Blogiversary

1 year of blogging!

And 1 year of Korean life.

I’ve surprised myself by not giving up on it.

The blog, that is.

I won’t give up on us, Korea. We’ve survived that weird rough “so you’re not perfect after all” phase after the honeymoon stage ends, so let’s keep going strong. But please do your part. Don’t bombard me with lung-hocking ajeosshis and jjim and mold and things of that nature. Love, Maddy

Anyway, technically my first post was Feb 28th, 2015… but today is Leap Day which didn’t even exist last year, so it still counts.

Just like this time last year, I’ve just moved in to a new place and am feeling great trepidation about beginning a new year of teaching Korean kids. (Like, did last year really happen? What subject do I teach again? Remind me how I got through all the last minute schedule changes and the stress of lesson planning? IS IT TIME FOR SUMMER VACATION YET?)

At least this year I didn’t get lost at night and almost die of exposure. That’s always a plus.

Korea Year 2 – 시작!

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whoa

the last few days were a maelstrom of change.

Tuesday

Go into the office as usual, expecting to stay my usual 8 hours and come back Weds and Thurs to deskwarm as well.

At 10 a.m., Coteacher 1 comes in and surprises me with the news that this is my last day at my main school, and that I should gather my things, go say goodbye to the principal, and wait for Coteacher 2 from my other (now my only) school to pick me up.

I rush to stuff old folders and documents into my bag, thankful that I had already cleaned and organized my desk last week. I lock the office door for the last time and walk downstairs to the principal’s office. For the first time since the start of the semester (when he invited me to his office for coffee and a chat), I knock on his door.

“예” I hear from inside (“ye” means yes, but is also a handy dandy response for a variety of situations including “I acknowledge your knock, please come in”)

I crack open the door cautiously and greet him with the usual bow. He instantly knows why I’m there. “Maddy, I am so sad,” he says. “I’m sad too,” I say. He tells me he was happy to meet me. He asks, “May I call you sometime?” I say yes. (He won’t.) He says, “How can you understand me so well?” Still ever-convinced that his English pronunciation is incomprehensible, apparently. I want to say how grateful I am to him for being so kind and chatting with me all year and supporting me, but it’s too difficult in the moment to think of how to express those thoughts without making a complicated sentence that will be hard for him to understand. So I just smile and say thank you, and he shakes my hand, and I say goodbye.

Then Coteacher 2 picks me up, and her energy is contagious. She is here to help me start moving right away, so we go to my room and I thank the Lord that it’s mostly clean even though bags and suitcases are everywhere. She helps me take some of the biggest stuff to my new place. Her tiny, barely-5-foot-tall-in-her-4-inch-platform-sandals self hauled my 40+ lb suitcase up three flights in spite of my protests. She is a bundle of energy. I’m so thankful for her.

We meet my landlady. I pass a few other tenants on the stairs and to my amazement, instead of solemnly passing by, they make eye contact and say cheerfully “Hello! Nice to meet you!” in English. Whoa.

I meet the landlady’s sister. Apparently she is visiting from New Jersey where she lives. Her children live in Boston. She tells me animatedly that if I have any problem or question, I can ask her (and she’ll translate for her sister). At least until she goes back to the U.S. in a few weeks.

Coteacher 2 and I finish unloading her car. We go to lunch with the staff of my school. (from here on when I say school, I mean my former “small school” and now the only school I work at) It’s bossam and it’s amazing. I discover that the Korean language teacher from my old school has transferred to this school this year, so she and I greet each other in surprise and that strange joy that comes from seeing even a semi-familiar face in a new place. (She doesn’t really speak English, but it doesn’t matter.)

That night, I prepare all the rest of my bags to be moved and give my room one last sentimental look as I remember moving in a year ago.

Wednesday

8:50 a.m., my (technically former) Coteacher 1 calls me – “Maddy? I’m outside your building. Please open the door.” Good thing I was up and ready. I let her in and endure the few minutes of weirdness while she surveys my room, eye-snooping as one does when seeing somebody else’s room for the first time. The gas man arrives and checks the meter. I have to pay about $130. I don’t know why. I’ve never had to pay that much for my gas bill. Oh well. I pay it.

The electric company says I have to pay $9 for electricity. Well that’s more like it. I pay it.

Coteacher 1 explains that Coteacher 2 can’t make it this morning because she has to take care of her kids, so Coteacher 1 will go the extra mile and help me finish moving, even though I’m technically no longer her responsibility.

We load her car. We unload it at the new place. We come back for Round 2 and a guy from administration and a guy from security are waiting at my old building. They have to inspect my room. We let them in. Security guy sits on the bare mattress (definitely leaving that thing behind) and bounces on it a few times. Administration guy checks a few things. Then all three of them help me load the rest of my stuff into the car (including 3 pairs of boots and 4 winter coats… I have a problem okay?).

Coteacher 1 helps me unload one last time and has to hurry off to a meeting. I thank her. She says she doesn’t want to say goodbye, and she’s sad. I say we’ll see each other again. “Yes, see you again,” she affirms.

Then I am alone with my bags and bags and BAGS of stuff. I start cleaning. The building is brand spanking new, so instead of cleaning mold and layers of dirt from other tenants, I’m cleaning construction dust and debris. I take a shower, one which actually stays hot and maintains a steady water pressure. It’s heavenly. I go to the local supermarket, 2 minutes away on foot, and it is actually super, full of everything I could possibly need. This is incredible.

My bed hasn’t been delivered yet. I sleep on the floor.

Thursday

I spend most of the day unpacking and organizing. It feels like way more than 24 hours since I moved.

I sleep on the floor.

Friday

Although it doesn’t quite feel like home home yet, I’m so happy with the new place. I have four – FOUR – windows. My old place had a tiny one in the bathroom and one in the laundry room, about 3 feet away from anther building, letting in next to no natural sunlight. Even on the sunniest days, if I turned off the lights it was pitch dark in my room. Having sunshine and seeing the sky is so luxurious.

The closet is bigger. The kitchen is bigger, new and sparkling, with brand new appliances (fridge, gas range, microwave – all provided with the room). The bathroom is bigger. Basically everything is a total upgrade but it’s still within the budget for school-provided housing according to my contract.

When the bed arrives (which should be later today) and I have everything more organized, I’ll post pictures.

Happy Friday!

don’t we love surprises

Today has been a series of unfortunate surprises. Thus far:

— Current main coteacher visits my office, informs me that the landlord said I can’t start moving into my new place early. Everything must be moved in and moved out on one day, and that one day is Tuesday. (Earlier I’d been told I had 3 days to move in.)

— My computer is broken and won’t even tu– oh, wait, that’s not a surprise.

(So how am I posting this, you ask? The coteacher who shares the office with me said I could use hers.)

— Current main coteacher revisits my office, informs me that she has bad news. My heart drops because right before the start of a new semester and a move, this is never ever good. She says she can’t be my main co this year because admin changed her position to coordinator of welfare or some crap like that, instead of head of the foreign language department. One of the two new English teachers will be my main.

Outward me: “Oh~~ okay. I understand.” (nodding and smiling)

Inward me:

nooooooo_elf

This is awful news for so many reasons. She and I already have a strong relationship, classroom rapport, and trust. We came in brand new to this school last year at the same time, but now we both know the school well. We know the events that we planned together last year (speech contest, essay contest, speaking tests, global market, etc) and we know what should be done this year. We know our students and the specific areas they need help with.

Why on earth would anyone decide to shake up all the positions just 1 year in? Don’t they realize that people learn and improve on the job through long-term experience? If you move everyone around every single year, no one will ever maximize their potential for a particular position or skill set. I want to pull out my hair. It’s beyond frustrating.

— The two new English teachers who will work here this year arrive (one of whom will be my main). My main coteacher ushers them into my office, and I awkwardly greet them. It’s been a whole year since I had to do this clumsy getting-to-know-you-in-your-2nd-language-but-my-2nd-culture thing.

They seem kind and their English seems pretty good. Thank God.

One says “I heard you were beautiful” and stops there.

Oh.

Sorry to disappoint you.

The one who will be my main co is in her 30s, quieter, solemn, makeup-less. This could be a good thing, maybe. Not sure yet. The other is perhaps slightly older, with a kind round face and cheerful smile. But she’s the one who I disappointed with my looks, so who knows. (kidding kidding)

I sat down with them, mind buzzing with questions for my new main co – are you going to follow my previous main co’s lead? Do I still get to teach the same pages of the textbook? (Dear lord, please don’t make me throw away ALL the work and lesson plans and PPTs I did last year.) Are you going to let me take the lead in class?

(Incidentally though, my now-former main coteacher, the awesome one, told me in private that if I feel hesitant to bring up a problem with the new teacher, I can talk to her about it instead. So that’s nice!)

— And you know what we had for lunch together, we English teachers?

Just guess.

..

.

JJIM.

Not just any jjim. As soon as they opened the box, I saw the silvery scales peeping out.

fish jjim.

my nemesis.

I should’ve known when I wrote yesterday’s post that this would happen. It’s Korean karma for speaking ill of spicy fish.

— To finish off this day of surprises (well, hopefully), my coteacher from my other school texted me and said we have hweshik tonight at 5pm, and she’s coming to pick me up at 4:40. heaven help us.

let’s just hope we’re not having jjim.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Getting some perspective on life in Korea

Today, February 18, marks exactly 1 year since I set foot on Korean soil at Incheon Airport, thoroughly exhausted, hopeful, excited… and terrified beyond imagination.

Following the typical expat experience, my first 3 or 4 months were the honeymoon phase – drinking in all the new cultural experiences with great enthusiasm. Every food was delicious, every person I met was wonderful, and every aspect of Korean life was amazing or intriguing or amusing. I was totally in love with Korea. (As such, I feel a little cringe-y reading some of the mushy posts I wrote at the beginning of last year. It’s like reading love letters that you would write in the early stages of a massive crush.)

And while I didn’t quite hit the low point that some expats hit after coming down from the high of the honeymoon phase, this year has certainly given me perspective on living in Korea. Every day can’t be a wonderful adventure (although when school is in session, I do have quite a few adventures, both wonderful and not-so-wonderful). Some days are full of frustrating, irritating things – made more frustrating and irritating because they are different than the frustrations and irritations I’ve grown up with in America – and some days are just plain mundane boring days.

With that said, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of life in Korea, 1 year in:

The Good

My students. They delight, amuse, and alarm me on a daily basis, and frequently become the highlight of my day. As much as I’m filled with dread about starting the new school year in approx. 2 weeks, I’m also so ready to be back in the classroom with them. I miss those goofballs.

My lovely coworkers. I’ve been extremely blessed in this regard, because it’s completely luck of the draw, but the three or four co-teachers that I worked with most closely this past year have been absolutely wonderful. They are kind, understanding, and laidback. In a culture where “bally bally” (hurry hurry!) and last-minute changes are the norm, they’ve been so good at providing me with information ahead of time, helping me out, giving me free rein with my lesson planning, backing me up in class, and generally making me feel at ease. I’m so grateful for them. Unfortunately, with the mandatory teacher shuffling that goes on each  year, I’m losing all but one of them and an entirely new crop will come in this March. Fortunately, that one teacher is my main co-teacher and she’s an amazing Cutter-of-Red-Tape and Blocker-of-Stupid-Arbitrary-Rules.

Nature. I’ve never been much of an outdoorsy type, and the thought of camping still makes me slightly nauseated, but it’s so refreshing to live in a city but have access to actual mountains, plus a ton of parks and hiking trails, close by. I feel like living in a city would depress me at times if it weren’t for being able to see mountains everywhere I look.

My soon-to-be new place. One of the hugest silver linings to come out of losing my main school this year is that I was able to change apartments, and with two of my aforementioned fantastic co-teachers leading the search, we found a literally brand new building with a thousand and one upgrades compared to my current place. I’m moving in next week, and I am so freaking excited! Pictures to come. Woohooooooooooooooooooo!

The Bad

Certain foods. Sometimes school lunches are great; we have fruit salad or regular salad or bibimbap or dongas (deep-fried pork cutlet) or awesome beef stock soup or tteokbokki or even spaghetti. But then… there’s the other times. At least twice a week we have lunches which, besides rice and soup, are this mix of sort of leftover cuts of pork (a.k.a. lots of fat and gristle) with chopped up carrots, onions, and spicy sauce. It sounds okay, and it is, but not when you’ve eaten it at least twice a week for a year. [Full disclosure, though, I’ve now gone about 2 full months without school lunch and I am so ready to eat it again. This complaint will apply again about 3 months from now.]

While we’re on the topic of food, there is one Korean food that I’ve flat-out given up on trying to enjoy or even eat: fish jjim.

This abomination of a food consists of AN ENTIRE FISH, head and bones and all, mixed with a bunch of bean sprouts, swimming in the spiciest hot pepper sauce imaginable. There are just too many things I’m not okay with in that scenario for me to enjoy eating it. (There are other varieties of jjim – “찜/jjim” itself simply means “steamed” – such as chicken served with potatoes and carrots, but somehow every time I have to eat jjim, it’s ALWAYS THE FREAKING WHOLE FISH STARING AT ME.)

This is jjim. It’s just not something that I want to eat. And this picture doesn’t even include the fish situation. (I think this is chicken jjim.) (Picture from wikipedia)

I actually get angry every time I have to eat jjim. Angry at the tiny slivers of bone that inevitably wind up in my mouth, angry at how all I can taste is spiciness without flavor, angry because why does anyone think it’s enjoyable to eat something with tiny life-threatening ivory spears still in it? Then I laugh at how silly it is to be angry at a food.

I mean, I’ve learned to love and even crave tons of things that I used to have to force down, including naengmyeon (buckwheat noodles served in ice water with mustard and veggies and stuff), sushi, and bibimbap (yeah, I used to be not a fan of bibimbap). But jjim is just 100% NO. THE WORST. EVER.

nb: i apologize to any fans of jjim out there. but that’s how i feel and you can’t convince me otherwise. also, you are crazy.

No car. At first there’s a feeling of “Wow, I can walk or bus or subway or taxi everywhere. Who needs a car?”… but after a year, it feels seriously limiting when the closest place I can buy some string cheese is a brisk 40 minute walk away through whatever weather we happen to be having. Even the 20-minute roundtrip walk to the little grocery store feels like too much effort in the freezing cold or blazing heat sometimes, and then it’s time to eat all the rejected foods still sitting in my cupboard.

For the most part I do enjoy that I’m forced to walk a lot, since I think it really does make a difference in my health… and if I had a car, I’d probably end up taking it for even short trips… but it puts a damper on a shopping spree when you have to limit yourself to what you can comfortably carry back for miles and miles.

The Ugly

Spit. Spit everywhere. STOP SPITTING, AJEOSSIS OF KOREA! I BEG OF YOU!

Mold. It’s a never-ending battle of Me vs. Mold in the constantly wet bathroom. So nasty. Thankfully it hasn’t ever reached the main living area, though many older apartment buildings in Korea do have that problem.

Dirty air. Blame this one on a mix of city life, China’s massive air pollution floating down to the Korean Peninsula, and Korea’s own share of pollution. It’s not something you notice on a daily basis, but one of the first things I realized when I visited home was just how clean American air is.

Okay, that’s it for now.

Ultimately, all countries have their pros and cons, and I think sometimes expats or potential expats make the mistake of thinking that Korea (or their country of choice) is some magical wonderland that will give them zero problems whatsoever. That’s unrealistic. But neither is it realistic to degrade or blindly criticize a whole country because of an irritating cultural difference, because if we think about it I’m sure we can all find a lot to be annoyed with in our home countries as well.

Anyway, The Bad and The Ugly sections probably would’ve had a lot more punch to them if I’d written them mid/late semester when every little annoyance gets super mega amplified, but at this point I’m kind of chomping at the bit, ready to actually do something productive and get back to teaching. Plus I miss eating Korean food every day. I miss rice and scorching hot soup and even some of the vegetables that (and I have verified this) would be known in America as “weeds.” I miss it all. Everything except jjim. Jjim can go jump in a lake. The end.

Hweshik (회식): Redemption Round

I should’ve known that I couldn’t finish up my first year in Korea without a more traditional style 회식 dinner.

Tonight was my first time attending 회식 with my small school. (I’ve written two posts about 회식 with my main school, which is an orderly, quiet affair.)

This was the closing dinner, basically – all staff gathering to eat, drink, congratulate each other for surviving another year with these crazy kids, and say goodbye to the teachers who will be leaving (transferring to other schools, which is mandatory every 4-5 years for Korean teachers).

We went to a smoked duck bbq restaurant. The seating was traditional – long, low tables, charcoal grill in the middle of each table, and everyone sits on the floor. Once the meat came out, so did the beer and soju. Cups were filled and we had three or four toasts in a row, not including a speech by the principal which ended in a toast.

Curiously, a few of the men (as far as I could tell, one head teacher, one security guard, and one janitor-type-guy) began coming around to each table, sitting down, pouring a round and taking shots. I stopped calculating how many shots they must be taking if they were going to visit every table, but it was a lot.

The head teacher came to my table, where I was sitting with two of my co-teachers. We were drinking beer and soda. I had beer still in my glass (because I hate beer). He said, “Maddy, Maddy!” and indicated that I should bottoms-up the rest of my beer so he could pour me a new one. I obliged (did I mention that I hate beer?), and we toasted each other and he moved on.

After we had mostly finished eating (although drinking continued), two teachers came out dressed in hanbok (traditional Korean dress) and plastic tiaras and put on a show. They introduced themselves as the “Ijang Sisters” (one’s surname is “Lee,” which is pronounced in Korean as “ee,” and the other’s is “Jang”). Apparently they are the star act of every 회식 at my small school.

Spoons stuck into empty soju bottles became microphones. There were jokes. There was a quiz, and winners received 5,000 won gift certificates (about $5).

There was a raffle, and in spite of my internal mantra of “please not me, please not me,” the principal reached his hand into the box and called out my number. Of course! (Perhaps I am one of the only human beings on earth who would rather not win a raffle to avoid going up in front of everyone to receive the prize.) I had to go up and say thank you into the microphone (a real microphone this time, not a soju bottle).

Then there was singing. Not noraebang (karaoke), thankfully. I might’ve seriously considered an Irish goodbye at that point. The Ijang Sisters were doing the singing, but they also handed out the lyrics and invited everyone to sing along.

And then suddenly everyone around me was singing and crying and I felt emotionally out of the loop. Although I can totally understand why enduring a long hard school year with a group of people and then singing a moving, nostalgic song together would produce tears and feels, I couldn’t participate really. Language and cultural barriers, all that.

This was the song, by the way (a song that most of them grew up listening to, and has now been brought to the cultural spotlight again by a very popular current TV drama):

And actually, now that I’m reading all the lyrics translated into English, I can understand why they all cried.

Anyway, then there was a funny song, an original composition by the Ijang Sisters, specifically referencing situations and hardships of teaching at my small school, which made everyone laugh.

And then I started laughing, not because I could understand the song (I couldn’t), but because the head teacher was clapping in time and waving his song lyric paper around, and he was smacking it right in the face of the security guard sitting beside him, but the security guard was so drunk that he didn’t even seem to notice – his eyes were closed, face beet-red, and he was swaying and clapping along to the song (completely offbeat). It was among the more hilarious things I’ve witnessed.

Thus ended the entertainment for the evening. The Ijang Sisters made their exit amid thunderous applause.

The head teacher gave one more speech, and apparently decided that I should make the final toast of the evening. Why? I have no idea. He passed the mic my way, with an instruction that included the word “Eng-uh-lish-ee.” So I stood up and said quickly, “For happiness in 2016. Cheers” and they all said “Cheers!” which was cute. It was also somewhat comforting that most of them probably couldn’t really understand what I said anyway (due to lack of English or excess of alcohol).

And then my co-teacher drove me home, and hence I had survived 회식 yet again.

I’m not saying this was wildly crazy. It was pretty tame, really. But it was the most hweshik-y hweshik I’ve attended yet (out of the whopping three I’ve been to).

I’m just grateful I didn’t have to sing.

The end.

i’m a sad human icicle

It’s not as if much has happened since yesterday’s post, but it’s not even 11 a.m. yet and I can already tell it’s going to be an unproductive day (so why not pass the time with blogging?).

For one thing, there’s too much commotion going on today. It’s graduation day at my main school, and even though there’s technically class scheduled for 1st and 2nd grade, no one seems to be sticking to it. And in about 10 minutes, the 3rd grade ceremony will start anyway. We don’t have an auditorium here, so they have to graduate in their own classrooms. I don’t think I’ll get to watch. I’m sad about that.

For another thing, it’s basically the same temperature inside as it is outside, which is below freezing. Okay maybe slightly warmer, but it is cold in here. Really really cold. So, I’m sad about that too.

I just had a few 3rd grade visitors, though.

First, the student whose drafted speech I proofread for her a few months ago- she came hurrying in, flushed and breathless, and squatted beside my chair as she always does, as if trying to hide from the other teachers while a stream of fluent but somehow slightly strange English pours from her mouth. She said she wanted to thank me for helping her with the speech, and held out a bag filled with snacks from the convenience store. “It’s too much,” I protested. “No, please, please – please take it! They’re not expensive, really.” She hurried away almost before I could thank her. I wish I could’ve had more time to chat with her this year. Fluency hinges on frequent use of the language, and I don’t think she uses it much at all. (Like most of the fluent or extremely-high-level kids I’ve encountered here, she seems to purposely hide her ability to avoid being seen as a show-off.)

Second, two girls who, very early in the year, demanded that I remember them and their names (and so I did). “Teacher, today is last.” I chatted with them a little about what high schools they’re going to, their graduation ceremony today, etc.

Third, technically not a visit, but one of the boys who wrote me a goodbye Post-It note (specifically this one, bottom left, “from tae mok”) came to get something from the office. I haven’t seen him since, and his face lit up when he saw me – “Oh, hi!”

And now the Korean anthem is being sung, so I guess the ceremony has begun. But I guess I will just stay here and continue to be a sad human icicle.

vacations are wonderful things

Particularly in the education field, I feel, but just generally speaking, who doesn’t need a vacation once in awhile? I think we don’t even realize how the daily wear and tear is affecting us sometimes, but coming back to work after a good vacation is so refreshing (provided you like your job at least a little bit, I guess).

I spent the last 2 weeks in America on a surprise visit. It was so fun to surprise family and friends, lovely to spend time with them after a year apart, and strange but nice to feel things clicking back into place almost as if I’d never left.*

*With a few exceptions, mostly related to social interactions.

– Weird: Within 5 minutes of stepping off the plane onto good old American soil airport floor, a random stranger made small talk with me about the crazy length of the customs line. I was weirded out. Why is this human I don’t know talking to me? Then I realized how handy it is that everyone speaks my language when I asked another random stranger a question about the customs computer check-in. Then I eavesdropped on 5 different conversations because I could actually understand them and felt weird again.

– Troubling: I was never pro at small talk or glib conversation, but after a year in a country where small talk is nonexistent and I get by speaking in fragmented sentences which nix all parts of speech but the most essential, simplified nouns and present-tense verbs, I find myself to be much more awkward and not-ready-with-natural-comebacks than usual.

– Encouraging: I noticed that I am no longer too timid to ask questions of doctors, hygienists, and store clerks (I was always the person who would rather search around for 20 minutes than ask where something is). I also no longer rehearse what I’m going to say before making a phone call, which is truly progress. Phone phobia is a real thing, people.

The problem with expat life, though, is that once you’ve established a home in a foreign country, you will forever be missing your other home no matter which country you’re in.

So, it was nice to arrive back in Korea yesterday. It felt like coming home – a completely different experience from arriving here a year ago, when I had no clue what I was getting into or where I was headed.

And today, the first day of February 2016, here I am back at my desk and back to blogging. This is an interim week between “winter break” (month of January) and “spring break” (month of February), so all the kids are back today. Apparently I don’t have to teach any classes, but the other teachers do. Friday is graduation day for the 3rd graders, who are moving on to high school in March.

This arrangement is beyond nice for me, since this week I can use the deskwarming time to start planning for next semester (if my productivity levels stay as high as I want them to), and then I get more vacation days for the Lunar New Year (Seollal) from Feb 8-10.

My only complaint this morning was that the school apparently maxed out our electricity limit or something, because every office and classroom was getting about 5 minutes of heat followed by 10-15 minutes of no heat whatsoever (on a rotating basis). Believe me, that 5 minutes of heat was not doing much good for my frozen fingers and toes.

But now, post-lunch, we seemingly have our act together and the heat is staying on. Woohoo!

To return to this post’s title, I have to say that this mundane Monday felt fresh for me because of my extended vacation away from school (and away from Korea!).

The greeting song that blares through the loudspeakers (like, you can hear it from the street…) every single morning at 8:15 a.m. filled me with nostalgia, recalling my first day of teaching and hearing this song that morning.

Here’s the song so you can also experience the EXTREME CHEERFULNESS!

Everything today is great – the school smell (my school has this smell that, if I pay attention, takes me directly back to my first day here – not unpleasant, not a specific odor from a food or something, just a smell which I can’t describe!), the other teachers, lunch in the cafeteria.

Lunch was that spicy yet bland soup that is just spiciness and bean sprouts, which is normally tiresome, but today I ain’t even mad.

image

For one thing, I haven’t had school lunch in like a month since the cafeteria was closed for winter break during January, even when I was at school to deskwarm. I missed the hot lunches.

Plus, forget about that spicy-bland sprout soup, we had potatoes with chicken. I love me some potatoes. Just give me potatoes with whatever the rest of the meal is and I’ll be happy. And rice! After eating rice on the daily for a year, 2 weeks without it starts to feel like a nutritional deficiency. Rice is da best.

Getting a little sidetracked here (when am I not?), but I’m really grateful that the school lunches force me to eat at least one healthy meal per day (meaning lots of vegetables, some protein, and little carbs or sugar). One major thing I did notice in America was that I had headaches every day and felt kind of sluggish and tired (and I don’t really get jet-lagged, so it wasn’t that). I’m pretty sure it was diet-related, either the high carbs or the excess dairy or sugar or something. I think it’s something you definitely have to get away from and return to in order to notice the difference that diet can have on your energy levels and general wellbeing.

Okay, signing out for today.