|My host sister's reaction to a bowl of cereal|
Sorry that is has been a while since I wrote anything. Everything has been going well. Since I last wrote, I have been spending more and more time with my students. In mid-October, they decided that I was not as intimidating as I seemed. Now, they want my advice on everything from American music to buying clothes and asking out girls. They have also wanted my opinion on topics, such as the FTA Agreement between the United States and Korea and which member of Girls' Generation (Korean k-pop group that my students idolize) is the most attractive (I always tell them that I prefer 2ne1).
|Isn't he great?|
|Part of my club class|
|The guys giving a presentation on the FTA (check out the smirk on the right)|
|At the conference with my students|
|Some tired ETAs on our intense tour of Gyeongju|
|At an ancient temple in Gyeongju|
|World famous Busan fish market|
When not teaching, at the gym, or with my homestay, I now frequently go to coffeeshops and meet with friends from Dongshin University, the local university in Naju. The other ETAs and I met people by hanging up signs around the campus saying that we wanted to start a language exchange. In theory, we would teach the other students English and they would teach us Korean. In reality, we spend about 25% of the time on Korean and 75% of the time on English (it's really fine because we are making some good friends). We even met up with a few of them at the Dongshin University festival (equivalent to Gettysburg College's Springfest). The girl group Girls Day performed at the event. I was excited to see a k-pop concert but left the event very disappointed. The dance moves were terrible and the girls lip-sung for only half an hour. Between each song, they would also strike about 50 poses for pictures.
When not teaching, at the gym, with my homestay, or at a coffeeshop, I now volunteer. In early November, other nearby ETAs and I began teaching English to North Korean defectors. This experience has been one of the highlights of my year so far. I taught a class to elementary and middle school students with two other ETAs. That opportunity ended, but I continue to teach another class to students ranging from 14 to 29. Most of the North Korean defectors left North Korea by going into China. Typically, they spend a few years in China and save money in order to come to South Korea. Before we began teaching, we were warned that North Koreans see a lot of anti-American propaganda and may be suspicious of us. So far, there have not been any problems. In fact, they are extremely curious about our lives and the United States in general. All of the students have a strong urge to learn English because they know that it will not only help with job opportunities, but also with adjusting to life in a democracy. Unfortunately, it is likely that many of the students we teach in this program have gone through some major hardships. Defectors from North Korea are often victims of human trafficking. Families are frequently split and, in extreme circumstances, children are abandoned. I do not know what my students have been through, if anything. Regardless, they are still excited to come to class and are always smiling and laughing.
In a few weeks, the semester will be over (AH!). I plan on spending Christmas with the host family and then going to Thailand for New Years. After a short vacation, I will spend January interning at the Fulbright office in Seoul. I will be creating a documentary and short promotional videos for the 20th Anniversary of the ETA program. In February, I plan on doing some more traveling (which is TBD at this point). I will also get to bring some of my students to a leadership conference in Seoul hosted by the US embassy.
Hope all is well back home.
|Some holiday cheer at a mall in Gwangju|