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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Uplifting Class Story

So many blog posts I've been meaning to make. I mean geezus I haven't posted since July!!! Anyway I wanted to share this neat story from this morning's 10th grade class.


Implementing a new practice in my classes. We start with a few questions:
- What are you worried about right now?
- What can you do about it?
- What are you grateful for today?

In response to the third question, one of my students blew my mind with this gem:

"I just realised today that there is no reason not to be grateful." 

*KABOOM!* (the sound of my mind being blown)

She said she had that thought in the shower this morning. Talk about Divine Timing! Talk about profound! Talk about "from the mouths of babes" AM I RIGHT?!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


This blog isn't Korea-related except insofar as I'm in Korea.

Lately I've had these thoughts swirling around in my mind and I'm gonna put them down in an attempt to sort through them. If this gets posted it will be because I want to share my thoughts, and I'm happy to hear yours, but I'm not looking for advice.

I've read a number of self-help / self-improvement / self-acceptance articles, books, blog posts over the past 4 years. And there are a few themes I've seen repeatedly:

  1. We are all connected, so we need to love and care for each other.
  2. You get what you give. So give love.
  3. Don't look externally for love. Love comes from within. If you expect others to give you love you'll only end up disappointed.
  4. Don't subscribe to limiting beliefs. 
  5. You deserve the love you're always trying to give others. (This last one I've only started seeing over the last 6 months or so)

This is my dilemma. These ideas seem to contradict each other. Like, we ought to love each other, but then when I give love and hope to get it back I'm doing something wrong, because expectations lead to disappointment. But I'm supposed to get what I give, so if I give love shouldn't the result be that I get love? And if you tell me that I deserve the love I give others, then why is it wrong for me to expect it? 

Give without expectation of reciprocation. That's another I've heard a lot. But if we're told that when we give love, somehow the universe will return it, why not expect it? If it's a law of the universe, why not expect it to be carried out? Like the law of gravity. If I'm holding an apple and I let it go, I expect it to fall and no one questions that. No one says, "Drop things without expectation of them hitting the ground." Just typing that felt silly. 

I'm left with this feeling that I'm selfish for wanting people to return the love I give them. Or that I'm foolish for expecting it. But then what? Give up on people? Put out love, because it's the right thing to do, but don't dare expect any love in return, except you'll get it because that's the Law of Attraction, except don't expect it cuz then you'll be disappointed, but you won't because what you put out you get back. That just makes me feel like people are a disappointment, but we're supposed to rely on each other because we can't live in isolation, but we also can't depend on others to give us love and happiness. Like... do you see where I'm confused?

So then the big question: Am I putting out love? I mean, I make a conscious effort to act from a place of love, not fear. And when I choose to actively put love out there, I don't initially do it thinking, "I'm gonna do this so I can get it back." But is that thought lurking around somewhere in there? I dunno.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


1) Wanna know something I only just realised last weekend? For a very long time I saw exercise as punishment for being fat. Think about that. Think about what that does to a person when they feel a) something is wrong with them, b) it's their own fault, c) as punishment or to atone for this sin of having this body, they *have to* exercise. I *hate* being told what to do. I *hate* feeling like I *have to* do something someone else says. If I'm gonna do something, it has to be because *I* see value in it. And I see no value in punishing myself.

It took me YEARS to come to the place I'm in now. It is a place where I love my body AS IS and I love my SELF. And I now believe that loving my body means making better choices for it. It took me .... 15 years to WANT to exercise. To WANT to eat differently. Not because other people kept reminding me of how fat/sedentary I had become, but because I didn't feel good and my body didn't feel good. I want to have a strong and healthy heart and lungs and legs and back and arms. I want to be able to help my parents when they get to the age when they need my help, even if that means physically lifting them. Especially if that means physically lifting them.

Also I've wanted to be 'a runner' for years. As a kid I was quite fast and I enjoyed running. When I was 7 I began gaining a lot of weight (thanks Canada) and running ceased being fun, so I stopped doing it. I didn't know why I'd been gaining so much weight and I didn't know how to make it stop. I just knew I was now "full-figured"/ "a big girl"/ "plus sized".

I now know/believe/feel that grains are what caused my rapid weight gain at 7, particularly the way grains are harvested and processed in Canada. Hence my decision to go grain-free for the next 3 months in addition to my previous decision to be wheat free for life.

I've also started the Couch to 5K running program (I bought the app and everything). I'm doing it on the treadmill to force me to keep a steady pace, but I would like to graduate to road running at some point (probably after I get back to Toronto to be honest). I've done 3 workouts so far, and it's challenging for sure, but not so hard that I want to stop or even ease up.

2) I think I'm pretty much done with traditional classroom teaching. I may have blogged about this before, I can't remember. I've definitely thought it and said it before. As an introvert, I give energy in social situations and performances. As a performer that's always been fine, because I've been lucky enough to always get the energy back by way of audience attention and applause. If you think about it, the audience chooses to watch the performance and WANTS a good show, so they will it to be good. No one wants to have wasted their time and/or money. So even though I give a lot of energy when I sing or act, it's always returned to me pretty much right away.

Teaching in public school is not like that. I recently read The Alchemist (a book I feel deserves several revisits) and I think I know why. Here in Korea, my students are required to attend my classes. They're teenagers, but might as well be children for the amount of freedom they have to choose. Many of them are so far away from their own Personal Legends (Alchemist reference) that they're exhausted both physically and emotionally. As soon as they walk into my classroom, I feel that. So I try to compensate for their lack of energy by giving even more. But it isn't returned. I have maybe 2 or 3 classes (of 16) who come in with positive energy, even when they're physically drained, and they give me more energy than I give them, and it makes a big difference to me.

I don't feel like my job is seen as valuable for the most part (by the students or the school), which doesn't motivate me to soldier through the dead energy, and I was shocked to find I'm at a place where I don't want to go to work any more and am keeping my sights on free periods, long weekends, and whatever other time off I get (thankfully, I get a good amount).

3) I'd lost my motivation to code for the last couple months and didn't know why. I realised recently that I am only interested right now in front end development, rather than back end as well. I had been trying to convince myself that I needed to be a full stack web developer in order to be a 'real' programmer but the prospect of doing that bored me and I lost my drive and the fun that I was having when I first started (with HTML and CSS). I decided even if I'm not a real programmer, I can make a living doing front-end web development and web design and enjoy it. Also, a chat with my friend Tina (thanks girl!) assured me that Javascript (which is a part of front end developing) *IS* real programming. So there. Sounds cliché, but I have a renewed interest and sense of purpose now and I'm coding every day again without having to force myself. If you follow me on instagram (which you should: @AngeliqueJazz) you'll see that I'm learning jQuery currently and getting disproportionately excited about my mini achievements. I think I'm also happy that I'm excited again, which compounds the excitement.

4) I'd made a post about how I'm in countdown mode now, and that's still true, but with the coding, the running, and the nutrition experiments, I'm keeping myself meaningfully busy and it's helping me focus on something other than being here and being in countdown mode. Emotionally I'm in a good place these days, but I know for me it goes in cycles, so I'm building the habits now so that when my emotions take a dip I will hopefully have enough of a habit built up to push through it.

That's all. Bye!

4 Things

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Metal Head and Grain Belly

I had tinnitus for MONTHS. It started after I had a middle ear infection around November 2015, so I thought it was connected. I saw 3 ENT specialists and they all said the same thing. "Nothing is wrong with your ear, so it's no big deal. It will go away on its own. The more you pay attention to it, the more you'll notice it." I was not satisfied with this answer so I did some Googling. None of the ENTs mentioned that having a high blood pressure could be a factor, and I found out that my blood pressure was (in January 2016) at the bottom of the high range.

That was also the time I decided to stop eating wheat altogether. I mentioned this in a previous post. It's now June and, save a couple accidents, I have been wheat free for 5 months now. Since then I have noticed that I don't get as bloated, the swelling in my ankles mostly went down, and my acne went away. Like the every day bumps that would just... appear for no discernible reason and cause me anguish because I am was a grown woman with acne! I have also, in the past month or so, been increasing my water intake, which I'm SURE has helped as well. As of today my tinnitus is MOSTLY GONE!!

BUT, I thought that was all I needed to do. Drop the wheat; drop the weight and the bloating and the discomfort. Nope. A bakery opened up in my neighbourhood that only uses rice flour in their products. I was SOOOO HAPPY that I kinda went nuts. Over the course of a week or two I tried out the different things they had: loaves, bagels, scones, etc. My ankles started to swell again. My stomach started to bloat again. I didn't have cravings the way wheat gave me cravings, though, so that was interesting (and a relief). I had noticed bloating when I ate regular white rice as well, but thought it was just making the wheat issue worse. (Trying to rationalize it so I could keep eating rice haha).

Anyway, I did some Youtube research and came to the conclusion I probably need to cut out all grains *cries*. I thought corn was safe because I haven't noticed as much bloating even as the rice, which caused less bloating than wheat. But, as it turns out, it's not just about the bloating (which I knew, but didn't pay much attention to).

So that's the next goal. Grain free. My mum follows a ketosis diet, which I tried for like a week, so I have seen how to eat meals without grains. And now I have a more compelling reason to do it for myself. I'm not saying I'm going keto, but I will go grain free, because I need to for my body. I've seen myself get fatter and fatter over the years without doing very much that's different from other people who are skinny. I know that physical activity is part of it, but having tried various workout programs that only worked short term, I know my nutrition is the key right now.

That's all.

Okay I love you buh-bye! (Looney Tunes anyone?)

Oh my god oats are grains too, aren't they? *sigh* man....

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Countdown Has Begun

I realised about a week ago that I have begun to think of how much time I have left here. I have begun to plan quite seriously what I will do when I leave. I even almost fell into the habit of not wanting to begin any projects until I return home to Toronto. Almost. I snapped back to reality when I pointed out to myself that I have 9.5 months left (you see? I'm even counting in half-months). That's still a long time yet. So I bought a fitbit today, instead of waiting until I get home to buy one (thanks Jun! Perfect timing!)

But ... that explains where I'm at emotionally and mentally right now. Life is not bad for me here. It's good actually. I have a stable job that I really like. When I started I absolutely loved it. Now I really like it. I'm burning out. My first year went by quickly and smoothly. I felt tired and drained at the end of each day, but I didn't countdown even once, I swear. And I signed on for a 2nd contract.

But ... I know that Korea will never be home. Even if I become fluent in Korean, I will always be the spectacle of every sidewalk I traverse. The sideshow attraction to every bus ride. And for someone like myself who generally doesn't like to leave the house anyway, it makes things really difficult. I have my coping strategies (keep my eyes occupied with a book or my phone while seated, deliberately daydream while I walk, etc.), but the fact that I feel the need for coping strategies just so I can handle going to the convenience store IN MY BUILDING tells me that this is not a healthy environment for me. Not for more than 2 years anyway.

I'm aware of the opinion that maybe I *think* people are staring when they aren't, or maybe people are staring because I'm putting that energy out there, but I'm not imagining this. I'm a Black woman in a homogeneous society filled with people who look VERY different from me. No matter how long I live here, I will never blend in; never be mistaken for someone who knows anything about the place in which I live. I will always be OTHER (yes, all caps). While there is beauty and power in standing out, it must be my choice. I have no choice here. I am always VISIBLE (yes, all caps), even when I am sick, tired, homesick, annoyed, lonely. And it might sound like "Oh wow you're a celebrity! Haha" but it isn't, because people do not look at me with a sense of pleasure (well, sometimes the little kiddies do). They look at me like this O_O. And stare as they walk past, even when I stare back. I've told people about this before, but just in case you're 'hearing' me say this for the first time: it sucks.

Like I said, things aren't BAD. I'm accomplishing the goals I came here to accomplish. I have a nice enough apartment that I can pay for and a steady paycheque. I'm experiencing a new part of the world in a way many people never get to, but being hyper-visible every single time I leave my apartment exhausts me. Add to that being a high school English teacher as an introvert who performs as an extrovert for work, and I'm left drained and not wanting to go anywhere, do anything, see anyone.

So yeah ... in 9½ months it'll be time. Pretty sure. =)

Monday, April 25, 2016

"It Finally Happened" or "Turning Negatives into Positives" or "Lesson Planning Made Easy?"

"So it finally happened. As if on cue to try and ruin the good mood I've been in this morning, an ajumma reached out her grubby hand and touched my hair. Then giggled to her friends. This isn't the first time for me but it is the first time since coming to Busan last February . I looked at her, frowned, shook my head and my hand and said "안돼요" (No/Don't). Her response was to keep on smiling like a fool in my face. The way you would smile at a child who's 'just so cute when they're mad'. Korea don't do this. Not yet. I still have another 10 months."

That was the Facebook post I made this morning while on the bus, shortly after moving seats because of the violation against my personal space. 6 years ago, when I lived in Siheung, this happened once every few months (total 4 or 5 times), and every time it made me more and more angry. Since moving to Busan last year, though, it NEVER happened until today. I managed to go a whole 13.75 months without being treated like an animal in a petting zoo. 

So I was pretty pissed. And it didn't help that when I got to work I discovered my classroom in the middle of renovations (with the expectation that I continue teaching in this mess). But...

Next week my students have their midterm exams. So this week they're pretty stressed out. The weather is warming up and the campus is beautiful, SO I had already planned to take them outside as part of our lesson. Since their task while outside is to find things that improve their mood, I decided to lead a meditation exercise as the intro to the lesson. 

First, I had them think about 1 thing that happened recently that caused them stress or made them feel upset or annoyed or otherwise unhappy. Then I had them talk about it with a partner for a few minutes. Then I told them about my thing. I must point out here that it was some consolation to see how shocked my students were that this had happened to me. So after sharing my thing with them, I had them close their eyes and imagine that frustrating situation (specifically the feelings of stress or anger) as a piece of bread in their hands. I told them to picture a fast-flowing river in front of them. With every inhale, I had them visualise breaking off a piece of the bread. With every exhale, I had them visualise throwing the bread into the river and watching the river carry it away out of sight. And I did it with them. 

And I think that was really useful in setting up the purpose of the class, which is to show them one way to help reduce stress and also have them think about other ways for themselves.

So all in all an interesting start to the week.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Connecting with Students

I've been doing individual speaking tests with my 11th grade students this week. I'm surprised how much I'm learning about them, though I don't know why I'm surprised. Perhaps it's the questions being asked. A student I had previously found a mystery and somewhat challenging in class turned out to be more like me than I thought.

Today, I had a moment of true connection with a student. It is rare that I have the opportunity to share something meaningful and non-academic with a student one-on-one, and even more rare that I have the wisdom to recognize it. But today I had one of those moments. The final question I asked her was, "What are you like as a person?" Some students need clarification on the question, but this student is one of the brighter and more enthusiastic ones in my class. She participates well and genuinely tries hard. Her answer almost broke my heart.

She had a brief moment of anguish on her face, then said, "I don't think I'm a very good person, because I'm a little bit selfish and not very social."

She got me. Right in the feels. I've also struggled with thinking I was too selfish and should be more social. It's part of the reason I've adopted more extroverted behaviour when I'm around other people, particular while I am teaching and performing. I thought it was the way I was supposed to behave. Now I still perform as an extrovert when I feel it is necessary, but I no longer trick myself that that is who I am or that that is my "better" self. I am perfectly content letting people know that sometimes I don't want to be social and letting them think of me what they will.

So, in a moment like that, I had to say something to her. She had just told me that what she wants to do with her career is research gene therapy. She loves to delve deep into whatever she is studying. She is really special, you guys. I couldn't let her leave that test (which was really just an assessment, everyone's getting the same grade for this one) thinking that I agreed with her.

I told her (paraphrasing here), "Okay, the test is over but I want to tell you something. There is nothing wrong with being selfish. Think about it. If other people call you selfish, it is because you are not thinking about THEM. So who's really the selfish one? And anyway, you need to take care of yourself. Have you ever heard the saying, 'You cannot pour from an empty cup'? It means that if you do not take care of yourself, you cannot help others, and I know you want to help others. Do you understand what I mean here? You have to take care of yourself if you're going to help other people. And as for not being social, I'm not very social either! I behave this way at work, but most days when I go home, I want to be totally alone. Society values people who are social, and who like to talk to others, but there are MANY people in this world who are like you and they do some amazing things. Who you are is good enough. And you are a good person. Please do not think there is something wrong with you. Ok?"

She said, "Yes. Thank you teacher." And gave me a seated bow. She bowed. I almost cried. She almost cried. It was a real moment, but no one else heard it. It felt like we were in a bubble and something really valuable had just taken place.

I ended class 2 minutes late as a result of that moment, but I think it was entirely worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.