As most of you probably know, Jocelyn and I are now parents. Jocelyn gave birth to Amelia on September 14 by way of planned C-section. Both Jocelyn and Amelia went home 6 days after the birth and are doing very well.
As I age, I have learned to listen to and take into account the information of my elders. For those of you who have said that parenting is difficult, exhausting, time consuming and things of the like, I thank you. Having and accepting this information in advance has made the job easier. If nothing else, it prepared me. I wasn’t shocked the first time the baby woke up, demanding food at 2 AM after having eaten at 1 AM. I was not surprised when Amelia pooped her pants literally seconds after getting a new diaper on. Along the same lines, I wasn’t too shocked when she pooped in the process of being cleaned, nor was I surprised when she peed during the same cleaning (though my shrieks might have suggested otherwise). The words of wisdom of my predecessors are paying huge dividends in terms of my ability to handle the continual workload.
Having a child abroad and more importantly in a very different culture has required extra work and patience that my elders did not inform me of. For starters, hospitals operate quite differently. New mothers are offered a very healthy portion of seaweed soup for meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). The thought of anything else for post partum patients would be the equivalent of giving a pixie stix to a diabetic.
From the get go, we were breaking deeply rooted Korean customs. Jocelyn was eating Burger King, yogurt, bread, crackers, ice cream, bagels and things of the like. We also chose to keep her room air conditioned; very different from the sauna like conditions most new mothers opt for. On one of their many visits, one nurse raised the AC question and our response left her with a look of disappointment, fear and confusion. It was one of those looks you might give a smoker who enjoys flavor country through the hole in his neck.
Little did we know how western the nurses and doctors were. Once we left the safety of the hospital, we were open to attacks from countless numbers of middle aged Korean women affectionately known as ajjumas. Being a foreigner in one of the most homogeneous countries on the planet is enough to get stared at more than regularly. On top of that, having a baby strapped to you only increases these stares, but the real kicker is when that baby that is strapped to the young ignorant foreigner starts crying. The ajjumas are relentless. Everything they were doing ceases. All eyes shift. Heads cock to the side and gasps of breath are taken. In one word, FEAR. The ajjumas are fearful and more than willing to express their concerns with you. Interestingly, the only thing that could possibly be wrong with a child under the acceptable age limit of 100 days, is body temperature.
(In Korea, babies and their mothers are expected (required) to stay inside the house for the first 100 days of the child’s life)
If the child is under 15 blankets, strapped directly to the body of the parent who has been walking around in the heat…then the baby is, “chuwa” or cold. Time and again the ajjumas come up to us and clench their fists, scrunch their faces up and act as though they are shivering to address the problem of a “chuwa” baby. My personal favorite is when the baby’s skin is exposed. I can never understand what they are saying, but imagine it’s something along the lines of, “Come on guys, get your acts together. Can’t you see that this baby is freezing. Do you think for one second your mothers left you out in the open to fend for yourselves? I don’t think so. And mom…You shouldn’t even be out. What’s the matter with you? You should be at home with the heat on and eating a steaming hot bowl of seaweed soup. You go on back home and warm up before you get pneumonia.”
Fortunately, Amelia is still alive, despite her low body temperature. Her favorite activities include crying, eating, sleeping and making general noises. Her favorite noise is one similar to a mother goose chasing off a predator trying to steal her eggs. She is getting quite strong. She can hold her head up for an extended period of time and almost roll over. Her hair is slowly growing. It has a natural part, which makes her look like a boy sometimes. She has already outgrown her newborn clothes which is good. I would hate for her to be caught in the same outfit twice.
Most people tend to say that she looks like Jocelyn, but there have been a few with their heads screwed on straight. For those of you who have not had the chance to hold her might look at her and see a head full of brown hair. True. However, hold the child and you will feel a head shape eerily similar to yours truly. You can judge for yourself. The camera doesn’t lie.
Here is the link to more pictures of Amelia. Enjoy:)
Jeff, Jocelyn and Amelia
Well, we have just finished our ninth month here in Korea and in a few more, we’ll have our baby. The past few weeks have been quite busy. We’ve given a speech, gone on trips, watched Jocelyn grow (in a good way) and best of all, it’s political season.
A little over a month ago, Jocelyn received a phone call from her former co-teacher, Ms. Lee, about giving a speech on getting into Harvard. I got dragged into the scenario by being a good husband and taking my wife to the meeting and was asked to speak about the importance of volunteering, a topic about which I know very little. On the 22nd of May, we gave the speeches.
I was up first. The crowd was almost entirely gifted middle school students which helped ease my nerves. The idea of facing obsessive parents, grilling me on the specifics of volunteering in the US and the potential benefits it would have for an Ivy League applicant, all being done in choppy English, had caused a bit of fear in me. I could only imagine myself standing in front of everyone when a woman, clad in Gucci or Louis Vuitton with an obvious nose job and eyelid enhancement asked me about what I or Jocelyn had done to improve our positions. The best, honest answer I could have come up with would have been that I did some basic grounds keeping work at St. Pete’s in order to fulfill the requirements for my high school Social Justice course. Seeing the disappointment on her face would have done a number on my self-esteem, so the sight of a room full of middle schoolers was quite a relief.
Not having too many examples of volunteering, especially in an attempt to pad my application for an Ivy League institution, I basically told them over and over…and over again, that they needed to do some volunteer work if they wanted to go to a top-tier university in the US. Somehow, during my speech, I ran out of time. It was quite a relief, as I was certain that I would be standing in front of them for about 20 minutes repeating, “questions? does ANYBODY have questions?…no?…are you sure?…this is important.” Fortunately for everyone involved, that did not happen.
Having warmed up the crowd, it was Jocelyn’s turn.
Jocelyn’s speech went quite well. I think having a degree from Harvard helped perk the students interest. They were a bit tired of listening to the fraud, and were ready for the real thing. Her speech covered the process of applying and expectations as well as a little general information about higher education in the US. She too was worried that her speech would not fill the required time, but she had no problems once she was up there. The students, at least a student, was paying enough attention that Jocelyn, unlike me, got a question. Something along the lines of, ” How do you suggest we define our ‘vision’ for the future?” Quite an impressive question from a non-native speaking middle schooler. Jocelyn must have answered the question well because she got invited to do another speech.
Here are some pictures from the speech. I’m not quite sure what the banner says, but it does mention Americans, and Harvard. My Korean is really getting good.
Jocelyn and I in front of "our" banner
Jocelyn and I with the Director of Gifted Education, the Vice Principal and some students. The little boy gave us his Mickey Mouse umbrella because it was raining and he did not want us to get wet. Korean kids are so cute.
The other week, my school got an extra day off because of the school’s birthday. I think that’s a great idea for a holiday. I used it to visit the historic city of Gyeongju which is about 30 minutes from our town.
Jocelyn’s pregnancy is in part to thank for my day off. Though my school did not have any classes, the full-time native teachers (I am not a native teacher, but tend to receive special consideration) had to attend a two day workshop regarding the new curriculum. Not only had I been scheduled to go to the workshop, but I was slated to sleep in the same room as the principal which according to my fellow teachers, is not normal. My principal is a nice guy and I enjoy his presence, but he is also a heavy smoker, drinker and he really likes to practice English. The thought of sitting on the floor of a smoky hotel room going over English phrases till 3 in the morning was not appealing.
Thankfully, both he and my vice-principal expressed concern about how Jocelyn would eat if I were to leave her for one night. They told me to discuss it with her and see if she could handle the workload. Fortunately, Jocelyn’s culinary skills were not good enough for her to handle the flipping of a frozen beef patty, so my school let me stay home and take care of her.
With the free day that I had, following the night of cooking of course, I went to Gyeongju and toured the city. It is quite a picturesque city. I wish that I could have been there in the evening, but it was still very pretty during the daytime. Because it was the day before Buddha’s birthday, the city and especially Bulguksa (the main temple) was quite crowded. Regardless, I was still able to see many of the city’s attractions. I definitely want to return to Gyeongju, perhaps for an evening stroll next time.
Lanterns for Buddha's Birthday
Korean kids on a field trip
These random boys stopped me and asked if they could take their picture with me. They really like blonde white guys out here.
The world's oldest observatory
It’s that time out here in Korea and it is quite different than back in the States. Never before have I seen groups of women, dressed in matching outfits, dancing to music that is blaring out of the back of a truck, which is decorated with giant posters of their candidate.
Not being fluent in Korean, I really only have their dance routines to base my vote on. Fortunately, most of them don’t skimp on practicing, so I think I know who will get my vote. I know I can trust a candidate who spends on street-side dance routines and excessive amounts of business cards.
Sadly, the elections are tomorrow, ending the music, dancing, and decorated trucks.
Political supporters. They dance. Go #10.
Political dancers taking a break for a speech. Go #9.
As I’m sure you all know, the South Korean naval chip, Cheonan, sank several months ago, causing speculation as to who’s the guilty party. Now that the South Korean government has officially blamed North Korea, the local citizens, and especially the students, are very vocal about their opinions.
The Adults: To my surprise, many adults in Korea are split on whether they believe the North attacked the South. Only being able to read Western media, I was unaware that many of the local citizens firmly believe that the South Korean government falsified the evidence in order to blame Kim jong-il. More than the occasional local has voiced this opinion to me. Coming from the West, I was very surprised. The rest of the citizens have been certain from the start that it was the North.
The Students: The students, at least some, are much more afraid. The other day, I had two girls come up to me during lunch with tears in their eyes. They went on to explain, in their limited English, that North Korea was indeed going to launch missiles at South Korea and that their parents would all die. They then questioned me as to who the US was allied with and I told them that they supported the South Korean government. As is the way with young children, their tears turned to joy and they began cheering. It was quite a funny moment. No other students have been crying over the issue, but they do express quite a bit of fear over it. I guess that’s what happens when you live in a society with an extremely low crime rate.
Two of my students. The girl on the right was one of the criers.
Jocelyn is 24 weeks pregnant now and goes back to the doctor next week. The baby has been kicking up a storm in preparation for the World Cup. We went to Costco the other day and bought our first huge package of diapers. They smell so nice. At least for now. Jocelyn has also been getting more and more perks in society these days. She almost always gets a seat on the bus/subway and people take her things from her if she is carrying anything. I need to get pregnant.
Jocelyn and her 6 months pregnant baby belly
I began training for another marathon. This one is at the DMZ. I plan on doing a little more in terms of training, but we’ll see.
The weather somehow managed to get cold again despite being the first of June. They weren’t lying when they said Korean winters are long.
Now that body has fully recovered from the marathon and spring is upon us, I felt the need to update everyone on our adventures. We have been quite busy and less mobile as Jocelyn becomes more rotund. Most of the past months have seen us busy with work, but being pregnant has also led us on several journeys to the hospital. Despite all of this, we have had some time to have a little fun.
This is the 22nd week of Jocelyn’s pregnancy and despite having had no morning sickness, she has gained a whopping 7 pounds. Much of the reading Jocelyn has done on the subject of weight gain has said that she should have gained much more by now, but the doctor told us everything was fine. Perhaps it is just a cultural difference in which American women are expected to gain exobitant amounts of weight while the Koreans prefer to stay healthy. Whatever the case, she is feeling fine.
Our last visit to the doctor was on May 12th. The doctor conducted several tests on the baby’s heart and skeletal structure. The bone test went fine and our little girl is looking good in those terms. For the heart test, she was lying in the wrong position and not wanting to budge. After attempting to coax her to move for several minutes, the doctor had Jocelyn get up and walk around the hospital for about 10 minutes. After that, the doctor was able to better test the heart, but still unable to get all of the information she wanted. From what she did test, everything was fine. We also got some nice pictures of the baby. One of what appears to be her sucking her thumb and a nice shot of her long foot. The foot is eerily similar to mine which makes me feel a little sorry for her already.
In the evenings Jocelyn gets a lot of solid kicks in the belly, many of which I can feel. They are getting stronger and more consistent which is nice, especially for me since it doesn’t disrupt my day at all, but is nice to feel from time to time.
Since becoming pregnant, Jocelyn has really been able to reap the benefits of Korean hospitality for several reasons.
1. Koreans love foreigners.
2. Koreans love pregnant women.
3. Koreans love Harvard graduates.
Everywhere we go, people give up their seat for her, take her bags, pat her belly etc. Meanwhile, I just get lectures about the importance of taking care of pregnant women and how I have to take care of domestic duties. Because I understand that they are only trying to be helpful, I refrain from telling them that I am already quite the housewife.
The next doctor’s appointment is in June. We will keep you informed.
Having grown up in Tucson, I hadn’t really experienced a true spring since my toddler days in Cincinnati. Spring finally came in early May. Until then the weather had been unseasonably cold. The locals were almost apologetic for the horrible weather that they kept saying would end. Since March, I have heard the standard Korean, “maybe the weather will be nice next week?” followed by, “It will rain for the next 4 days.” followed by, “next week will be very cold” followed by, “Maybe the weather will be nice next week?” My typical response would be, “Oh good, I am very excited for spring.” This eventually turned into, “Did you see the snow last night?”
Now, the cherry blossoms have come and gone, and a variety of other flowers have done the same. All of these plants I have never seen always elicit questions from my co-workers such as, “what do you call this flower in English?” I always have to disappoint them and tell them that we don’t have them in Arizona. If they import some Prickly Pears or some Saguaros, then we’d be in business, but these spring flowers leave me baffled.
One observation I made while watching all of these flowers bloom over the past several months is that the colors of the Easter candy do exist in nature. I had always thought that they were created by Hershey’s and Nestle years ago and they just stuck. The color of the pink, yellow, blue and purple Peeps have a flower equivalent. I was shocked.
Next month, the Lotus flowers are supposed to bloom, or at least, “maybe” they will.
Nowadays, I am teaching a Saturday class at my school. Koreans call it Seodang which basically means it is like a club for students who want to study English. Thankfully, the students are all there by choice. This makes my job much easier. An average day will include a reading, writing and speaking activity followed by a short game. A good day will consist of me monitoring a 3 hour game of Monpoly, clearing up issues with Chance and Community Chest cards. We usually get fed lunch and I get paid extra for the class, so all in all it’s a good deal.
Korea has a holiday know as Teahcer’s Day. Though we don’t get the day off, there aren’t any real classes. Students will write letters to teachers and give them carnations and things of the like. This year it fell on a Saturday, so I only had my Seodang class to attend. Two students were nice enough to write me letters in English and I’d like to share them with you. Perhaps if you don’t teach here you won’t appreciate how adorable these letters are, but regardless, enjoy.
“to. Jeffrey. Hello Jeffrey my name is Shin mi ye! I don’t write English well. but I will try hard! What do you think about Samnam Middle School? I think it is very beatiful. teacher’s day is came. Very congratulations to you! You are very gentle, kind, funny and humorous. Before my think is ‘English is very boring and difficulte!’ but Present my think is ‘English is very interesting and funny thank to you. Very thank you. I want to study English to you. English teacher! thank you very much. see you again! bye bye!
P.S. I’m 2nd grad 1 class number 24. English name is “Amy” Korean name is “Shin mi ye”! remember me! 2010.5.15 from Shin mi ye.”
Another student wrote,
Hello, my name is Bang hyun-ha. My English name is Amy. I’m first grade. Teacher. Today is Teacher’s day. Thank you for teaching me. This is small latter for you. I study English hard. Because, English is better than other subject. So, on Saturday, I go to school, study English. With Jeffrey teacher and my friend. And on Monday and Tuesday, Seven class. I go to English room. Ah! Do you know me? Monday and Tuesday. I study English in English room. With my friend and you. And I like cartoon Simpsons and Conan (Japanese cartoon). This paper is Simpsons!! “And question” 1. What’s your favorite cartoon? 2. Do you know Conan? Teacher bye! See you later! May 15th 2010. “Amy or Bang hyun-ha”
These are now my favorite students.
I was impressed to say the least. Considering how hard English is, they did a pretty good job, especially knowing that their letters would be read by a native speaker. Those types of things usually strike fear into the hearts of Koreans.
Now that the weather is nice, the hiking invites are becoming frequent. Several weeks ago, I went on a hike to the top of Sinbulsan with my co-teacher Mr. Sohn and his brother-in-law. It was a hazy day, so the view wasn’t the best, but we did get to see a paragliding race taking place. After the hike, we ate some sort of spicy duck alongside one of the mountain rivers. I am always a little leery when eating duck because it is difficult to differentiate between duck and dog through the Korean accent. Mr. Sohn assured me that this time it was indeed duck.
2 weeks after hiking with Mr. Sohn, I got another invite to hike the same mountain on the same trail. This time I went with Mr. Han, a very nice man in his early 50’s. Because it was later in spring, the mountain was much greener than before, which was helpful in providing shade. Again, it was a hazy day, limiting visibility, but still a nice time.
On May 27th, Jocelyn and I have been invited to give a speech to gifted students and their mothers on preparing for Ivy League Universities. Jocelyn’s Alma mater paved the way for this one, I was just an after thought. The focus of our talk will be on extracurricular activities and general preparation such as SAT’s and how to be a competitive applicant. We will both speak for 45 minutes as well as answer questions.
Jocelyn’s previous co-teacher, Ms. Lee, recommended her for the speech and because I accompanied Jocelyn to the meeting, as a good husband would do, I was volunteered by the ladies in charge so the pregnant Jocelyn wouldn’t have to do so much work. I knew I should have stayed home and practiced guitar. Live and learn. Never accompany a pregnant woman to a meeting with other women who generally think that men have it easy.
We will keep you updated with the baby, our adventures, etc.
Jeff and Jocelyn
A lot has happened since we last wrote anything. We had a nice vacation, saw new images of our baby and I ran a marathon.
In February, we took a trip to Sinagpore and Indonesia. In Singapore, we visited our friend Ben George, yes, THE Ben George and his wife Mie. We stayed with them and toured the City-State for a few days. The weather was hot and humid, a nice change from cold and icy. We went to the Botanical Gardens and the Zoo, both of which were amazing.
The Botanical Gardens boasted a variety of tropical flora and fauna. The most impressive part of the gardens was the orchid exhibit. Perhaps the average person who was not raised in a desert would not be impressed by these things, but for me, it was an amazing experience. I knew these kinds of things existed as Safeway would sell run of the mill versions to rich people willing to fork out the $50 to have an unsustainable plant to show off to their friends, but was not aware of how impressive they actually were.
The Singapore Zoo was another impressive experience. Many of the animals were an arms reach away, and there was a wide variety. As is usually the case, the monkeys were the most interesting and the tigers were a big let down. Is it just me, or are tigers in a zoo the most boring thing to watch. I would personally rather watch a couch potato changing channels on a TV than watch a big cat lounge around in the heat. So, aside from the predictably boring tigers, the Singapore Zoo is an amazing place.
The rest of the time spent in Singapore, away from the touristy things, was impressive to say the least. The place is spotless. I’m not talking about the insides of fancy stores or Government buildings, I’m referring to the entire place. Finding litter of any kind is comparable to a needle in a haystack. Singaporeans don’t trash their country.
There were a few odd things about the country. One, they walk at a ridiculously slow pace. It was not only noticeably slow, but aggrivatingly slow. It blew me away that such an efficient place could have citizens that moved that slowly on a day to day basis. Two, though they all speak English, it is a very odd and at times incomprehensible dialect. It was a classic case of being seperated by a common language. Fortunately, Ben also struggled with this when he first moved to Singapore, so we were not alone in our inability to understand the native speakers. Their accent has since been explained to me as sounding like, “waiters at a dirty Chinese restaurant.” Luckily, Ben and Mie could handle the accent just fine, so there were no major problems.
The second leg of our journey led us to Bali, Indonesia. I’ll start with the good.
Beaches, waves, food*, weather, villas, price
The Beaches in Bali are gorgeous and wide open. The water temperature can’t be beat. The waves are big, consistent and easy to ride. The weather is wonderful. The villa we stayed at had a beautiful room with everything we needed. The price for everything is quite low.
Locals, Australians, airport
The tourism industry has turned a wonderful place with an interesting culture and history into a place full of street hawkers. Everywhere you go, people are trying to squeeze every cent out of you. For example, on our last day there, we decided to go to a beach on the southern portion of the island. The staff at the hotel called us a cab (public transportation is virtually non-existent) and told the cab driver where we wanted to go. After a minute or so of being in the cab, the driver insisted that we go to a different beach that was further away and was better for swimming. Wow! What a deal. Go to a beach that is further away and pay you more money. We politely told the driver that we just wanted to go to the beach we first mentioned and thought that would be it. Oh no. Again, the driver insisted that we go to this other beachand that he would give us, ” good price.” Again, we told him we wanted to go to the original beach and again, he insisted we check out his beach. At this point, we just stopped talking to him, figuring there must be something wrong with his English. He then told us, “I just want you to be happy.”
Eventually, we made it to the beach and he asked us what time we would be finished so he could give us a ride back. We told him we didn’t know.
Bali also hosts a large population of Australians who gobble up huge amounts of land and build massive dwellings surrounded by even bigger walls. Perhaps it’s not the Australians themselves that bothered me, but the complexes that they build and dirty the countryside with.
The Denpensar airport has several problems. First, the attempts to rip you off don’t stop at the airport doors. No, they go all the way until the cabin door is locked. Second, the entire airport smells like 4th ave, which wouldn’t bother me if it were only a few shops, but that is not the case. Third, I question the quality of airport staff who listens to Bob Marley music, at an audible level to the passengers, while handling things related to airport security. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Bob Marley music, but I would imagine that it would distract someone from their job.
*Though the food in Bali was delicious, it gave both of us food poisoning. Jocelyn had to go to the hospital in Singapore on our return flight, as she was having sharp pains in her belly. The medical care she received was top notch and dirt cheap. An ambulence ride, doctors visit an I.V. and prescriptions was around US$200 and we made our connecting flight. Singapore’s health care system was something to be admired.
Upon returning to Korea, Jocelyn visited the OBGYN to make sure nothing went wrong due to the food poisoning. The doctor said everything looks good and the baby even did some kicking moves for the camera. She is starting to get a baby belly and the clothes just aren’t fitting the same. Luckily she has some maternity ware already, so she should be good. Her next appointment is on the 30th of March and she will be 14 weeks at that point. We have several photos, but we haven’t been able to upload any yet. We will try to post some in the next few weeks.
Please feel free to suggest any names. I think Jeff Jr. sounds good for a boy or girl.
On March 21st, I ran the Seoul Dong-a Marathon. It was a lot of fun but left me in a bit of pain. I will be the first to admit that my training was weak at best. Prior to the race, I had been running 1-2 miles a day for about two weeks. On the weekends I would take it up a notch and put in a 6-7 miler, but never more than that. It’s cold out here. Cold, wet weather mixed with long runs just didn’t sound fun to me at the time, but at the 36th kilometer, I was regretting my decisions.
Another problem that occurred during the marathon was that I thought it was 40 km plus a little change. This thought led me to develop a suicidal strategy. When I reached the 38th km, I decided to up my level for what I though were the last two kilometers. When I saw the sign for the 40th km and refreshment stands, but no Olympic Stadium, I was devastated. How long was this? At this point my mind went in circles, trying to remember conversions from grade school math; frustrations with the American way and its unwillingness to adopt the more efficient metric system. The tall buildings of Seoul left me with no hope either. They dominated the landscape and the Stadium was dwarfed by steel and concrete produced by Samsung and Hyundai.
How could I finish? I blew all of my energy trying to make a glorious entrance into the stadium where legends such as Carl Lewis once dazzled the crowds. I drank some water and Pocari Sweat (Asian sports drink) and slowly trudged along the path towards the finish.
Kilometer 41…no finish line.
Then, out of nowhere arose the most glorious structure man has ever built. Seoul Olympic Stadium. Frank Lloyd Wright never designed a structure as magnificent as this stadium. The massive gray Colosseum stood there in front of me and the screams of Korean supporters would line the rest of my journey.
As I made the final turn before entering the stadium and inched my way up the last hump, there was Jocelyn with the camera to capture, forever, my most painful moments. After a brief photo shoot and a kiss of support, I made my way into the stadium, around the track and across the finish line.
For those of you interested in running a marathon, I would suggest doing a little more training than I did. If you are running outside the US, it will be 42.195km.
You can see the photos from the marathon by clicking the link below our going to “Our Photos” on the right side of the page.
That’s all for today.
Jeff and Jocelyn
Hello everyone. A lot has happened since our last update. We visited the DMZ and Jeju island, participated in Winter Camp and most exciting of all, we are having a baby!
For starters, Jocelyn’s friend Colin came out for a visit from the US. He couldn’t have come at a colder time. Though the trip was fun, it was extremely cold. The first stop on the tour was at the DMZ. On the tour, we got to do a variety of things such as go deep under ground into a tunnel constructed by the North, peer into the city of Kaesung through binoculars and go to the demarcation line. At the demarcation line, we had the good fortune of being the background for a several North Korean soldiers pictures. Interestingly enough, a day or two later we saw the video footage of that incident taking place on the news. Now, a few days later, Kim Jong Il stated the North’s intentions of easing relations with the US. Perhaps it’s coincidence, but I like to believe that my presence and the photos taken with me in the backeground helped lead to peace between the nations.
After the DMZ and a long day of working on unification we were off to Jeju island. When we got off the plane, the weather felt great. Not too cold. The following day proved to be much worse. The cold air moved in, along with strong winds. Despite the weather, we got out and saw some of the sights on the southern part of the island. We saw a very nice waterfall and a huge temple. The temple claims to be the largest in all of Asia, the truth of which I can neither confirm or deny. I will say, it was big.
The following day on the island was colder, windier and brought snow. Though it snowed the majority of the day, we still managed to get to a folk village for a short time. When New Year’s Eve came, we decided to try and find something to do despite it not being a huge holiday out here (they celebrate the Chinese New Year, but Korean’s will tell you it’s the Korean New Year). We ended up finding a group of Canadians, an Indian and two Koreans. We all went out to Norebang which is the Korean song room.
The following day we went to an island of the coast of Jeju called Udo, which translates to “Cow Island”. Unfortunately we did not see any cows. The island was very pretty, but we only had a short time to visit as the last ferry left at 4:30 pm. Jocelyn found a dog she wanted to steal and gave it a temporary name, Udo. Luckily for Udo, we left him on his island rather than taking him home and cramping him up in our apartment while we went to school for 10 hours at a time.
After Jeju, we had to go to our Winter Camp. Don’t let the name fool you. It’s school without grades. The students who attend have 11 hours or so each day of English class. It’s not quite as intense as regular school and the kids get to meet many new people, but the bottom line is is that they are there to learn. Jocelyn had a very nice class of polite students who to a certain degree wanted, or at least were willing to learn. I on the other hand had the class of students who A: were low level students. B: had NO desire to learn. C: were there only beacuse their parents made them go. On the plus side, all of the other teachers saw my situation and were somewhat sympathetic.
Some of the students at the camp were wonderful and I wish I had them in my classes at Samnam. Most notable was a boy whose English name was Piccolo. Yes, that’s right Piccolo, like the musical instrument. It is apparently also the name of some Korean TV character. Piccolo honestly enjoyed being at English camp and looked forward to telling his parents how much fun he was having. He also made a point of it to tell Jocelyn and I to “enjoy your meal” every day at lunch or dinner.
Winter Camp also provided another instance in which I was asked to perform some music on short notice. This time, I was asked the night before the performance. Again, I accepted and played a piece for the students at the Talent Show. Though my performance was iffy at best, it was enough to win first prize, which was two bowls of ramen. They were delicious.
It was also at Winter Camp where we found out we are having a baby! The students here enjoy singing some sort of congratulatory song which we heard at least a dozen times. I would like, you can call me up and I will sing it for you.
Now on to the exciting stuff! Jocelyn and I are both very excited about the upcoming addition to our family. The morning we found out, Jocelyn woke me up at 6:30am or so to have me look at some faint line on a stick. We were both a bit skeptical about the outcome of the test, so I set out to buy 4 more tests. When I got to the Pharmacy and asked the lady for a pregnancy test, she looked at me with a bit of confusion. I eventually got through to her that I did indeed want to buy a pregnancy test and I wanted not one, but four. Over the next day or so, Jocelyn continued to pass the tests, so it led me to test whether the Korean brand was legit. I grabbed the last test, tested myself and failed. I was NOT pregnant. This meant only one thing to the both of us, Jocelyn was pregnant.
While at Camp, we were able to get away for a few hours and head to the Busan National University Hospital. At the hospital, Jocelyn took a blood test, which turned up positive. Once camp ended we sought out a doctor closer to our town. We found a very nice man Dr. Jang, who luckily for us did his residency at the old Crimson, Harvard. This of course eased Jocelyn’s nerves.
At our first appointment with him, we got to see our first image of our baby. At this point it looked somewhat like an apple seed. The following week, he did another ultrasound and we could see the heartbeat, which looks kind of like a light flashing on and off. In one week, our baby got a lot bigger, though it still doesn’t look like much. Dr. Jang has put a rough estimate for the due date at Sept. 25th.
Jocelyn has been hanging in there. She has been tired, a little nauseous and has had some trouble sleeping at night, but other than that she is doing well. She has been eating a lot of healthy food and getting some good rest.
For those who are interested, our plan now is to stay in Korea for an additional year in which I will teach and Jocelyn will stay home with the baby. We do plan on visiting the US for Christmas 2010.
Jeff and Jocelyn (and baby)
Oh…we’ve posted some photos from our recent trips. If you click on the “Our Photo” link on the right, you can see them.
Here’s the latest snapshot of the newest Gehring!
Hello everyone. Sorry that it has been so long since our last post, but we have been very busy with school and traveling. We are finally getting fully settled in. We’ve put away all of our belongings, got the internet set up and got our first bill.
As far as school goes, both of our schools have already had encounters with the flu, but neither of us have gotten sick. At the height of the outbreak, Jocelyn’s school had about 140 students absent while mine only had about 90. Unfortunately the flu has not yet caused any school closures, but there has been discussion of it. A few days off would be a welcome change of pace. The students are finally getting over the fact that there is a new foreigner present, so they are less excited to see us these days. Despite this, the students still inform me of how handsome I am from time to time. I’ll accept the compliments even though I know they are not legitimate claims. The faculty at both of our schools has continued to be very helpful with everything.
Several weeks ago, Jocelyn’s co-teacher, Ms. Lee, took us on a trip with her hiking group to Seoraksan. Seoraksan is kind of like the Korean version of something like Yellowstone. It’s very beautiful and very large, so we could only see a small portion of the park. The excursion was quite exhausting. We left Ulsan at about 10pm, arrived at Seoraksan at 3am, and hiked until about 5pm. On the hike, we got to see the sun rise over the East Sea from the top of Ulsan-bawi, which is on of the peaks in the park. The hike to the summit is at times a bit frightening because it takes you up some very steep metal stairs which are attached to a large section of rock. It is also dark at this portion of the hike, so you are being led by flash-light, the stars and the moon. One nice feature of Korean national parks is that they often times have Buddhist temples located throughout them. Seoraksan was no exception and we got to hear the monks performing their rituals at 3 am, with no other distractions around. All in all the trip was exhausting but well worth it. I was quite impressed with Jocelyn for being able to handle the intense Korean style of hiking, even though she got beaten by an elderly man who walked with an obvious limp. I will say that Koreans are without a doubt the most insane hikers out there. They are not fans of the notion of taking time to smell the roses. To them, hiking means moving. Breaks are for the weak.
This past weekend we got to go on a free trip to the southern coastal city of Yeosu, hosted by the MOE (Metropolitan Office of Education). On the trip we got to visit the folk village at Seonchun and a Buddhist temple located on a cliff that overlooked the South Sea. As all other trips with Koreans go, we got to eat a bunch of food that was new to us, but was quite good. Never in my life did I think that I would get the opportunity to have at my disposal not one, not two, not three, but four different types of kimchi to choose from. Luckily for Jocleyn, they did offer us just bread on the bus.
On the way home from Yeosu we had two great experiences. First, we got to use the batting cages at a rest stop. My swing was a bit rusty at first, but I think I connected with a few that would have soared over the “Green Monster” at Fenway. Jocelyn did quite well at the cage, connecting with almost every ball. I was quite impressed. On the last leg of the bus ride home, the microphone came out and people broke out in song. Korea is known for something called “nore-bang” which literally translates to song room, but we successfully turned it into a song bus. Jocelyn was nice enough to volunteer me for a song, so I took a swig of water, sang an octave or two to myself and unleashed with a little John Denver. Korea had the good fortune of listening to me belt out, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Luckily it is one those tunes that most people know, so both the Koreans and Americans were singing along with me.
Over New Years one of Jocelyn’s friends is coming to visit and we plan on visiting Jeju Island which is supposed to be the most beautiful place in Korea. All of the pictures we have seen would suggest that the claims are true, so we are very much looking forward to it.
We hope all is well! We will try our best to update this more often.
Here are more photos from our trips this past month
Hello everyone! We have been in Korea a little over a month now, and we truly love it here! In the future, we will try to update this page on a semi-weekly basis, but we have been quite busy until now, so here is a quick recap of the last few weeks.
We arrived in Incheon, South Korea on August 19th. We traveled to Jeonju, Korea for 10 days to attend orientationfor our program, EPIK (English Program in Korea). We will be working for the Korean Ministry of Education as Guest English Teachers in the public schools. We will both be teaching Middle School, which, in Korea, includes students aged 14-16. During the 10 day orientation, we met several of the other Native Teachers who hail from 8 other English speaking countries (England, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Canada, Australia ,New Zealand, and The United States)
Arriving in Ulsan
After the orientation, we came to Ulsan to meet our co-teachers. These are Korean teachers who teach English at our schools and will be helping us get settled into our new home. Jocelyn’s teacher is a kind woman named Ms. Lee who speaks very good English and has been to the States several times. Jeff’s teacher is named Ms. Park and is very nice as well. We had originally thought we would be living the the center of the city, but we ended up in a little town 30 minutes outside Ulsan named Eonyang. Eonyang’s population is about 7,000 Koreans and 2 Americans (that would be us). We are surroundedby mountains, fresh-air and lots of rice paddies, and we both like it here very much. The school has provided us with a very cute 1 bedroom apartment, which is within a 2 minute walk of a grocery store, bakery/coffee shop where Jeff can get his cappuccino fix, a barber shop and a Catholic Church. Jeff describes Eonyang as a bigger version of Oldenburg. We love it.
We both teach Monday-Friday, which leaves our weekends free to explore Korea and the rest of Asia. Last weekend, we went to Gyeongju, South Korea with the P.E. teacher from Jeff’s school and his family. The next day we took the KTX train to Seoul. Taking the KTX was a really neat way to travel. The train travels at 300 kilometers (180 miles) per hour, and it winds through the mountains, so it is a great way to see the country. We arrived in Seoul on Saturday and spend the weekend at the Ritz Carlton in downtown where we had a great view of the city and had fun getting lost in the huge hotel.
Here is a link to our on-line photo album. We will be posting all our photos from Korea here, so you may want to bookmark the site:
Sorry for the long post. We will try to update this more regularly:) In the meantime, if you would like to drop us a line, here is our contact info:
Email: Jeff: email@example.com Jocelyn: firstname.lastname@example.org
SKYPE: Jeff: jeffrey.gehring Jocelyn: jocelyn.gehring
Jeff and Jocelyn
Hello! As most of you know, we will be moving to Ulsan, South Korea August 17th. We plan on using this blog to keep everyone back home updated on our adventures in Asia.