Archive for May, 2012

Dresden and PRAGUE!

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

so we woke up today, a little better then usual, and went down to breakfast. I ate my mini berliners (delicious jelly filled doughnuts oh heyyyy) and boarded the bus. The countryside was beautiful, for what i saw before i passed out, and i woke up in a cute city by the name of Dresden, Germany.


It was the last german city to be bombed during the war and was highly controversial during the time. unfortunately many beautiful buildings were destroyed but are now well on there way to being completely restored. Here is the castle of Frederick I or Augusta the strong (what they called him in Poland). It was a very interesting tour and then we had an hour to wander around and eat… and thats exactly what mary and i did. we somehow stumbled upon another little austrailian place ate lunch there and then wandered over to the “best ice-cream in the town” as the tour guide put it. MAN IT WAS YUMMY! it is chocolate ice-cream mixed with rosemary it gave it a refreshing taste and took away the richness of the chocolate. By this time we were to board back on the bus to continue on to Prague which i promptly fell back asleep on.

our yummy chocolate rosemary ice-cream!


When entering the area i saw thousands of adorable buildings and houses. its literally out of like a picture book here. we got to our hotel, which I’m VERY happy to say has FREE WIFI, and then went to the metro for our first crash course. We took it to the center of the city of prague and then were left to wander on our own. IM IN LOVE. Prague is beautiful and was on the outskirts of the line of war so lays untouched on its historical beauty. I literally could not take it in and believe my own eyes. it was like busch gardens with like plaster building fronts only these are real! and stretch on and on… but let me stop drooling over how AMAZING this place is.

Mary and I went to dinner at an authentic czech restaurant which had an art nouveau architectural style. it was so pretty and the food was good too! i had some form of beef soup (I’m feeling better but my throat is still killing me) and make got a czech cheese plate (which i sampled every kind of as well). the waiter seemed to be judging me for not ordering like 4 course meal but whatever. also at the restaurant there was an accordion player doing live music for the people dining. oh and with the check you were given complementary shots that you were expected to take… in my mind i was like only if my mother was here i would like to see her take it :)

After mary and I finished our meal we wandered around the city and gift shops… let me just say i don’t think prague is going to be fair to my budget… and i somehow managed to find a super cute ice-cream shop on one of the side streets. I’m digging the raspberry ice-cream over here! by this time it was late and we got back to the metro (NOT BEFORE I FOUND WATER!! YAY!) and now about to take out night medicine, not that we really need any help sleeping.

yay hydration! i miss water..

I LOVE ME SOME PRAGUE like I’m so excited to get out and explore more. plus now that I’m feeling better i want more adventures at night to report back to you all.

dobrou noc!



Wednesday, May 30th, 2012


i missed her.

we saw a shirt today and christie pointed it out “Bad decisions make good stories” but what they don’t say is “those good stories make very sick children”

After both being very reluctant to climb out of bed today mary and I managed to make it to breakfast and change. We then went on a quest for a pharmacy to find drugs to make us feel better. We were so lucky! we found an angel of a man who spoke very good english (we didn’t understand a freaking box in the entire place) we told him our symptoms (while he kinda gave me a pitiful look… i know i looked rough) and he gave us stuff for both day and night. we thanked him and when it was my turn to pay i think he took pity on me and told me to take my medicine right then and there and he grabbed mary and I water cups from the back so we could take our pills and then told us to feel better as we left.

at this point in the day i was on like 3 different medications at once so i was feeling GREAT but possibly a little out of it…

my water and drugs! i was so happy

We took our medicine back to the hotel and then got on the s-bahn towards museum island. so here we are minding our own business on the train (me happily delirious staring out the window in my own drugged up world) and BOOM crazy german man shouts something behind us terrifying me putting me in poor christies lap. we thought he was done but no apparently he had a lot more to say. he starts yelling furiously in german behind us and then starts screaming in this poor older woman’s ear who is obviously not with him and it is quite evident that they are not together. She takes it like a champ ignoring him and then a women in her 30s on the other side away from us starts talking to him to district him from the elder woman and then he swings at this poor girl! (he looks normal but at his point i think we all decided and agreed he was not set well in the mind.) so then some savior of a guy pushes the girl to the side to keep her away from the crazy man and grabs mr. crazy and puts him in a headlock. (he is very calm about all of this in the mean time.) all of the sudden this guy is still ranting and manages to get out of it pushing back the guy. men from all around the train from different groups stand up, like there were business men, travelers etc all different backgrounds, and surround him to keep him away from the rest of us until we got to the next stop. (which was our stop but we conveniently just stayed on the train to the next knowing we could still get to the museum.) they pushed him off the train and all of then got off to watch him and get the police. the three of us were all taken aback during this entire time and i still am not quite sure what happened. after he got off the train i talked with the elderly woman, knowing no german i just looked concerned and asked if she was ok by giving he a thumbs up, but she nodded looked relieved that someone asked.

it was a very interesting ride.

We got off and went to the museum of arts, which was quite a bore. I’m surprised they let us out in public. I’m drugged up on medications zoning out and can’t hear anything staring blankly into space while mary is like trotting around exhausted and like falls down the stairs and then christie gets like lost in the museum wandering around going in circles. we were a hot mess.

we then attempted to go to the brandenburg gate… failed miserably its cold out and we missed a turn and all being sick we gave up and went back to the hotel ha. on the way we stopped at a pastry shop (the other two already grabbed sandwiches) and i was having a terrible time breaching the language gap. i had 3 people around me trying to help me and i ended up with only some kind of plain bread… whatever. we went back to the hotel and took a short nap and now just found a super cute little cafe that has, get this, FREE WIFI, but it closes soon which still probe means i will have to buy an hour later. so over it. Mary, dan and I (hopefully christie!!) are going to the beer garden one last time to get our german food and call it a night.

Miss everyone!

Prague tomorrow :)


Mary: HI! so kaytlen and i are one step from death but the nice pharmacist man gave us cold meds today so hopefully we will be feeling better for prague. I loved berlin, its much more causal than london or paris. their sausages are suspicious though… my favorite was the beer gardens, not just because of what they serve but the atmosphere is so pretty, its like an outside picnic with little lights and it was on the water :) its been my favorite so far we will see what Prague and Vienna have to bring, I am getting awfully tired of crazy city people.

So my thoughts on berlin… its a lovely city but looks just like any city at home but with German everywhere. I feel like to get an actual feeling of the German culture your best bet would be to travel elsewhere in the country. Beer gardens are really cool though! I really feel as though my dad and sister would like this country a lot. The food made no sense to me so i really enjoyed some pretzels while i was here. People are dressed more casually here which was actually a relief then constantly being judged by the city people. Germany is nice and green though! Berlin was kind and not so kind to me. it is the city where i actually died with my sickness but it also allowed me to heal and hopefully be more prepared for the last two countries to come! London is still my favorite though. Unfortunately no tasting the night life here :( later on though!

Hair CURLiosity

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

My BAD student has very interesting hair. It… well… kind of looks like he’s been electrocuted. He’s got really thick hair, that he styles so that it goes up and falls over the front and left side of his head, almost like a tsunami. Our school’s hair regulations are fairly strict (at least, for the male students – the female students can get away with much more) so while there are a few boys that have slightly more outrageous haircuts, or use hair wax (Hongdae being one of those), most of them toe the line.

I was convinced that BAD was blatantly breaking school regulations and had gotten a perm (as were most of the other English teachers – BAD’s hair is a fun topic to gossip about), but according to his homeroom teacher he’s actually following the rules. What happens is every morning he wakes up early and curls his hair by hand. Only in Korea…

Some Random Life Updates

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
  • In my English classes, I love learning the random bits of English my students pick up and use in their own ways. Last class, I was reading them a picture book they picked out called Boogie Bones, which is a ghost story about skeleton who liked to dance but was too shy (I know. So cute.) One of my students stopped me and said “Teacher, can I speak Chinese?” Because the school encourages an English-only environment, everyone must ask before they switch languages (including teachers! They’re sticklers if I accidentally slip up with a “很好” (very good!) when they do something well.) I hesitate to allow them to speak Chinese, not only because I want them to try to use English, but also because I have this fear that they’ll learn how terrible my Chinese actually is! Anyway, the student looked so confused that I said okay. He asked me if the skeleton characters in the story were all dead (which thankfully I understood the Chinese), and after I said yes, he said switched back to English and said, “Teacher! They are game over!” The students play so many computer and video games that “game over” now means dead. Tell your friends; it’s going to be catchy slang soon.
  • 关系 (guanxi). Something I’ve mentioned before, but I’m learning more and more of its implications. This is the idea of networking, or maybe the concepts of “relationships.” If a person has good guanxi, he or she is well respected and popular amongst his or her peers. If all your friends have a lot of guanxi, you have it too. With guanxi, you can get jobs, apartments, favors, television appearances, anything. I take business cards very seriously here. The other day, I was sitting in a park on campus and this guy and his friend came up to me and asked me if I can speak English (whenever people ask me this, I respond in Chinese, so I can practice my Chinese!). They were visiting campus and wanted to know where they could eat without a dining card. We started chatting in Chinese, and at the end of our five minute conversation, he gave me his card and I gave him my email address. In the U.S. I’d be more freaked out by strangers approaching in a park, but I think it’s less of a big deal here in part because of the concept of public space is so much more “public” than I ever thought possible. Considering I body slam into hundreds of strangers every day on the subway, a conversation is actually quite nice in comparison. Anyway, it turns out he’s the director of sales for a company in Xi’an (it took me like two days to read his card because it was all in Chinese haha). While right now we’re just exchanging emails to practice Chinese and English respectively, he mentioned that his company looks to hire English speakers, so now we each have the chance to access each others’ networks, although I don’t know anyone looking for a job in Xi’an (yet!). This concept is definitely something that’s going to stay with me… you never know who’s in your network. The self help book that my mom brought for me when she came to visit (that is the saddest start to a sentence I have ever typed, but there’s something to be said for honesty, no?) calls these connections “weak ties” and says they’re super duper important.
  • On a related note, if you’re in your twenties, please buy this book  if you’d like to give yourself a panic attack. If you’re not in your twenties, but you’d still like to give someone in their twenties a panic attack, you know what to do.
  • I’m just kidding, Mom. It’s a pretty good book.
  • Anyways, guess what language I’m starting to get frustrated with? English. English grammer is the worst, ever! I feel so bad for my kids, trying to explain irregular verbs, when Chinese doesn’t even change verbs for past tense! They asked me why “go” changed to “went” and I was like “because?” Haha horrible teacher moment. I feel like my own English skills are actually declining! I’ve probably missed a few of these mistakes in this blog post, but I’m constantly catching myself typing the wrong homophone (higher/hire, here/hear) more than before. And the other day, I was teaching “last” as in “last Tuesday” or “last year” and “this” as in “this morning.” As my students were making sentences, I realized that while you can say “last night,” it’s improper to say “last morning,” and I couldn’t explain why! Unnecessarily confusing!
  • The news! The other day, I checked and the top story was about foreigners in China… I thought to myself well, that’s me I guess. The article has an interesting spin… not sure if I’d agree with the first sentence (of course, all news is spin!). I was surprised at how low the number of foreigners living in Beijing was… the article says only about 120,000 (I’ve heard closer to 200,000 though, so maybe the first figure doesn’t include students). Anyways, that’s NOTHING in a city of 20 million (20 MILLION PEOPLE).
  • Also, I totally felt this in my 12th floor apartment yesterday morning! Didn’t realize what it was though (当然). Thought maybe they were attempting some crazy building project in my apartment complex like usual. Things are built so quickly here. One day they decided to build a huge bike garage in the parking lot. Two days later, it looks like it’s been there for years. One day I walked by an empty storefront and 24 hours later it was a little convenience store. It’s awesome because construction practices in China are so safe.

Chants and Cheers

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Last week (well… Monday and Thursday) I taught a lesson based on cheers and chants to my 2nd graders and advanced first graders, to get them in the mood for sports day. We practiced rhyme and rhyme scheme, watched a few videos of chats at my high school, then I broke them into small groups and had them come up with chants supporting their homerooms. I was cleaning out my teacher binder (which I have to do every week or it becomes unmanageable) and I came across these gems:

“We are one.
We are run.
We are fun.
Hit you, wow!”

“Go, go
Win, win
We will be

and my personal favorite

“Cheer up go!
We will make goal!
Cheer up yo!
We are black hole!”

Because I was sick Tuesday and Wednesday, and we had Sports Day on Friday,  I wasn’t able to do this with any of my 2nd grade boys classes, so I’m going to rework the lesson and have them come up with cheers for the South Korean Summer Olympics team (which team? any team).  We’ll see if the boys do cute cheerleader moves like my girls did. I’m thinking probably not.


Monday, May 28th, 2012

“TEACHER! So Schexy!”

Nothing quite like being catcalled at by your female students to jumpstart your day. It’s when the female teachers do it that it starts to get a little strange…

I Will Remember You.

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Sports Day is always awesome. Because I’m the foreign teacher and they never make the foreign teacher judge any event (except when I got roped into helping with a dodge ball game because the other judges went to lunch. That was fun) I spent the day roaming and talking to teachers and students. I’ll be honest, I barely watch any of the sports on Sports Day, I just relish the extra time talking with my students.

A lot happened on Sports Day so I’ll be blogging about it in installations, but first I want to blog about a student:

The most memorable, and most enjoyable, part of Sports Day was the long and in depth conversation I had with these four boys. They’re all from 2.5 (no surprise there) but they’re the more quiet ones. The one all the way on the left’s name is Solomon. Really. His parents named him after King Solomon. He’s interested in speaking English, and comes up and talks me at the end of class a lot, but oftentimes gets drowned out or shouted over by some of the louder personalities in that class. The one all the way on the right is Hongdae. The one to the left of Hongdae is Hongdae’s friend, and while they don’t seem as close this year as they were last year, I tend to think of them as a pair. The last student (in between Hongdae’s friend and Solomon) is the one I want to talk about.

Class 2.5 had not won a single event, and they were very disheartened, but they had one more chance – basketball. They made it to the semi-finals, and were just waiting for the third-grade boys’ semi-final match to end so that their team’s match could start. I told them that I’d cheer for them (spoiler – they lost anyway. 2.10 swept the floor with all the other 2nd grade boys’ homeroom classes in almost all of the events, it was kind-of sad), so we sat down and chatted while we waited.

Hongdae asked me to teach him some swear words in English, because I “look like the type of person who uses swear words. Just kidding. Fist bump?” and then the other student started telling me about his previous foreign teachers.

When he was a first grader in middle school (7th grade) he had a male American foreign teacher. One day the foreign teacher got mad at him (he wasn’t sure why), called him over, and started beating him with one of his indoor teaching shoes and swearing at him in English. The foreign teacher was fired, and a new female foreign teacher was hired. My student had a good relationship with the second foreign teacher, and always visited and talked to her. Recently on Teacher’s Day this student went back to visit all his middle school. His foreign teacher didn’t remember him.

This student had related his story about the male teacher almost without emotion, but looked so disheartened after he told me about not being remembered. He quickly bounced back and changed the subject to what I normally ate for Thanksgiving (he really wants to try a turkey one day. I told him he could buy one at Costco. I then had to explain Costco, which was a lot more difficult than I originally anticipated), and then it was time for the basketball game, and we went and cheered for 2.5.

This student is so sweet, and so sincere, and in my mind is every teacher’s dream student. He pays attention in class, tries hard and participates while being respectful of the other students, and many times comes and talks to me at the end of class to ask for clarification, or with a cultural question. He was in my advanced class last year, and participated in the Korean Students Speak project. He’s been disappointed multiple times with his foreign teachers, but he still tries to connect with them. The thing is, I didn’t know his name.

So I went home, I looked through my students’ mugshots, and I found him. It took me a bit to place him, because his picture is really blurry, but I found him. 형우, I will remember you.

Em in Asia! 2012-05-25 00:28:06

Friday, May 25th, 2012

They’re trying to kill me. Add to my previous food list one ice cream the teachers just forced on me.  I’m typing this one-handed. It’s like no one remembers that I was sick with a stomach bug only two days ago…

Em in Asia! 2012-05-25 00:10:24

Friday, May 25th, 2012

I’ve got a lot of blogging to catch up on, about how I’ve been sick and missed two days of school this week, and how I’ve been preparing for a diplomacy competition, but I have no time to do all of that today. Today is Sports Day, and I’m too busy being force fed random food (the current count is… 2 pieces of watermelon, a coffee ice cream bar, and a soda – this doesn’t include the chicken sandwich and coke I was given but managed to give to another student, nor does it include the ice cream and watermelon the teachers have tried to give to me), watching students compete, taking pictures with students, and gossiping with students and teachers. As we all know, Sports Day is the best day EVER.

Come what may.

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Seven days, seven days. I’m one week out from my return to the States and I feel like I’ve returned to a whole new world (cue the Aladdin song). Well, ok, no not really a “whole new world” that’s an over exaggeration but just like I expected the world went on without me while I was gone and things changed. The one-lane road by my house that was always congested with traffic now boasts two lanes, a new Wal-Mart was built 5 minutes away while I was gone, and my parents sublet parts of our house to new tenants I’d never met. Luckily, I’ve been too busy trying to find a job and getting re-acquainted with life on this side of the world to really dwell on these things. However, today was a slow rainy day, a day in which I stayed indoors and had hours and hours on which to ponder on what I’ve already dubbed “my old life”. I know the trick to getting used to my pace of life at home will be to stay busy and continue doing the things I did before I left. I have to find a job for the summer (or longer), deliver many gifts to friends and family, and try not to start every sentence with “when I was in Prague…” the latter may take a while to get used too.