ENT

In December I had to go to an ENT doctor for an ear infection. The first time I was there I didn’t get any pictures, but I made sure to get some the second time! The first time I went I was glad to hear that both doctors speak excellent English, but the doctor either wouldn’t or couldn’t speak to me in English except for a few words.

My boss was there to “translate” and pay for the visit. Before going to Korea we were promised medical insurance, but that never happened. Thankfully we didn’t have any major health problems or emergencies this past year.

The doctor put a small needle-like camera into my ears that took pictures of my eardrums which seemed normal. But after that I had to put these things on my ears:

I don’t remember the last time I went to an ENT doctor in the States so maybe they have these too? I felt silly holding these things up to my ears!

The second time I went was for my sinuses. I had a massive headache, and thankfully the doctor gave me some medicine for the pain and sinusitis. After he looked at my nose and ears again, I had to hold this plastic thing up my nose so it could wash my sinuses. About a week later I felt better.

Happy Holidays!

On Thanksgiving we had a party with the students. The 6 & 7 year olds made Pilgrim hats and the 5 year olds made Native American head bands. They had a lot of fun making the crafts and eating snacks.

 

 

 

 

 

For Christmas the 7 year olds made a hand print tree and ornaments. We had a lot of fun making it, and they loved the glitter glue I bought for them to use!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On December 21st, a Christian Korean organization that had been coming once a week to teach Bible came and had a Christmas party with the students. 

 

 

 

 

Culture Shock

Culture shock happens to every one who visits a new country. It even happens to some people who visit a new part of their own country. No two individuals are the same, so when two different people interact, misunderstandings occur. As I was thinking about our experience teaching in Korea, I was wondering how our interaction with the Korean culture has compared to others. I found a graph that generalizes culture shock for people of any culture visiting another culture. Most of the time culture shock does not set in while visiting as a tourist, though incidents still do happen. It usually takes 2 or more months before you start to notice culture shock.

As I was looking for a graph or picture to use for culture shock, I did not find one that matched perfectly with our situation. Again all people are different, so each person will have a different experience. So I will try to elaborate a bit about this graph in light of our experience.

Stage 1 (Honeymoon Stage)–The initial excitement and interest in Korea lasted for a few months. Though there were ups and downs, we enjoyed having a job, being in a new culture, and being able to travel to new places. Some foreigners really like Korean food. We are not a huge fan of Korean food so the new food excitement died out quickly. Traveling was fun, until it became too much of a hassle to travel with 10 million other people. And our city is small, so the list of new things to do ran out quickly.

Stage 2–We researched as much as we could about Korea before coming here, so we knew some of what to expect as far as differences. We noticed the differences immediately and were able to handle them pretty well. Communication has certainly been one of the biggest cultural frustrations.

Stage 3–This stage is certainly the hardest for people to understand unless they have gone through it. At times you feel like you are stranded on an island with no friends and no communication with the outside world. A person can become depressed and want to leave the culture. Many teachers in Korea have quit after only a few months because of culture shock and other factors.

Stages 4, 5, & 6–These three stages blend together for some people. Like I mentioned earlier we have adapting to many of the changes in culture. We have not embraced much of the culture because I personally have not found much worth embracing. Since we teach in a smaller city, we also have not been able to make many friends either Koreans or foreigners. Therefore, we do not see this as our home and will not be as sad to leave friends. We certainly are excited about returning to America, but we will miss one or two things about Korea.

Stages 7 & 8–Though we have yet to experience these stages, they are the most surprising stages to see. I have heard much about theses stages and have experience them on a small level. Visiting new places gives people excitement and experiences that they want to share with others when they return, but often that excitement does not carry over to the listeners. The people who did not travel do not understand this excitement. They have been living their lives and they often are not as interested in the other person’s experiences. Though we may miss a few things about Korea, we will probably not have any desire to return.

Stage 9–We certainly learned a great deal about business, teaching, traveling, and interacting with people. Incorporating these new lessons into our life will help in many areas. For better or worse, we have learned many valuable lessons.

I found these helpful tips online for helping to lessen culture shock in Korea:

1. “Know what to expect”–Do research. There are thousands of books and websites to learn about Korea.

2. “Learn the language”–Learning how to read Korean characters is actually pretty easy and allows someone to learn basic Korean words. Learning Korean grammar is almost impossible though from what I have heard.

3. “Find a hobby or something to do in your spare time”–Most English teachers actually have quite a bit of times on their hands.

4. “Make a network of friends”–This is hard to do in a small city, but is worth looking into at least.

5. “Meet Korean people”–Most Koreans love having foreign friends and want to help out as much as possible.

6. “Take advantage of Korean’s unique traits”–There are many unique things in Korea, try some new things.

Mr. Toilet House

On Sunday, October 2nd, we started the day like any other day and took a bus to go to church. Our first bus was late to the bus station, which meant we wouldn’t make it to church once again. Sometimes we take the next bus back to Dangjin, but it was a nice day so we took a bus to Pyeongtaek and then took the train to Suwon. We went to Suwon in the spring and we weren’t sure what else there was to see so we stopped by the Tourist Information Center near the train station and found this gem:

We couldn’t believe someone actually made a museum about toilets! We were dressed for church not hiking so we thought the museum would be better and funnier. 


For the first part of the museum we were given a brief tour. It was really hard not to laugh while she was talking. The tour guide said that the bathroom in Mr. Toilet’s house was in the middle of the house. He would read his newspaper in his bathroom and was able to see his family from the door sized window. When privacy was needed, he would push a button to fog the window so no one could see in or out.

The museum had medals and information about Mr. Toilet. He was nicknamed Mr. Toilet because of the work he did to improve public toilets in Korea and around the world. According to a sign in the museum, his interest in toilets began as a baby… He was born in the outhouse at his grandmother’s house!

When we were leaving the museum, the tour guide asked us to fill out a survey and gave us souvenirs, two piles of gold dung.

Facial Hair

As we enter the last 4 months of our current contract, we would like to share some posts about what life is like in Korea. There have been a lot of fun experiences as well as bad experiences, but I thought I would start this out with a more comic post about Korean culture.

Those who know me will attest to the fact that I look about 5 years younger without facial hair than I do with facial hair. When we arrived I did not want to look like a young, inexperienced teacher, so I thought I would keep my facial hair to make me look older and more mature. Turns out Koreans, and most Asians, do not grow facial hair as well as Westerners, which I thought was odd because in most Asian Kung Fu type movies the actors always have facial hair, especially the bad guys.

Shortly after arriving our boss’ mother-in-law told our boss’ wife that she was really concerned why they hired me because she said I looked like a drug addict with my facial hair and all. Now, to her credit, I did have shaggy hair and my facial hair wasn’t maintained very well because I don’t have a beard trimmer here. So in the interest of not scaring away all our students, I decided to shave and stay clean shaven. (Which is both sad and rather difficult.) Plus I didn’t want to make all the Koreans jealous of my studliness haha.

Side Note: As opposed to popular misconceptions, there actually is a plethera of shaving razors and shaving cream in Korea. I had read online before coming that I would need to pack my own stuff. But they have razors and shaving cream in almost all supermarkets for the same price as the states.

Well after 6 months of staying clean shaven I finally decided to start growing my facial hair back. And it was an immediate hit. I even had mother’s writing notes in English in their blue books saying that I looked more handsome. I should probably clarify two things about that. To the best of my knowledge, Koreans are very blunt and say what they think about a person’s appearance. So saying someone looks nice or handsome is more of a statement of a fact than flirtation. People tell Rachel all the time how beautiful she is and I want to punch them for hitting on her. But it’s a different culture. And the second thing is that each student has a blue notebook/journal that gets sent home everyday and returned. It’s an easy way for parents and teachers to communicate. We can tell the parents how their students are doing in class and the Korean teachers can tell them what is happening in school. It is always interesting and entertaining when the parents try to write notes in English to us.

So the moral of the story is, don’t stress too much about facial hair in Korea. Most of the Koreans love and are kind of jealous. It’s more of a non-issue here than anything.

Starting to Grow

Over the past month we have about a 50% increase in attendance. When you start with a low number than it’s not too impressive to add that percentage, but we are happy to be adding students. Seems like everyday we are changing the schedule and adding new students. We have started a new afternoon class as well which I get to teach. And Rachel is now tutoring a girl 2 days a week in the evening.

Unfortunately with growth comes more responsibilities. Seeing the school get established and get it’s feet on the ground is incredible. It’s fun to be a part of. It will be fun to see how big KCIS Dangjin is 5 years from now and know that God let us be a part of starting that. But for right now, we are definitely struggling to not get worn out. When we first started, handling only a few students was manageable. But now being at school from 8:45 am to 7:00pm seems a bit stressful (we do get about 2 hours in total of breaks). Hopefully we are close to hiring more teachers. We continue adding students and the general vibe is that the increase will continue. So who knows, maybe we will get more help soon. On Monday I finished a 6-day on-and-off fever that never quite reached 103. We’ve had teacher’s sick quite a bit this year and even in the hospital. Didn’t realize helping to start a business was so physically demanding.

On Tuesday I did start teaching a Mom’s English Class. Don’t ask me how I got elected to teach the class. Believe me, I was terrified of the idea when I was first told. The class only runs for 50 minutes 2 times a week. It actually should be fun since I will be able to do cooking classes and art classes with the class. I will be teaching them basic English conversations they can have with the children as they do different activities together (i.e. cooking, cleaning, shopping). My afternoon elementary class also got pushed back to 5:30-7:00 because it worked better for the students and our school can open up more time slots for new classes. Sounds like we will be having an afternoon Kindergarten class that would bring in about 8 more students.

Lots of fun happening as the summer starts here. We now have 16 enrolled in Kindergarten and 19 in Elementary classes. All of us are definitely staying busy and trying to stay healthy.

Good Surprises!

Dinner, chocolate, flowers, cake, fruit, presents, jelly beans, and letters. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we had some awesome surprises. The Korean habit of waiting until the last second to tell us anything actually turned out great!

On Thursday night I had a somewhat stressful meeting with the parents of one of my classes to explain some of the changes we were thinking of making. Rachel had gone back to the apartment and right after the meeting was over I got a call from one of our coworkers wondering where we were. One of the mother’s of our students had invited us over for dinner, but our director had forgotten to tell us. And the mother and other coworker were waiting for us outside our apartment. So I quickly walked home and Rachel and I heading over to their house for dinner.

The food was really good and they had a really nice apartment. We even got to watch a Korean drama show. Before we had even left the dinner table we had already counted 5 people crying. Pretty epic. While they were driving us home the mother invited us to go over to her parent’s place to go fishing. They either own a hotel or a country home that is right next to the Sea or a lake! That will be pretty sweet.

When the students got to school on Friday they started giving us gifts. Our director told us that Teacher’s Day is on Sunday so the students bring in gifts on Friday for their teachers. We ended up doing pretty well too. One students’ parents sent in a huge cake, some fruit, and the student had written a note in Korean that said “I love you.” He got the student of the week award. 😉 We got a bouquet of flowers and a real plant. Plus Rachel got a whole perfume body care set. And another student brought in some chocolates for us.

We had also received a yellow slip of paper from the Korea Post but were not able to go to the Post Office until Friday evening. We were not expecting anything to arrive so we were sort of confused. It took us a little while to find where our package was, but when we saw a USPS box in the sorting room we figured we were in luck. My parents sent us a package for Rachel and I’s birthdays! We got a box of Wheat Thins and 3 different bags of Starburst Jelly Beans. Surprisingly only the wrapping on one of the bags was ripped. Plus they got Rachel a handbag from Coach and I got a Packers Super Bowl Champion t-shirt!

The surprises continued on Friday night when we heard fireworks outside. We quickly ran to get a good view of them. The whole show only lasted about 2 minutes but I was able to get a short video of it. Thursday and Friday were definitely some good days. We had had some not so good surprises recently, but these surprises were the kind that keep you going.

Out of all the surprises we had this past week none were more exciting or more important than the surprise we got when Sam told us that he asked Christi to marry him! 🙂 I am so excited for you guys! I cannot wait to see your wedding. We wish you guys the very best.

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