Apple Day

I love puns. Puns are great. I even taught a lesson about puns. So when I found out about Apple Day, I was very excited. The Korean word for ‘apple’ sounds like the word for ‘apology,’ so apple day is when students give their teachers apples by way of apology.


That awkward duck got an apology

The funny thing is, it’s always the good students who give apples to their teachers. Presumably they have over-active consciences, whereas the naughty students don’t feel apologetic, so they don’t bring any apples. I got one apple last year, and the student was extremely vague about what he was apologizing for. “Dear teacher” the note read, “Thank you and sorry.” It wasn’t even signed, and the apple was just left on the desk leaving me to wonder.


That awkward duck got an apology

Thankfully, on teachers’ day, I received some thank-you notes that were a little clearer. One student wrote “First I have an apology to you. When I was 14 years old, I told lied to you. I’m really sorry about that. And thanks for teaching me hard. I decided to be good at English. From In the heaven”



Pepero Day

Today is Pepero day! Pepero is a sweet-ish cookie-stick dipped in chocoloate- some of them are dipped in other flavors like almond, strawberry, cookies n’ cream, etc. Pepero day is rather like Valentine’s Day, in that people give chocolate and candies to loved ones. As if Korea wasn’t couple-oriented enough. Originally though, Pepero Day was a day when people exchanged pepero as a way of wishing that they would grow tall and thin. According to Wikipedia, “The fad spread with the idea that, for maximum effectiveness for height and thinness, one must eat 11 packets of Pepero on November 11, 11:11am and 11.11pm at 11 seconds exactly.” Because the best way to grow tall and thin is to give each other cookies dipped in chocolate, apparently. Pepero Day is November 11 because 11/11 looks like thin lines like pepero or thin people.

That awkward duck loves pepero

My first Pepero Day in Korea, I didn’t get any pepero. Feeling a little sad that all my students had forgotten to give some to me, I headed home from school. I met one of my students in the hallway, and she was carrying an armload of pepero. She beamed at me and said “Teacher, my boyfriend give many pepero!”

“Yes, I see that.” I said. “You must be happy.”

“Teacher, you have pepero?”

“No,” I said “I didn’t get any pepero.”

“No boyfriend?” she asked, in a tragic tone of voice.


“No, boyfriend? No pepero?” She said, as if it was the saddest thing she’d ever heard.

“No, no boyfriend, no pepero.”

She considered this a moment, and then handed me a box of her pepero.

“I love you teacher!” she said “fighting!”

That’s right, my first year in Korea, I got pity pepero.

In general, despite all the myths about pepero making you tall, or a way of wishing others grow tall and thin- most people believe that pepero day was invented to sell more pepero. If, however, it’s true that pepero makes you taller and thinner, I should probably avoid it.

That awkward duck ate pepero

I’m Really Not That Tall

I am 173 (5’8”) cm tall, according to my health check. That is not really that terribly tall. In Korea, the average height for a man is actually slightly taller than that- around 175 cm (5’9”). The average height for women, however, is just 161 (5’3”) cm.  Surprisingly, that’s barely shorter than the averages in the US, but still, I am constantly told that I am tall. I like being tall, most of the time, but every now and then, it’s not so great.

Things I hate about being tall:

Dresses and skirts in Korea are really short. Being considerably taller than most women here just makes shopping for anything other than a maxi dress awfully complicated. I’m always thinking “Hmmmm… Well, I could add a ruffle to make it longer. Maybe a little lace at the bottom? Forget it. I’ll just wear it with leggings.”

Short person: I wish I was tall, it’s so hard to find clothes that fit.

Me: For Pete’s sake, just learn to hem, it’s much easier than adding ruffles!

Then there’s the fact that humans in general really like to comment on the obvious. So some days it seems like wherever I go people are saying “You are very tall. You’re really tall. How tall are you? Wow, that’s tall.”

Thatawkwardduck is tall

I hit my head a lot. I’m sure that’s mostly because of my clumsiness, but also things are just not built the same height as back home. Speaking of which, a lot of desks are absurdly short. I’m not even that tall. What do the men even do?

“He’s really cute. But he’s shorter than you.”

Gee, thanks for assuming I’m a shallow height-snob.

Thatawkwardduck is not a height snob

Things I like about being tall:

One day the batteries in the remote for the projector went dead. While my co-teacher waffled about how to solve this problem, I grabbed a whiteboard marker, stood on tip-toes and pushed the power button on the projector. My students were amazed. It was like some kind of fantastic party trick, and for the rest of the period they were convinced that I was a super model.

Thatawkwardduck supermodel


Summer vacation is over and I’m back to normal life and laughing at the cute things my students say. I’m just starting week two of the new semester after a lovely summer. The semester ended in July and I spent two hectic weeks teaching English camps before I could take my vacation. The first week of camp was at my main school, Mukho middle school. The resources are a little limited at Mukho- our camp is small and it’s just me and one co-teacher. I basically ran things, but my co-teacher was very helpful and she really liked my plan. Things went relatively smoothly. Some highlights were making ‘smores and playing Ultimate Frisbee. My co-teacher thought the ‘smores were much too sweet. It was with great misgivings that she announced the students had permission to eat a second one if they wanted (she thought they might get sick). I saw the look on one kid’s face when she said they could have a second and asked him how many he’d eaten already. “Five” he said sheepishly. That’s middle school boys for you!


Roasting marshmallows


Making ‘smores

We made paper mache monsters and had a mad-lib scary story competition, which was pretty funny. After one week, we wrapped things up with chocolate cake-in-a-mug and a movie, then it was on to Sahmyook for my second camp.


Making paper mache monsters

Sahmyook has a much bigger camp and a much bigger budget. There were 3 Native English Teachers working there and we each got our own Korean assistant, plus Sahmyook’s regular staff helped out. The kids ranged in age from 5th to 9th grade. The lessons were well-planned out for us, so I didn’t have to do very much except plan a couple of fun, pokemon themed crafts. The Sahmyook camp was so fun for both the kids and the teachers. It made me a little sad to realize I can’t do those kinds of activities at my main school, though I’m determined to see if I can adapt it. I had lots of fun doing the crafts- each kid made a paper mache pokemon ball and an origami Pikachu. I don’t know much about pokemon, but it was fun to learn. The kids at Sahmyook are generally much higher level, so it was fun to be able to do some more advanced lessons.

After finishing up my last camp, it was finally time for vacation! I went home and packed and then the next morning it was off to the airport to meet my friends and fly to Kuala Lumpur. My fantastic travel buddies were Anike and Tyron, both hail from South Africa, so I was the lone American on the trip.


Me, Anike and Tyron (photo by Tyron {or maybe a random tourist holding Tyron’s camera})


I loved the bird park (photo by Tyron)


Letting a pelican try to eat my head was a highlight of the trip (photo by Tyron)


I could eat this FOREVER




In front of the Patronas Towers. Harry Potter references abounded (photo by Tyron)


The Batu Caves

We had many adventures in Kuala Lumpur, as you can see from the pictures, and then headed beautiful Redang Island for some relaxation and snorkeling. We had so much fun snorkeling the first morning, and we decided to go again the second day, even though we had to rush in order to make it to our ferry back to the mainland.


On the boat for snorkeling day 2 (photo by Tyron)


That Awkward Duck goes snorkeling

Our flight back to Kuala Lumpur was short, but we were leaving for Seoul early the next morning, so we ended up spending the whole night in the airport where we consumed massive amounts of roti and coffee. The trip back to Seoul was uneventful and eventually we made it to our hostel and then went out on the town for “Mexican food” (well sort of but not really) and noraebang to celebrate my birthday. Then it was back to Donghae for another birthday party and back to work again on Monday. What a Summer!

A Hairy Situation

20150501_090456 When I was four years old, I cut my own hair. I had wanted to have short hair, and my parents told me my long hair was pretty. One day, my mom and sisters were out and my dad was watching me. I was inside safely with my coloring books and dad and Josh were out in the yard working on some project and keeping an eye on me through the front window. Unfortunately, one eye was not enough to prevent me from carefully snipping tiny bits of hair until I was nearly bald on one side. 20150501_090429 The funny thing is that when he came inside, dad didn’t even notice that I was missing 1/4 of my hair. When mom came home, I was sitting on his lap and he was obliviously reading me a story. I thought I’d magically gotten away with it until my mom freaked out. She attempted to fix the mess I’d made of my hair and I cried when I saw how short it was. Regretting my hasty actions, I didn’t cut my hair short again for years. When I was 16 I got a really cute bob and from then my hair was long and short and short and long many times, until the first time I went to Korea. When I first experienced the heat and humidity of Korea in June (which isn’t bad at all compared to August!), I promptly went to a hair salon and convinced the women to remove the frizzy mass on my head. It’s been somewhere between short and extremely short ever since. Last summer I decided to grow it out and have faithfully refused to cut it save for one trim to try and even it out. While I do like having curls again, I have to admit, I don’t’ really like it much right now. I look in the mirror and know it looks fine, but I feel like a shaggy sheepdog (no offense Pip.) So today I asking myself why I am growing my hair long and it occurred to me that I’m only doing it because other people said I should. Now, there are times when it is important to take the advice of friends, like when I’m trying to decide if I should take a job in another country and move halfway across the world, and there are other times, when it’s ok to listen to their opinion and just do the opposite if you want because it’s really not all that important. How I decorate my head it not really all that important, and let’s face it, I will look fabulous no matter what length of fuzzy stuff is on my head. 221982_1944976936578_984498_n

Here is a picture of me looking beautiful and feminine.


Another picture of me looking beautiful and feminine.


Another picture of me looking beautiful and feminine.

The only people who think I don’t look like a girl in the last picture are weird adjummas (older Korean ladies who wear plaids and florals and sun visors together) who aren’t used to seeing short-haired foreign girls.

A Moving Announcement

As in, The Awkward Duck has moved to WordPress. Blogger is inexplicably blocked on my work computer, and it was a bit annoying that my URL was my name, so searching for Awkward Duck wouldn’t send you to my blog. Also, WordPress just seems like it is way cooler. Anyway, welcome to the new home of Awkward Duck!