South Korea is known for having some of the coolest and most creative themed cafes in the world. Its truly an invigorating experience when you visit a themed cafe. You can find cafes from all spectrums of cute, artsy, creative, weird, and cuddly.
Yes, I said cuddly because of the dog and cat cafes all around the country. I’ve been to quite a few of these unique cafes. I’ve been to the sheep cafe, selfie cafe, raccoon cafe, flower cafe, and poop cafe just to name a few.
But when I found out about a cake decorating cafe, I couldn’t resist. I love cake, especially cupcakes. All of that in one place for me to decorate though?! The fat kid in me was jumping for joy.
I started furiously searching for the shop in Busan. The first result that I found was from a post about 4-5 years ago. Unfortunately, Korea changes physically like every month. Businesses open and close faster the lunar cycle. I have been here for three years, I still get so hurt when my favorite places close down (RIP Seoul Gimbap).
With that being said, I couldn’t trust that old source. I finally found the website for Mi Cake. The website is only in Korean, which is no problem for me since I can read Korean. Over the years I have grown very resourceful at getting around language barriers when it comes to online ordering.
Anyways, I found the Busan Mi Cake store which was located in Nampo dong. I got lost on the way there from the Nampo subway station. I just remember that it is across from the Wise Park Gwangbok Branch (와이즈파크), which is a large shopping mall.
Alright, I figured out some concrete directions for y’all since I love y’all so much and really want y’all to experience this place. Here’s the scoop:
Take the subway orange line (Line 1) to Jagalchi. Come out of exit 7 and keep straight. Make a left at the corner; you should see a phone store on your left. Go straight three blocks and make a right. Keep straight until you see the Wise Park building on your left. There will be a smaller building on the right side (if you’re facing the mall). Go up to the third floor of that building and you will find MiCake.
Once I finally entered the shop it was like I stepped into a sweet colorful fantasy. I was instantly distracted by all of the decorating options when I first walked in. There were deep freezers full of cute chocolate ornaments and delicious fruits. The walls were also covered in sugary delights to make your cake or cupcakes dazzle.
I finally made my way to the register to get a menu for order options (All transactions were done in Korean, sorry guys). The cupcakes were sold in sets: 4 for 12,000 won, 6 for 16,000 won and 9 for 23,000 won. Each set included strawberry, chocolate, plain, and green tea flavored cupcakes.
I selected the 4-cupcake set, which came with one flavor icing. I also selected the type of icing tip. The cashier gave a small clipboard, a pen, and order form to go shopping. The form was for the additional decorations and toppings. Once I was set, I went back to the sweet wonderland to pick my toppings.
I grabbed a plate and some tweezers from the sterilizer and started shopping. Each item displayed has a price next to it. I marked my items on my order form.
The cupcakes were ready by the time I finished in candy land. Then I channeled my inner Cake Boss for my master creation. I tried to remember all the cake and cupcake decorating videos I have seen to create masterpieces. I made one for me, one for my sister, one for my niece, and one for us to split.
It took me about 25-30 minutes to complete my cupcakes. I even had to get a new tube of icing and borrow my friend’s icing. As a creative person, I really went all out on my cupcakes. I decided to wait until I got home to try them with my girls once I finished decorating.
Mi Cake provides a cute little take out box for your freshly embellished cupcakes. My total came to 21,300 won ($19.04). I consider that money well spent because I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. On top of me making some beautiful cupcakes, they were scrumptious. Be sure to check out Mi Cake the next time you are in Nampo Dong or if you’re looking to whoo your boo.
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“I love to travel, but hate to pack for the trip.” – Shaunda Jay.
What you packed or didn’t pack can make or break your trip. You may be an over-packer, preparing for every situation that you might face on your trip. Or you may be a light packer, taking only the essentials. Either way, getting ready for a trip can turn into a major THING.
Like the kind of thing that you eat, sleep, and breathe because it has consumed you with worry. I used to get so stressed out about traveling when I started solo traveling. I would worry about every little detail.
What should I pack? What was the weather going to be like? Do I need to apply for a visa for this place? What is the currency exchange rate? How much money do I need for my trip? What is the cheapest and easiest way to get to my accommodation? The list could go on for many posts, but I’ll stop there.
Being a Type B person, planning every single detail is quite nerve wrecking for me. I had an epiphany one day while packing for a trip.
I realized that I love to travel, but hate to pack for the trip. This epiphany left me with two options: 1. Stop traveling 2. Find a way to make my trips easier. Option one was clearly not going to happen. I love traveling and exploring way more than I hate packing. So, option two it was.
After some research and many trials, I settled on a core group of apps that best supported my travel endeavors. These apps have been my saving grace when it comes to planning trips, keeping up with my itinerary and getting around while I’m traveling. Hopefully they can be of service to you on your next trip too. (The list is not in order of importance)
Hostel World is a great resource of thrifty travelers looking for deals on accommodations in vacation hot spots. You can find many properties in prime locations, but be sure to read the reviews and policies before booking.
- Variety in price and quality
- Tons of locations to pick from
- Easy to use
- Last minute booking available
- Reviews and pictures available
- Low booking fees
- Some of the properties looks different in person
- Can be time-consuming to read through reviews (but it’s worth the work)
- Some locations do not have many property options
Skyscanner can be used to book flights, hotels, or car rentals. I personally use this app to book and research flights. I usually find great flight deals on Skyscanner. My favorite feature is the everywhere flight search from your airport. I use this tool to design the cheapest flight route my trips.
- Easy to use
- Wide range of search opportunities
- Price alerts and saved search available
- Some prices can be different on the airline’s website due to extra fees
- Some airline websites can be difficult to use
- Prices increase if you don’t clear your computer cookies before searching again
Globe Convert is a conversion app for just about everything. You can convert currency, time zones, tips, length, power, temperature, etc. As an avid international traveler, I use this app mostly for currency conversions, temperature, and metric conversions (Dang American metric system). The app provides real-time currency conversions and can be used offline. It has been a life-saver for me.
- Easy to use
- Wide range of conversions
- Can be used offline
- Conversions are accurate
- None that I can think of
Trip It is an app that allows you to create your digital trip itinerary. You can fill out every detail of your trip and even plan your trip with friends. I love this app because I can easily access my booking information for all of my plans in one place. No need to comb through my emails or other apps for my booking numbers or addresses.
- Digital itinerary on your phone
- Every detail of your tip in one app (accommodations, tours, flights, etc.)
- Plan trips with friends
- Live flight updates on your flights
- Offline usage available
- All of your booking details in one place
- Time consuming to fill in booking information
Google maps is useful for finding directions and information of places of interest. I often use the app to get addresses, directions, and read reviews on places. However, I have a love-hate relationship with Google maps.
- Directions including public transportation routes
- Pictures and reviews of destinations are available
- Quick search of places of interest in your area
- Satellite and terrain maps are available
- Traffic details available
- Save and share location
- Download and save maps to use offline
- Access to location details
- Not as efficient in some Asian countries
- Provides difficult or detoured routes sometimes
- Inconclusive search results (either no address or no route)
- Can’t use offline unless you downloaded a map
Happy Cow is a great tool for those whom are vegan or vegetarian travelers. This app provides a guide for vegan, vegetarian, and veg-option restaurants, stores and bakeries near you. I thoroughly enjoy the recommendations from this app while I’m traveling.
- Easy to use
- Accurate food guide
- Informative reviews
- Available offline
- Ability to create personal trip food guide
- Save your favorite places for next time
- Location address, hours, and phone number are available
- Some locations are hard to find
Pinterest is an app that allows you to discover everything from recipes to DIY projects. It’s also a great resource for researching travel destinations. On the app you can read many blogs about any and everything. Some of my best trip advice came from blogs I found through a Pinterest search.
- Unlimited information
- Search results more specific than google
- Search of related pins available for each post
- Quality and quantity of information
- Some links can be spam or not available anymore
Instagram is more than just a picture and video app, it’s a way to connect with other travelers. Almost everybody and their mamas are on Instagram, which makes it a great way to exchange information to keep in touch. It’s also not as personal as Facebook, so you can still keep some privacy. I find this app extremely useful for keeping up with my travel buddies all over the world.
- Keep up with friends made along your trip (or while on your trip)
- It’s a free way to text
- Post and view amazing pictures and videos
- Less personal than Facebook
- Not available offline
- Can cause intense wanderlust
These apps have been my go-to guides for before, during, and after my trip. I hope that you will find these apps useful for your next adventure. If you have any travel apps that you use and think are amazing, please feel free to mention them in the comments.
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Spring time is strawberry season in South Korea (the season starts in winter though). It’s a time where you can buy 4 large containers of medium strawberries for 10,000 won ($9.29)! It’s also a time when many people go strawberry picking.
My strawberry-loving self has been dying to go every since I found out about strawberry picking being available here. My niece and I love strawberries so much that we would finish an 1 Kg container in one sitting. I knew she would enjoy it just as much as I would (maybe even more).
We finally went strawberry picking as a family after talking about strawberry picking for so long and hounding my sister for so long. My sister managed to find a strawberry farm nearby with much research and help from some Korean friends. We took a family trip to the Sandeul Strawberry farm in Yangsan.
To my surprise the strawberries were kept in green houses. So, I was a little disappointed that we weren’t going to be picking outside. It was so hot in that green house that some strawberries were melting. The heat in the green house intensified the sweet aroma of fresh strawberries, which made the heat more bearable.
We spent 30 minutes in the green house feasting on as many strawberries we could get a hold of. Plus we got to fill a 1 kg plastic container with strawberries to go. My sister and I went through the rows carefully inspecting which strawberries to eat and which ones to save. Meanwhile, my niece ran wild chomping down on every strawberry she could get her hands on.
By the time we left the green house, everyone had red sticky hands and big smiles on our faces. Strawberry picking was fun for the whole family. But I think my niece enjoyed it the most. She had strawberry stains all over her clothes and even in her hair. She walked out with no regrets. None of us did.
Additional information and pics are posted below. If you have further questions please feel free to leave a comment.
Strawberry farm information:
경상남도 양산시 원동면 뻘등길 72
There is a bus stop about 10 minutes walking distance from the farm. This place is really in the rural part of Yangsan, so I’d suggest taking a taxi from Yangsan subway station. It’s about a 25 minute ride from the subway station to the farm by taxi. It costed about 11,000-12,000 won. Once the taxi drops you off at the top of the street, walk straight down the dirt path and the farm will be on your right. We booked a reservation online here for 9,900 won. (Tip: the website is in Korean and the staff at the farm only spoke Korean to us.) Good luck and safe travels!
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I’ve always been a fan of the summer Olympics and dreamed of going one day. So, when I found out that the 2018 Winter Olympics would be in South Korea, I was mildly intrigued. Once I was sure that I would be in Korea during the winter Olympics, you can bet your life that a thrill-seeker like me was going to get in the mix.
The Bizarre Plan
The Lunar New Year holiday (a national holiday in South Korea and a few other countries) overlapped with the winter Olympics, which meant I could go on my day off from work.
There were a couple of foreigner-lead travel groups with trips to the Olympics during the holiday, so my friend and I decided it would be easier to catch a bus with a travel group since it was difficult to get to PyeongChang on our own. PyeongChang is 7 hours away from Busan via ground transportation (also, the train ticket prices were inflated for the event).
The plan was to go all the way to the Olympics for one day, watch two events, then to catch the express bus back to Busan once we arrived back in Seoul. The total trip would take less than 30 hours and we could enjoy the rest of the holiday recovering.
We booked seats on the one-day Olympics trip bus with Wink Travels in Seoul. The bus left at 6 a.m. So, we had to high-tail it to Seoul before then. We took an overnight express bus from Busan which took 4 hours and 15 minutes.
*Side note: If you are ever taking an express bus from Busan to Seoul or vice versa, I’d highly recommend taking the premium bus. The seats are bigger; complete with a TV screen and tray table, USB ports are available on the chair, and you can almost flatten the seat into a bed.
Once we were on the Wink bus, it was about another 3 hours to PyeongChang. No surprise that we slept the entire way there.
Wait…Where are the Olympics?
We got to Gangneung Olympic Park around 10:30 a.m. but we decided to get off at the Kwandong Hockey Center, though we weren’t going to the hockey game. We thought there would be some cool stuff to check out there since our first event, the women’s cross-country, skiing wasn’t until later.
When we got off the bus, it was unusually quiet and empty for an Olympic venue. There was a hockey game starting around the time we got there. My friend and I looked at each other like and said, “Um… are we in the right place? Is this really the Olympics? Where are all the people? Where is the action around this place?”
The café across from the venue wasn’t even open until 12 p.m. It was only 11 a.m. and time was ticking since we only had one day. We decided to try to find the Olympic village and asked some volunteers how to get there, but they didn’t know what we were talking about. I searched on the app’s map (that app was a freaking joke as far as directions go), still didn’t know where to go and there was not another venue anywhere close by.
This has got to be a joke?
We remembered the first place the bus stopped at didn’t seem that far. we figured we could try walking back to that venue. WRONG! When I typed the location into Google Maps, it said the place was more than 8 KM away. The next plan of escape was to take a city bus or taxi to the venue. WRONG!
Though we found a bus stop, we didn’t know which bus to take or which direction to go. I also couldn’t order a taxi on my Kakao Taxi app, nor did we see any available taxis on the street. We seemed to be stuck at the hockey arena, with a slim chance of escape at this point.
Right place, right time… well, sort of
It was now after 12 p.m. We decided to go back to the café we saw earlier to regroup on how to get out of that area. While charging our phones and waiting on food, a young guy wearing some USA apparel and an official Olympic lanyard caught my attention as I suspected him of being an Olympian.
He met with an older couple who seemed thrilled to see him. The older man said something about being happy to see the young man compete the other day. Just then, another young man, dressed similarly to the first one, came in.
I told my friend that the guys were Olympians and we should take a picture with them before they left. She was too shy and the people were getting ready to leave, so I pulled up my camera on my phone and jumped up to stop them.
Me: Excuse me, but would you guys happen to be Olympians from Team USA?
Guy 1: Yes, we are.
Me: That’s so cool! We’re also Americans and want to know if we could get a picture with you guys.
Both Guys: Sure, no problem.
Woman: I’ll take the picture for you (she was sweet and bubbly)! That’s my son.
Guy 2: Why don’t you two stand in the middle?
Me: OK, sure. (My friend and I squeeze in between the guys).
After the pictures, we chatted with the parents and the athletes a bit more about where we are from and told them we lived in S. Korea. One of the guys said that the group was heading to the hockey game and they had two extra tickets if we wanted to join them.
We said we would love to join them. But after the guys checked the tickets, they found out that they only had one extra ticket for the hockey game. The other ticket was for ice skating (that started at 10:30 am). They said we could still join them at the game, if we bought another ticket. I remembered we hadn’t received the drinks and food that we ordered yet. We also had to be at another venue by 2:30, so we passed on the offer.
We finally found out how to get to our next destination. We had to go up the hill, down the street, and around the corner to find the shuttle buses. After that it took 3 shuttle buses and traveling for over an hour to get to the Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Center. When we arrived at the venue it had the same key elements to it: a small crowd with little to no sound, or signs of an energetic atmosphere.
Better on TV
We were relieved and excited to watch our first Olympic event after the hectic but quiet morning. We had standing tickets. Which meant that we had to stand behind the gate along the track near the path to the finish line. The weather was warm (warm for a winter day in that area) during that time and the sun shone brightly. The most active section during the event was the unified Korean section. They had their own hype man leading the chanting. Other than that, the crowd was quiet most of the time unless a skier passed by their section.
When you attend an event in-person, you have a limited view of the action. From our position, we could only see the skiers start and finish (which was like 5-7 minutes of action). We had to watch the other parts of the race from the jumbo screen when it was available. I didn’t get any extra fulfillment from watching the race after I took my first few pictures and videos.
The best part of the event for me was watching the fans from different countries bond together in a respectful and friendly way as they cheered on their home countries. There was a peaceful presence among the fans that was a pleasure to be around. I also enjoyed watching the Olympians sportsmanship towards each other.
Glad I went, but I’m also glad it’s over
By the end of the Women’s Cross-country Skiing event, it was starting to get cold, so we didn’t stay for the full medal ceremony.
We had about 4 hours until the luge event started, so we got back on the shuttle bus and headed to the PyeongChang Olympic Plaza. We ate, did some shopping, watched the medal ceremony for the Women’s Alpine Skiing event and then we headed over to the Olympic Sliding center for the luge.
By the time we got there, it was dark and freezing cold. We were also exhausted from being on the move all day. The venue had a small quiet crowd. We posted up at the finish line, but the athletes came down the track so fast we could barely process what happened.
There were also no TVs on the track for the crowd to watch what was happening. By the time we heard the first “whoo” and turned our heads to see what happened, the race was over. The crowd barely responded (I think mostly because the race was so fast). I was definitely missing the slow-motion race clips that would have been shown on TV during the race.
That’s all for now
The Olympics was not what I imagined it would be like. The small crowds and the lack of an energetic atmosphere was a shock for me. Nevertheless, I’m still grateful for the experience and I learned a lot about the Winter Olympics. I also learned how to plan my next Olympic trip. Click here for part 2.
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If you haven’t read the PyeongChang Winter Olympics Misadventure Part 1 (seriously, you should read that first; what’s the point in a sequel if you didn’t read the first part?), allow me to fill you in…
My friend and I planned to go to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics for one day from Seoul, watch two events, then catch the express bus back to Busan once we arrived back in Seoul. We booked our trip with Wink Travels. They offered a special one-day Olympics trip during the Lunar New Year holiday. At the Olympics, we went to the Women’s Cross Country Skiing and the Luge. We also met some Olympians and saw the medal ceremony for the Women’s Alpine Skiing. Now that we got that part out of the way, we can skip ahead to us leaving the Olympics in a grand Hollywood Blockbuster style.
The Luge started around 9:30 p.m. The Wink bus was leaving Gangneung Olympic Park at 12 a.m. to head back to Seoul. The last pick-up was at the Kwandong Hockey Center at 12:15 a.m. The group leaders made it clear that if you missed those pick-up times then you would be stuck in PyeongChang.
We left the Olympic Sliding Center at around 10:45 pm. It took an hour and a half to get to the Gangneung Olympic Park from there. Plus, we had to take three shuttle buses during our journey. My phone had a low battery and my portable charger was too low to charge my phone. My friend was relying on Wi-Fi to operate her phone and since we were in the boondocks. Unlocked Wi-Fi (or any Wi-Fi, at that) was nonexistent, which left communication up to me.
I figured we would be running a little late to the pick-up spot and contacted the group leader via text. Reaching out through the Facebook event page, I contacted the group leader. I contacted the previous group leader from the morning as well, but responses were slow and my phone was on less than 5 percent at that time.
While transferring shuttles, we were rushing and just jumped on the first bus that was going to the Gangneung Olympic Park. However, the bus we took dropped us off at the north gate of the park, but we needed to be at the south gate!
We figured that we could catch another shuttle to the south gate or walk to the gate.
We couldn’t find where the shuttle buses were (since the departures were in a different area from the arrivals, it was also too late to catch one). Nor could we walk to the gate because it was too far. We couldn’t cut through the venue either, because we needed tickets. I had just deleted the ticket app off of my phone on the shuttle ride. I thought that we wouldn’t need the tickets anymore since the events were over.
When I re-downloaded the app, the tickets were not available because we had already used them. Plus, the guard said it would have taken us an hour to walk through the venue to the south gate anyways.
By this time it was about 11:50 p.m. We had no way of making it to the first pick-up location by 12 a.m. My phone was on 1 percent and I was just praying it would stay on long enough for us to figure the situation out. I called the group leader (because he never texted me back earlier) to let him know the situation and that we were going to meet the bus at the Kwandong Hockey Center. He told me to get there quickly, because the bus couldn’t wait for us since they were already behind schedule.
Our next best bet was to take a taxi (which were severely scarce at the Olympics) to the Kwandong Hockey Center. I tried to call a cab on my Kakao Taxi app as we sprinted to a nearby taxi stand. No vehicles were available on the app and when we got to the taxi stand, there was a long line there already. At that moment, the group leader called me back… the bus was at the hockey center. He needed to know where we were.
When I informed him that we were still waiting for a taxi from Gangneung Park. Then he hit me with a hopeful/ your SOL (shit out of luck) speech. He said he would try to stall a bit, but my friend and I might have to look into KTX train tickets or booking a room in PyeongChang. My friend was panicking by now. I was also uptight. We both did not want to get stranded in this cold country city in the middle of nowhere.
I took a step back and started telling myself: “Things are always working out for me.” “We are leaving on that bus tonight.” “We are going to make it.” After repeating those phrases, I visualized us on the Wink bus on the way back to Seoul and my nerves calmed down.
The nail-biting wait
Taxis were coming few and far in between and we still had a few people ahead of us. We also didn’t know how long the ride to the hockey center would be and my phone was still on 1 percent. Talk about a stressful situation!
My friend explained our situation and asked the people ahead of us in the line if we could grab the next taxi. They refused to give up their spot because they had waited for over an hour for a taxi. So, we had to anxiously wait in line stressing about if we were going to catch the bus back to Seoul or not.
The shimmer of hope
The group leader called me again to check in on our situation, but right as he called, two taxis pulled up and we got into one of them. I was telling the group leader to please stall the bus, we had just gotten into the taxi and we were on the way. The group leader told me he couldn’t hold the bus but he had an idea and instructed me to give the phone to the taxi driver. They had a conversation for a little while. The whole time they were on the phone, I was praying that my battery wouldn’t die during their chat. Then the driver gave me back the phone and the group leader told me that he told the driver exactly where to go. He wished me a weary “good luck” after that.
I put my seatbelt on and the driver looked at me and said, “He told me to go fast.” I looked at him and said, “Yes, please drive very fast. We need to catch a bus.” The driver told me okay and sped through the streets like a manic as soon as we passed the taxi in front of us. I was so stressed the entire ride. We kept getting caught at the red lights along the way and our window of opportunity was closing fast. The last red light we came to, the driver didn’t even stop. “Sorry”, he said. My friend and I were like, “Nope, you are doing the right thing! Just go!”
We were approaching the destination. The driver started asking me for the bus number as his eyes kept searching the streets. I told him there wasn’t a bus number since we came with a travel group. I thought he was confused and looking for a city bus. The driver then filled me in on the group leader’s plan. The plan was for us to come down on the route that the bus was leaving on and flag down the bus when we saw it.
High speed chase
After learning about the plan, I sat up at the edge of my seat with my eyes glued to the windshield. Everyone in the car was on high alert at this time. As we turned the corner, I saw a bus that said “Wink Travels” at the top. I immediately yelled at the driver “That’s the bus!” He slammed on the breaks and started honking the horn, but the bus drivers didn’t pay attention. My friend and I told the taxi driver to U-turn to go get the bus. The man whipped that car like a professional NASCAR driver. He sped down the street and turned the corner. We spun around that bend on two wheels; luckily the buses were pulling over to the side already. The taxi driver sped past the buses and blocked their path on the side of the road.
I praised the taxi driver while paying him and jumping out of the car at the same time. My friend and I sprinted down the street to the bus like our lives depended on it. Everyone that was awake on the bus was looking at us like we were psychos. I don’t even think my feet touched the steps on the way on the bus. We flew into the first free seats we found, frantically apologizing and trying to catch our breaths.
On the road again
The buses pulled off like nothing ever happened. The group leader called me again to make sure we had made it on the bus. I couldn’t thank him enough for all of his help and his brilliant plan. As we calmed down, my friend and I couldn’t believe that we made it on the bus that night. We were extremely grateful to the group leader, taxi driver, and… my phone that remained on 1 percent the entire time.
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Who would have known that scrolling through your Facebook feed would actually translate into a meaningful classroom lesson? I surely didn’t, but am glad it worked out that way. So this is what happened…
La, la, la, la, la… what the heck am I going to teach?!
I was thinking of lessons and activities for the last few classes of the semester since we finished the textbook. I wanted to do something more meaningful; since Korean students already assume the foreign teacher is only supposed to play games (I hate that association!). So, I stumbled across a post on my Facebook feed from the Brothers and Sisters of South Korea page that piqued my interest.
The post read: I prepared a lesson about Black History Month in an effort to feed the tiny brains of students, and teachers, about a race/culture other than their own. However, my co-teacher said, “The Olympics will be better.” I f#ckin’ lost it.
A Prime opportunity
While I wasn’t surprised by the co-teacher’s reaction, I did see it as the perfect way for me to end the semester (#doitfortheculture). The topic was timely, relevant, and interesting to say the least (especially because Koreans aren’t exposed to that kind of information, nor would they seek to hear another side to the American story).
So, I asked the author of the post for the PowerPoint (PPT). Then I combined that with my magic to create a badass Black History Month (BHM) lesson for my 5th and 6th-grade Korean students.
My BHM lesson was composed of a PPT with key vocabulary and people (I tried to keep it short and sweet), followed by watching the music video Glory by John Legend and Common, as well as watching the movie Selma.
I also did some role-playing in class to make sure the students understood the severity of the race situation in America (and most of the world). In other words, I made sure they were exposed to the Black American narrative.
I named my masterpiece lesson: Culture Class.
*This lesson was for South Korean public elementary students in grades 5 and 6, classes were taught with a Korean co-teacher and translated heavily*
The class is in session:
I started my class greetings as normal and then told the students that our topic was American culture. And that’s when the role playing started…
I took a page from the book of Jane Elliot and created two groups in the class. I wanted to divide the class in a physical way to demonstrate racial constructs in American society. Since South Korea is a homogenous country (more than 90% Korean), I couldn’t separate the classes by eye color. So, I chose things like birthday months, glasses/no glasses, straight-hair/curled-hair, and black-hair/colored hair to divide the classes. Team A was the superior team and Team B was the inferior team and I treated them accordingly during the class (I definitely had some freedom fighters on Team B by the end of class, though I wasn’t hard on them).
Then we began our discussion about what BHM was, why it was important, the beginning of Black History (which did not start with slavery). We eventually got into slavery, as race-based slavery is a completely foreign topic to Korean students (And most Koreans). I explained how the slaves got to the Americas and who took them there. The students saw a map of the slave trade, along with the flags of the main European countries involved with slavery in the Americas. They learned about the conditions on the ship. Students understood that although all of Team B boarded the ship, most of the team would not survive to become slaves in the new land.
I also highlighted a few African-American heroes before and during the slavery period, such as:
I know, I know that there are many, but I only had 40 minutes (more like 25-30) for this lesson in which I had to cover a lot of ground.
The plot thickened as I explained the construct of race in America, racism, discrimination, segregation and civil rights. I demonstrated not only with pictures and definitions, but also with scenarios and role-playing. Below are some examples of the class conversation.
Me: Team A, you represent the white man in the photo on the screen and Team B, you represent the black man on the screen. The school is on fire and I am a firefighter. I only save Team A because I think their lives matter and I don’t care what happens to Team B.
Students in team B: But why?!
Me: Because of their skin color, I think they are good people and deserve to live.
Team B looked upset after hearing the news that they had to fend for themselves in the burning school.
Me: I am a job recruiter (for Samsung/Apple/LG/Google, the company changed with the class) and I have all of your job applications. I will pick one person to join the company. Let’s start…
Me: I won’t consider anyone from Team B, because you’re Team B. So, I will pick from Team A… but I don’t want any females. Now I have (a number) boys left. Well, this (number) of boys are too old. So I have two young boys that are the same age and level of education, but one boy is Korean and the other is a white American. I automatically pick the white dude, because I don’t want any Asians at my company.
All students: Wow!
Me: How do you all feel about that process?
Students: It’s not fair!
Me: Segregation is separation by race. And what is race?
Students: Skin color.
Me: Yes. So, look at the picture on the screen. (Picture of a segregated water fountain with a Black man drinking from the “colored” fountain) Who can drink from this one?
Students: White people.
Me: What do you notice about the fountain?
Students: It’s clean. New. Nice.
Me: Let’s look at the other fountain, what does it look like?
Students: It’s dirty. (Some students screwed up their faces and looked a bit disgusted)
Me: Who uses this fountain?
Students: Colored. Black people.
Me: Who do you think is included in the “colored” category?
Students: Black people.
Me: No, not just black people. Aren’t you colored too?
Students: Well… yeah. But…
Me: Are you white?
Me: In the west, we consider Asian people yellow people (no offense). So who else would be included in the colored category?
Me: Yes, that’s right. Anyone that was not white was considered “colored”. We had separate restrooms, water fountains, schools, restaurants, etc.
Students: Why can’t the man (the Black man in the picture) just use the clean fountain?
Me: Because it was illegal. If he tried to use the White fountain, he could be beaten, jailed or killed.
Students: Wow! (Some looked uncomfortable, but highly intrigued by this information)
Civil Rights scenario:
Me: Let’s make a list of some things that we need as citizens. What do we need to live?
Me: *Makes gesture of drinking*
Me: Yes, we need clean water and air. What else?
Students: Food, clothes, house…
Me: Good! We need a way to learn, so what do we need?
Me: Yes, we need education. Now after you get an education what do you need?
Me: Yes, but how can we make money? What do you get after you get an education?
Me: Yes! Good job! And if I am sick, what do I need?
Me: Yep, I need health care to be treated. Also, I need to be able to elect my president and other country leaders. So, what do I need to do that?
Me: Yes, I need voting rights. So, let’s stop the list there. Team A, you can have all of these rights. But Team B, you can’t have voting rights, education, healthcare or jobs (I drew an “x” next to the items on the board). How do you feel about that Team B?
Team B students: It’s unfair. I’m angry.
Me: How do you feel about your privileges Team A?
Team A students (some students): Yay!
Team A students (other students): So, so.
Me: Why so, so?
Team A student: Because it’s not fair.
Me: You’re right. Both teams are human, but Team B can’t have many things. Team A, would you be happy knowing that Team B can’t have the same opportunity as you even though you are all human?
Team A: No!
Me: Do you think that you both should have the same things?
Both teams: Yes!
Me: Team A, would you want to help Team B have the same rights as you?
Most students on Team A: Yes!
I introduced the students to some African-American heroes from the 1900s-2018:
After the presentation, we watched the music video Glory and the movie Selma (in the next class). During the movie, most students were attentive and asking questions to the Korean teacher. Class time was limited so I skipped ahead to the action scenes in the movie (none of the classes finished the movie). I forgot that the word “negro” was used in the movie the first time I played it, so I had to brief the students about that word before playing the movie.
That’s a Wrap
After watching some of the movie and the presentation, I felt a sympathetic vibe from the students on their way out of the door. I asked the students how they felt after watching the movie and received some mixed reviews. Some students were sad, some were angry, some were shocked (I mean they looked like their world was turned upside down), some still didn’t care or have an interest (teaching isn’t like Pokemon, you can’t catch ‘em all.)
They were exposed to another side of the American history narrative and I am glad that I was able to teach them that, regardless if their interest grew or not. I hope that you enjoyed reading, please feel free to comment and share. Thanks for reading!
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Black History Month PPT: