Working with North Korean Defectors

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Fulbright ETAs are encouraged to get involved with community programs and volunteer (part of our contract is that we cannot earn money with tutoring or side jobs, so many people end up volunteering). One program that is very popular is working with North Korean Defectors (NKD) students through national government-established Hanawon and Hana Centers.

There are Centers throughout South Korea, established to manage and assimilate NKDs into South Korean society through financial, social, and educational support, which also includes language education. NKDs face a multitude of problems even after they manage to arrive in South Korea and many criticize the way the government has handled these special refuges (defectors). While my city, Gwangju, has a center, this semester there were not many opening for volunteer English tutors, however, I was able to get involved on a number of conferences, training sessions, and excursions that the Hana Center organizes. View full post »

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Halloween from School to Seoul

This past Halloween weekend spent partying it up in Seoul with some friends, but not before I brought some of the Halloween spirit to my middle school! Funny enough, I wasn’t the only one. One student had his own hat too! (I should note that I hadn’t been able to find a good costume, but my co-teacher lent me her daughter’s old Halloween hat and it worked like a charm).

Halloween in Korea… well there really is no Halloween in South Korea. It’s mostly reserved for the clubs for scary themes. The costumes in South Korea are a lot more scary than sexy than America. Given what I had in my closet, I saw that I could put together a pretty good Wednesday Adams costume. Seoul is where all the ex-pats seem to head for Halloween, so that’s what I did. When in Korea…. Happy Halloween!!!

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School Field-trip to Family Land

My schedule can be crazy. There had been talk in the office that everyone would be going on a school field-trip. However, each grade was doing something different. I had spent the entire week trying to figure out which group to join, as my school said I could join whichever grade I felt like it. The 1st grade was visiting a “career-exploring” place, 2nd grade was going to Family Land, a local and very small amusement park, and the 3rd grade was going to see a musical (in Korean).

I had been considering going to Family Land as it seemed the most fun, but out of all the students I teach, I knew my second graders the least and if I’m being honest, as a class they’re my least favorite. There’s a joke in South Korea that says, “North Korea will never attack because they fear 2nd grade middle schoolers”. Well sometimes I think that’s true. View full post »

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Gyeongju Conference

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In front of Cheomseongdae Observatory

This past weekend was spent at the Fall Fulbright Conference hosted in Gyeongju city. The city was the old capital of the ancient Silla Dynasty, and is a very historically important city. In between lectures, group discussions, and more conference stuff, we were able to get out a little and tour a little of the city’s historical areas. View full post »

Fulbright Spring Conference on Jeju Island » Cara Mooney Photography - […] had our Fall Conference in the historic city of Gyeongju and this past weekend Fulbright had its Spring Conference hosted […]

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Jinju Lantern Festival

For the last week, Jinju has been hosting its annual Lantern Festival (진주 남강유등축제). A number of fellow Fulbright friends and I decided to all meet up for the last weekend of the festival. It is one of the most famous of its kind in the country and is held every autumn. Jinju is a tiny city in the south of South Korea, located only about two hours east of Gwangju. It was easy to get there by bus. We didn’t have a clue where to stay, but we’d read on a few blogs that there’s always cheap accomodation. We found a guesthouse-place on a sketchy-looking (but actually fine) back street where a sweet old ajima gave us two undol rooms (sleeping together on yeo mats on the heated floor).

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Visiting the bamboo gardens

The festival itself is held in the old area of the city, at the ancient fortress on the river. The palace gates and walls have all been restores and during the regular season are beautiful to visit, but for the festival were filled with lanterns. According to the official tourist website, the Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival “originates from the lantern lighting custom used during the Jinjuseong Fortress Battle of the Imjinwaeran War (Japanese invasion, 1592) as a military strategy to prevent Japanese troops from wading the Namgang River. The highlights of the festival are the floating of lanterns carrying personal wishes of the citizens along the Namgang River, and the parade of lanterns created by the students themselves. In addition, the festival features gaejesik (lighting of lanterns in remembrance of the Jinjuseong Fortress Battle veterans), an exhibition of the world’s traditional lanterns, and many more participatory cultural programs.” View full post »

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South Korea and Japan

The video above is a great overview of the modern tensions that exist between South Korea and Japan. Lately, I have run into a number of issues, especially while teaching.

One Wrong Map

One of my lessons this month works with a map of Korea. I thought I knew about a lot of the “hot button” topics, but I never thought to look at the map that I pulled off of Google images. It was a poor oversight on my part. Do you see anything wrong with this map after watching the video?

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I noticed that a number of students seemed disgruntled. One pointed at the map, but I didn’t get what she was saying. Or they didn’t say anything at all. One boy crumpled up the worksheet I had printed and shoved it into his mouth. When I yelled at him and wrote him up for poor behavior, but all he said was that the “paper deserved it”. I didn’t get why, because no one said anything! It wasn’t until my co-teacher at lunch offhandedly commented that the map said, “Sea of Japan” and not “East Sea“. Oops! Cue a big cultural miscommunication! Check out my previous post to learn more about the relationship between Korea and Japan. View full post »

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Visit to Independence Hall

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Hundreds of flags outside the Independence Hall of Korea

With still another day of Chuseok remaining, my host eonni and oppa (언니 & 오빠) decided to leave the kids with their grandparents and out of the house with me. Since we were in Cheonan visiting extended family, they took me to the Independence Hall of Korea (Korean: 독립기념관).

It is a massive Korean history museum (the largest exhibition facility in the country!). The museum primarily focuses on the independence movements of the Japanese colonial period and the country’s struggle for independence, but it does also chronological Korea’s history dating back to the prehistoric times until to the Joseon Dynasty.

View full post »

South Korea and Japan » Cara Mooney Photography - […] I noticed that a number of students seemed disgruntled. One pointed at the map, but I didn’t get what she was saying. Or they didn’t say anything at all. One boy crumpled up the worksheet I had printed and shoved it into his mouth. When I yelled at him and wrote him up for poor behavior, but all he said was that the “paper deserved it”. I didn’t get why, because no one said anything! It wasn’t until my co-teacher at lunch offhandedly commented that the map said, “Sea of Japan” and not “East Sea“. Oops! Cue a big cultural miscommunication! Check out my previous post to learn more about the relationship between Korea and Japan. […]

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Thanksgiving Desserts at the Chuseok Table

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Baking ingredients

We celebrated Chuseok (Korean: 추석) this weekend. As I said in my previous post, Chuseok is known as “Korean Thanksgiving” since it’s Korea’s autumn harvest festival that also commemorates the ancestors with the gathering of family and the consumption of large quantities of traditional foods.

This year, Thanksgiving was November 26 and Chuseok was September 27. I already planned to visit Seoul for the Fulbright Thanksgiving dinner. I also wanted to bring some American Thanksgiving spirit to the table and introduce my host family and extended family to some typical Thanksgiving desserts. Usually, while my mom and my aunts cook the food, I am in charge of preparing the desserts. That has always been my role, and it felt weird to celebrate “Thanksgiving” without these home-baked dishes. Also, it was a great excuse to do some baking!

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First time kneading homemade bread…

Baking in South Korea is fucking hard!!! As many friends living here with me can attest to, not all ingredients are readily available, or they are labeled other things, or you have to pay extra to get it imported (or mailed to you) from the USA. In my local supermarket, the flour is located besides the cake mix, across from the bread and the ramen noodles. Sugar and cinnamon is with the coffee. I found vanilla tucked away in a corner of an aisle underneath the yeast. You need anything more specific than these ingredients, then you’ll need to head over to a specialty store or make a trip to Costco’s or Seoul.

Given these restrictions, and the bountiful amount of apples available, I decided to do my typical apple pie and apple crisp. I also wanted to try something new. After seeing a video of braided Nutella bread on Facebook, I was inspired to give it a try. View full post »

An Embassy Thanksgiving » Cara Mooney Photography - […] which was celebrated earlier this fall. You can check out my previous posts on this here and here. This was the first Thanksgiving that I have missed and haven’t been with my family. […]

How to Pack for Teaching in South Korea » Cara Mooney Photography - […] powdered sugar, and food coloring). You can check out my baking experiences in here when I baked Thanksgiving desserts for my host […]

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