerkraut with every meal.

-Delivery is Free: Mcdonalds and every pizza joint in town delivers... for free! There isn't a minimum purchase amount either. The delivery guys ride these motorcycles with hot boxes on the back and traffic laws don't apply to them. Until I learn more Korean, I have yet to order in.

-Tipping and Tax: Or lack there of. Tipping a server or cab driver is not necessary and tax is included in everything so what you see is what you pay. Genius idea. I've tried to tip cab drivers before if they're really helpful, but they don't accept the extra money.

Monday, January 25, 2010

In Honor of American Idol: Welcome to Hollywood!

Every other week is an "acting” week. The students read a news report in front of a blue screen and act out the script. There are different backgrounds and cool intro, news type music, so I get pretty excited when it’s an acting week. Last week April told us that there is an April wide acting contest. All of the April Institutes throughout Korea are to submit their best videos to headquarters and the winners get a trip to Seoul, and could win a Nintendo Wii, electronic dictionary, or restaurant certificates. I tried to motivate my students to do well by giving them extra points (huge!) and I said I’d buy them something “special”. Well that translated to an iPhone, video games, and other electronics that I would never buy them. So I ended the conversation telling them IF you win, we will discuss your prize. Well my bribery worked… for some. Last week all of the teachers got together to make our “dream acting teams” and about ten out of the 16 students chosen are from my classes. Obviously not everyone makes it to Seoul, but I hope my students do well in the competition! Maybe my forensics gestures will come in handy. I’ll keep you posted on how they do.

Cry me a River

In training we had to mock teach and also practice classroom control. We had these cards that had different scenarios on them such as yelling out answers, not sitting in your chair, not understanding the material, etc. The person mock teaching would step out of the room and two of us would choose cards and act them out. Of course the people acting took each scenario to the extreme (or so I thought). We would climb under the table, write on the board, yell out answers, and chat with our neighbors, but one situation that stands out in my mind is Q pretending to cry.

Well what I thought was an extreme situation of a student crying, happened not once, not twice, but THREE times to me last week! I mean I know that I’m a really intimidating, scary, and mean person (ha), but really three times in one week?!

On Wednesday it was raining all day so the students brought their umbrellas into the classroom. Now these weren’t travel-sized umbrellas, for some reason their parents thought it was necessary to send their child to school with golf-sized umbrellas. Bigger umbrellas mean there’s a bigger chance to poke or stab people with them. It wasn’t quite to that extreme, but one of my students somehow got wedged in his chair between the wall and his desk and his umbrella was digging into him and he started crying. I fixed the situation by un-wedging him and he was fine.

Thursday was an “acting” day. The students recite a news report about the topic of the day and I record them in front of a blue screen. It’s actually really cool. There are usually two parts and each student gets a part. The kids are smart enough to realize the part with the least amount of lines is the easiest to memorize and act out so of course everyone wants that role. Well, one student didn’t get the part he wanted and started to cry. I stood my ground and did not let him change parts. I did however let him choose first the next time. Since then I make them draw parts out of a hat to make it fairer.

Friday’s sob story is a little less climatic than the other two. One student (another boy!) had a bad headache and started crying.


A Day in the Life of MJC

So like I said in my first post I work at CDI April Institute. April has the youngest students at CDI ranging from first to fifth grade. Each level is named after a plant term: Seedbed Starter, Seedbed, Seed 1 and 2, Sprout 1, 2, and 3, Sapling 1 and 2, and Junior Master (it should be green thumb or something plant related). P.S. The levels at CDI are golf terms! There are four semesters a year and last three months, so I’ll get new classes every three months. Each semester I’ll go through three books that have twelve lessons in each book. April is in addition to their regular schooling so when the students are on break, we have Intensives. Intensives are basically extra classes for the students to attend, but because of them, my schedule has been a little different than usual and goes something like this:

I wake up around 8:30 a.m… well 8:45 a.m. after pressing snooze once (or three times). Luckily, I live kiddy corner to work so I can leave my place at 9:29 a.m. (my clock is 4 minutes fast) and arrive to work at 9:30 a.m. When I get to school I print off my review tests for the day and grade homework. I don’t have a first class so I get some extra time to get organized for the day. Then on Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s I have 3 classes in the morning, each 40 or 45 min. long with five minute breaks. The nice thing about intensives is that I get a long lunch break in between my morning and afternoon classes. After lunch I teach four more classes and my last class ends at 5:35 p.m. I stay after to grade tests and put in participation grades and I’m usually out of work by 6:15. On Tuesday and Thursday’s, I get two 40 minute breaks because I don’t have a first or third class then I teach six classes straight through. My last class on Tuesday and Thursday’s is done at 5:10, and I’m out of work by 6 p.m.

Once intensives are over (this week is the last week) I will work from 1-9 p.m. and teach six classes every day. The nice thing about working at April is that we don’t have to work on the weekends. I’m looking forward to sleeping in once intensives are over, but I know I’m going to get into some pretty bad sleeping and meal eating habits.

My youngest class is Seed 2, my oldest is Sprout 3, I have a lot of Sprout 1 classes, and one Sprout 2 class. I’ve really enjoyed teaching these levels because they’re eager to learn and their English is good enough to understand me pretty well. Right now I teach reading and speaking classes and one writing intensive class. Some material is more interesting than others, but overall the lessons are pretty entertaining. The hardest part is classroom control with the younger classes and of course those are my biggest ones. My smallest class is four students and my biggest is 11. I’ve noticed when “trouble makers” are absent the whole classroom attitude is different. It’s amazing the influence one student can have on the whole class.

For Twilight Fans Only

Justin Chon was in Seoul last week... how did I miss him?!

Here's his interview with The Korean Times:

Movies, 3-D, and VIP (wishful thinking)

In honor of award season lets talk movies. Since I’ve been in Korea I’ve seen Avatar in 3-D (my first 3-D movie ever!) and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Ticket prices are about the same as in the US, the chairs are just as comfortable, and the US movies are in English with Korean subtitles. Some of the popular snacks to eat during movies are caramel corn and corn dogs. The biggest difference is that there is assigned seating like in a live theater. When you purchase your ticket you pick out your seat which makes it difficult to sit with friends at impromptu movie nights out.

Besides Harry Potter and The Twilight Saga midnight premiers, I’ve never had so much trouble getting into a movie. Q and I were both dying to see Avatar in 3-D so we got to the ticket counter and asked for two tickets. A screen in front of us showed up with the available seats left. Of course the showing we wanted to go to only had one seat left in the very back corner. Fail. We tried the next time. No luck. I noticed the line forming behind us, so we stepped out of it to decide what to do. We went to another ticket counter thinking maybe the first one was a fluke and the new one would show more seats. Unfortunately we were wrong. I felt bad for the lady behind the ticket counter who had to deal with us. Q and I went through every movie, every time, and finally settled on not sitting together and seeing The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Weird movie to say the least, so basically I paid to see Johnny Depp, Heath Ledger, and Jude Law on the big screen for two hours.

I ended up bringing a lot of DVD’s to Korea to tide me over while I’m here and if you saw them it wouldn’t take a genius to realize that science fantasy movies aren’t my thing, but all the hype over Avatar I didn’t want to miss out. I finally saw the James Cameron film in 3-D. It was amazing and the glasses were quite fashionable. Also the actress who played the girl Avatar (Zoe Saldana) got her start in Center Stage... one of my favorites! I had no idea it was her, but I guess the special effects made it a little hard for me to recognize her.

Speaking of 3-D the WSJ posted an article with the headline, “LG to Offer Range of 3-D TV’s: Korean Company Teams with Skylife to Jumpstart Content”. So Korea is definitely “in” with technology and I can’t wait to see my shows in 3-D! After I saw “This Is It” (twice) I realized that MJ’s concert would’ve been incredible in 3-D, especially “Earth Song” and “Thriller”. If you felt the same way, you’re in luck. The Grammy’s is featuring “Earth Song” in 3-D so you can get a tease as to what his concert would’ve been like. So let me know how it goes!

Everyone knows I’m already counting down to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, but I’m also really interested in seeing a movie in Korean. One of the teachers that I work with learned English from watching American movies and reading books in English. Another thing I would love to do is attend the Pusan Film Festival. It isn’t until October, but I’ve already been researching it. I remember Justin Chon, Eric from The Twilight Saga, tweeted about going to it last year. Maybe when the time comes, I’ll DM him on Twitter and I could get in VIP.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What if I Received Entertainment News Before the USA

I may have missed the Critics' Choice Awards hosted by Kristin Chenoweth (original Glinda in Wicked… enough said) and the Golden Globes, but thanks to the Internet (and my obsession with Twitter) I was kept up to date pretty well with the best red carpet moments and winners.

Anyways, one of the first things I thought of when I was adjusting to the time difference here was what if I received the news, entertainment headlines, or even sport scores before any of my friends and family back home. I would definitely be more popular than Perez Hilton, I could spoil the outcome of football games to my sports loving family and I would even know the winner of Survivor before anyone else. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, but I do finally have a TV!

I may not have a table and chairs in my apartment, but at least I have a TV. I’m sure I could’ve survived without one, but I’m glad I don’t have to be put to the test, and it’s 2010: the year of the Winter Olympics! I treat the Olympics like a holiday. I usually go into hibernation and glue myself to a TV just to make sure I don’t miss anything. This event only happens every four years, well two if you include the summer Olympics, and attending an opening ceremony at the Olympic games is on my bucket list. One of the top medal contenders in ladies figure skating is Yu Na Kim and she’s from Korea! She’s featured in so many advertisements here and everyone knows who she is. I’m looking forward to cheering her on.

It’s a Small World After All

I may be halfway around the world, but I’ve learned that six degrees of separation is really true. Here are some examples:

-This past weekend I bought a TV from a girl who was moving out of my apartment complex. Not only was she from Michigan, but she was also from Troy! She attended Troy High School and I’m sure if I found her on Facebook, we would have some friends in common.

-At a Christmas party, I met a girl who works at CDI, went to MSU, and was a journalism major. We're both glad to be representing MSUCAS in Korea!

-There were three other people from Michigan in my training group.

-Two of them went to Albion. We had some mutual friends, and A (gossip girl style, using only the first initial of his name) was in the same fraternity as my brother at AC.

-Another A from training went to NYU. I found out that he roomed with T, a guy I went to elementary, middle and high school with over summer term!

-Spotted: Detroit D hats ALL OVER the place!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What Traveling was Like Before Cell Phones

I had two weeks off in between training and when I started teaching and conveniently enough the holidays happened to fall within my two weeks of freedom. So for Christmas I ventured up to Suwon, a city outside of Seoul, to visit some friends from training. Now traveling in a country where few people know English is one thing, but it's a whole different story doing that AND without a cell phone. I was up for the challenge.

The people I was meeting and I had come up with a plan A: meet at Yeoungtong Home Plus at 2 p.m.; a plan B: go to a PC bang and email each other to plan my rescue; and (my own secret) plan C: turn around and go back to Daejeon... just incase both plans failed. So assuming I was meeting them at 2 p.m. I left Daejeon at 10 a.m. That's four hours of travel time when it's suppose to only take two.

So I took a cab from my apartment to the bus station. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. There are approximately five different bus stations in Daejeon and that morning I went to four out of five of them. First stop: a random station that I knew wasn't right. I had been warned to tell the cab driver "big bus station" so when he didn't understand me I motioned big (both hands out), bus (I pretended to be driving with a huge steering wheel), and I slowly said station hoping that would help him understand me. After our game of gestures, he took me to another station that I thought was the right one. I was on my way to purchase my ticket when a random bus driver motioned me to get in. I tried to explain that I needed to go to Suwon and I didn't have my ticket yet, but he insisted that I get in. So I did. There were two other girls on the bus and I asked where we were going? I needed to go to Suwon. They definitely did not understand me. I started to panic thinking oh no, where is this bus taking me? but then I realized it was a shuttle to ANOTHER bus station.

Relieved, I got off, and went inside to purchase my ticket. I got to the ticket window and guess what? they didn't have tickets to Suwon. The lady behind the counter kept motioning me to go outside so I thought maybe I needed to purchase my ticket outside. I hadn't even left Daejeon yet and I was already thinking about pursuing plan C. The girls who were on the shuttle bus with me saw me outside looking like a lost child and were extremely nice. They called one of their friends who spoke some English and told me to take a cab to another station.

I hailed the next cab and said “bus station, Suwon” and I was off. The cab driver didn’t say anything so for a second I thought he thought I wanted to take the cab all the way to Suwon. I finally arrived at the right station and bought my ticket. I got on the bus and was finally off.

About an hour and half later we stopped at a bus station. Thinking I was in Suwon I obviously got off the bus and got a cab to the Yeoungtong Home Plus. The driver dropped me off at Home Plus and my timing was perfect... it was about 2:15 p.m. which was right on schedule for plan A. I waited and waited and waited... then I asked someone if I was at the Yeoungtong Home Plus. Of course it wasn’t the right one because that would’ve make it too easy for me to meet my friends.

I took another cab to the right Home Plus, but by this time it was way past the meeting time. I waited inside for awhile just in case, but didn't see anyone so I went to the nearest PC bang (plan B). I emailed the people I was meeting and explained that I was (obviously) late and that I would go back and wait at the entrance near the food court. Little did I know that both entrances into Home Plus were near the food court, but not too long after I got back from the PC bang I saw a familiar face.

Travel Time: 5.5 hours
Number of Bus Stations: 5
Number of Buses: 1
Number of cabs: 4 cabs
Number of Home Pluses: 2

I said I was up for a challenge and that’s exactly what I got.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Better Late Than Never

It's hard to believe I've been in Korea for more than a month now. There has definitely been a whirlwind of activity and I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I know this might sound cliche, but it feels like just yesterday I was sitting at the Lansing airport listening to Wicked worried about missing my connecting flights due to bad weather in the midwest. Luckily getting to Korea went smoothly and there were even personal TV's on my thirteen hour flight. Let's be honest that was all I was worried about.

Thankfully I had a heads up as to what training week would be like so I was expecting the worst. I was placed at CDI April Institute which is a hagwon. Telling people that I work at a hagwon sounds like I work at Hogwarts School of Wizardry, but really it's Korean for private institute. The students at April are the youngest at Chungdahm so I had it a little easier than others in my training group. While my lessons were on animal communication (including dolphins!) and Athena, everyone else was prepping about more controversial topics that I would've had to look up on Wikipedia to know more about. The best things about training were staying at the Coatel, role play cards in class, discovering Paris Baguette, and the use of lots of sticky notes and highlighters (clearly color coordinated). Besides cramming my brain with teaching methods and confusing level names and schedules, the number one worst thing about training was having to wear a swine flu mask. Even though I had a pink Hello Kitty mask, I felt like I was suffocating the entire time (no exaggeration). Obviously, I survived the swine flu mask and training.

There were thirteen people in my training group from all of the world including: Canada, New Zealand, California, Texas, New York, and three others from Michigan. I don't know if it's my ability to relate everything to a reality TV show, but during training week I literally felt like I was on one. This next year is all about meeting new people, seeing new places and experiencing life halfway around the world.

Welcome to The Real World: Korea!