Notes from Korea - Early April - Falling, Travelling & Crazy Korean Kids

Once upon a time a thousand years ago (in 2002), I took a year long teaching job in South Korea. I packed up my 9 yr son, his little white cat and 4 huge bags of "stuff" and we got on a plane and flew from Washington state to South Korea. We lived there for a year, came home for Xmas and then my son stayed in the states for 8 weeks while I flew back over the big pond to finish my contract(the first time I've ever been away from him for more than 2 weeks). We lived in a small town, with no native English speakers, no familiar food, and no real clue of what we were going to do. It was a great adventure!

I wrote long, sometimes boring, letters home. These are them, unedited except for the removal of the whining and begging to my parents to please send this or that. You can click on the pictures to enlarge.
April 2nd, 2002
Andrew fell rollerblading pretty hard yesterday. He was with a couple Korean friends who are apparently really great on their skates. Andrew, however, has only owned a pair for a couple weeks. His friends were not aware of his skill level apparently and were leading him into town...but we live on a hill so there was going to be a downhill area at some point...and the kids were taking a shortcut-which involves a very steep hill, a section of a trail that is dirt and rocks and then a half of a mile trail through some rice fields. They set off and I didn't really know where they were off to, but this is typical of Korean kids-they have a LOT of freedom. About 40 minutes after they left, I got a phone call from Andrew's friend. He said this, "Andrew. Ground. Hit. Andrew. Ground. Hit. Blood. Andrew. Hit. Ground. Help." He apparently didn't know any other english words....but luckily, I knew a bit of Korean, so I was able to ask him- WHERE and NOW and kept repeating that "Andrew where now?" until he understood I was looking for the location of my bleeding offspring. And then I took a taxi downtown and met them and sure enough, Andrew had hit the ground hard.

Andrew and I laughed about the communication later. Apparently, Andrew fell at the bottom of the big hill and the other boys helped him the 1/2 mile through the rice field trail and stopped at someone's apartment where his friend ran inside and called me (Andrew and I carry a card around with key words, our address and phone number, and our school directors name and phone number).

Andrew had quite the banged up leg and a cramp in his neck. My director bought him some patches to put on the muscle, but Andrew only made it four of the eight hours you are supposed to leave it on. They have a really strong menthol smell abou tthem and he said they burn. His neck was better the next morning.

April 6th, 2002
Not much news here-we just got our Alien Registration Cards so they can keep good track of us aliens. Getting these cards was a paperwork nightmare, but since I don't read Korean well enough and I can't really answer most of the questions, my director had to deal with the majority of the hassle. The three of us drove about two hours to the government building, where it took us about 15 minutes to get our cards. The director was very frustrated with the process. I was frustrated with having to listen to his music in the car for four hours. He has a cassette tape of english songs-none of which I've ever heard before. They are really not very good..but the scenery was beautiful!

Andrew was super excited when we got home as there was a package just for HIM from Aunt Susan. It had 30 granola bars and some kool-aid!! He thinks they'll last him a full month, but I give it two-three weeks. He was totally blown away, he wasn't expecting them and REALLY appreciates them.
April 20th, 2002
It's about 80 degrees outside today so I am escaping some of the heat here inside a smelly pc room. The directors nephew is playing with Andrew -the family just showed up and dropped the kid off. I went downstairs and they were about to drive away and I tried to talk to them and all I could understand was that they were coming back at 7pm. I insisted they come back at 5. I'm not sure how I ended up babysitting. Their 8 year old is a wild little monkey!
I think I'm teaching a private lesson today..not really sure. A woman stopped me and kept insisting that I talk to her son..she kept saying, My home? Your home? I don't really know what is going to happen, but I guess I agreed to come to her apartment at 4 today.

We went to Wonju and met my Canadian friend for lunch yesterday. Andrew had a pork cutlet-after we convinced him he wouuld like it. I ordered a bagel-the first I've seen since we've been here. It was about 1.5 times the size of a normal bagel, and they serve it as a whole meal-it's on the menu next to spaghetti with meat sauce, and pork cutlets. Very strange, but it was filling. The place we went to also had Mt. Dew, whcih was a real treat for Andrew as we have never seen it here.

April 21st, 2002
It was just gorgeous today! It was a relaxing, lazy weekend wandering around our neighborhood. Last weekend we stayed in Seoul. We had a great time shopping in Itaewon and then Andrew and I had a great time at an Aussie/Kiwi expat picnic with lots of kids speaking english and food we somewhat recognized!  They are a great group of people and we hope to see them again soon. They meet nearly every weekend, but we are a bit far away so we will try to plan to see them once a month. We also went to a book exchange that some Seoul teachers organized. You bring some books and you take some books-it was nice to come home with a bag full of new books!

I had a little mishap with one of my challenging students last week. Nearly every day, he does something that is a bit concerning, but last Friday, he threw a dice at me and the wrote something bad on the board. I didn't know what it said, but the students in the next class were very upset that a student would DARE to write that in a classroom...My director was told about it, it's just more in a series of negative happenings with this particular boy and he said he would talk to the parent. I am just glad this boy is the only one like this all day-it's only a 50 minute class I have to deal with this. **the boy ended up not coming back to school again, which worked out great for me and everyone in that class!**


  1. Nat said...:

    I totally just went through your blog trying to decipher a secret message out of the highlighted portions...

  1. Brandy said...:

    These are just amazing to read.

  1. Right on, I have never worked in S Korea, but I have friends that have. I leaned towards the European area. I did however live in Okinawa as a dependent for 3 years.

  1. Tara DuBois said...:

    I want to become an alien :-) Sounds like an exciting year you much you must have learned.

  1. Heather said...:

    How weird is that to be called an alien?! Love that pic of Andrew with the funny mask!

    I don't know why you say these letters are boring, I find them fastenating!

  1. I love hearing your stories from Korea... you still never cease to amaze me that you did this as a single parent. I have no confidence and would never be able to do that, you are incredible.


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