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We were 16 going on 17…

 

Okay so HAPPY NEW YEAR! I haven’t posted much in the last few months but I have many reasons, not all good but reasons none the less. Honestly, I had the full intention to write this post before New Years, but then I got distracted and with what little free time I had (work, friends, family) I was sleeping. The holidays really do take a lot out of you. This post is just going to be a quick catch up, and I’m going to discuss 16 good/not so good things that happened to me in 2016  (that haven’t been discussed on here yet, I don’t think!).20161216_174442.jpg

  1. I got a full-time job in Toronto! I commute every day on the GO train. It’s not easy, I’ve always got something school-related on my mind and some days my kids drive me nuts BUT it’s a full time job in my field and I could not be happier.
  2. I went to New York City! At the beginning of September my boyfriend and our two friends (and I) drove to Morristown, New Jersey. I spent Saturday and Su20160903_133153.jpgnday in NYC and it was wonderful.I also went to Trader Joe’s for the first time: I am forever changed.
  3. In relation to #2, I saw my first show on broadway!! I’ve been to broadway musicals (Evil Dead, Last 5 Years, Book of Mormon, Cinderella) but this was my first actual show on actual broadway. I saw Waitress and I became OBSESSED. If needed I can perform, at mediocre level, the entire show.
  4. In relations to #2,#3 etc… I’ve become obsessed with HAMILTON! Yes. The musical. Yes it’s amazing. No I’ll probably never get tickets to see it on Broadway.
  5. I’m still playing Pokemon go. Every day. (This is me.)
  6. I had to fight the camp I worked at for my last pay check :’) 0/10 do not recommend.
  7. I went back to the store I was working at, over Christmas, just to help them out. It was nice to see everyone again J
  8. I fell down some stairs at the Dundas subway station on a particularly rainy day and bruised my butt.
  9. I went on a shopping adventure in Michigan with some friends and went back to Trader Joes.
  10. I saw Moana (amazing) and La La Land (amazing) – Two of my favourite movies from 2016.
  11. In relation to #1, I’ve created and developed 3 whole curricula in the last two months of 2016. It was challenging and fun but great!
  12. I started Bullet Journaling and using a Happy Planner. I’m hoping to stick with it 🙂
  13. I fell in love with a new part of Ontario and I hope to go back in 2017 (just for me, not for work!)
  14. I’ve successfully cohabited with my boyfriend for an entire year. It’s been amazing.
  15. I have also started a 2nd job in my field, but a different part of my field (standardized testing!) It’s different, but fun! 
  16. 2016 was a shit year for a lot of people. I’m scared and excited for 2017
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2016 went by in a hazy death-filled blur. I can hardly believe I’ve been home from Korea for more than a year (I miss you dakgalbi from Yeonsan and pumpkin pajeon… I might have to come visit Hannah so I can get you…). I haven’t been on an airplane since 2015… It’s crazy to me! I desperately want to travel again, even if it’s not by plane. I loved my little trip to NYC. I want to see more broadway shows, I want to explore more of the earth! I’m excited for 2017 and all the hope a new year brings. I haven’t had a resolution for a long time, but I have yearly goals that I keep to myself. I recently found my 2016 goals and though I did not reach them, they seem more attainable in 2017…

I hope your year was good as it could’ve been, and your 2017 is bright and happy. So many things are in the works for so many people I care about…

I can’t make any promises of when my next post is coming. I have ideas but I’ve been so blocked creatively lately.

I hope I can get back to my old blogging self, some day soon.

My posts will always stay up! And I’ll still respond to emails if you send them!

I hope the best for all of you!

Until next time,
B

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Where are you?

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It’s been a long time. Longer than I had planned, honestly. But working 90 hour weeks for seven weeks really takes a lot out of you. Summer camp was in a word: amazing. Such an invaluable experience. I grew to love living on Fairy Lake, spending my time with kids from all over the world and spending my days off with people in Huntsville (and surrounding cities). A lot of stuff happened while at camp, some things I never thought I’d be around too, but I can’t even begin to describe all of them.

I didn’t plan on taking such a long hiatus after my last post. I thought with my job I’d be able to have downtime to blog, or read, or whatever. But the majority of my downtime was spent planning, or spending as much time with my coworkers as possible. I grew to love Huntsville, and all the rustic charm of camp. We’d spend our nights by the lake, swimming (or showering haha), or by the fire talking and having so many s’mores. Sometimes we’d camp out in the staff lounge, like on the night where the rain was so strong that it made a baby raccoon get stuck in a tree. We’d steal snacks from the dining hall, set up the projector in the sleeping bag room and watch movies. It was such a fun experience but it was also very draining.

There was not a day where I went to bed unable to sleep. I’d be doing so much during the day that I’d just flop down into bed and not stir until 7:30am when the bell woke everyone up. It was so easy to fall into the camp schedule: first bell rings at 7:30am (8:30am on Sunday sleep-in), second at 7:50am – that’s when you were to be out at the flag pole for the daily anthem. Breakfast was followed by the first challenge of the day, then clean up time, and right into first classes at 9:15. Each day I’d be teaching ESL for the first two periods, with my wonderful co-teachers, then I’d move into other activities like woodworking (who trusted me with a saw? I cut a hole into my pants!), swimming (more like beach games), and arts and crafts. We’d be scheduled to have a free period but the majority  of the time we’d have to cover other peoples lessons if they had days off (like the day I covered archery(????) and fishing – a story in itself.

After a full day of activities (and lunch at 1pm, followed by nap time), we’d have dinner and then go right into EP – Evening Program. EP was designed to tire the kids out and expel any remaining energy the kids had left. This was ran by different counselors every day and it would range from capture the flag, to soccer baseball, or even a fun variation of hide and seek called sardines. It was always fun to take part of EP but there were some days that I was too buy with ESL stuff that I couldn’t do it. After EP, we’d end the day by lowering the flag, singing day is done, and having a snack. After that (about 8:30pm) my duties were done for the day. The counselors would have to take their kids to go shower and get them to bed, but as a teacher I didn’t have those responsibilities. Working 12 hour days was very rewarding but also explains why I was so tired all the time.

The days off were the highlights of the week. We’d have 24 hours to do whatever we want. My day off was always Wednesday because all the campers would be on excursions (going to Wonderland, or Niagara Falls, or Huntsville). My fellow teachers (and the lifeguards!) would all head into town together, sometimes getting a hotel room to spend the night away from camp. Many drinks and mozzarella sticks were consumed on those days off, savoring the time away from camp. Some days we’d just go back to camp to enjoy the quietness of it all, a camper-free camp is different but having free run of the lake was awesome.

Camp is over now, and it’s been over for more than two months. And what have I been doing in the meantime? Well I’ll get to that. Those weeks are posts I’ll have coming soon, and this time I mean it. I’ve been lying dormant for too long and I’m finally ready to dust off my old blogging skills. I’ll have more posts to come about Huntsville, camp, some travel I’ve done in the last few weeks, and some restaurants in my hometown! I hope you’re ready for them 🙂

See you soon!

Until next time,
B.

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New Beginnings.

I thought about what I was going to say for weeks. Holding everything off until the last possible moment. I slowly told people, hiding my excitement and eagerness. I always get nervous telling people who are important. My anxiety levels have never changed regardless of the reassurance from people around me. I had been searching for months. Looking for something that would inspire me and make me happy.

It’s hard to make yourself happy when you’re really not happy where you are. I’m extremely happy to be home, but feeling pretty stressed out by the lack of job prospects in my city. I’m not alone in this struggle, many people my age and younger (and older) are struggling. I’ve finally found something.

Through some weird coincidence I had a job interview on my birthday. I figured I was done for the day, I wanted to show them that I was eager, and I was serious about the job. And it all panned out. I was offered a job within the week. I’m so excited to start this new job, in a new area from where I am. Though it’s not local, I am able to stay IN Canada and in the same province. I consider myself lucky.

I’m heading up north to become the ESL director for an International Summer camp. I’ll be teaching every day and I’m so excited for it! These last few months of working retail (again) have been pretty draining to be honest, and I’m really excited to get some more career experience under my belt. I’m nervous to be around bugs, and to also be given quite a bit of responsibility, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’ll be 6 more weeks away from my loved ones, but I’ll come out of it with some great experiences and hopefully even better stories.

Look forward to posts about camp life, some photos of the Muskoka area, and just some stories of my experiences up there. It’s been hard to write posts about everything I’ve been doing at home because it all seemed so mundane to me, after a while. I’m sure everything gets like that though, I felt like that in Korea after a few months… Going to Seomyeon every weekend, noraebang and the like. I like the comfortability of life, and I hope I get just as comfortable up north.

Sorry this one is so short, I leave on Wednesday and I’m hoping to get as much family time as possible before I head out. I’m looking forward to some nice pictures, getting a nice tan, and teaching some kids! I don’t know how reliable my wifi will be up there but I’ll try my best to get a post up at least once every two weeks, or more frequently if I can manage.

Thanks for sticking around for so long with me everyone! Looking forward to more interesting content for you, and for me… haha

 

Until next time,

B.

 

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Why I was happy with a hagwon.

wpid-img_20150923_142530.jpgI began writing this post two months ago after a weekend away with some EPIK teachers. One of the girls, who I really admire and like, made a comment that made me really think about the reputation academies in Korea have and how all the fears I had before working at one were unfounded. I thought this would be a helpful post for anyone looking to come to Korea to teach, and may have been rejected by EPIK or wanting to avoid the public school route all together. Both public and private schools have their pros and cons, I’m just going to write about my experience and what I’ve learned over my last year in Korea.

A hagwon is an academy is Korean. Academies are after school schools where kids go to do extra studying on top of their already busy schedules. Hagwons have notoriously bad reputations in Korea because most of them put business before education. Hagwons are not regulated, they’re owned and operated independently from the metropolitan government. They have their own rules and can be kind of intimidating, but they can also be really rewarding.

Hagwons can be a crapshoot, even after all the years of teachers being forced to deal with 11th month firings, and lack of pension or healthcare. Recently a group of hagwon teachers got together and SUED their academy for poor standards: no vacation, no pension, no healthcare. The only reason schools in Korea get away with this is because people let them! They take job offers at schools offering the bare minimum of things: 3 month-long internship periods, no pension, no healthcare, no access to a current teacher. If no one says anything, they’ll continue to do it!

If the school is offering you a contract look for these main things: salary clearly stated, teaching hours clearly stated (no more than 30 hours or you could be killing yourself, it’s a lot of work), vacation days (usually 10 plus the 10 red days -national holidays), round trip or one-way flight (this seems to be the new trend a one-way flight but there are still some schools offering round-trip airfare), and the two biggies the LEGAL biggies: NATIONAL PENSION – which your academy HAS to pay into by law if you are a full-time teacher, and NATIONAL HEALTHCARE – also has to be paid into, legally. DO NOT take an extra $100-$500 a month and not get healthcare or pension. To be contracted as anything other than a full-time or part-time teacher on your E-2 visa is ILLEGAL! If you’re not getting healthcare or pension your school is breaking the law by filing you as an Independent Contractor. The last, and probably the most important is access to the current teacher. If the school refuses to let you talk to them that’s a HUGE red flag. The current teacher knows the ins and outs of the school. Talk to them before signing anything.

Now, scary stuff aside hagwons can be great. Shop around! As a newly graduated person with a B.A you’re going to have pick of the litter, if you’re patient. I had to wait quite a bit before finding my job. It took months. I had a few offers, and I nearly signed a contract, but I did some more research and found the academy I almost signed with failed to pay severance or even pay their teachers on time. Thank god for the internet because I found an old teacher on Twitter of all places. Had I not found her I would probably be writing a different story right now. The important thing is to have standards. All jobs have the same offerings but find one that caters to your hours, and has a good rep with their current teachers. Don’t jump on the first offer you get because likely, it’s not going to be the best.

I get really offended when people say things like “You couldn’t pay me enough to work in a hagwon.” or “all hagwons care about is money.” This stuff is TRUE for most places but my school was AMAZING. I have to be 100% honest I got very, very lucky. I had an amazing boss, super friendly coworkers, and mostly great kids. Of course there were kids I wanted to banish to the hallway for an eternity, but I had flexibility in my classes, I got to sing songs and do dances for kids, and even watch movies with my kids! We had a great curriculum that approached English in a way that was inviting. It was so much fun and super rewarding. When I listened to my friends talk about their EPIK schools and even other academies I felt pretty lucky.

Here’s some anecdotes and comparisons I made about my experience and the EPIK experiences I heard about:

  • EPIK class sizes are about 35-40 kids PER class. You see them once a week. My classes maxed out at 12 kids and I saw almost all of them 2 times a week. Smaller classes are so much easier to handle, especially for a first time teacher.
  • EPIK teachers seem lonely: one foreigner in school, your co-teachers aren’t always friendly. This is the case for most people. My school had one other foreign teacher and my Korean co-teachers did not hesitate to ask me questions, chat about kids, or invite me to dinner.  Even having one other foreigner was great because you had someone to chat with when you needed it. Contrary to popular belief being the only foreigner teacher at an academy is not a bad thing, nor does it mean your school is poor, some schools are just smaller than others.
  • Sometimes you have to teach at 1-4 schools a week with EPIK, transportation not provided. This means you could have to bus to different places during a single day. No thanks. I had a 5 minute door-to-door commute from my apartment to school. Some teachers got a bonus for working additional schools but the bonuses barely cover the monthly transit.
  • An academy allows you to get closer with students: learn their Korean and English names, and you can spend one on one time with them. I spent hours with my students joking around with them, etc. I could even see them outside of class and say hello. When you teach an ENTIRE public school it’s hard to remember each face and name. When you teach a smaller portion of a school at an academy you can make better connections with your students.
  • When there’s a problem with your apartment sometimes nothing happens. And your apartment (EPIK or academy) can be really crappy depending on how many teachers have used it before you. When I had a problem in my apartment my director had it fixed within the week I asked. I never had any issues. It really does vary school to school though.
  • Vacations: EPIK is WAY better for vacations. I think you get the majority of August off and the majority of January. At an academy the most you’ll get is 5 days in winter and 5 days in summer. If you have a good school. I am jealous of the EPIK vacation time. Second only to the university vacation time (like 10 weeks!!)
  • Bonuses: maybe $100 more, if that, plus your settlement bonus from EPIK. You’ll get more there but not much more than you would at an academy.
  • EPIK has the cushioning that is safe, but it’s not where you’ll make the most money, EPIK is a long-standing program with a good reputation so it’s more secure than most academies but some academies have been around for many years. My academy, though unknown to most foreigners, is pretty famous in Busan and has been around for 16 years.
  • If you want to make more money in EPIK you have to be working in a rural area which sucks most of the time. Being the only foreigner in a small town can be draining on the most confident of person. EPIK in a rural area can be super rewarding but also really difficult. Not for the weak hearted that’s for sure.
  • From what’s been going around the internet: the EPIK program is on the way out. This program was not meant to last. Each year there are more and more schools cut from the program due to lack of funding. It’s sad really.
  • Recently I’ve seen that the EPIK program is really discriminatory against tattoos. From a thread on reddit, several new applicants to EPIK were rejected right away and the one common factor: they all had tattoos. Or they all were crap at writing an essay, the jury is still out.

I just want to get my opinion out there! I’m not bitter that I got rejected from EPIK. I  was sad when I first found out, but also happy I got to work at my school. My school was wonderful and I could not have asked for a better first place to teach at! I think there are a lot of misconceptions about hagwons/hakwons/academies in Korea and before working at one myself I had my own reservations. Take your time, ask questions, and don’t feel rushed into anything. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t.  Check out Facebook for groups like: hagwon blacklist (bad schools in Korea), and Teachers in Korea. It’s full of people who have done the jobs you want to do. Trust your instincts and ask others for help!

Sorry for my lack of posting, I’m still adjusting to life in Canada again. I’ll have some more posts up soon! Thanks for your patience, I love you guys!

Until next time,
B.

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Goodbyes and Valentines…

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Feeding pigeons on the beach on a beautiful day.

So the last post was a quick post about my work life, so this one is about my social life in February! Since my last weekend post, which was FAR too long ago, I’ve had quite a few weekends. One of them including valentines! This was my first Valentines Day in almost 6 years without my Valentine. So, I filled the day with super great activities! First off, Grace and I went to the foreigner market. Some of the expats in Busan have put together a monthly market where they sell foreign goodies, like cookies and candy and hummus and yogurt and all this stuff. It’s great! They fundraise for BAPS (Busan abandoned pet society) and Educate a child. I loved going because I got some Terry’s Chocolate Orange bars and they were heavenly. I had to miss the March event because I was in Japan, but I will be going to the April eventwpid-1423900158569.jpeg for sure!  After Grace and I wandered the market, we had some delicious meat pies on the beach, explored the wholesale fish market in Gwangan (where we were accosted for a picture from a very eager fisherman) and then met up with some more people to go back to Taejondae!

Yes, we were going back to Taejondae. Grace LOVES seafood, it’s her favourite. Lynette also loves it so we made our way to Taejondae and had a shellfish feast. Lynette also introduced me to the best instant ramen hack ever. Shin Ramyun with an egg poured into it, which turns it into these delicious noodley strands. I did this to my regular ramen and it was awesome… Sigh, so delicious. Anyways, our seafood was really good. Cheesey and buttery and I had an oyster for the first time (gross.). 2/10 do not recommend. Afterwards we went to a multi-bang (multimedia room) and played Mario party (I won).  Korea is so great because if you want to do something, you can. Multibangs are really fun as an expat because most of us don’t want to buy a gaming console and games in a country where they won’t work at home, so we can play Mario kart for like $5 each for 3 hours. It’s great.

We also went to the makeolli bar we like in Seomyeon, had some of my favourite pumpkin pajeon, and then made our wpid-img_20150217_215625.jpgway home. I had a great valentines day with some great people. It was the perfect beginning to the week because that was the 2 day work week! My boss gave us all a wonderful gift set for the new year, I still have no idea what to do with all my spam but alas… Anyway, my laptop was broken and sent back to me the last day of work so that was great. I stayed in Busan my whole break and had a staycation. I caught up on TV shows, blog posts (at the time), and spent some time with Kate, who would be leaving at the beginning of March. We saw Kingsmen (AMAZING!) and The Imitation Game (also amazing but for other reasons) and also went to Nampo-dong where the hotteok guy noticed us coming back for seconds… haha. I also ended my vacation bywpid-20150218_194920.jpg buying two new pairs of glasses! I’m very happy with them now but they took a lot of time to get used to because they are a really different prescription… a lot weaker which is kind of nice. My coworker helped me and we got them all fixed up though, so they’re all good now!

wpid-img_20150224_210147.jpgFebruary was also my last month with my 3rd grade Middle school students. In March, when the Korean school year starts, they were going to high school. They were such a great group of kids, liked joking around with me and we always had great classes together. On our last class I made them write letters to them selves set five years in the future. Some of the answers were jokes, but some of them were very endearing and sweet… I’m going to miss them a lot! I already do and they’ve only been gone a month. The new students in their level are quiet and nice but I can’t wait to have the jokey comradery we had before.

I can’t believe that February is already done and gone, and now we’re almost at the end of March. Time is flying in Busan. And I am loving almost every day. wpid-img_20150214_182339.jpg

Currently drafting a month view post for March too, I don’t know if I’ll continue this format but I do enjoy writing it. Shorter, sweeter and I get more done.

Until next time!
-B.

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Tuna Mayo

It is ALMOST FRIDAY! I can’t believe it. I also have two updates in some ongoing stories: One. The Laundry saga. In our last chapter, while a pair of yoga pants hung in the balance of ruined or safety, you were updated upon the finishing of the cycle that they were indeed safe. But the mystery still remained, could my washer also be a heat dryer? Well the answer to that was arrived upon last week, when I asked my coworker. She told me it was just a washer, I instantly bought a drying rack. I miss heat drying though 😦 wah wah. So in the end, that is one mystery solved.  The second ongoing story is like case of the replacement teacher. I have great news: the new teacher is here!

His name is Lee, he bought everyone muffins yesterday (they were so good) and he is from England (Nottingham, actually). He was basically put right into classes, so I feel a bit bad for him but I’m helping him as much as I can. As well, he keeps saying “How long have you been here?” because he’s shocked at how much I know, haha. I kind of threw myself into work right away so I know a lot more than I thought, I guess. We’re kind of in a weird period of school right now because all of our Middle school classes are messed up. I can’t wait to go back to a regular schedule, and to be honest I can’t wait for January because then I can start a fresh, new, semester. New books, maybe some new students, new classes, new everything.. sigh. Soon though! And my pay day counter is 5 days away! Woo woo. (it’s officially become Friday as I’m writing this post).

So, this week has been alright. I’m feeling a bit of pressure to finish all my textbooks by the end of the month, especially with some days off this month and changed schedules (Dec. 23-24 are Christmas parties, Dec 25 off, Dec 31 off as well). Though I will enjoy this time off, it just interferes with my planned lessons and schedule, dang I never thought I’d see the day where I was disappointed with days off?? I’m not complaining just feeling a little rushed, that’s all! I’m trying to make my classes as interesting as possible, while keeping to the curriculum and keeping the kids happy and keeping the boss happy. It’s a delicate balance, but I think I’m doing okay… I hope I am.

Any way, this week has been less eventful than last week in regards to children’s behaviour. One of my favourite students is gone! He is on a 3 month break because he is exhausted. His mom called and let us know he will be taking a 3 month sabbatical basically, haha. He will still go to school but he is not coming to academy (where I work). I’m sad because he’s so energetic and though he can be a bit much sometimes, he was a bright spot in the class. He is also the Panty Man artist… haha. So other than that I haven’t had any other huge events. Except today.

My middle school classes are either 1 or 2 things. 1. Sleeping, hard to get anything out of, unresponsive. or 2. Energetic, Jokey, and Happy. No middle ground, anywhere. Tonight I had one of the 2nd types of classes. This is one class I didn’t have right away, I was bit nervous to teach them but now they’ve become one of my favourite classes. Even though it is the LAST MONTH of the semester and I just got 4 new students! Like really, last month and there is 4 new kids? Come onnnnnn. I feel like I can joke around with this group of kids. We get the work down in between some chatter, but it is a good group of kids overall! They give answers, they get some jokes/sarcasm, I like them. Today we were going through a lesson, I asked some of them “What are your English names?” because each student has a Korean name and an English name (usually given to them by a previous Foreign (English) teacher. Well my sassy kids decided to tell me their names were “Yes.” and “No”. Then the one changed his name to “OK.” and “Marvellous.”  I called another student “Maybe.” and the other two were called… Tuna or the Korean “chumchi 참치” and Mayo “마요”.

Why Tuna and Mayo? Well… I was going around looking at their books and seeing who was writing, when “OK” said, “Teacher, what perfume are you wearing?” I said “Why? Does it smell bad? Nemsei 냄새?” He said, “No, but it is strong.” so I started laughing. They all looked at me as if I were a tuna fish teaching the class. I had to explain to them that, while on break, I was eating a triangle kimbap 삼각김밥 (basically looks like a rice ball), I dropped my tuna mayo kimbap on myself. I sprayed myself with my perfume to make sure I didn’t smell like tuna for class. After asking them if I smelled like tuna, they all assured me I didn’t and then I apologized for being such a weird teacher. Hahaha. Needless to say the kids laughed every time I called on Tuna or Mayo, and it was hilarious.

I’m really enjoying my work, and I’m hoping it continues to go well… As for the weekend, I have no idea what I’m doing. There’s the hint of a concert on Saturday night, and maybe I’ll explore in Sasang and look for a home plus or e-mart.. I’m sure I’ll do something! I’m excited for what could happen, but honestly I’d be content with a nice lazy weekend… I say that now but I’ll regret any time I don’t do at least something. 

I hope your week is going well, and keep in mind we’re all over that weekly hump!
I can almost taste the weekend! 😉

Until next time!
-B