Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Sunday, August 29, 2010

South Korean Journal -- Part VIII

August 8, 2010

This morning while on my run, it became obvious why I chose this hotel in the middle of nowhere to stay: it offers the most breathtaking country and ocean views. I always love exploring new places on foot, by running or walking, enjoying my new surroundings while attempting not to get lost (NOT always an easy task!). Today, I passed vast corn fields, authentic farm houses, a quaint local church, tiny houses, and a charming beach community, where the locals are friendly, dogs incessantly bark at me, and the views of the ocean never end. I even found a clean toilet to use (Seoul and its vicinity are known for their free, clean, and widely available public restroom facilities)! I will definitely need to see more of the beach before leaving tomorrow.

Another perk of staying in a small, family-owned hotel? Unlimited access to free high-speed Internet in the lobby. Yeah! I took full advantage of this opportunity for over an hour before taking the hotel shuttle to Incheon Airport and bus 6002 again to downtown Seoul.

Over the past few days, I've been thinking about the joys and challenges of international travel by yourself. After two weeks of no privacy and little to no free time, I was more than ready to experience Seoul for a few days solo. Ironically, Koreans are much more likely to be friendly, approach, and talk to you in English when you're alone than when you're in a small group or even with just one other person. I can't tell you how many smiles, curious looks, "Hello!"s, and peace signs and waves I got here in the city. Koreans, on the whole, are very kind, generous, and accommodating to foreigners, feeling an obligation to represent their country well and having pride in having you here -- wanting you to enjoy your entire experience in Korea. Perhaps Americans can learn something from this philosophy.

Back in Seoul, I boarded the Seoul City Tour Bus again, this time for the two-hour downtown tour that stops at over 27 destinations, including all of the city's major markets. I took our guide's private recommendation and hit up Myeong-Dong market. There, car-free narrow streets are seen as the fashion mecca of Seoul. I enjoyed purchasing several cheap and chic earrings, bookmarks, street food, and tops (which probably will not realistically fit me!). I stumbled upon The Foot Shop, where I got an awesome foot and full body massage for less than $35 (for over an hour = not bad!). The experience started with me soaking my feet in a fish-filled pool, where all of the fish carefully remove dead skin from your feet and lower legs. While it certainly tickled, the fish really did their job well, and I now have super smooth feet to show for it! Very cool.

I made it back to the bus stop with just a few minutes to spare before catching the last City Tour Bus of the night. I finished up the tour and enjoyed seeing the National Theatre, palaces, and the North Seoul Tower again. Not ready to head back to the boondocks yet, I jumped off the bus at the end of the tour, determined to find Namdaemun Market and somewhere to eat nearby. Luckily, I succeeded at both tasks! I found some awesome veggie fried rice with egg at a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed spending some money on shirts, Korean tea, Jeju chocolates, traditional Korean chopsticks, fans, pens, fruit, and chocolate marshmallow bars. I bargained well too, though it is easier to do in China (at least from my own experience).

On a roll and having just consumed some of my favorite watermelon, I took a quick cab ride to Dongdaemun Market to see what the fuss was all about. Basically, it is a GIANT shopping area with wholesale and retail stores that caters to teens and 20-somethings (Yay; that still includes me!). Combining traditional markets with modern high-rise shopping malls, the area is clearly buzzing with activity all day long and never seems to completely close. You can get great deals on fashion and accessories here. I've been toying with the idea for a few months and finally decided to get a second ear piercing. Don't worry; the male piercer was completely safe and legitimate. I am now sporting a second hole with pink studs! You'd think that I was a teenager again or something...

With newly pierced ears, three bananas, OJ, green tea, and an ice cream in hand, I found a taxi and had a much easier time directing the driver to my hotel 65 km away. Somehow, it still cost me $75,000 won (about $60) with tip and toll, though. Boo!

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