Contract Renewal

It’s that time of year when Fall intake EPIK teachers are asked if they’d like to renew their contracts…

I said no.

My CT was like, “Nooooo, whyyyyyyyyy.” I just gave her some offhand, vague reason like ohhh it’s personal and family-related (which is true actually).

To be accurate, it’s more like I don’t think I can stand another year in Korea. I don’t know if my mind could handle it. I have a looooot of things I want to say about my experience in Korea, but I won’t say it until I’m done with EPIK because I think I’m pretty contractually obligated atm not to say anything that could cause my school (or Korea in general??) to lose face.

This is another reason why I stopped writing this blog. I’ve lost a lot of my joy and purpose for writing about Korea. Look forward to my post near next March as I detail exactly why I decided not to renew! (lol)

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Lesson Plans

So, many people use waygook.org as a reference for lesson plans, but they recently became a paid subscription site and you now have to pay in order to download lessons made by other people. A lot of people (rightfully) became angry because the lessons they wanted to share for free were now being sold without their consent.

As such, I’ve decided to share a link to all the lesson materials for the J.L. Haas textbooks for middle school I’ve developed with the help of fellow Waygookins. I did NOT make everything in this folder: I modified and spliced a lot of stuff together to fit my teaching style. Credit goes to those who uploaded everything onto Waygook before it became a paid subscription site.

I haven’t finished uploading everything yet because I’m going over ALL of my lessons again for some final tweaking.

Enjoy and happy teaching~!

Link to Folder

-Rei

Do you ever…

get the feeling that you don’t deserve anything? Like, I’ll be in a good mood- whether it’s from a good day teaching at school and loving my students to even finding a funny blog post- and suddenly I’ll start thinking, “You shouldn’t be laughing at this. You shouldn’t be happy. Why are you laughing? Why are you happy?” And my mood will just 180 and I just want to drown myself in my music and never wake up.

Hiatus

I haven’t updated in a while…I’ve been a bit preoccupied with…well, teaching. I agreed to teach a high school discussion class, which meets seven times in a semester, as well as a high school interview, which I do three times total this year. I get extra money, but it also means I’m extra tired from having to plan and research more. I got behind on planning for my regular classes too (or so I say. I still plan ahead by at least 2 weeks, but I used to plan ahead by a month). And then I had to plan my summer camp and that took even more energy.

I’ve also been struggling personally since the “honeymoon phase” of staying in Korea ended a few months ago. I , admittedly, miss my friends and family back home and I generally have difficulty with adjusting to some things in Korea and find that I get bored super easily. I have no interest in watching anything, and I’m just not in the mood to do anything, which makes it harder for me to write here as well. When I first arrived in Korea, I was convinced I could stay here for at least 2 years. But now I can say with conviction that I’m leaving after just one.

As much as I enjoy my life in Korea, there’s only so much I can take…I’m currently deskwarming a lot because of summer camp lately, so maybe I’ll update more often…we’ll see….

How to Buy Bus Tickets in Korea

Soooo this post is no longer necessary. Kobus.co.kr now comes in English! And you can reserve tickets from the English site woot.

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Up to this point, my other Korean-American friend and I have been buying bus tickets for our friends because they can’t navigate the Kobus site. You can access the site in English and view buses, but you can only purchase them on the Korean site. So, I thought I’d make an updated version of how to buy bus tickets…with pictures! whooooo

Although Google Chrome users can Google translate to make the process easier I thought this would still be helpful. Aight, so I linked to the Korean site above. Here’s how it works.

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You’ll need to know a little bit of Korean in order to input your departure and arriving city, OR you can just remember your city code (e.g. Busan [700]) when using the English site.

For the next page:

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The bottom portion of the site is the same as the English site. I’ve posted the English ver. right below the Korean ver.

So, head to the next page by clicking “select” of the bus you want. Hit OK on the next pop-up window to continue. Scroll down and you can pick the seats you want.

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Once you picked your seats, scroll further down to find the payment options. I suggest paying with your card.

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Hit confirm and you’re done!

To pick up tickets, go to your departure bus station ticket counter and let them know you already bought tickets and need to pick them up. You only need to give them the card you used to pay for the tickets. And that’s it!

I hope this guide was helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions!

A Summary of Expenses

I thought it’d be helpful if I let you guys know exactly what you’ll be expected to pay, how much, and how to pay bills in Korea.

EPIK suggests bringing about $1000 with you when you first arrive- and it’s just that. A suggestion. I know plenty of people who brought not even half that amount and have been OK, but I also know others who’ve probably spent over that amount in less than a month. I brought the $1000 out of caution, but then I also got allowance (about 700,000 won) from my family members in Korea. So it’s pretty safe to say that I was set for my first month and a half or so of living without a paycheck.

Anyways, other than being prepared to dish out 50,000 won for the health exam at EPIK. after orientation, here are the big payments/bills I’ve had up to after I got my first paycheck:

  • Key money500,000 won. This isn’t required for all people, but in Busan it is. Done in two payments- once a month for the first two months, wire transfer by ATM. Some people have had it taken out of their paychecks automatically.
  • School Lunch Money- 80,000 won a month- I pay a lot more than the average GET…I pay about 45,000 at my main school and 35,000 at my girl’s middle school 😦 My friends have said that they pay about 50,000 won total. I also pay this by wire transfer at an ATM.
  • School Staff Dinner Payments- 90,000 for the whole year– You know company dinners? And how usually the eldest person pays for the meal? None of that here. You have to pay a fixed amount and then you can attend the school staff dinners. Usually I would have to pay 90,000 for just half a year, but since I go to two schools my main school said I can just pay the 90,000 for the whole year instead. Basically half price, but still a large amount…
  • Water/Electricity/Heating/TV Bill- 35,000 won a month– All of these things was combined into one bill, at least in my case. I’m pretty good at conserving water and electricity, but I’ve been told that some people have paid 65,000 won. I went to the bank on my day off to learn how to pay this. The lady working there set up an automatic payment system so that it just gets taken out of my account every month. You can also pay this manually by using an ATM, but I don’t know exactly how that works.
  • Phone Bill- 35,000 won a month– I got a pretty cheap plan- unlimited calling and texting but only 2.2 GB of data- and a phone that’s decently priced. My phone- Samsung J7- is an older model and was on sale at the time I purchased it! I thought I had to pay about 57,000 won per month, but I guess not after I checked my account. If you want a nicer phone and more data, expect to pay more. This payment is done automatically every month since I linked my bank account.
  • Health insurance and pension- 165,000 won a month– This gets taken out of my salary automatically. Make sure to ask your co-teacher for your pay statements to confirm every detail. I had to pay 330,000 this month because it wasn’t taken out of my account last month, so I basically had to pay for last month and this month’s health insurance and pension at once. This left quite a dent because I still have one more key money payment…that’s 580,000 won out of my paycheck this month T-T
  • New glasses- 190,000 won– I paid quite a bit for new glasses. I figured I should buy a high quality frame since I wear them every day and heavily rely on them. The frames were 110,000 won and the lenses were 80,000 for a a coating and also because my eyes suck and they to be compressed.

Altogether that’s over 800,000 won for things I’ve had to pay that are absolutely necessary.

ATM Wire Transfers- I do this at my bank ATM. It’s pretty easy and self-explanatory. Most ATMs have a foreign language option, which includes English. Insert your card, click “account transfer,” insert pin, insert the bank code of the receiving person (it will be listed on the ATM, no worries), insert receiving person’s account number, enter amount to be paid, confirm, and tada! You can also do transfers using your phones but I’ve had some problems doing it that way so I just walk to the ATM any time I need to pay something.

As for income, I  get paid about 2.2 million won a month since I have a master’s and teach at two schools.  The “entrance allowance” of 1 million won will be given after my sixth month…just in time for summer vacation *o* Also, expect to get your “settlement allowance” with your first paycheck. Some people were given the allowance right away in cash, but that is rare. You should anticipate having to cover the costs of furnishing your apartment by yourself for the first month. I had to buy blankets, pillows, kitchenware, and other necessities. Some of my friends, however, have had to buy a mattress, a desk, and more.

I haven’t been very good about budgeting my money because I’ve been going a little crazy from this new feeling of freedom >~> Although, I think 75% of my expenses is food….So, I recommend using an app or keeping track of your purchases in one way or another. I use the Money Manager app now to budget myself, which you can find in the Google Play Store.

 

My First Company Dinner

It had been a month since I started working and finally…I had been asked to attend a school staff dinner at my main school- my very first!

I figured it’d be on a pay-as-you-go basis but instead I had to pay a flat rate of 90,000 won for the whole year. I figured it was fair since they said that’s originally the price for half a year, but since I go to two schools they reduced the price.

So once it hit 4:30 pm, I packed up and then walked to the restaurant with my fellow teachers. We went to a little shabu shabu restaurant less than 10 minutes away. It’s kind of a buffet style restaurant so I loaded my plate with a few appetizers before sitting down at the table. Thankfully, the vice principal and principal sat at another table. If I sat with them I think I would be too intimidated to do anything ahahaha.

So, how shabu shabu works is that you grab as many vegetable you like, mostly leafy greens, cabbage, and mushrooms, and put it in a large pot in the middle of the table that already has a broth in a roiling boil.  You then order how much and what kind of meat you want. Then you can make yourself a summer roll using rice paper and filling it with whatever you please. The teachers around me started putting the vegetables and meat into the soup before telling everyone to help themselves so I started digging in once I saw everyone else had a bite since you know…I was the youngest at that table.

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My VP then ordered some beer, to which nearly every teacher at my table politely declined, for which I am grateful since I try not to drink. They ordered soda instead and were shocked when I told them I don’t drink soda either XD.

The teachers around me then started a casual conversation, which revolved around childcare and being a mother- a topic I can’t really contribute much to. As such, I just sat there in silence listening to them talk about how they think daughters would take care of their mothers when they’re older rather than their sons, which then led to a further discussion on each of their children. I just continued to listen in and nod my head occasionally.

The conversation then shifted somehow and led to one teacher telling me not to eat the snacks people bring to school because I’d get fat. Nice talk >_>.

Once we were done eating, some teachers brought fruit for everyone to share and I  gorged myself on oranges…I love fruit, particularly oranges. When I noticed no one else was eating them after a while I nearly finished the plate!

We got up after the 2 hour mark and I was thankful we were leaving. As I made my way to the exit, a familiar face popped out from behind the corner…and I saw the teachers from my girl’s middle school! It took my brain a bit to process what was happening before I broke into a wide smile and bowed before the vice principal and principal. What a coincidence to run into them at this restaurant!

Anyways, after that we parted ways. The principal happened to be heading in the same direction so I walked in awkward silence with her until we neared the school. I gave a polite bow and goodbye before heading to the metro station and she went back to school.

Overall, the dinner was a lot more casual than I imagined. I envisioned drunk coworkers and people trying to force me to drink and then dragging me to karaoke, but luckily it really was just a company dinner.

I’ve had another dinner with the teachers from my girl’s middle school, and we went to another shabu shabu place. It was pretty much the same, (except the surprise of pink water?!) with them talking about topics I couldn’t contribute much to, and just sitting silently while devouring all the food.

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How are your company dinners? Did you enjoy them? Let me know in the comments section below~! 😉

 

Flower Viewing! Or Not….Our Day Trip to Gyeongju!

So, I went to Gyeongju a few weekends ago with some friends and I had a blast! Also, I know I should be updating a lot sooner but I’ve been…preoccupied >_>

I bought bus tickets for us all online at kobus.co.kr and it’s easy to use if you know Korean. This site is helpful for those who don’t. You can see the site in English and find bus times, but you can only reserve tickets through the Korean site. Tickets to Gyeongju only cost 4800 won!

The bus terminal is in Nopo, which is the last stop on the orange line. After picking up tickets, we went downstairs and helped ourselves to a common Korean street food: Oden skewers. Delish! Later, we found that one of us would be late and would very likely not make it in time. And she was. She bought the tickets for the next bus though and we were soon on our way. FYI: There are more bus times than what is listed on the site. The site give you times for express buses, which are nicer. We took a not-as-nice bus but we were OK with it since it was relatively empty. We talked the whole ride there and shared snacks. Also, buses in Korea leave exactly on time so make sure you get there at least 15 minutes early!

Once we reached Gyeongju Station, we got off and saw a bunch of tents in the distance. We decided to check it out and apparently there was some kind of street food festival because of the cherry blossoms! We walked around and saw all sorts of street food: oden, spicy rice cakes, kebabs (I LOVED IT, it’d been so long since I’d had anything not Korean), silk worms (ewww), octopus skewers (so tasty mmmm), and more. At one point, one lady offered us samples of Korean blood sausage/soondae. She then offered us samples of her waffles, one huge waffle too, for free! We all shared it and felt bad so we bought another one from her. She was so grateful and so were we. Overall, it was a bit of an awkward but enriching experience.

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Food stands at Gyeongju

Afterwards, we walked to royal tombs of Korean kings and queens and paid 2000 won to get in. The flowers were only partly in bloom, which was a shame, but the pink shade from the buds in the trees was still pleasant to see. It was a nice change after living in the city for over a month! There were also many girls walking around in hanboks/traditional Korean clothing. There’s a hanbok rental store nearby and I really wanted to try it but I decided to do it later when I wasn’t as tired or shabby looking hahahha.

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We also went to Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond, or what’s left of the palace, I mean. It’s where the crown prince of Shilla used to reside and now all that’s left are a few pavillions. It was beautiful. I had been told by my parents that Gyeongju is known for being one of the most historical sites in Korea and they were right. We walked to this area after the royal tombs and also had to pay another 2000 won to enter this area.

Afterwards, we went to Bulguksa temple, Korea’s oldest standing temple. It’s been around for over a thousand years! It was a bit of a climb and cost us 5000 won, but it was well worth it. You can reach this area from the bus stop at Donggung Palace by taking bus 12. So, because Buddha’s birthday is coming up in May, the temple was beginning its preparations with a vivid, colorful array of paper lanterns. They’re strewn about in various locations and it was so cool! But, the temple made me feel quite nostalgic as well. It reminded me of when I lived in Seoul when I was really little- about 3 or 4 years old. My grandmother would take me up the mountain to a remote temple in the woods. I remembered the steep, stone stairs I climbed using my entire body, the trickle of water from the communal water fountain, and the large prayer room in which a profound fragrance of incense pervaded the quiet, distilled air. I remembered people lined up in columns silently kneeling and praying on the floor on top of pillows as the head priest chanted in rhythmic tones. The whole temple just kept reminding me of my grandmother and I could feel myself tear up in her memory. It made me want to visit her grave even more so I could apologize. On a lighter note, I could see the temple as a very peaceful place to visit if it wasn’t filled with tourists. I wouldn’t mind staying there for a few days to just relax and unwind.

After that we took the 700 (I think?) bus back to Gyeongju Station and another bus back to Busan. It had started pouring so we all decided to part ways and go home.

I think I walked a total of 20k+ steps (quite a large feat for someone who’s a regular couch potato!) and I was in such a great mood that I didn’t feel my fatigue at all and even went grocery shopping afterwards! Overall, Gyeongju is an excellent place to visit if you want a more cultural experience in Korea. But, I recommend making sure to research that the flowers are in bloom! XD

My Teacher Mask

 

I’ve been talking with a few other EPIK teachers as of late and some people have told me how hard it can be some days. I’ve heard during orientation that the turnover rate of EPIK teachers was rather high (which is probably why we in Busan get our entrance allowance so late). This led me to think: Am I fit to be a teacher in Korea? Will I be able to persevere living on my own in a country I don’t fully understand?

There are a number of situations we may face in Korea as Native English Teachers, and some of them include a language/culture barrier. I have a decent amount of knowledge of Korea so I may not understand how hard it actually is for those who don’t. I have the benefit of knowing what others around me are saying, whether it’s my students in the classroom or my fellow teachers and staff. But, some other friends have said that it’s been difficult when the teachers speak strictly Korean around each other and that they feel left out and ostracized because of it. Others say that they can tell when other teachers are talking about them and how demeaning it can seem as well.

Some other problems include feeling left out. For one, the teachers at my main school are more distant. They don’t chat with me often other than my main co-teacher, who usually only does so out of necessity, and one new and young social studies teacher I met the other day. I feel intimidated in that kind of atmosphere and sometimes I just don’t know what to do with myself. At my second school, I feel a much more open environment. Teachers are always feeding me and asking me about all sorts of things and even the principal and vice principal attempt to speak with me, even in English if they feel particularly daring that day. They also tell me what they expect me to teach, whereas at my main school I’m kind of just left hanging and not knowing if I did what I was supposed to or not. Even if I ask I don’t get clear answers from them.

It’s been exhausting and stressful, for sure. But there’s one thing that makes me feel as if I want to work harder, to keep trying: the students. The students at both schools, to me, are endearing. They may not listen well, they may not have a perfect attention span of 45 minutes, and they may not know a lick of English. But, I’ll be damned if I don’t try my best for them. They’re what I’m here for. Yes, I want to have fun, play with my friends, and explore Korea. But my first and main goal as a teacher is always the students.

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I’ve heard other people talk about how difficult it is for them to get along with their co-teachers- and I feel them! I think that even I should make more of an effort to get along with them, but coming to Korea has made me realize how incompetent I actually am at real conversational Korean. But it’s made me want to learn. Others have talked about how they are afraid of their lessons bombing or of how students are highly unmotivated. I feel the same fears. Will they see me as a teacher? Will they respect me as a teacher? Will I be able to teach a classroom of students with a low level of English by speaking only English?

All of these worries gnaw at me day to day, but as soon as I enter the school I try to wipe these thoughts from my mind. If I don’t, not only will my students and teachers sense my hesitation and doubt, but I will also fail to make their time worthwhile, to teach them anything worth learning. Yes, a brilliant lesson plan is an excellent foundation for a good lesson, but it means nothing if you haven’t built what I, and many others, call the “teacher persona/mask.”

Ever since learning about putting on a different persona in the school, or “teacher mask,” I’ve felt a lot better about standing at the front of the classroom. All of the problems I’ve mentioned earlier are indeed ones that can make you feel sad and depressed. You may even want to quit and leave. But when I’m in the classroom, I try to see the best in everything and make goals for myself.

  • My lesson bombed? I can reflect on it and think about how to improve it for the next class- a habit I formed from my grad school days.
  • My students were unmotivated? I can invent new activities that will get them engaged in class.
  • My students weren’t listening? I can force myself to create a tighter classroom management plan, and I can force myself to become more confident so that they hear what I have to say.
  • My students seem bored and I think they don’t like me? I bulldoze on with my lesson anyway. I imagine that they’re fully alert and ready to learn and don’t let my fear show. Plus, I feel happy when students run up to me outside of class and say hello, give me hugs, or even smile when I look at them. How they behave in the classroom isn’t their entire being, so I should strive to improve rapport with them both in and out of the classroom.
  • The teachers around me can’t understand me or don’t communicate with me? I can see now that my Korean is not proficient and I can work on improving it. I can force myself to create connections with these teachers by reaching out to them.

Now, all of this is a lot easier said than done, I know. But just having this mindset, and just putting on this “mask” as soon as I enter the school, really helps me in creating a stronger mental fortitude. Yes, teaching is hard. But there’s no way I’m giving up now. Just look at how many areas I can improve upon! Imagine what I can become if I fulfill all the objectives I make after some self-reflection. It may sound like I have the mental strength of a warrior when I type this, but God only knows that I have my own share of personal problems. The only difference is that I’m not going to give up. Look at what I’ve given up to come here! Three entire years, a whole lot of money, and more.

I know that I won’t be able to accomplish all of the goals I’ve made. But if you’re wondering about coming to Korea, think back to all of the problems I’ve mentioned. If you feel threatened, if you think teaching is too hard, then maybe this job isn’t for you. And maybe I’m just sounding self-righteous when I say this, but if you can’t endure and you instead focus on everything bad happening, then of course you feel like giving up. So ask yourself this: Is there really nothing good about teaching in Korea? Is there nothing worthwhile?

Gandhi once said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” So, TLDR: I have doubts and fears about teaching. But once I’m in standing in front of the students I suddenly feel happy, even if this is an emotion I force upon myself. I feel even hypocritical when I type this because even now, I have that deep, inner fear of not being a good teacher. But the die have been cast. I’m here. The students are here. What else is there to do but endure and give my very best for them?

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I want to add onto something my friend said: Find a support network. It’s so important to find a group of people so that you can help each other during particularly difficult times. Even if you’ve had a bad week, being with your friends is a great way to blow off some steam. I found a group of friends during orientation, so I recommend you find those few people you can rely on to be with you. There are also plenty social meetups that my friends have gone to and they’ve even made some Korean friends!

On another note, when all’s been said and done, and you’ve given your best but you feel like teaching in Korea just isn’t for you and you eventually decide to give up: I’m not going to say that it’s wrong or that it’s not wrong. That’s not for me to say. Everyone’s paths and abilities are different and the final decision ultimately lies with you. BUT, whether it’s a mistake or not depends on what you do upon deciding to quit. If you decide to regret and mope around about what happened, then maybe you should have tried harder. If you dust yourself off and find something else to challenge, and you keep on at it, then maybe this experience, though halted in its progress, was a mere stepping stone for you in life. So what I’m saying is just this: Don’t quit halfway if you aren’t prepared for what lies beyond. Do your best and I’m sure you’ll be okay.

My Typical Day

I haven’t written in so long, sorry!

So, although each day is (obviously) different, there are some aspects that are typically the same from day to day so I thought I’d share my “typical” day.

I usually wake up a little after 7 am…rather late, I know. I eat breakfast half of the time, and it’s either fruit, usually a banana, grilled cheese, or cereal. If I’m running late, I starve hahaha. I’m out of my door by 7:30 and take the subway Line 2 to my school. On Thursdays and Fridays, I wait by an intersection for a teacher to pick me up at around 8 am.

Upon reaching school, I change into my indoor shoes and head to the teacher’s office. First thing I do is greet the Vice Principal. I do this everyday. It still feels super awkward around them even after a month though XD. After that, I sit at my desk and kinda stare off into space. Sometimes there’s food for people to share, and once, I walked to my desk and found a random boiled egg on it. Apparently, it was from the Vice Principal XD. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I go to my morning class and just casually chat in English with the girls Badminton team. After that, I start teaching my other classes with my coteachers. At my main school, I teach only year 1 and 2 but I teach all students at my second school. The first years are adorable and quick to listen to my directions, even if they remain a little distracted from time to time. The second years….are iffy lol. Sometimes I can rarely get them to pay attention. Other times its so quiet and they listen so well that it’s rather unnerving. The third years feel a bit more mature and listen to me pretty well :D.

I eat lunch with other teachers in the teacher’s cafeteria area. The food is buffet style and everyday is different with the exception of rice, kimchi, and a type of soup/stew. I usually walk around outside the school to get some air and sunlight with fellow teachers after eating while chatting with them in English or Korean, depending on the teacher. My students have, even though I’ve told them I can speak Korean, discovered that I indeed do speak Korean and they’re in a frenzy about it. The other day, I walked around the inner courtyard by the pond at our school when I heard, “(my name) TEACHERRRRRRRR” as a group of 1st year girls sprinted towards me and gave me a hug one at a time. Then they ran off and continued doing whatever it was they were doing before I neared them. So. Cute. AGH.

After lunch, I usually lesson plan (aka desk warm) for the rest of the day at my main school. I teach more classes at my second school. I also make sure to drink coffee after lunch because that’s when I get the sleepiest. There is also an abundance of snacks and I help myself to one treat a day. If some teacher is feeling generous, they sometimes bring fruit and everyone gets to enjoy them. I particularly love when they bring strawberries <3.

So, while I’m at my desk, students come and go to talk with various teachers, always making sure to (sometimes tentatively) say hello to me. Once the clock hits 4:30 pm I get ready to leave. I say goodbye to the teachers and then to the Vice Principal, always making sure to do a 90 degree bow, before I leave. On Mondays-Wednesdays, students are generally walking home at the same time and they always say hello. I get a ride home on Thursday-Friday.

Once I get home, I either go back out after changing bags or stay inside like a hermit crab. If I go out, I usually explore the Deokcheon area and shop for things on an as-needed basis. If I’m feeling particularly tired or in a good mood, I’ll treat myself to a yummy street food. I like to get Hoddeok, which is like a Korean street pancake filled with sugar, cinnamon, and a variety of seeds. It’s only 1000 won so how can I not?!

If I stay home, I prepare making dinner early since cooking rice in a pot takes a long time. I then watch stuff before washing up and chatting with family. I head to bed around 10 pm – 12 am. Aaaand the cycle begins again. This is generally all I do during the weekdays and my weekends are generally always different.

So yeah, pretty normal. How are your day-to-day activities? Please let me know in the comment section below~ 😉