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Since I moved to Daegu two years ago, the city has been plastered with advertisements for the IAAF World Championships. I had to look it up to see what it was. The International Association of Athletic Federation hosts what is essentially a world track and field meet every two years. It’s like the Olympics but with only the running, jumping and throwing events. Click here to see more information. My city was this year’s host!

My friends and I went to the opening ceremony and the first night events! We were really thankful for the free fans!

I was the only one who forgot about dressing for my country. On the left- South Africa- and on my right- USA. I’m stuck in the middle, definitely not dressed for the occasion. What country is pink?

There are many things to note in this photo. 1) the cops are sitting in their van. Obviously they are not too worried about crime, even with an international event drawing a crowd of 30,000 +. 2) the ticket booths look like grain silos. Weird! 3) people are pouring in.

“Unforgettable moments that shouldn’t be missed!” uhhm, sure.

Before the events, everything is lit, prepped and ready!

This stadium was first build when Korea hosted the World Cup in 2002 and is a super impressive building. Although I’ve heard about it and know where it is, this was my first time to go out there. It’s a 40 minute subway ride and a then a 30 minute walk from where I live.

This is the beginning of the opening ceremony. These dancers were wearing modified versions of the hanbok (traditional Korean dress).

After this photo my batteries died, but I can tell you about the rest. The Korean president spoke, the Daegu mayor spoke, the president of the IAAF spoke, there was a lot of singing and dancing with plenty of cute kids. There were some big name Korean celebrities, several occasions of fireworks and a strange floating drum/orb with projected pictures. It was fascinating to see something of this international scale take place so close to my home, in what I had formerly only heard referred to as a “provincial city”. All of a sudden Daegu felt like a big city. Everything was done so well. I felt proud for my city! Way to go, Daegu!!

My friend Julie and I agreed that the most amazing part of the opening ceremony was the clean-up. After the ceremony was over they went right into the night events and the entire place was transformed in less than 10 minutes. There were so many helpers, all dressed in blue shirts and they completely took down and cleaned up everything SO FAST!

I watched Usain Bolt race in the preliminary 100 meter race, lots of high-jumpers compete as part of the decathlon, and 3 Kenyan women win the 10,000 meter race.  As we were dragging home after midnight I thought I’d make it back to see another night, but school started and I never made it back.

Now all the advertisements on all the bus stops, in the subway and on the sides of buildings are just a reminder of the event that was so long promoted and so quickly over.

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This semester I’ve started an English club, meeting at lunch on Wednesdays. It’s just for students in my department who want to practice their English outside of class time (whether that’s my class or an English language class).

I have really wanted to do this for a while, but my eagerness quickly changed from “this will be great!” to “wait, how do I do this?” How do I help a room of 30 students practice a new language, feel comfortable enough to attempt something difficult,  and actually make an improvement all while eating lunch and in 45 minutes?

Suggestions welcome!

In the first week I asked them all why they wanted to be in an English club.

Student 1: Because I want to learn about all foreigners’ perspectives.

Me: All foreigners’ perspectives?

Student 1: Yes, all!

Me: But I’m just one person!? One American person. I don’t know all perspectives, just my own.

Student 1: Oh, right.

After the first week and actually this conversation, I realized that *wait, hold the phone:  it is not my responsibility to answer ALL their language needs, just like I can’t be ALL foreigners.  Sometimes I can just make things SO much more difficult than they need to be!! A little English club is not going to make them fluent but can be one part in each of their journeys towards fluency. And it can be fun- fun in relaxed way that “class” cannot be. phew.

Here are some of the other responses to the question “Why do you want to join this English club?” (we’re going for content here, not grammar!)

  • I want to learn speaking for travel and international friends.
  • Because I want to develop my English speaking so I will go language student in foreign countries and I want have a lunch time effectively.
  • I want to study English speaking and free talking with foreigner friend. Because this social must have needed. I think important speaking more than writing.
  • I wanna learn more natural English communication. Also, I wanna share each others culture. So I want active, natural time. Also, I want to introduce Korean style, culture to you.
  • For my future! I want to meet many people and I will become global designer.
  • I don’t speak English.
  • I want to speak English well. So I want to study English at the first opportunity. Then I like Karin teacher (*^^*) So when I speak English, I am terrified/remove.
  • Because English is important language that find employment.
  • First, I practice English because English is world language and it’s not a choice but it’s necessary. Second, I can focus on major subject. Third, communicate with other grades.
  • English communication very well/and I want to do. I want to meet new friends.

Beginning with an early 8 am departure from Daegu, my friend Young-eun (영은) and I set out for a day in Seoul. I almost didn’t make the train. . . but that’s another story. On the KTX, it’s less than 2 hours to Seoul and we arrived before many shops and things were open. First stop: Changdeokgung Palace.

The clay figures are spirit guards.

In the “woman’s quarters”

After we had spent what seemed like a dignified amount of time traipsing around and absorbing a little history, it became very important that we move on to the bigger and better aim of the trip: eating good food! Young-eun’s husband is from Seoul and kept calling and sending recommendations for good lunch spots. We eagerly set off from the palace in the direction of a good meal.

Only to be delayed by crazy old streets that didn’t go where we thought they would.

But, we did get to see some interesting things like this:

This the East/West Design Center, tucked away in a quiet old neighborhood. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the building is stacked vertically. What you see is the traditional building and then to the left is a modern, glass extension.

We also discovered some really interesting small galleries. I bought some fantastic rice earrings! I also shared with Young-eun the phraze, “I’m a sucker for. . . ” In this case, “I’m a sucker for interesting jewelry made by young artists.”

A REALLY cool bench!

And finally, LUNCH!

After eating we explored another near-by area, stumbling into a couple exhibition openings, bargaining for more jewelry, looking at many paintings and finally resting in the subway. I cannot fully explain here how much walking we did!

Only 11,000 km from NYC!

Ginko!

And then finally to 홍대 (Hong-dae), a university neighborhood. At this point I was too tired to take pictures any more so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that this was a great neighborhood. It was young and trendy with lots of people, music, food, etc. The morning was full of Korean history and the afternoon/evening was a good picture of modern Korea. For dinner we decided on a quick and cheap option, 라면 (Ramyun- the Korean version of Ramen) after our lunch splurge.

What you CANNOT tell from this photo is how spicy this was! In my year in Korea, this was the first time I had to give up on my food. I tried to temper it with rice, then with mandoo (steamed dumplings), but eventually I threw in the towel and left with red, burning lips.

Hmmm, feelin’ a little loopy.

After this I headed back to the train station and caught the 9 pm KTX back to Daegu. It was a fabulous day exploring a few neighborhoods in Seoul and hanging out with a new friend, but I was glad to get home to my small city of 3 million people. Can you believe that? 3 million people can feel small.

 


In my class <Fiber & Fabric Exploration> they have been learning to crochet and last week we dyed some yarn to use for their final project.

Notice how they’re all wearing their coats? Even though we have heat in the classrooms, they are still VERY drafty and most of the students wear their coats inside to keep warm.

We often laugh about “dyeing” in this class. To “die” and to “dye” sounds exactly the same, but with SUCH different meanings. For my students, AND for me, this provides a lot of entertainment!

I find myself constantly talking about life in Korea, saying “Well, this time last year, I didn’t know that the semester was actually ending in December.” or “This time last year, I had never tried jjim dalk (찜닭).”

I don’t know that I can make a complete list of everything I have learned this year in Korea because the funny thing about learning something is that it’s hard to remember that you didn’t know it. But I’m going to try. . .

This time last year. . .

1. I didn’t know that the school calendar is different from America. Korean universities begin the year in March and end in December. But, wait for it, graduation is not until February.

2. I didn’t know any Korean language apart from “Hi”-Annyung ha-sae-yo (안녕하네요) or “thank you” Kamsa hamnida (감사합니다).  Korean language (Hangeul) might be easy to read, but the grammar and nuances of the language are EXTREMELY difficult.

3. I was terrified to ride in a taxi because I didn’t trust the system and could never say where I wanted to go. Now I can easily tell a taxi driver how to get to my apartment or to my place of work. 🙂

4. I also felt a little strange riding in taxis because I was so used to driving myself. And. . . I felt a little guilty for the  “luxury” of having someone drive me around. But I have adjusted and now more fully appreciate the service of the taxis, their relatively cheap price and the way they can bring me to places I could not get with buses or subway. For instance, this morning I went to the dentist. I took a subway part way and a taxi the other part of the way!

5. I felt very uncomfortable with the way everyone stared at me. I can’t say that this has totally changed but I am not surprised by it any more.

6. I was very frustrated by what I perceived as a “lack of planning” in many things at school. I am learning, still learning, to be more adaptable. The Lord is really growing me in this area, helping me to become more flexible. Because ultimately my lack of flexibility when someone brings something last-minute reveals a heart that thinks she is the most important thing (and above all else).

7. I had only tried a few Korean foods and couldn’t tell the difference between good food and bad food.

8. I was unprepared for the stark contrast in seasons. Daegu summer is exceptionally hot and humid while winter is bitter cold and dry. I didn’t even have good winter shoes!

9. I had never ridden the KTX, the fast train, to Seoul.

10. I didn’t know the grading procedures at school- how to grade my students, how to input the grades, the fact that I’m required to grade on a curve (of sorts).

11. I didn’t realize that I live rather luxuriously by Korean standards, in an apartment the size of most families’ (with 1 or 2 kids).

12. I didn’t understand the kindness of strangers.

13. I thought the bells on the tables in restaurants was kind of ridiculous. Now, though, I see their brilliance. When someone at the table needs something, they ring the bell. That frees the restaurant workers to help the people who need it and not constantly walk asking if their tables are OK. That also frees those eating to enjoy uninterrupted conversation.

14. I didn’t know there were different Korean accents, that people in Seoul speak differently from those in Daegu.

15. I was just getting to know people at my church in Daegu.

16. I was just learning that my work, teaching in a content area in English, was different from what most other “foreigners” were doing in Korea.

17. Oh, and I was just getting used to being called a “foreigner” and not taking offense.

18. I didn’t know there was a small supermarket and bank around the corner from my apartment, only because I had never walked that way on the street before.

19. I could only do one thing every day because each excursion took all my energy. It was all I could do to figure out how to get there and back, handle a few interactions with people in broken Korean/English, and accomplish a task.  On work days, I went to work and then back to my apartment and that was ALL I could manage. On the weekends I could handle one thing, like a trip to the store on Saturday or church on Sunday. But if I tried to do more than that I would fall apart. . .

20. I was very offended when someone asked me my age and marital status at the first meeting. I mean, it still feels awkward, but now I understand it. In Korean language those 2 questions are how you determine what kind of language to use in your conversation. Even though that doesn’t apply in English, the cultural custom still follows.

21. I thought I couldn’t find any clothes in Korea that would fit me.

22. I was still eating a lot of bread products. It’s not that I’ve now cut bread completely out of my diet, but I eat it very seldom. I’ve happily converted to rice.

23. I would cringe when I heard someone walking behind me clear their throat and spit out the phlegm (also known as “hawking a loogi”.  How do you spell that?). . . .but wait, that still grosses me out. It’s very common here and not considered impolite. I don’t know that I’ll ever adapt!

24. I had memorized my phone number only and didn’t really know what my address was.

 

I KNOW there’s got to me more than just 24 things, but this is all I can think of at the moment.

 

By the numbers:

4- more weeks of class in the Fall 2010 semester!

2- months of vacation starting in January!

309- my office number (that was also my office number @ SCAD)

32- days until Christmas

5- hours I spent last weekend in the DMZ (the de-militarized zone between North and South Korea)

2- Thanksgiving dinners this week!

3- more days and then I’ll start listening to Christmas music!!

It’s hard to see in these photos, but each of the students here is wearing part of their final project! This is my Hand Embroidery Class! Their final assignment was to create a collection of 5 broaches. They are wearing their favorite one, although a few of them are doing it quite begrudgingly!

I can’t believe it, but we are quickly approaching the end of the semester!! The next week will be busy with final projects, final notebooks and tons of grading for me. But then we will have Summer vacation and I’ll be heading home for a nice extended visit! I CAN’T WAIT!!!!

By the numbers:

8- days in May that I was out of Korea and in the U.S. for my sweet friend Kimmie’s wedding! It was amazing to be part of the Rayfields celebration of starting life together!!

5- boxes of Little Debbie’s snack cakes that I brought back to Korea for my classes have produced squeals of excitement!

5- the number of class absences that result in automatic class failure. Surprisingly I have a few students who are in that category.

10- days until school is out

13- students from my class are having their designs digitally printed by a company in Daegu. They are all very excited!!

50 final projects + 50 notebooks= a LOT OF GRADING.

28- days I will be in the U.S. for vacation!

I was given the amazing opportunity last month (May) to exhibit at a local gallery in Daegu!! And giving the slightly snarky tone of my last posting, I thought I’d come back with a different kind of story. Gallery 508 is a new space and therefore in REALLY nice condition, but more than that it’s a small, intimate space– perfect for my work!! I was introduced to the curator through a colleague and as soon as I walked into the gallery, I thought, “I would LOVE to exhibit here!!”

We only made the arrangements about 3 weeks before the opening so it was a little bit mad-dash to get everything together. I showed all my MFA thesis work + 2 new wall pieces and a dress. For this exhibit I worked with a framer to create some simple frames that acted more like architectural elements than anything else. Some of the pieces hung directly on the wall and other hung inside white boxes (without glass). I felt really good about how everything came together!!

So far in my experience in Korea I feel like I have just barely been hanging on, like I’m able to accomplish the minimum required of me. But with this, this was the first time I did something extra and it felt really good to stretch my wings!

It was also really exciting for me to talk about my work again! My work is a picture of what I know the Lord does in people’s lives: He heals and mends what is broken and makes a NEW story. A big group from a church showed up at my opening reception (I never know how things happen. . . ) and it was amazing for me to see how the work became an avenue for communication, even though language was a barrier! It was so cool!

Now that I’ve shown all my work. . . I guess it’s time to get back to making again!

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