a place called home

I walked back to my apartment and I passed by the familiar durian stand with the strong pungent smell, the seedy motel with “interesting” late at night guests, and the comforting signs of 7-11 on the corner. After a long thanksgiving weekend in Malaysia, I was glad to be back. Sure it was nice staying at the fancy Shangri-la hotel, but the minute I got to my apartment, I felt relieved to be back home.

Living abroad, it’s easy to get confused about where your “home” truly is. My permanent address is my parent’s home back in New York. Yet, I don’t really have my own room there anymore. A bunch of my winter clothes and books are stored in the basement in boxes.  Every year as I go back to visit, it feels a little less like my home and a bit more foreign.

After 4 years in Korea, it felt like my home. Now that I moved, I miss Korea terribly at times.  After 4 months of being here in Singapore, this foreign place is slowly starting to feel a bit like home. Even though they say home is where the heart is, what do you do when pieces of your heart are scattered all over?

Where is home for you? 

The Slice of Life Challenge happens every Tuesday and is hosted by the Two Writing Teachers.

A Dream in my Pocket

This slice is inspired by another slice I read from Pamela here: http://www.pamelahodges.org/2012/09/22/its-okay-to-start-small/

A Dream in my Pocket

I have a dream in my pocket.

I pull it out.

I shove it back in.

I completely forget about it.

I sit on it and it pokes me.

I carefully pull it out.

I look at it and wonder.

I shove it back in my pocket.

* * *

I pull out my dream again.

I put my dream into words.

I share my dream with people.

I realize that this is a big dream, but it’s my dream.

I will need time to nurture and grow my dream.

No longer in my pocket, my dream is in front of me.

*  *  *

What dreams do you have in  your pocket?

Survival of the First Month of School

I am so happy that the first month of school is done with. It was a great time, but incredibly stressful and overwhelming all at once. It definitely had its highs and its lows. However, I wanted to remember how I survived it all!

  • I survived my first month of school! This is a big deal. At times, I felt like a first year teacher all over again. As I was dealing with a new curriculum, a new school, and a new country, many days I could only focus on one day at a time, in order to prevent myself from drowning!
  • I survived back-to-school night, where almost all of the parents came. Partly because I’m a new teacher, and they are scoping me out! 🙂
  • I survived my first round of progress reports. It’s nice that the format is open for us to choose and they are not required, but of course I still did them for all of my students!
  • I survived a field trip to a water park with 280 5th grade students on the second week of school.
  • I survived on our school’s amazing cafeteria food (Mr. Hoe’s catering) for lunch, and many times breakfast and/or snacks during our meetings. This food has given me energy, life and possibly a few extra pounds?!
  • I survived figuring out our 24 day rotating schedule with only 1 small mishap so far.  Yes, we have 24 DAY ROTATING SCHEDULE!  Somehow, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
  • I survived my first month of school, despite the overwhelming pressure I gave myself to do the best job possible, especially as a new teacher.

I’m still trying to figure out how to balance school life with everything else, including blogging. I hope that I can at least keep up with the slice of life Tuesdays, even though these past few weeks, sleep became a priority over blogging. Thank you to everyone who has been leaving comments on my blog! I’m so thankful to have this writing community because it helps me feel at home, even if I’m 9,500 miles away from my physical home.

What are some of your accomplishments in the first month/weeks of school?

Monday Manicures

Often, she never looks at me. I’m stuck in darkness, through the long ride on the subway and the walk home. As, I get pulled away, I dream to see new things, outside the classroom. I long to see a new home. Yet, I take the long ride and often, end up coming back to my classroom without a glimpse of sun. I’m always longing to see more. I know there is more to life out there.

However, last night was different. I was taken out and talked about. I was shared with a friend. I got to smell the lavender and different aromas. I heard new music and saw a new side of Singapore. I felt like I was finally breathing.


We had found a good groupon deal, only $18 for a mani/pedi which is quite the deal here in Singapore. A manicure alone usually costs $25. Well, we finally found the time to put our groupon to use and enjoyed this pampering on a cloudy Monday evening yesterday.

In the middle of our pedicure, we started talking about school, and one of the other teachers mentioned that she should have brought some school work with her. Then, I realized I had my copy of my Everyday mathematics lesson for the week in my bag. So we did manage to squeeze a bit of lesson prepping in the midst of our pampering.  Our mani/pedicures  ended up taking over 2 hours. It was well worth the time and pampering.

Please tell me I’m not the only one guilty of doing this. You would think that by now, I would stop taking work home, but you never know. Sometimes, it does actually get done.

Slice of Life Tuesdays is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join us with your slice of life today

Cherishing the Small Moments

This past first week of school has been busy and hectic to say the least. I’ve started a new teaching job in a new country, Singapore. Despite the excitement and newness of a new place, at times I miss and long for the familiarity of my friends and family in New York and Korea. It’s not easy being away from the people closest to you, the ones that know you inside and out while transitioning to a new place full of people that don’t know you. At the same time, I am so thankful for the school community that has made the transition really smooth for us newbies. Thus, that’s all part of the life of an international school teacher.

My school is fast paced to say the least. However, in the midst of all the first week of school busyness, I am cherishing the small moments that I’ve had with my students.

  • The first time we had independent reading, complete silence and 22 students glued to their books. I wanted to rub my eyes and make sure this was real.
  • Students telling their parents they love our class read aloud book, Wonder by RJ Palacio. I’m so glad that I decided to choose this book.
  • “School is over already?” Students that are surprised that the school day has already ended.
  • Students that get upset when independent reading time is over.
  • Students that wrote “Ms. Kim is the best teacher…” on their letters to their parents for back to school night. (I admit I might have jokingly suggested the line, but I didn’t think so many of them would really write that!)
  • High-fives from my students as they leave the classroom! Something new I’m doing this year. 🙂

So on that note, to all the teachers starting school, what small moment did you cherish with your students?

Slice of Life Tuesdays is hosted by Two Writing Teachers

An Unfortunate Summer Tradition

Every summer, I get to travel back home to see my family and friends. This is always the highlight of the year, getting see everyone after a year away! However, it is a tiring experience as I am flying more than 13 hours and my night and day gets shifted. Plus, it’s an exhausting time of the year and can get really busy being home. Well this summer was no exception.

After 4 days of being home in NY, I got on a plane again to see my brother in Memphis. I knew this would be the only time I could really get to talk and catch up with him in person over the summer. So, I gathered my things and boarded the plane. After arriving in Memphis on Monday night, I was getting used to the really hot Memphis temperature.

The next morning, we headed to a well known brunch place called Brother Juniper’s. We got a table quickly and ordered an open face omelet and Belgian waffle. We were excited to eat. I took one small bite of my waffle. Then, I knew I couldn’t eat anymore. I started feeling nauseous and all of a sudden started sweating. I rested my hand on my head and continued to feel faint. I whispered to my brother that I needed to leave now. He quickly got a takeout container for the food we barely touched and we left the restaurant.

He went to get the car and I sat down with my head on my lap, waiting for him to come. As I dealt with the unbearable pain in my stomach I was glad when he brought the car up to the restaurant. I lay down on the back seat as he drove home quickly. I couldn’t believe this was happening again. At least this time I didn’t faint in the beauty salon or get put on an ambulance car in the middle of my reading workshop summer institute like the previous years.

As I lay in my brother’s bed with horrible stomach cramps and the fan blowing in my face, my brother took out his stethoscope to take my heart beat.

“Your heart beat is normal. That’s good.” He told me. Then he proceeded to tell me if it wasn’t normal, it could be some kind of heart problem. Luckily, my brother, who just graduated from medical school and his two other intern roommates were there. No need for a hospital this time! After a few hours, I felt the Advil kicking in and was able to explore and eat my way through Memphis.

The waffle I only got one bite of!

Slice of life Tuesdays is hosted by the Two Writing Teachers! Join us!

My Grandmother

My grandmother is a 100 years old.  My grandmother has an incredible story. (I hope to write a book about it one day.) Not only did she give birth to 7 kids, but she fled North Korea before the start of the Korean War while pregnant with my dad, and lost her husband not long after her last child was born. Many years later, with over 20 grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, she moved to New York for a very important reason. She came to help take care of her youngest grandchildren.

I remember seeing her in our dining room, sitting next to the window, with her glasses on and reading the Korean Bible. Even though she barely went to school beyond 6th grade, she reads and writes in Korean. She often says how she knows nothing because she didn’t get to finish her schooling. Yet, I think that she knows much more than me.

I remember seeing her out in the garden early in the morning to water her vegetables and flowers. Every day, she would go outside, watering the seeds and watching them sprout. In the summer evening, she would pick the fresh lettuce and peppers so we could eat them with our meal.

I remember when she would yell and run after the groundhogs that terrorized our garden. Sometimes she took a stick with her to try to scare them away. Yet, they kept coming back, fatter and sneakier. They must have had a bigger family to feed.

I remember when she would make us hot rice and then put soy sauce and butter on it. The hot rice with the mixture of the sweet and savory sauce was a treat. It sounds so simple, but at times I long for it. I know it wouldn’t be the same if I made it. It tastes best right after school, made with the hands of a loving grandmother.

I remember getting annoyed when she would give me the bigger piece of meat and take the smaller piece for herself. She always wanted to give my brothers and me more of her food. I wished at times she wouldn’t put us before her. She was the one that should be getting the best piece of meat, not us. We didn’t deserve it.

My grandmother is the only grandparent I ever got to know. I’m so blessed that she lived with my family growing up in New York. She came to New York to help take care of my brothers when they were born. They are twins and help was definitely needed. Without her help, I’m not sure how my mom would have survived! I can’t wait to see her again in New York this summer.

My grandmother was at the hospital in London when I was born!

My grandmother’s special birthday celebration a few years ago!

My Name in Korean

We’ve just started a memoir unit in writing workshop. One of our mentor texts is My Name by Sandra Cisneros. I was inspired to write something about my name. Something that has been a struggle for me…

My name in Korean means beauty and wisdom. My name in English sounds ugly. I hated my name. I already knew I was different from my friends. My friends had to take their shoes off when they came to my house. There were weird smells coming from all the kimchi in the kitchen. I had to speak in Korean at home. I didn’t need my name to remind me of it.

As a little kid, I always wished to buy things with my name on it. I would go to souvenir stores on trip and I would desperately hope to find my name written on the pens, mugs or key chains they sold. However, as I searched through all the J names, there was nothing that resembled my name between Jackie and Jenny. There was no Jee Young. Never.

I always dreaded the first day of school. Not because it was a new class or teacher, but because of the role call. I would anxiously sit in my seat, just waiting until they would get to the letter K. Kim, yes, that was my last name, which I secretly wished at times was my first name. As the teacher would go through the list, after saying Kim, sometimes, there was a pause. Other times, there was a joke. “Gee, you must be young…” Or, “Is Young your middle name?” ,”How do you pronounce your name?” Was it really that difficult? It’s Jee Young. No jokes please. No middle name. No silent J. Just say my name.

When I turned 17 years old, I became an American citizen. On that morning, my mom mentioned to me that I could change my name. Change my name in a few hours? Why didn’t she tell me earlier? Why didn’t I think of that before? Do I seem like a Jessica? Julie? Jenny?

As I stood with my hand up and pledged to be an American citizen, I knew that no matter what the papers said, I still had my name. That was something I wouldn’t change. I was finally starting to like.

Slice of life challenge is hosted every Tuesday by the Two Writing Teachers.

Green Tea Fields, Check!

My alarm was set at 4:30am. I managed to get up and get out of my door by 5:20am. I got in a taxi and picked up my friend on the way to the bus stop in city hall. Our bus was leaving at 6:30am. We managed to get there early, with time to spare. As we found our seats at the second to last row, we were barely awake.

When doing some of my initial research (discovering Korea ,official Korea Tourism site) on going there, I came across some interesting history. Apparently during the Japanese occupation, they realized that the area was a good place to grow green tea. Even after the Japanese left, the green tea fields were kept and are now a huge tourist attraction.

I think I slept almost the entire ride down to Boseung, despite the two loud ajoomas (older Korean women) talking for the entire bus ride directly behind us. It was about a 6 hour ride including our rest stop and a little bit of traffic. When we finally arrived there, it was beautiful. It was a long ride all the way to the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, but it was worth it! They had delicious green tea ice cream and drinks. After stopping at the green tea fields, we got back on our tour bus and headed to another area about an hour away call Damyang. There we got to see a bamboo park, which was pretty cool. They had a lot of bamboo inspired dishes there that were interesting. I don’t think I’ve really eaten cooked bamboo before!

Another item on my bucket list is checked off! Who wants to ride on the swan boats with me next? 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Slice of life Tuesdays are hosted by The Two Writing Teachers. Join us!

Thankful Tuesday

It’s only Tuesday night, but I feel like it should be Friday night! I should be going to sleep, but I must blog. So instead of complaining about things, I’ve decided to write a list of what I’m thankful for.

  • Korea’s endless number of cafes. I’ve never been in a country that has as many coffee shops as Korea.
  • fresh waffles with green tea ice cream
  • Spring weather that is perfect for riding my bike.
  • Comments from Sharon Creech. She left us comments on my other blog: twoapplesaday.org!!!
  • poetry
  • draw something & words with friends (makes long subway rides more fun)
  • Movies that make you laugh out loud. Avengers was much funnier than I was anticipating.

The slice of life challenge is hosted by the Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday!