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bus 271

Last night, for the FIRST TIME after more than a year in Seoul, I got on the wrong bus. In a complete brain-fart moment, I looked at the bus map, didn’t see the stop I was going to listed and still got on the bus based on the fact that it ‘felt’ right and that it was THERE. 30 min later I realized I was going the wrong way. 31min later I realized that the bus was making a loop and I couldn’t just get out and cross the street to pick the bus going to the other side.

One hour later I realized that I should have just taken a taxi when I first recognized my mistake. In all, my very picturesque trip home took two hours and 45min. This is a bus trip that is normally no more than one hour.

I’ve learned about 3 lessons here. Sigh. Never again!


After three weeks of teaching English summer camp, my first official school day was yesterday. Some of the kids came back with new eyes (plastic surgery), some with new hair, some slightly taller or tanner frames… and they have that strange mix of excitement and dread for the new semester. And, well, the same is kinda true for teachers too. :p

I’ve been examining my year in Korea, and trying to figure out what I want from this NEW year.

-Shop at the open market more, and EMART less.
-Leave Seoul more. See the countryside. See Jeju-do. See Dokdu!
-Study Korean 2x a week. Go to the Gym 2x a week. Professional development 2x a week (art, volunteering). Synagogue 1x a week. That takes up the whole week. . . hm.
-Drink less (not that I drink a lot)
-I live next to a major express bus terminal, but I’ve never used it – actually, I’ve never gone inside it. I want to take a weekend trip to someplace random from the terminal.
-Exhibit my art. This means I need to be making art. THAT means I need to be about 200x more proactive in finding facilities and getting shit down. This is Seoul – everything you could want is available, for a price.
-Work hard for my students, but don’t get stressed out by work.
-Eat 1,500 Kcal a day (now we’re getting personal, huh?)

Since the A/C isn’t really working in my school, all of the classes have been cut from 45 min to 40~ in an effort to get the kids out earlier. Haha, it’s wonderful.

vegan passover bagels, made with bananas

Today starts my Chusok vacation!! Yay!! Chusok is somewhat equivalent to Thanksgiving, without the indigenous bloodshed. People gather with their families and give thanks to their elders. It also falls on a Jewish holiday this year – Sukkot. I’ll be celebrating Chusok with Anna and Yoonji’s families, and I’m super excited! There’s supposed to be tons and tons of good food. Today was also the last day of midterms for my girls, and they left school looking so much happier than they’ve looked over the past three days. At Hyewon (and maybe at other schools?) students only have two tests – midterm and final exam. That’s a lotta pressure for a middle schooler.

Haha. Waiting for the train!

I think these videos are kind of mundane, but I wanted to share them anyway.  Life in Seoul is glamourous!

Seoul Grand Park was ridic! So big~~ And the landscape was beautiful.

I did a bunch of videos about the Yogurt Lady (Ajjuma). She plays a pretty important role in my life, hahah. There where more video’s about her, but I don’t want to seem too enthralled with probiotic goodness.


I made a really long video about  Urim Market, an open air marketplace near my house. It’s super busy and you can get some great deals there – though I keep on forgetting to bargain down, so I’m probably getting ripped off. But! I bet other people get great deals; and I feel like I’m getting good deals, and that’s what counts. Right?! Of course right.

There’s a part two… but It’s sound isn’t working. I’ll upload it later! o_o

jewing seoul

Tonight I head to Itaewon to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year’s. Being Jewish in Seoul has been kind of like being Jewish in Mexico. To be “Yudain” is an abstract concept for most of my students, something they only heard about in history books. Some of the 9th graders seem to know about the Holocaust, and shouted “Anne Franku, Anne Franku!” when I told them I was Jewish. Close enough!

One of the first things my school asked me to do was take out my nose ring, since it is against the students’ uniform policy. Once I explained that it was culturally symbolic to me (and anyone who’s been involved in the social justice Jewish community will know what I mean), the school let me keep it in. That I’m Jewish is important to my school.

That sounds strangely worded, but I don’t know how else to describe it.

In my second week at Hyewon, I met the school’s director; an elderly gentleman who had studied banking abroad and opened up schools here because he believes in access to education. After looking over my resume and asking me some questions about my experience with youth and the arts, he said “You’re Jewish?”

Of course, he already knew I was.

“That’s very good,” he said. “Jewish people love education. Your parents must have worked very hard with you in school. They must have taught you a lot.”

Which, of course, they had.

That sort of thought has been echoed back to me by multiple co-workers, that because I’m Jewish, I’m better suited to this sort of life. Which is nothing more than a stereotype, of the model-minority mold, but… This is Korea. I will probably be the only Jew my students meet for years and years, and  if they just take away that Jews have nose rings, don’t eat meat and love school, well, that’s not too horrible.

So, today I gave each of my Korean co-teachers small candies, and wished them a happy new year. A sweet new year, like the candy. I have a mezuzah on my apartment door, I showed my students pictures of challa,  I have “Michigan” written in Hebrew letters decorating my cubical and my school gave me Yom Kippur off from work because I asked and they are curious and respectful about this whole package. Tonight as I bring in the New Year with however many other Jews living in Korea, I’ll be thinking of my students and how much I want them to travel, to see more than just Korea in their lives. I hope they see a lot more kinds of Jews than me… hahaha.

In the last week I’ve gone to a Korean wedding and to see the original Broadway cast do RENT. Both where amazing – if you managed to stay away through my Jewishness seeping through, here’s some videos of both events:

Some of my students sang at my co-worker Seol-A’s wedding. The music teacher is the lady sitting right under the projection. They where so nervous!

There must of been 2,000 people there. Seol-A is the art teacher at Hyewon

Turns out that one of my fav studnets is the one who sent me the mini-pear. She told me I was “Cute . Like banana milk.” Which may just be a way of telling me I’m fat. -_- but… yeah. And yay! My office!

I went to see RENT with Jin and Linda, two other SMOE teachers. It was fantastic! Before we saw the play, we had this crazy good bean sprout soup. It was alsmost 80% bean sprouts, haha – and veggie!

I wish I had gotten the nerve to film “One Song Glory” (prob. my fav RENT song). It had the best lighting, and I had chills the whole time it was being sung. So much RENT love.

I think this was my first “real” theater outing. I can’t wiat to see mor eplays in Seoul! The only issue was that the play ended at about 11pm, and the trains stop running at close to midnight. I was so nervous – but I totally got home just fine 🙂 Life is good.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  Have a sweet 5770 everyone!!

Well, it’s official: Teacher Naomi in the house. After a week of sitting in swine-flu bum bum boringness, I’ve landed feet first in the teaching world. Today I had 4 classes, starting at being horrible experiences and growing into almost awesomeness. I was pretty nervous for the first class, and the students skill level is a lot lower than we were prepped for during the training/orientation. I taught 9th grade first, then two 8th grade courses, and finished out the day with an extra-curricular joint 7th/8th grade conversational english class. It seems like the Korean educational system is preparing students who can WRITE not students who can TALK, which is why they’ve imported us.

All of my classes were taught with a co-teacher, who could translate what I said into Korean, but the curriculum, activities and teaching are all me. The only instructions they school gave me where concise: I’m there to make the students talk in English and have fun. Hm.  The after school English class though, that’s on my own. I keep having flashbacks of being in high school, with multiple classes being taught in Hebrew, with directions on the exams being in hebrew, with being totally and completely lost and confused. u_u That’s how the students must feel.

And yet, the conversation class was the most fun. And ridiculous. We made a video together , to force them to speak loudly, and so I can learn their names. I think they almost had fun doing it – – –

After school, though I was exhausted, I met up with Kang Chul, my Korean Language partner and some of his co-workers. They’re all physical therapists! I speak english, they try to teach me Korean; I’m such a bad student tho. This was prob the most failed lesson ever, as we did it over Bekseju. Hahaha.

This video has nothing to do with bekseju. but that’s Kang Chul! So cute! ‘Oppa’ is the Korean word for “older brother” – but now I call him ‘ajjashi’ which is the word for old old old man.  😉