Monday, July 16, 2012

What in the world have I been up to?

Well it is a good question I suppose. Last time I left this, the wise Mrs. Shim paid a visit to our quaint little Goesan.  Since then, we have been quite busy.  Taekwondo (TKD) has really picked up and is very enjoyable.  I have never done a martial art but it's pretty fun.  We have been practicing elementary punches and kicks for the most part since we are all beginners.  I got my uniform today and it looks pretty snazzy.  Not the most comfortable thing in the world as it is almost like a plastic-y material but it makes the whole thing much more legit so I will embrace it.  I have TKD classes four nights a week so it is definitely a commitment but one that is totally worthwhile.

Korean classes have been really amping up in terms of difficulty levels.  It seems like once I finally mastered one concept, we are thrown another.  This is largely due to the fact that we have four hours of class a day and are moving at a very accelerated pace.  I took a quiz today and I think that it went fairly well, but I still struggle a bit with the dictation part as many of the letters sound the same to my untrained ear.  Other than that, I think that I am happy with how things went on the quiz.  We have two teachers, one for the first 2 hours and another for the second half.  The first teacher is a very funny and easy going man who is quite the talented artist, which really helps explain what certain words mean as he uses virtually no English in class.  The second teacher is a perky, energetic lady who always smiles and likes to act out words or our mistakes.  For example, she asked me "Where are you from?" and I misinterpreted the question and answered "No" which prompted some fake crying from her.  But I just got done with my first session with one of my classmates, Nhu, who has a background in Asian languages and was so incredibly helpful.  She was able to get me to better understand the grammar and sentence structure which helped so much.  I was really just memorizing words in certain order which made it difficult to understand but she really taught me that it was much more than that.  I am definitely going to be having more tutoring sessions with her.  Her and the rest of my classmates are awesome, especially Liam who sits next to me and has the misfortune of listening and watching me stumble through the readings and conversations each day.  Both of them have been great though and have really helped me make some progress.

We have also had a lot of workshops about teaching and a few cultural ones as well.  The ones about teaching are actually better than I thought they would be.  As most of you know, I have a teaching background and I graduated this past April with my BA in Education so I figured I would already know most everything in the workshops.  But teaching in Korea sounds very different from the states, especially with the roles that ETAs have.  For examples, I will only be seeing my students once a week at most and possibly as little as twice a month, a huge change for me.  Also, I will not give grades to my students, which is a very foreign concept to me.  This makes it challenging to motivate students to work when it doesn't affect their grades.  There are a few other differences, but I am sure that I will be able to elaborate on them more once I actually get into the classroom and teach.

Oh I also took my first yoga class!  One of the ETAs here, Tyler, is a yoga instructor back home and he is offering free classes for anyone who wants to try them out.  It was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be, but it was pretty enjoyable.  I don't know if I have the zen personality for it as I prefer to be up and moving around, but it was still a great class and I will probably go again when the opportunity presents itself.

Lastly, I went to Seoul this past Sunday.  It was a two hour bus ride, but it was only like $20.00 for a round trip so it was a decent deal.  I went with Jason, Neal, Kaley, Robyn, Megan, and Luke, who's girlfriend is from there and her family took us around town.  It was so great to see Korea outside of Goesan.  Goesan is extremely rural and isn't necessarily the most accurate representation of Korea as a whole.  It was raining right when we got there and, of course, I left my umbrella at Jungwon.  Oops.  But it eventually stopped raining in the afternoon.  Anyways, the two fine ladies who took us around town were absolutely amazing.  So energetic and friendly.  They really welcomed us as if they had known us all of their life.  And they were very generous, to the point where I and the others felt a bit guilty but there wasn't anything we could do about it!  Luke tried to convince them not to, but nearly all of his endeavors failed.  Speaking of Luke, he was totally awesome.  He speaks near fluent Korean and was awesome for letting us tag along everywhere and for translating and answering questions for us.  Overall it was an awesome day and it makes me excited to explore and see what else this country has to offer.

These are the two ladies (and Jason) were such 
friendly and amazing hostesses for us!

Before I forget, here is a link to Tyler's website where he has some great images of Jungwon University, where I am staying.  In addition to being a cool yoga instructor, he is an extremely talented photographer/videographer.  I don't have the slightest clue how he did it, but he captured Jungwon beautifully through these outstanding panoramic images.  You really need to check it out; it is totally worth it.  Here is the link!

Now I have to see if a dryer is free and have to write a lesson plan that is due tomorrow so I will update hopefully sooner than this time.  By the way, I have Skype set up now so feel free to add me there.  My name thing is benjamin.m.louis.  Pretty simple.  Hope everything is going well back in the US of A.


  1. Great update Ben. It sounds like you are experiencing the Asian culture pretty much similar to my experience with Hong Kong/Chinese people. You are one of the few of us who has. I wish that more people would - I think they would gain a new view of these humble people and help defuse a lot of stereotypical views of them. I am so very proud of you Ben!

  2. Hello Ben, sounds like you are adjusting well. Two comments: 1. I have visited Korea several times and have never been treated like a rock star. It must have something to do with the hair. 2. I love spicy kimchi. You have to order the spicy kimchi. If it does not burn the roof of your mouth, it is too mild.

    I do have a trip to Seoul August. Unfortunately, I only have 20 hours off before I leave again. We arrive at the Renaissance Seoul Hotel on Friday the 24th at 6pm and leave on Saturday the 25th at 2pm. Maybe my next trip will have a longer layover and we can plan a visit. I will keep you posted.

    Uncle Mark

  3. I actually had some great kimchi in Seoul! The stuff at the University I am staying at is not too good, but I am sure once I get out of cafeteria food, I will be able to like it a bit more. And please do keep me posted! I am actually going to be in Seoul the weekend beforehand, but the weekend of the 24th is actually my first weekend in my homestay which will not be in Seoul so it looks like I will have to catch you next time. Hope things are going well with you and the family!