{homeward bound}

Ahhhhh America. I’ve been back in the states for about a week now, steadily gaining back all the weight I lost by indulging on all of my favorite american treats. MMMMmm. No regrets there!

My trip started out in Ann Arbor, switched it up in Detroit, involved a combo greyhound+plane flight to get to my bro in Tallahassee, and now is kicking down a few gears as I board a private bus bound down the FL coast for Miami in just a few hours.

My trip has been defined by food and friends, but grad school is weighing top in my mind. Since I was visiting two university towns, I met with the graduate programs admissions representatives and fleshed out some of my post-grad goals while hearing about different programs.

Basically, I’m planning on going to library school to get my MLIS and a certificate as a school media specialist (ie, a school librarian). I could work in a school in in a public library as a YA/children’s librarian. After a few year of tossing around different ideas for grad school (MSW, MA in Jewish women’s studies, the omnipresent MFA), library school has stuck out. Do I have any experience working in libraries? No… And yet, it’s something that I’ve been kicking around for a long time. In both of the admissions meetings that I had, I got uncontrollably (yes! uncontrollably!) excited when talking about library space, information usage and youth education. Seriously! I’ve read a lot of peoples’ day-to-day librarian experiences on Library Day in the Life and it looks like what I want from a job: social, challenging, technology and youth based, and ever changing.

And yet, I still have some… slight doubts. I talked to my brother about it a lot. See, I always expected that I would do something art related with my life. I’m a couple of years out if art school, and that hasn’t been the case. My day jobs have been about education, not art. I keep wondering if I should be getting a degree in art education instead. Which will give me satisfaction and happiness? Which would let me grow and develop as an artist? Which will lend itself to a stable work environment?

As it stands, I’m looking at applying to four iSchools for the fall of ’11. Utexas-Austin, Umich, Simmons in Boston and Umaryland โ€“ college park. These schools might be some of the harder iSchools to get into… I might also have some of the lowest GRE scores to ever fall out of a fairly intelligent persons skull. I’m looking at it as an experiment. If I don’t get in, I’m not going to stress about it. If I do get in, I’ll take it from there.

Librarians in training. I can see myself doing that.

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full loop

I resigned my contract. Next week I’ll go back to the states for a quick vay-cay, and then return to Seoul.

I keep reflecting on my time here. A lot of it’s been good. I like how varied my job is, and I love worthing with my students. Sometimes the solitude gets to me. Sometimes all I want is some macaroni and cheese, or another small, unimportant comfort item.

This might sound dorky, but what’s really exciting to me is that by spending two years in Korea, I will have seen THREE classes advance onto their senior year. My first years (7th graders) that I teach now will be third years by the time that I leave. I feel all mushy inside thinking about that, watching ’em grow up.

This weekend, I was exiting the subway station when I saw one of my first years with her father. She yelled “teacher!” and ran over to me, gave me a hug, and then ran back to her dad. I dunno, I’m a huge sap. It made me smile.

I’m really happy that got placed at Hyewon. I know the system is random, but teaching middle school (at an all girls middle school) is amazing.

Jews of Korea (?! really)

@ Yongsan Army Base

With shabboes starting later and later, Chaplain Shulman finally got around to taking a group picture of the Friday night crew. This is pretty much the Jewish community of Korea that I know – English teachers, Korean natives, US army, reform to orthodox. People come for an hour or two outside of Seoul to get together at the US YongSang Army Base for services and dinner. It’s not Ann Arbor, but it’s not bad.

8 or so of my friends are in the picture, including Linda (to my right), who’s not jewish and was suckered by me into going. This week was Sheva Brachot for Neil and Tobi, who just got married, and a huge going away party for everyone leaving Seoul in the next month. I thought there would be some serious partying, and dragged her along…. well, at least I think she enjoyed the food.

๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, it’s a good time – I’m happy to be part of it.
Be sure to click for larger picture!

About two weeks ago, I lost my internet at home.

What I mean to say is that the wireless network that I had been leaching off of for my 10 months here in Seoul suddenly disappeared. I suspect that the owners moved out of their apartment. This reactivated a renewed conviction in me that I was being smited by Gd for my thievery โ€“ an eye for an eye, if you will.

However, Iโ€™m not so good at suffering, and so after a week of no net I asked my co workers for help. Hopefully, I should have net at home (net that I pay for on a monthly basis) and cable tv by tonight. Now, having TV does seem to be dangerous (picture it: a slack jawed Naomi blissed out on cartoons for hours on endโ€ฆ) but Iโ€™m super excited.

The challenge in this no-net time has been what to do with my free time. While I didnโ€™t go to the gym more often, I did read. A lot. I plowed through A.J. Jacobโ€™s book on living biblically for a year. I spent hours laying in my bed, studying Korean. I started writing a collection of vignettes.

And I cleaned my apartment.

I hope that I can keep the intellectual momentum going after the cable guy comes by today.

4 weddings and a funeral

World Cup fever!!! Korea just won the game against Greece, and I yelled with the best of them (much to the chagrin of my Korean friend) at the Hongdae Jazz bar where we found ourselves.
It was there that I told my friend, Hyung, about what on did on Friday.

On Friday, all of the teachers at my school on an email message that a mother-in-law of one of the teachers had passed away, and anyone who wanted to could some to the funeral service.

I’ve been to 4 weddings in Korea, all of varying size and religion, but a funeral? That’s a very different experience. With some help from Seolah, (the art teacher) it was arranged that I would go with my ‘district’ head (Mr. Kim, who is in charge of the area where I sit in the office) and Jess, one of my fellow English co-teachers — after I went home to change. My outfit of the day (think watermelon: a neon pink shirt, black dress slacks, and neon green sneakers) would only just barely fly as appropriate, even on a foreigner.

Just like one of the weddings were the same, I don’t think one funeral is representative of Korean funerals as a whole. ‘Funeral’ is maybe not even the right word- in all intents and purpose, it was quite similar to the Jewish Shiva ceremony.

Mr. Kim, Jess and I filled into a small room and removed our shoes. The closest family members to the deceased stood at attention, receiving guests. At one end of the room there was a framed picture and some flowers. Jess nudged me, and told me to take a flower from the big vase and lay it in front of the picture. Then the guys bowed in respect.

Okay — I feel like I’m writing this out too detailed. This ain’t no anthro study – I’m just another waygookin (foreigner) in Seoul. Point is, we showed our respects.

Then comes the Shiva part: we headed into a different room and had a meal of stew, cookies, sweet drinks and beer, rice and other light snacks. The family members mingled with guests, laughing and talking about their memories. It wasn’t sad, and it wasn’t exuberant; a celebration of a life more than anything else.

And that’s it. We ate a bit and headed out our separate ways.

I guess in some ways I feel lucky to have been allowed in that space as an outsider. Most of the time, I feel very welcome in Korea (despite that pubic opinion of America may be) but I can’t ignore that I am not family/community/etc. And that’s cool.

As I drank makkgoli tonight and cheered Korea on to victory, shooting fast texts to my coworkers about the game highlights, people joked that I’ve become Korean. Maybe a better of of saying that is that between weddings and a funeral, Korea has let me fit myself in.

I just spent my WHOLE weekend working on ONE lesson plan. Now, I know I’m slow, but this is ridiculous. My last three weeks of teaching have been pretty strong, so in some ways I feel this equal obligation to ‘Bring It’: the most fun, the most awesome, the most speaking activities, equal parts entertainer and educator. And this lesson mostly delivers that, all in preparation for parent’s observation week.

But I don’t feel like I had a weekend. I don’t feel relaxed. I didn’t even have time to go to the gym or kick back with a choice beverage.
When I was a senior in university, a professor told one of my friends that he was too good of a student. “Be a bad student, just for a bit.” I feel like I should take next week easy – pick up a lesson plan and secondary material from online, and enjoy my weekend. Live my life. Is that fair to feel as an educator? Probably not. . .

There’s about three more weeks till the kids take finals and the semester winds down into sumer vacation. I’m sure all of my fellow english teachers are waiting for it as eagerly as the kids. ๐Ÿ˜‰

best email ever

I sent one of my hike girls some pictures of her, and I got this message back-

“Thank you Naeohmi
Love
You are the best
Pretty cute, sexy and charming and lovely kkamjjikhago bourgeois women and the teachers love the chic (students’ name)
I am writing now to English Google Translator
Naeohmiui ppogeulppogeulhan naeohmiui good head voice is the best”

Ah… ppogeulppogeul means “curly” ๐Ÿ˜‰ Made me grin.
I wrote back to her nothing but “ใ…‹ใ…‹ใ…‹ใ…‹ใ…‹”
(The Korean laugh sound~ haha I feel like my typing is getting konglish-ized.)