I will preface this post by saying there is no “typical day” living here. Schedules change. Routines change. I am consistently working to learn and grow and develop more efficient systems. All I can do is describe how a typical day goes down now. One month ago it was likely different. One month from now it will also be different. Nonetheless, here we go.
I wake up, turn off my ringing phone across the room, and turn on the lights. I quickly make my bed, throw on my robe, slippers, and beanie (my apartment is cold and I prefer spending calories to spending money). I settle down on the floor and do a 6-minute abdominal exercise routine.
From there, I like to do my meditation. I always feel more alert after the exercise so I won’t feel tempted to nap. I settle down on my bed, light a candle on a chair in front of me, and stare at it for 12 minutes. I breathe in and out, working to focus on nothing else.
I fix myself a cup of instant coffee and fire up my laptop. First I answer my daily questions (a list of questions I ask myself about the day before, rating my answers from one to ten). I then work through my morning intellectual exercises: one Duolingo lesson, one GRE question of the day, five gratitudes, one Khan Academy MCAT video, one Beeline Korean lesson, Anki social psychology flashcards, Quizlet English vocabulary flashcards, and 500 words of personal journaling.
It is time to put on some clothes. It’s cold outside so on top of my work clothes I need my warmest jacket, a face-covering scarf, and a beanie with my headphones over the top.
The bike ride to the gym takes 8-10 minutes. An audiobook spits knowledge at double-speed the whole way.
The morning workout commences. Today is Wednesday which just means deadlifts followed by more deadlifts.
With jelly legs, I shower, take care of my grooming needs, fix my hair, and depart for work.
I ride into school, park my bike, and wave hello to whichever student is standing in front wearing a sash I can’t read promoting a cause I have no idea about (usually anti-smoking). I smile and drop a little Korean on them
“Cho-oon ah-chim” (good morning). They always laugh with surprise even though I say it almost every day.
I settle into my office, fire up the computer, pour up more coffee, and make sure I have all of my lesson materials ready for the day. I load them all up in a plastic folder and head up to the classroom.
It’s first period. Class begins about five minutes later because regardless of how much my students hurry, many are always late. Normally this class is tough. While they are very well-behaved, they’re so tired that they’re too well-behaved. I can’t motivate them to do much. Four or five students sleep at a time. I try to keep them awake, but they pop their heads down like whack-a-moles pop their heads up. Regardless, the lesson goes pretty well.
Back in my office, I have one hour to kill. I do this any number of ways: prepare a new lesson plan, work on my online psychology classes, take an online MOOC on EdX, read for pleasure, or just watch Youtube videos.
I teach another class. These students are still pretty low-energy (lunch is close but not close enough), but have more energy than my first class. This is a decent sweet spot to power through a lesson efficiently with minimal sleepers or disruptive students.
After refilling my coffee in the office, I return to the classroom for a non-English teacher workshop. I feel bad even calling it a workshop. I don’t prepare anything for it. Instead, one or two teachers will come in and practice speaking English with me. Their level is pretty low so we keep the conversation simple. We chat about family, teaching, weekends, and all other topics encompassing the controversial realm of small-talk. While the intended educational benefit is for them, I learn a lot too. I have to listen intently and reverse-engineer a lot of their utterances to keep the conversation going. It is a great mental exercise that usually leaves me yawning by lunchtime (that and caffeine overload).
Lunchtime! After skipping breakfast I am always ready for some Korean cafeteria cuisine. As I’ve mentioned before, the lunches here are gourmet compared to what I would receive in The States. There is always a soup along with meat or fish, vegetables, kimchi, and some kind of fruit. I sit and chew slowly, not saying much (there’s not much I can say anyways). I think my co-workers just like the fact that I sit with them and enjoy their culture’s food (little to they know it’s only because of hunger. Just kidding. It’s delicious). I like to brush my teeth immediately after eating (a new habit I picked up through observing my coworkers)
With 40 minutes left of lunchtime, I like to take a walk by a creek that runs by the school. Sometimes I walk with co-workers while other times I walk alone with music blasting my ears. Regardless, it is a wonderful opportunity to digest food, get some sunshine and exercise, and appreciate a tiny slice of nature. When I worked at Total Wine & More, 30-minute lunch breaks were barely enough time to eat my food at hyperspeed and read a book for the last ten minutes. These hour-long lunch breaks have been heaven.
Back in my office, I have some more free time. That means more lesson planning, reading, studying, or MOOCing. While it’s easy to find things to do, it is tough to keep busy. Sometimes I succumb to Youtube or Facebook. The late-day fatigue is no joke.
Some weeks I have what the teachers call “club activity.” Other weeks I do not. When I don’t, I do more of the same things as stated above. In club activity, I lead a class of 8-10 students through improv games. When I first started teaching in high school, I was overwhelmed by the degree of creative freedom. Now I embrace it. Rather than plan more lessons, I prefer to just teach my students improv games I remember from the Sacramento Comedy Spot. It kills so many birds with one stone: the students speak English, they have fun, and they get to be creative. It is so much win and even more fun.
I log out of my computer, pack up my things, and head out. My next stop is the gym again (because oftentimes I just want to release more energy and it also feels good). Rather than do heavy compound exercises like in the morning, I do more isolation lifts that often target my chest, shoulders, back or arms.
After a brief rinse, I leave the gym and head home. At this point my body is sore and my stomach is empty.
With a handful of almonds and pumpkin seeds already in my mouth, I chew and cook. I normally prepare a pan of fried pork with sesame oil and seasoned laver along with a pot of steamed radishes, onions, carrots, or whatever vegetables I have on hand at the time. An audiobook spits more knowledge in my ear and I eat until I am full, scooping the leftovers into Tupperware. Sometimes I have the energy to do the dishes. Other times I don’t.
Sometimes I will watch a few more Youtube videos or do a little bit of textbook reading. Other times I will knock out an assignment in my online class. By this point, however, I am usually drained. After a quick teeth-brushing, I climb into my warm sheets and open my Kindle to my library book of the moment (currently it is The Beast Side by D. Watkins). I read until my eyes become heavy, I turn out my bedside lamp, and I slip into sleep.
All-you-can-eat Korean BBQ will be the death of me, but it will be a delicious life.
One finds gazebos like these everywhere. This one was halfway up Yudal Mountain in Mokpo.
My co-teacher has a lovely Christmas tree. Seeing Christmas things and hearing Christmas music provides my first major pangs of homesickness.
Riding a bicycle through a winter wonderland sounds lovely in theory and tires my legs in practice.
Mokpo Maritime University has some beautiful ships. Also, seeing that beautiful turf field gave me another sports-gasm. Sometimes I miss fall football games with my friends.