Monday, August 17, 2015

Here I Go Again

   I am taking a small break from packing yet again. I feel like I have just been packing and unpacking for the past 5 years at this point. I have, however, only been in Korea for less than a month. It feels like a lot longer.

   It took me a little while to adjust to this move it is true. While I am not fully adjusted, I must admit that I am not nearly as down as I was in the beginning of this adventure.

Jae and Jane
   I didn't make many friends while in this orientation. That is to be expected though. As I have said, I am a bit of a recluse, and that is okay with me. I did meet some pretty cool people, and got close to some who did not reciprocate. I did meet some pretty nice students while here named Jun and Jae.

   Jun I met the first or second night we arrived in Busan. I had skipped dinner for some reason and was looking for something to eat. I went down to the convenience store here on campus and bought some ramen. As I am just sitting to eat my ramen, Jun is sitting eating ramen too and we just started talking. He turned out to be a pretty cool guy and really friendly.

   Through Jun I then met Jae who turned out to be just as friendly. I think it is a Korean thing to be honest. In any case these two together made for some pretty funny conversations and soon they even introduced me to people from my own program that I had never even spoken to before. It is kind of funny how that works out isn't it? Meet one person and you meet a bunch more.

   This little group was kind enough to invite me out on a couple of their drinking excursions and I must say it was a lot of fun.
Terribly lit photo I know...

Surprise birthday celebration
   Here I go again. I hate to leave Busan but I must. Tomorrow I will be swept on further down the river. I will miss Busan immensely. I liked what I saw of Busan a bit more than what I saw of Seoul. Perhaps later that will change, but for now Busan is my favorite big city.

   I will hate to leave the few friends I made. Hopefully the distance will only be a minor inconvenience. We shall see. 

   I don't have much more to say. Orientation was fun and long. Some of the people I met were really cool, some I wish I had gotten to know better, and some I spent more time on than I should have. Tomorrow is a new day though, and a new day is a new adventure. Where will I be? Certainly not where I was. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Teaching My Past Self

   In a few weeks time I will be a teacher... Me. An actual teacher. I will be teaching 3rd-6th graders English in South Korea. More specifically, in Yecheon Dongbu, Gyeongbuk province. I have never taught before. Not formally anyway.

   If you had asked me 2 months ago, "Do you think you could be a teacher?" My answer would have been a confident, "Of course!" Now my answer has become, "Uh... yep." I am confident in my abilities, but there are a few things weighing on my mind.

   First off is the responsibility. I have never been fully responsible for a child or their education before. That's not something to be taken lightly, at least I don't take it lightly anyways. I know I can do it, but I know that at some point I will fail in some way. I am, after all, only human. But will I be able to correct those failures, and how much will those failures or successes impact the children that trust their impressionable minds to my care.

   Which brings me to perhaps the biggest thing that has been on my mind with this topic. That is, how I was when I was in school.

   Does anyone remember "Gifted and Talented?" (GT) Does that even exist anymore? For those who don't know GT was this program that took in kids around 3rd or 4th grade who seemed to have a gift for learning. "Smart kids" I suppose. You had to take a test on various subjects like reading and so on. I was selected to take the test and one of the sections was creativity. Oddly enough I failed that part of the test. When I was smaller this actually had a huge impact on me. I questioned why I didn't have creativity. I figured I was just an unimaginative person and I stopped being interested in any kind of art projects. Now, however, I know where my creativity lies and it has never been any different, even at that age. But I had to figure it out myself through various art forms and it took me a long time to get over the stigma of that test telling me I was not creative enough. I cannot imagine a day without art for me now. If I had never questioned that test and experimented, I don't know what my life would be like today. A life without art is a life without expression. This single test could have decided the rest of my life. No, in fact it has, I strive every day to be more creative.

   Although I was a little older than my potential students, a lot of stuff was changing in my life around 5th grade to middle school and no I don't mean just the usual "changing into a man" stuff. I had a lot on my plate and on top of that, it wasn't until 5th grade that I had ever had a male teacher.

   So what? Big deal, your first male teacher.

   I was raised by my mother and had weekend visitations twice a month with my father. My father left my mother before I was born. She inevitably married when I was about a year old but he too was non-existent more often than not and not a great person when he was around. So the only two males in my life that were of a higher status than me had hurt my mother, and by association, hurt me. I hold no grudges against my father. Whatever he was when he was younger, he is a good man now. Though around 5th grade is the time I needed my father the most, and the time when I felt I had my father the least. I don't know whose fault it was, if it was anyone's at all, but that is how I felt.

   I now understand that I have a real aversion to male superiors. Even to this day I cannot stand the fact that a male is over me. I know how to deal with it, but I hate it. At work, I prefer to have female managers and bosses. When I have a male boss, I simply never go to him more than I have to and that is how I avoid staying out of trouble.

   So then in 5th grade I get thrown into a classroom where I must take and obey orders from a male. I didn't know why I fought so hard against him, but I do now. It was amazing, like night and day I went from GT kid to being in the principal's office every day. I had the weight of a lot of personal stuff on my shoulders, and they go and throw me into a situation which was only an accident waiting to happen. 5th grade was the start of all of my school issues. Until college, I had not done homework since the 5th grade, I broke school property, I yelled at my male teacher, got in plenty of fights, I even set stuff on fire which ultimately got me sent to a school for troubled kids. I fully blame administration for how that period of my schooling turned out. Any self respecting administrator should have seen what was happening right away. My mother was not the uncooperative, tuned out type either. In fact I feel like she was in the principal's office more than I was. They knew my situation. It doesn't take a genius to think, "Okay, this kid hasn't had stable male figures in his life, and hasn't ever had a male teacher until now and he is acting out now where he never has acted in the past. Maybe he needs a female teacher."

   I feel bad now for all I put my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Herrera, through. He didn't deserve half of it. He was around the age I am now and I think this was his first teaching opportunity. It wasn't his fault at all, but neither was it mine. In the end we did become really close on a real personal level. He didn't give up on trying to win me over and by the end of the year he succeeded in becoming one of my favorite teachers. It was, however, a little too late because I would go on to get kicked out of school a few years later as I mentioned previously.

   (I wish I could meet him now and tell him where I have turned up and where I am headed. I don't think he remembers me but if he does I know he'd be shocked.)

   Later, during high school, I merely got lucky. I met a girl who really knew how to keep me in check. I thought about most of my actions a little more mostly because I didn't want to fail her. For that, I thank her, I can only imagine the hardships she saved me from. Not everyone gets lucky like that and High School is really a huge determining factor in someone's life. I have no doubts in my mind that I am ultimately sitting here now writing this in Korea because of the help and support she showed me. Perhaps she did so indirectly, but she helped me get where I am and where I will be in the future.

   My point in all of this is that I know what conclusions teachers and administrators drew about me. They looked at my poor grades, my switched off personality, my introversion, and came to the conclusion that I was just another difficult kid. Little did they know that I was learning, I was studying, I was listening to every word they said. I just couldn't show it. I remember countless times a teacher asking if I was even paying attention and I'd have to reply, "No," because I was reading ahead of what they were teaching.

   So then, will my experiences as a kid in school prepare me for what I am about to face? Will I be able to see the potential in the children who won't speak? Or will I fail them as so many failed me before? It breaks my heart to no end to think that this is even a possibility. I know what it is like to be failed, to be let down by so many that had the opportunity to lift me up to another level. Of course the majority of the effort must come from within the individual, but a teachers job is to see the potential and squeeze it out drop by drop if they need to.

Can I do that?

Can I teach my 5th grade self?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Oryukdo Island

   I know I haven't updated my blog in a few days, but the amount of crazy that has been attached to that time is indescribable. I am, however, now in Busan and staying in the dorms of Busan University of Foreign Studies. This campus is really nice but getting from one building to another is a workout in itself. The campus itself lies in something like a valley and has steep grades all throughout. There are even some Rocky Balboa stairs that I have found to be good exercise after the sun goes down.

   Last Saturday the TaLK program (I really need to dedicate a post specifically to explaining the TaLK program soon.) took us on a little excursion to a tourist spot in Busan called Oryukdo Island. It is actually a chain of 6 islands, but depending on the day you can only see 5. This area is fun to explore and has a really nice view of the ocean and islands from various vantage points.
The whole area itself is a bit small and can be explored probably in about an hour if you're really just in a hurry. But if you want a nice workout with some beautiful nature at every turn then this is a good place. Actually, I have come to the realization that living in Korea means walking up hills everywhere you go so a workout is not far from your front door.

   That being said, Korea has really encouraged me to lose weight again. After my motorcycle accident I could barely walk, let alone run or exercise. After I healed though, I simply lost the will and all the progress I had been making prior kind of went out the window. Being in Korea has shown me how much of a mistake I made. It is embarrassing to be sweating as soon as you take a step out of your door. Its not fun seeing girls turn their heads for the guy beside you and seeing right through you. I... have come to a sudden and unexpected realization about something. I don't feel like I could ever see that realization become any more than a dream or wish with the way I look and feel now.

   Korea can do that to you. It is not a bad thing. Call it motivation if you will, but when you see so many fit and good looking people, even those twice your age, you start to look at yourself differently. It is good then, that we have places like Oryukdo to reflect... and burn some calories.