Archive for July, 2011

Monsoon season.

It is really wet here. I mean, reallyreally wet.

I knew when I signed on for life in Korea that a “monsoon season” of sorts would be part of the deal. I guess I didn’t think it through too well… What I didn’t realize is that this type of rain, and for this long, can put a damper on just about every aspect of your life. Don’t get me wrong– this isn’t life RUINING rain (unless you live Northeast of Seoul, which in case your life may actually be at risk currently) but it is life ALTERING rain.

You know that scene in Forest Gump where Forest is writing those heatbreaking letters to Jenny (that we all know she’ll never read because she’s too busy with drugs and disco) and he’s talking about how the rain comes in so many forms (not unlike shrimp)? Let me confirm what the old simpleton was trying to explain. Rain has many identities. Angry and hard. Fast, powerful, and relentless. Unforgiving and selfish to your prior plans. Rain is both an early bird and a night owl. Rain is scary and vengeful at times, and gentle and docile at others. The rain in the last few weeks has been an excellent example of real consistency. Like a determined marathon runner, never letting up. It just kept coming and coming with no clear end in sight… until it happened.

The clouds rolled away, for the first time in what seemed like centuries, and the sun came out. Let me confirm something else. Seasonal mood affective disorder is no joke, my dry friends.

Yes, the sun came out and the clouds lifted, but more importantly the big, yucky black cloud over my spirits and the spirits of my students and co-teachers lifted as well. I remember evidence of this “cabin fever” type phenomenon in college when the first nice spring day would come around and every one would go ape-poo crazy. The temperature would just have crept above freezing and **SNAP** every kid on campus is in shorts and t-shirts, climbing trees and rolling around in the grass. Things around Kids Club haven’t been quite this physically drastic with the rain/ no rain scenario, yet an obvious change did occur last week when the sun gave us a (fleeting) glimpse of a less soggy existence.

I guess I don’t have to explain that puddle free life didn’t last all that long.

The rain returned with a kind of fury behind it I thought the universe saved for large scale natural disasters only. Monica Teacher went back to writing the weather in the mornings on the classroom white board with a black marker. “The weather is RAINY. AGAIN.”

Monsoon season is in full swing and seems to be determined to leave a lasting impression on this Southern girl who’s accustomed to a sunny summertime of sweltering beach days and warm, breezy boat trips, not rain boots and severe weather warnings.

My prayers go out to the lives lost yesterday in and around Seoul due to the rain and the mud slides. I pray for the lost souls and the families who are less a member this morning.

I’ve been stressing over my trip to Japan this weekend… worried about the threat of earthquake and another tsunami. The rain and the tragedy that took place here in Korea yesterday just reminds me that weather related chaos and turmoil can happen anywhere and each day of bright sun and blue skies should not be wasted, should not be taken for granted. Beautiful weather is not deserved. It’s a gift and I’ll make certain to be extra thankful the next time I’m gifted. Hopefully that’s sooner rather than later. The people of Seoul (and myself) could use some sunshine.

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It’s time to get opinionated. In today’s war torn, drought ridden, natural disaster prone, poltically unrested world, one can find many things to form an opinion regarding. What’s today’s topic, you ask? The war in Iraq? The legalization of narcotics? Obama’s hyped up bail out plan? No, my friends. We’re taking this to a whole new level of important/urgent… the pros and cons of South Korea’s infamous Mud Fest.

When I think back to last May, when I faced the bizarre task of telling my friends and family that I would be leaving my life in NYC to move to another continent, I remember searching the internet for pretty much anything that looked positive that had anything to do with South Korea and its ex-pat community. For my parents it was a strong, safe, and foreigner friendly government. For my family it was positive extra circulars like hiking clubs and climbing classes. For my friends it was a diverse and easily accessed party scene. All of which, I’d like to point out, are of equal importance to me.

Mud fest was one of the first things I came across.

Muddy Mud Mud!

Pictures of foreigners turned mud people were in abundance. There were bikinis and laughing people, sunshine and ocean water. It look amazing. Great. An awesome time. I was pumped. When I saw that the festival wasn’t until the next summer, I became anxious knowing I’d had to wait almost 9 months. When I came to Korea and was first introduced to my co-teachers, I think our introductions went like this…

Me: “Hi. I’m Monica! Y’all interested in going to Mud Fest this year?”

Imagine my surprise when I was bombarded from every direction with negative comments comparing Mud Fest to spring break, frosh week, and/ or a drunken military themed, PTSD fueled mud orgy/ weekend long mosh pit.

Well. All this nay saying didn’t scare me off. Oh NO sir. I do my best, and always will, to be an optimist and with this comes giving people and in this case public party weekends the benefit of the doubt. I just couldn’t imagine that something this seemingly playful, community driven, and filled with childlike excitement could really be the DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND in a muddy disguise. Sound over the top? Well, I was getting some over the top (and totally inaccurate) information.

I would like to take this opportunity to stand on a very tall **and muddy** soap box to dispel any and all rumors that cast a negative light on the popular Mud Festival held each year in mid-July in Boryeong, in the Republic of Korea. I, MoniKorea O. Phillips, of sound mind and competent judgement, hereby stand by the fact that Mud Fest is good ol’ fashioned fun and should not be missed. With this I will also issue a disclaimer that maybe Mud Fest is not the place you want to take your Great-Grandmother or conservative father-in-law. It is not California’s Disney Land, nor is it Amsterdam’s red light district. I wouldn’t want to spend a month in all that muddy craziness, but one night was awesome! We met a lot of awesome people, rolled around in the awesome mud, and drank some awesome beachy cocktails. Given the opportunity, I would most definitely go again and I wouldn’t change a thing. Except maybe the part where I got totally blistered by the sun and screwed up my left foot in a rambunctious pick up soccer game.

The moral of the story? Don’t let party poopers poo poo on your excitement. If you wanna get muddy and act like an idiot for one night in your life (on your b-day weekend, none-the-less) then, GO FOR IT. Because it’s probably gonna be GREAT! And all those stick-in-the-mud nay sayers can go eat mud.

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Dollll- PHIN!

The other day I was either bored or manic (not really sure which) which led me to take a secret video of each of my students in my first grade reading class. I recorded about a minute or two video of each student reading and at the end of class let them watch the videos. They thought this was hilarious. I thought it was a good learning tool. I wanted them to see how well they each listen and pay attention, if they keep their eyes on the book, etc. Most of the videos would be boring for anyone else to watch other then the 6 year-olds in my class, but I figured I’d share one as a look into a day in the life of Monica Teacher.

I am always posting pics of my adorable kinders. Let’s give the first grade some love too, shall we?

Also- this is James and I think he is unintentionally hilarious. So watch. Enjoy.

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HEllO! Calling all friends, of all sized pockets…

I am happy to report that I’ve got BIG plans for my one week summer vacation at the end of the month. Plans that are very much different than what I usually do on summer vacation, as these plans require tetanus vaccines as opposed to trips to the tanning bed.

I applied and was accepted to participate in a tsunami/ earthquake relief effort with a non-profit organization called All Hands Volunteers. I am super pumped.

As you all know, (or should gather from this blog) I am currently living and teaching in South Korea. During my time here, I have learned and experienced so much. I feel incredibly lucky to be having this opportunity.

When we are in the position to give back, it is my belief that we should. In this light, I have decided to give back in a way that I am able to only because of my proximity to this recent disaster. I will fly from Seoul’s Incheon airport to Sendai, Japan on July 30th to stay for 9 days. During my time in Japan, I will be working, building houses and moving debris. Wearing face masks and rubber boots. Using a hammer and hoping I don’t get radiation poisoning… getting my hands dirty, in just about every way possible, and doing my part to contribute.

Below is an except from an e-mail I sent to basically everyone in my contact list. It says a lot about the wonderful people in my life that the time line of my evening went exactly like this. Send the e-mail, put on some flip flops, leave my apartment, lock my door, wait on the elevator, walk the half a block to the gym, wait for another elevator, yoga it up for exactly one hour, chit chat in broken Konglish with the other yogi ladies, wait for an elevator, walk the half a block back to my apartment, elevator, unlock my door, open my computer and ((((BA BOOM)))) more than one “CONGRATULATIONS! You just received a donation on your personal page!” e-mail pops up.

Wow. What generous (and quick) bunch of people I know! Just another thing to be thankful for!

***On March 11 one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history shook the north coast of Japan, resulting in a tsunami that swept as far as 20 miles inland. Thousands of buildings have been affected, and the death toll is estimated at over 1,000.

All Hands Volunteers is there on the ground helping with the relief and recovery efforts. I want to do my part to help not only by going to Japan to work, but also by fundraising to help support the work and help the Japanese recovery. You can help too, by contributing to the local efforts. With All Hands’ unique model 100% of your donation will go to supporting Japan recovery.

It will cost the organization at least $20 a day in food and shelter and work supplies to support my being there. I will be in Japan for 9 days, July 30th- August 7, 2011, so the total cost I need to raise to make less of a dent in their overall fundraising efforts is $180. I have so many wonderful and caring people in my life, I am sure I can raise this amount and maybe even more. Please click on the link if you want and can donate. The people of Japan and I thank you in advance!***

Click HERE to donate.

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I mean.

Tell me that’s not the epitome of adorable.

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Happy 4th y’all!

This is Jenny. She’s five. Kate Teacher brought her to my desk in the teacher’s room as a 4th of July shout out.

I am technically skipping the holiday this year. Much like if I can’t be the winner I don’t want to play… I am postponing the 4th due to the deep depression I will sink into if I really let myself understand the fact that I am missing my most favorite holiday of the year. American Independence will resume in 2012. And let me tell ya… it’ going to be EPIC. My main blondie in NYC and I have already decided it will be a Native American themed beach celebration with red, white and blue bikinis, giant feather headdresses, beads, bows and arrows, sparklers, war paint, and Budweiser. The countdown starts NOW.

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