Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pic spam!

Here are some photos of the youngest kids I teach. Enjoy!

At some point, they got hold of the camera. Here is the result:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Not that this is how my classes go. But sometimes these are the looks I get from my kids.

What I really want to know, though, is how does he keep them so still and quiet??

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Part the Second

Sorry it took a week to get this second part up. I hope you all lived.

Fortunately for you, I am sitting in front of my computer, putting off making powerpoint after powerpoint for my lessons this week. So hooray blogging! It keeps me from doing my job.

SO. When we left off, I had just had a very pleasant weekend in Seoul, bumming around the place, and was about to embark upon my three day training camp with 199 other elementary English teachers from all over Gyeonggi-do.

It was quite a mixed bag...on the one hand, there were a couple informative lectures and one or two interesting people. On the other, there were a lot of boring-ass lectures and tons of seriously creepy individuals. Also, many people from South Africa (those last two are not related! I quite like my South African friends).

The good lectures were...good. The two that helped me the most happened on the second day of training, and while the lecturers weren't the greatest, they were at least entertaining. I got some good ideas for introducing active participation in my class, and some REALLY good ideas for classroom management, especially for the young kids.

The big problem with the lectures, for me, was the excessively high number of "lecture pumas" in attendance. Lecture pumas, for those of you who are not familiar with the term, are those individuals who take advantage of question time in a lecture to ask a question that is usually a) only VERY tangentially to the subject at hand, b) INCREDIBLY specific to that person's situation (and thus not particularly useful to the group), and c) very easily answered or intuited. These people are very closely related to conversation pumas, and make for exceedingly awful lectures during which I play games on my cell phone, sitting in the back.

I didn't actually play games on my phone (at least not while people were actually lecturing). But I did play dots with Ilana...it reminded me of HSEV 101 freshman year at CUA. Miss you, Jill!

The big upshot of this training center, job-wise, is that I left feeling much more confident as a teacher and ready to get back into the classroom. I also got several props on my teaching style during our demo lesson, both from other teachers and our evaluators. I still think my partner and I should have gotten best teachers - our game was WAY more fun than the brushing teeth business that the winners did. Whatevs.

Of course, there was much more to take away from the training camp than just new education confidence. Namely, I came away as king of all trivia (a talent which I most certainly inherited from my mother, who still routinely schools me in Jeopardy!). What happened was this: one of the teachers decided to organize a pub quiz sort of thing on Monday night, with some secret under the table gambling (each team of five tossed in 5000W as an entry fee, the winner takes the pot). It was 20 questions on various subjects, evenly spread out amongst the official GEPIK countries (US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa) and some hodgepodge questions. So 20 questions + 5 bonus questions = max score of 25. Guess whose team got a 23? Ya damn right. So that was a quick 9000W to toss in my pocket.

But there was a catch: the winning team also had to agree to host the pub quiz the next night.

I think I have found my new calling. Some of the questions were probably too hard, but the idea is that you shouldn't know everything in a pub quiz, right? I reworked the format so it would be 5 categories with 4 questions each, plus a bonus attached to a question in each category. Working out the questions with my team was fun, and hosting the pub quiz was a blast - I'm definitely considering getting one started (perhaps on a once a month plan) here in Osan for the waygooks in the area.

So those were the highlights of my training camp...seriously you guys there are some weird-ass foreigner teachers in South Korea. Like a significant number of people who...worry me...to say the least.

In great news: the weather seems like it is finally starting to turn! Spring is arriving in quick fashion, the cherry trees are in bloom (making me miss DC even more), and green is coming to the country side. Oh, and I just bought a 1TB external hard drive for crazy cheap. Sweet.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

And now I'm oriented!

Part the First

Hello all my dear readers! I have so much to tell you about! First, though, let me apologize for the lack of recent updates. These things happen when you're busy. I know it must have been a very trying time for you all, attempting to suffer through your quotidian lives without my updates, but I am glad you were strong enough to soldier on.

So let's see...when we last spoke, my children were actively cleaning class and using some impressive teamwork to get things done. Since then, I really haven't been in class, so not much news there. OH!
I did go into Seoul last weekend, and completely failed to take any pictures (I have come to the conclusion that my camera is just too crappy for words, and I will need to purchase a new one as soon as possible, probably after my next paycheck. Fortunately, I'm in the right country to do so). So here: make do with some of my various friends'.
Our first stop: Yongsan electronics mall. This is possibly the biggest geek haven in all the world. In just the I'Park mall alone, there are floors upon floors of electronic gadgets, from cell phones to cameras, to hardware and the Nintendo Wii. The most beautiful part of it is the top floor of this place, the "Electronic Sports Stadium". It's not an arcade, not really...it's in fact a stadium where people gather together to watch two guys playing Starcraft or whatever. So basically it's like being in Jacob and Joe's room in college, only with a huge audience and it's actually broadcast on the teevee. Awesomely dynamic.

After our little nerd break, we decided to continue the dork vibe, but with a slightly different tack. We headed downtown to the Sejong Performing Arts Center because I wanted to get some culture, and there was an exhibit of Steve McCurry photography on display. It featured, of course, the haunting and iconic Afghan Girl, a visually stunning photograph. I believe McCurry is at his best when he is taking portraits. There is no one else I've seen who can capture humanity on film like this man can...it's quite amazing. If you ever get a chance, I would absolutely recommend checking some of his work out. For those of you in South Korea who have not yet seen his work, the exhibit runs through the end of May, and is 8000W for adults.

We decided to take a little break and hang out in the warm (ish) sunshine in Gwanghwamun park near the Sejong PAC. Sorry for the awkward angle. (You will probably live, though)

And here we are standing at the statue of King Sejong himself, the man who not only set down the Hangul alphabet, but also apparently invented astronomy. The statue is a likeness of him personally bringing forth the science of astronomy from the heavens.

Following our little respite, we headed over to the very hip Hongdae area. It's the neighborhood around Hongik University, and is well known for being filled with the Korean equivalents of hipsters, trendsters, and scenesters. It was a pretty cool area, one I would like to explore when I am not quite so tired. Or trying to corral such a large group of 20-somethings (there were like 10 of us). We ate at a very pleasant Indian restaurant (following our Thai lunch, naturally) and then left to grab a beer or two before embarking on the long journey home.

You can see how excited I am to get on the metro for about an hour and a half (not catching an express train is really quite awful).

Yikes. This is turning into something rather longer than I had planned. Stay tuned for Part II, in which I spend three days out in the boonies learning how to teach...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two things

Two very important things happened to me today. I shall tell you about them...now:


I should have brought in my video camera today. This was too great not to be seen. After the child labor cleaning crew had come through and done their standard mediocre job, about 5 of them decided to hang behind and play with some of the toys in the short bookcases near my desk. While they were playing, one of the pieces fell behind the bookcase, and through amazing teamwork, the four of them (one of the kids was supervising) managed to pull out the bookcase and retrieve the wayward piece. Getting it back would prove to be a more difficult challenge.

"Hana, dul, set!" shouted the supervisor. The four laborers strained to push the case back.

"Hana, dul, set!" came the command again. More straining. No movement.

This continued on for about 10 more minutes, with pauses to conference about the best way to move the bookcase back. Meanwhile, Teacher Nolen sat at his desk snickering.

Finally, I got up, and used my Super Waygook Strength to push the bookcase back. It had gotten stuck on something on the floor. The children were duly impressed (because I am a very impressive individual).

That is one thing! Now on to...


Today I learned that Teri Hatcher got her start on The Love Boat.

Welcome to my blog. Come for the stories, stay for the Teri Hatcher factoids.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Culture Tips

I just had to share this with you guys...this comes from the English teacher's guide to my fifth grade text book, the chapter on exclamatory and descriptive statements.

The Culture of Exclamation

Western people show exclamation even over trifles. This phenomenon isn't found in an oriental culture that appreciates people who control their feeling and taciturn. We can usually see Americans who are moved so easily by things that Koreans aren't effected by. This means they are accustomed to expressing feeling freely and frankly.

In western culture, they start a conversation about the weather when they meet someone for the first time: 'It's a lovely day, isn't it?'. This is referenced to the inclement weather in England.

The people who live in an area with nice weather like Korea aren't touched by this kind of thing but Englishmen can be impressed.

Translation: Westerners are weird. They like to state the obvious. A lot. Just go with it.

What is this I don't even.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Surprise Camping Trip!

Haha suckas! I found out yesterday that the fourth and fifth graders are going on a school camping trip to learn about nature or whatever. They will be gone Tuesday (today) and Wednesday (tomorrow), the positive upshot of which is my regular classes are all cancelled. Hooray! I still have to do my after school classes, though, so it's not all a free ride. But that's the thing about teaching public schools in Korea: nobody tells you when random things like this are happening, so it's always a surprise! In fact, one of my friends stayed up late last night and got up early this morning to hammer out some lesson plans, only to find out that she didn't have any classes today. SURPRISE! It's so dynamic!

Similarly, I'm going to be gone next week from Mon-Wed at an off-site GEPIK orientation/teaching seminar. So it'll be some time again before I have a full week of classes. Woot!

In other news, I'm hoping to go to Seoul this weekend to see the Steve McCurry exhibit that is showing there. If you aren't familiar with the name, Steve McCurry is a very prominent photojournalist who has focuses mainly on Asia. He rose to fame in the mid-80s with his chronicle of the Afghan War, first by being embedded amongst the actual fighters, and then through his documentation of the refugee situation. He is most famous for his iconic photograph, "Afghan Girl", which the National Geographic magazine ran as the cover to its June 1985 issue.

You can see why it's so famous. And hopefully why I am so excited to go see this guy's work. Out of anyone I've seen, he really has a serious knack for capturing some essential humanity in all of his subjects. Captivating.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

So tired!

Sorry for the lazy video post today, but I have approximately 8000 things to do and the desire to do exactly none of them. I mean, I was lesson planning today, and I planned maybe half my lessons for the week. The thing is, at least two more lessons just need me to look at what's next in the textbook and then write that down on paper. And I didn't even do that! WTF ever, deal. And I went to EMart at least three times intending to look at wireless routers to put in my apartment, and guess how many times I did not look at a single router? ALL THREE. WIN.

So here is a video of the bowling outing in Dongtan last Saturday. It doesn't feature me, except as a terrible narrator, but you can see lots of the people I hang out with, so that's good news.

After bowling, we went out for Indian food. Which was good! But it was...dynamic...getting there (to say the least). I didn't actually start eating until about 10pm. Please insert long discussion about going out to dinner with groups of 20 people here. Blah blah blah.

I promise a post with pictures of some of the smallest children I teach as well as other, more interesting posts as soon as I stop feeling like crap 24/7 because of stupid China and Mongolia

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Good news, everybody!

I have internet now! In the comfort of my own home! Now I am free to Skype at will.

Getting the internet was surprisingly easy. Emjee called this afternoon and set up an appointment with T-broad, the internet people here in Gyeonggi-do, and promptly at 6 the guy arrived to install. There was some confusion regarding the mac (windows is king here), but that was quickly resolved and he was on his way. No fuss, no muss, and I'm paying a little less than 35000W/mo (~$30 US) and I get the first three months free. Hooray! Now all I have left to do is to purchase a mobile phone and I'm all set!

The tragic downside to this, of course, is I no longer have cable. BOO. I guess now I will have to decide if I want to shell out the W for cable or get a nice phone. We'll see (I'm leaning toward the cell phone, they have some really crazy ones here).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Another teaching post! Hooray!

Sorry no pics this time, they refused to move from my camera to the computer. Jerks.

You guys! I was paid a really nice compliment this afternoon by my co-teacher, 뮹주 (Myungju, or Emjee which is her English name). She told me that not only was I doing well, but that I seemed to be a natural at teaching the children. Even the other teachers on the floor were impressed by me. So that was a great little ego boost that I just had to share with you, internet.

And the smallest children I teach are steadily growing into the most adorable little bastards I've ever seen! Class is still mostly a loud playtime for them, but I'm trying to inject some English into the playing so hopefully it will stick. Also, I was taking photos of them so you could see how obscenely cute they are (seriously, I think Asian babies win for "cutest babies in the world"), and they got a hold of my camera. And the results were...well, that's for another post.

In other news, this afternoon I left work early to go back to Suwon to pick up my now-ready Alien Registration Card. Which is basically a green card. It's even green and everything! And after that, I hustled over to a bank to open a bank account cause Shakespeare got to get paid, son. Of course, I had no idea where a bank was in the vicinity of the Suwon Immigration Center, I only knew that I had until 4pm to get to one. I got out of the immigration center at approximately 3:57pm. You know the scene near the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Where Matthew Broderick is trying to beat Jennifer Grey and his father home? It was basically like that, only I had NO IDEA where the heck to go. I was, in essence, running around a few block radius frantically looking for a bank.

BUT I AM FILLED WITH AWESOME, so obviously I found one. And it was only like 10 after 4! Also, it turns out that the banks are open until 4:30. So that all worked out. And now I have a bank account. Which means I can get money from my school, AND I can get a cell phone account and an internet account. I am finally feeling like a real boy!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Yellow Dust

You may recall my complaints about yellow dust from such places as "facebook" or "tumblr" or "real life". But just for you, I will regale you once more with the story! Basically what happens is that dust from the Gobi desert gets blown over China where it mixes with wonderful toxic pollutants (thanks guys!). It is then carried over the Korean peninsula and over to Japan giving everything a wonderful yellow tint and making everybody sick.

The Korean Meterological Association has a much better/more technical discussion here. You should read it! There is history!
This is the yellow dust look in South Korea. It is all the rage.

Long story short, I feel like crap today. It is like allergies plus respiratory issues all rolled into one big ball of fun! And it's not just me, either. I am sick, my coteacher is sick, and at least two other teachers on my floor are sick. But we are such troopers, you guys! We came into work ANYWAY, just to hopefully get the little children sick.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Warning! Boring Self-Evaluative Post to come!

Yesterday, at 6pm Korea Standard Time (or something like that) was a very auspicious occasion. Exactly one month ago, my plane landed on the runway in Seoul Incheon International Airport. Exactly one month ago, I started my Korean adventure.

Alot has happened since then - alot. It doesn't seem like it's been one month; it seems at once so much longer and so much shorter than that. It feels like I've been here practically a lifetime; yet only a few days. I've had dramas; computers and teaching; translation and scheduling. But overall it's been a great experience here. I've started to make some cool friends from places I'd never imagined I'd count friends. From Korea and South Africa to folks from back home in the US - even another Okie!

I've had some great adventures with these people too, visiting Seoul and playing what was either petit golf or very large croquet in Dongtan. Noraebang and traditional Korean dinners followed by American movies. Foreigner gatherings tons of friends and long walks around Osan by myself - it seems like I've done so much.

And yet I've got quite alot to do. I want to see the temples of the countryside and the museums of Seoul. I want to have more Korean dinners and find some great clubs to visit. I want to hike the mountains of Gangnam and visit the beaches of Jeollanam-do. The best part is I know I'll get there, and I'm so excited for what's to come.

As for teaching, I finally feel like I'm getting the hang of it. It started out rough - being in a class with thirty students who really have no idea what you're saying is mildly terrifying, to say the least. But this week went pretty darn well. I had my Friday classes which can be the most trying, but my lessons actually worked - teaching the youngest kids a song about opposites got them up and dancing - actively participating in the lesson. For the next class, we had a good time learning Simon Says and simple commands, and then my last class of the day had a great time with my scavenger hunt to teach them some/any and how to ask for things.

Overall, this month has been very up for me. And with my ARC coming this week - and a bank account, internet, and mobile phone soon to follow - things are looking great for next month. I know there will be downs just as there are ups, but you know what? I'm ready.

Bring it, Korea.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Horrible news!

Kim Yu-na announced today that she would be retiring from figure skating indefinitely, Korean news agency Chosun Ilbo reports. Earlier, Kim spoke with reporters:

"Following my defeat at the World Figure Skating Championships, I have realized that figure skating is not, and cannot, be my whole life. I think I am ready to go back to being just a normal girl."

With her win at the Vancouver Olympics, she was officially crowned what the world was already calling her: "Queen Yu-na". Her meteoric rise to stardom could only be matched by her fall from grace: in the few short seconds it took her to miss a layback spin in her short program at Torino, her country - where she was the highest-paid athlete, and one of the highest-paid people - turned its back on her.

The reaction at home was swift and severe. As people awoke to find out that not only had she not won, but had placed second to Mao Asada from Japan, anger swept the nation. Riots broke out, as demonstrators took to the streets from Seoul to Busan. "I was heart broken," wept one Seoul resident, "I thou
ght she would lead us to the very forefront of the international stage, to take our rightful place as a leading nation!"

But, alas, it was not to be. For Kim Yu-na, her star shone too bright, and spun too quickly.

For the full text of the article, please read here