Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Teacher Angry"

                                                                  War Museum

                                                                  War Museum

                                                                 War Museum

                                                Su, SJ, me, Sunyoung at Sunyoung's wedding!

Happy Tuesday!

It is Tuesday evening in Korea, and I am catching up on a lot of chores and listening to Christmas music.  I just got home from grocery shopping which is always an adventure.  Every time I grocery shop I have a mild anxiety attack.  There are at least 4 grocery stores (do not picture American supermarket- picture dirty, crowded stores with lots of unidentifiable food) and the street market within a 5 minute walk of my apartment.  All of the grocery stores have a person whose job is to stand in the aisles with a microphone and YELL deals and sales (obviously, in Korean.)  As if boxes stacked up in the aisle, throngs of pushy old women, my inability to read a single label (I buy things based on the pictures on the front.  As you can imagine this does not always work out so well), and not knowing where to find most of what I need is not stressful enough, there is someone just shouting at you in a foreign language the entire time.  It's kind of funny in a "this actually give me anxiety" way.

 Today was a nice day in Seoul- it is still freezing, but it has started snowing which is at least pleasant to watch from the window (some of which are open.  I will never understand this, but the explanation usually amounts to "the air is not fresh").  School is winding down for the students, and they are definitely behaving like it is too.  Today, I became so frustrated with one 6th grade boy, I asked him to leave the class.  I sent him back to his homeroom, and although I'm not sure what they did to him, I gathered he got in big trouble.  He also had to come apologize to me later.  The rest of the students during the day would walk by me and put their fingers on their head to make little horns and say, "Teacher angry!"  Yes, that's right kids, hold on to your hats because Ms. Ban IS angry.  Not all of it is like this though- most of my classes in the last week have been fun.

I think it would make my life easier if I knew all the kids names.  Unfortunately, I do not have the mental capacity to learn 700 Korean names.  I know most of my "favorites," and there are some kids with English names that I remember - such as Transformer, Brain (I'm pretty sure he meant to be Brian), and the best friends in the 6th grade who named themselves Tom and Jerry.  They always remind me "teacher, we best friends."  Not knowing the names is not usually a big deal, but sometimes it is hard to get a kid's attention.  For example, today a girl in the back of my class was just chattering away.  After a generic, "everyone be quiet," "Look up here please!" and "listen!" I tried, "Team 5! Team 5!" (hoping someone in her group would tap her), and finally a sharp, "In the back! Be Quiet!" and "You in the blue!"  I have to remember sometimes that some of these students literally speak NO English.  They don't study, they don't go to "academy" (a topic I will get to in a minute), and, frankly, they do not care.  None of the phrases I say mean ANYTHING to them.  I have to tap desks a lot to get their attention.

A lot of my students, including the little ones go to what they call "Academy."  I knew kids spent a lot of time after school studying with private tutors at these academies, but I did not realize how intense it was until I was practicing "daily routines" with my 6th graders.  Many of them wrote on their daily schedules that they are in class until 10-11PM.  Some of them don't even go to bed until 1am.  I was shocked- they're in the 6th grade.  From what I've gathered, "academy" covers many subjects, but I can definitely tell the kids who focus on English and those who do not.  Academy supplements the education system here, and I think anyone who can afford it sends their kids to these intense lessons.  Although I don't think academy is really healthy for the students, it does not surprise me that Korea is such a technological powerhouse- if you shove education down kids throats like that you're bound to end up with a pretty impressive workforce eventually.

Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to get to attend my advisor's wedding.  Korean weddings are very different that American weddings.  To begin with, you don't give the couple gifts - you give them money.  When you arrive at the wedding, you put your cash in a special envelope with your name on it, and then you turn the envelope in to a man at the door.  The wedding was at a wedding hall- apparently, there are a lot of these all over Seoul.  There are a lot of weddings going on at one time- all in different rooms.  The turnover is fast too- the hall gets you in and out of there in no time.  The room we were in looked like a ballroom of a hotel and was full of people.  I sat with my coteachers, and we were served lunch.  While everyone was eating and talking, the bride walks in and the ceremony takes place while people eat.  After a short ceremony, people sporadically get up from their tables to take pictures with the wedding party (No one smiles.  I asked why everyone looked so serious and was told "Koreans do not like to show emotions.").  I was forced into one picture which I could only gather was "the single girl" photo.  It was really uncomfortable because a lot of people were pointing at me - the only foreigner in the room.  Anyway, the wedding was fascinating and my advisor, Sunyoung, looked beautiful, and I am definitely glad I attended. 

Sunday, I entertained myself for several hours at the War Museum.  This museum houses not only tons of stuff from the Korean War, but from all wars in Korea's history.  Obviously, this adds up to a lot of stuff since Korea has been occupied by just about everyone over the years.  Honestly, those academies must be pretty amazing because after visiting the museum, I was even more impressed with how advanced Korea is for having such a, well, repressive history.  They are such impressive people.  Pictures of the museum are above.

Have a great week!
Love, Andie



  


Monday, November 30, 2009

My Fat South African Boyfriend

                                                           Gardens at Changdeokgung

                                                  Tour at Changdeokgung

                                                           Tour at Changdeokgung

                                                        Tour at Changdeokgung

                                                                Changdeokgung

Hi all,

It's the week after Thanksgiving, and I am still surprisingly not homesick.  Living and working here is still great fun.  Last weekend, I spent the weekend shopping in Insadong, a traditional shopping neighborhod.  Most of the stuff in in Insadong is handmade and distinctly Korean.  Despite the freezing weather, there is so much to see here, and I spent hours going in and out of all the little shops.  There is silver, stationary, jewelry, scarves, and knickknacks.  I also spent last weekend touring Chongdeok Palace for a few hours.  This palace, although smaller than Gyeongbok - the first palace I toured in Seoul - is very similar.  Like a lot of things in Korea, its quite simple, but it has exquisite details.  That day was also cold and damp, but it was definitely worth the 2 hour walking tour of the grounds.

Thursday was Thanksgiving Day, and in order to celebrate my friends and I went out to try live octopus.  A video is below.  The octopus isn't technically still alive when you eat it- although it is still moving.  The restaurant we went to took a live octopus and chopped it up on a plate then set it on the table.  Octopus' are surprisingly strong little fighters- getting the moving tentacles off the plate with chopsticks is difficult because they suction themselves to the plate so tightly.  When you chew it up they tentacles also suction to the inside of your mouth.  They taste alright, but are very chewy.   I'm really glad I tried it; however, I'm not sure I'll eat this again.

Friday night I had a proper Thanksgiving dinner at an American restaurant.  A large group of us made reservations and actually got to have turkey, stuffing, and pie.  It was amazing.  I continued eating my way through Saturday at the Fancy Food Show in Seoul.  Although the show, held at a large exhibition hall in a nice area of the city, was mostly coffee, there were some dessert samples and also lots of wine tasting.  

Anyway, teaching the last few weeks has been entertaining to say the least.  My 3rd and 4th grade class is still a huge challenge, but it is getting better.  The kids will not say anything in class though.  No matter what I say or do they all just stare at me like they are terrified and have no idea what is going on - I spend the entire 40 minutes mostly talking to myself.  I played a game with them on the first day where they had to stand in a circle.  After struggling to overcome the blank stares to actually get them in a circle, we played a get to know you game that was about as fun as pulling their teeth.  After we finished, I said, "Ok, good job, go sit down now."  All 23 little bodies just immediately dropped to the floor and continued to stare at me. I had to go tap a desk and demonstrate that I meant sit in your desk not on the floor.

In my other classes I always have to come up with different games to play.  One of my go-to games is Tic-Tac-Toe with words in the boxes.  (2 students stand up and one asks a question and one answers it using a vocabulary word in the box then the team gets an X or an O in that box).  For some reason, no one, including one of my co-teachers, can wrap their head around tic-tac-toe.  Even though they have started calling it "Little Bingo," it still seems to confuse the majority of my classes.  Go figure.

My students are amusing, but I don't think any of them can compete with my principal and vice-principals.  On Thursday our school's teachers had a volleyball game against the teachers at a neighboring elementary school.  The school brought along their English teacher, and I talked to her while we watched the game.  My principal, clad in a windsuit, walked up and asked her if she had a boyfriend.  He then added, "Andie...she...boyfriend.  He...ummm... he South Africa!  He verrrry, verrrrry FAT! (make awkward large gestures using windsuit)"  He then proceeded to crack up and walk away.  I don't even know where he comes up with this stuff.  My vice-principal is also hilarious.  He doesn't speak any English, but at 4:40 on the dot every day he throws his arm up and points to the door and yells, "GO TO YOUR HOME!"  At first it would startle me, but now it just makes me smile.

I miss you all, and I will try to be better about updating my blog!

Love, 
Andie

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner in Korea=Live Octopus

video
This was my Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm not sure I'll eat it again, but it was surprisingly delicious.
<3,>

Happy Thanksgiving From Seoul!


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I've spent this week trying to teach the kids here about the holiday.  Here is the result:

My class with their I am thankful for leaf projects.  Unfortunately, I do not have a close-up of the student who was thankful for "Cake, Food, IceCream, and Money."


This is one of my favorite students.  He is thankful for "his job."  

The student in blue told the student in gray that "you be thankful that you have air, ok?" 

                                                                  Transformer!

She is thankful for "Funny School."  I'm not sure I'm doing a good job haha.

I told the students to label the food in their Thanksgiving books.  This student decided to make a dialogue and draw pictures.  Love overachievers.

My favorite Thanksgiving book cover.  Apparently this is what Thanksgiving looks like in Korea.

                                                                      Santa Clause?

                                Everyone loves turkey in a bowtie.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My market!

Since I moved in a few months ago, I've been meaning to share some photos of the lovely little market I have down the street from my apartment.  I walk through it twice a day going and coming from school.  Sometimes I like to just go wander through it because there is just so much to look at there.  I love it!

Fresh Fish at my market

They sell any vegetable you can imagine. I'm still embarrassingly bad at pronouncing most of it.

                                        The herb and root stall at the market

                      A view of the market that is right down the street from my apartment and school!

Penpals and Lantern Festival

                                    Lanterns at the Seoul Lantern Festival!

                              Zodiac Lanterns at the Seoul Lantern Festival

                                                        Colorful 4th Grade Penpal letter!
Hi all,

I hope you are having a good weekend!  The weeks are just flying by over here, and I am still having the time of my life.  My students never cease to make me smile.  I like observing how every single conflict -from a fight to who rolls the dice first in a board game - can all be solved by rock paper scissors.  They play this constantly, and are all very competitive about it.  It is funny to watch because whoever loses automatically just drops the conflict as if the other person winning rock paper scissors means that the other person was automatically right.  It's fascinating. 

My students have also all started to wear face masks.  Koreans are petrified of getting the "new flu," and they take a lot of precautions.  Despite the fact that they all eat family style at restaurants and don't have hand soap in the bathroom, almost everyone in the city walks around wearing a face mask.  Some students at school have indeed gotten the flu, but most have been back within a week.  My students love to tell me about the powers of Tamiflu and what it does for you if you "eat it."  Almost every day this week a student has said something like, "Miss Ban! Miss Ban! So and so had new flu.  He ate Tamiflu!  Now he (flex muscles, roar, or growl) not have flu.  He eat Tamiflu! (Flex muscles again to show strength of Tamiflu)"  The masks are easy to make fun of (I actually had a man last week sitting across from me on the subway wearing a full on gas mask.)  It's crazy.  The masks drive me nuts though in class because I can't tell who is talking when I hear noise and all their little English voices are muffled.  Yesterday I saw a child wearing a mask that covered most of his face and his jacket hood was covering his eyes and he walked straight into the wall.  I think that's what happens when you cover up too much.

My 4th grade extracurricular class wrote letters yesterday to my friend Christine's class in Atlanta.  They were so excited to hear that they would be getting letters back in a few weeks.  I was really proud of the letters they wrote- they worked really hard on them and many drew pictures on them with Korean flags or hearts or flowers.  For 4th graders who are only learning basic English they did a great job!  They were so adorable-- here are a couple samples and there is a picture above:

Dear Cierra and Anthony,
My name is so hun youn
How are you.  Nice to meet you Cierra and Anthony
What do you like to do?
I'm learn English. 
How do you feel?  I'm happy.
What do you like? I'm read a book.
Where are you? I'm South Korea
I am 4th grade
I like food I Birthday is May 5th
What do you birthday?
I hope to talk to you soon
Best, Sohun

#2:

Dear Ziquavious and Bionca
My name is Jae min Kim
How are you I'm happy
Nice to meet you Ziquavous
Do you like listen to music? like listen to music.
Where are you I'm Asia, South Korea, Seoul, GilDong Elementary School 4th grade, English class
I'm Birthday is August 5th
I'm like Food Kim-chi
My dream is Accountant.
I hope to talk to you soon.
Best, Jae min

These letters all just put a big smile on my face!  I'm writing more letters to a different friend's class on Monday with some of my older students so I hope that goes well too!  School has been going so well sometimes I forget it is even work.  The next month will be very busy though.  I wrote a proposal to the school a few weeks ago asking for overtime hours in the afternoons (since I only teach 22 hours a week and sit on facebook for the rest of they day).  They finally gave me four more classes to teach!  I'm really excited, not only for the extra pay, but so I'm not bored out of mind between 1 -4pm every single day.  The classes they gave me are extracurricular classes though, and they don't have a topic, so it is up to me to plan lessons regarding anything I want.  For next week there will be lessons on penpals, months of the year, and adjectives with MadLibs (for my 6th graders).  I hope it goes alright. The worst feeling is when I spend a lot of time planning something that I think will be great only to realize that no one has a clue what is going on and I only get deer in headlights looks from everyone in the class.

Anyway, my week went by quickly with nothing too exciting to report.  Lunch at school is still something I am getting used to - the other day I had the unfortunate circumstance of realizing that my "crunchy coleslaw" was staring at me.  In the lunch line I got excited to see coleslaw and helped myself to a big spoonful.  After one crunchy bite, I realized my food was looking at me.  My coleslaw was actually made of tiny little dried fish that still had eyes on it.  Gross.  Apparently, I need to inspect my food more carefully in the future.  Friday night I attended the Seoul Lantern Festival which was amazing!  Lanterns from all over the world are there and if you follow the stream through downtown there is a very long stretch of floating lanterns- it was a beautiful scene.  

I will continue to keep you all updated on my adventures.

Love,
Andie


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Assimilation

Hi everyone!

Yet another week has passed in Seoul!  Last week the weather here was beautiful- chilly, but a nice crisp autumn.  Sunday, however, the weather got very chilly followed by yesterday and today only being about 30 degrees.  I knew coming over here that Seoul got cold, but I am really not prepared at all for this weather.  As in, before yesterday after school I didn't even have a pair of socks.  My friend saw me yesterday and started practically throwing winter clothes at me so I wouldn't freeze.  I didn't realize winter was such a, well, process.  I still haven't bought gloves, and according to my friends, I still don't own a warm enough coat to be living here.  My co-teacher asked me today where "is your muff?"  Muff??  I replied that I left it at home, and she told me I needed to get one.  I later had to google image search this just to figure out to what she was referring.  Saturday I will be going shopping in hopes of finding boots, socks, gloves, scarves, and a few thick sweaters.  I'm told I should also get some thermals (something else I had to google image search) and a hat.  My deep South winters have not prepared me well.

Luckily, yesterday was the first day Gil-Dong Elementary School decided to turn the heat on.  The heating system is really bizarre though.  The hallways of the school are all linoleum and concrete with rows of windows along one wall.  The windows, even in freezing weather, are sometimes left open with the outside doors that are intermittently placed down the hallway.  I think the hallway is colder than the outside weather.  You have to bundle up to go to the bathroom or walk between classes.  The classrooms have one big heat vent that comes down from the middle of the ceiling.  It gets pretty warm right underneath it, but the corners of the classrooms and around the doors and windows are still very cold.  Today, I wore my coat to teach, and all my kids stayed in their coats throughout their classes.  Some even had on earmuffs and gloves.  I'm pretty sure it's going to be a long winter for me.  Luckily, I did figure out how to work my heat today at home.  I have heat under my floor that makes my floor nice and toasty.  I'm not sure how much it actually heats up the room, but I'm content right now so I guess it will be ok.

Teaching is still going well.  I have been trying to come up with some new games to play since the ones in the book are really stupid.  Not only are they really complicated and unhelpful, they all involve cutting out picture cards out of the back of the text book.  Inevitably, half these cards end up on the floor or half the class loses their cards and can't play the game.  I can't decide how useful this curriculum is to the students.  In the 6th grade last week I was teaching the chapter "Will you help me, please?"  We have a CD we have to listen to and have the students repeat after it from a dialogue.  One of the repeat phrases was, "Honey, will you help me?"  This is fine for a native English speaker, but for language learners the Honey in front is really silly.  I heard a kid the other day ask another kid, "Honey, will you help me?"  I'm also currently teaching a chapter called, "Oh, That's Too Bad!"  I'm not sure how I feel about this being the automatic response to every ailment under the sun.  Someone has swine flu? A broken leg? A bloody nose? A tumor?  Oh that's too bad.  I also need to work on their responses to "How are you today?" (A question I ask all the time).  Most of the kids automatically say, "I AM SO-SO!!"  This is a response, yes, but in any real life situation (aka at a hotel, restaurant, taxi, etc. in an English speaking country) when someone, particularly a stranger, asks how you are, I feel like it is bizarre to just respond "I am SO-SO!!" then walk away. I know I'm supposed to mostly stick to the curriculum, but these kids mostly sound like little automatons, and not only should I teach these kids English, but I have to help them sound less ridiculous doing it too.  It's a really fun job. 

My school lunches are less fun.  I think since it has gotten colder, the food has gotten worse.  For example, today for lunch I ate rice, these weird fried potato things slathered in a ketchupy sauce, an tofu/potato soup.  Oh, and a scoop of seaweed.  Yesterday, I had rice, fishballs (like meatballs made of fish, but way worse than you are imagining), and kimchi.  We have soup every day.  I usually pass on it because it usually has fish in it, and even the smell of it makes my stomach turn.  We also have rice and kimchi every day.  I try and eat a little of everything, but it is really hard.  At least my efforts are noticed since sometimes my principal will tell me "Andie, you good man.  You adjust well to Korean food! Good adjust!"  My chopsticks skills are also quite impressive these days.  Last week we had spaghetti with hotdog sauce on it (I love "international" lunch days), and I didn't get a drop of anything on me, the table, or anyone seated around me.  I like to think eating spaghetti with chopsticks means that I have successfully assimilated into Korea.  That's what I'm telling myself anyway.

Have a great week!
Love, Andie


Monday, November 2, 2009

Korean Musical

video

This is a short excerpt of the 2 hour musical I went to with my landlords last week.  Most of the music was really good, but I had no idea what was going on most of the time.  It was very kind of my landlords to invite me to go see this traditional music.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ms. Ban

Happy Tuesday and Happy Birthday Mom!

I'm having a good day thanks to a little girl who came up to me after English class today and proudly presented me with two stickers she made for me.  They are hot pink with white typed font - one reads "ANDY <3" and the other says, "MS. BAN"  Most of the students call me Ms. Bawn because they can't make the V sound for Vaughn (kind of like they cannot make the z sound and I have to repeatedly say "No, you didn't go to the Jew...you went to the Zoo.) , but I had no idea most students actually think this is my name.  Anyway, despite the fact that she got both my names incorrect, I thought this was the cutest thing in the world.

On Thursday I had another cute incident when I was finishing class and talking to my coteacher.  A little 1st grade girl came in, and she was round as she was tall.  To get the full effect she was also wearing white sweat pants and a neon orange tshirt and had her hair in pigtails.  She walked up to me and just STARED at me like I was a celebrity and I said "Hello" and she was just staring then goes "HELLO!" and I smiled and go How are you?  and she stares for a minute and goes "I LOVE YOU!" while simultaneously making an M with her hands on her head (like you would in YMCA) in order to make a heart while courtseying down and just grinning at me then BOLTED away.  She was SO cute I want to bring her home with me and have her do that every hour.

This made me feel much better about myself since I made a 5th grade boy cry on Thursday morning.  Sometimes I think I'm probably the worst teacher in the world - these kids really try my patience.

Another thing that has seriously been upsetting me lately is the humiliation of shopping in Korea.  A saleslady actually made me cry over the weekend.  Anyway, I'm in desperate need of some jeans, boots, and underwear.  I went shopping all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (in between a rugby game, meeting up with friends, and exploring my neighborhood more).  I don't normally think of myself as a big girl, but it's really depressing when I walk into a jeans store and the saleslady says, "oh, we don't make you size," or how in a shoe store I wasn't allowed to try on boots because "my legs big."  The worst was at the underwear store where I realized even the XL wouldn't fit me, and the lady told me that I should come back for the 2XL when they get some in stock.  I'm thinking that my shopping problem may be cured by the time I come back home due to the fact that I'm apparently way to large to be shopping in Asia.  I came home empty handed all three days.

Anyway, last week I also got my first idea of what it is like to live in a country that is technically still at war-- a fact that I normally completely forget.  I was just sitting in my classroom waiting on some little 6th grade crazy to finish writing "I will be respectful." fifty times, when all these loud sirens start going off and there are loudspeakers- not just like in the school but coming from outside too with someone shouting in Korean.  What. The. Heck.  I didn't know if I should like get under something or what... I was like oh no my mom was right I'm about to get nuked by the North.

Alas, no one around me looked the least bit concerned.  Apparently they do this for 15 minutes every other month for "practice."  You can't go outside and all traffic and movement stops.  Why didn't anyone tell me this?  (looking back it really isn't a big deal, but I think they still should have mentioned this to me!)  When I finally asked what was going on, it was whispered "It's because...you know.... of the North.  Andie, we are country in two.  You know?"  Yes, got it.  Ridiculous.  I literally thought I was about to get bombed.  

Anyway, I hope everyone has a great rest of the week!
Happy Halloween!

-Andie

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall is here!

Hi all,

Fall is here in Seoul!  I'm currently at school, and I'm freezing.  I figured out that there is no central heat in my school or my apartment.  My apartment only has floor heat (my floor gets very warm.  I don't really understand how to work this function right now.  I actually can't turn it off?).  My school is like a concrete ice box, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to teach all bundled up throughout the winter.  It is really bizarre- every day I come in and all the doors and window of the school are wide open.  When I go to my classroom, my coteacher always opens the windows too "because the air is not fresh."  I think I'm missing something.

The last couple weeks have been fairly uneventful.  I've been trying to stay in more often - I waste a lot of money and calories going out to eat, out to coffee, and out to bars.  My schedule now consists more of going to school, going to the gym, making dinner, taking a shower, and watching tv, reading, or hanging out with my friend Arianna who lives upstairs.  

School has also been fairly uneventful too.  I'm still battling the 6th grade- working daily on how to teach kids not to be little punks.  It's really exasperating some days because I get so frustrated and want to just yell at them, but none of them have...any...idea....what...I.
..am....saying...unless....I .....talk....like...this....and...it....is...sooooo...hard....to....talk...like...this....when...a...kid...is...being...absurd...Even....at...this...speed....half...of...what....I...say...is...beyond...their...comprehension...level.  Ugh.
I've started making kids stand in the corner, write sentences, or pick up the classroom after class.   

There are, of course, the kids that make my day enjoyable.  Some of them are absolutely adorable and really nice.  There are others who are hilarious.  For example, the other day I had words on the board in a large video game controller I made, and when I hit the "button" next to the word, the students had to do whatever the word said.  I hit the button "Dancing," and while most kids shyly boogied, I had one kid jump all the way across the classroom singing and dancing to "Superman that Ho."  He can't make a full sentence, but he clearly has picked up on at least some American "culture."  Most of my kids know completely inappropriate or useless English- I don't know where they get it from, but I catch them giving each other the finger all the time and I had an adorable little 4th grade girl come in with "F*** You" on her binder the other day.  I made her erase it and tried to tell her that it was a very bad thing to say, but I'm pretty sure she didn't really grasp what I was saying.  Where do they get this stuff??  Most of them can't even tell me what day it is.

My principal, per usual, has also been hilarious this week.  Yesterday, he walked over with the vice principal and goes "Andie. every year. we take picture. our school family.  you family.  you take picture.  you choose. today or yesterday."
and I go, "tomorrow?"
and he responds, "today or tomorrow. you choose."
"and i go, "it doesnt matter... today is fine."
and they look me UP and DOWN and say, "tomorrow?"
and I say,  "today?"
and they respond, "andie. you choose! today or tomorrow."
and I say, "today."
and they look at me, and my hair and clothes and go "oh ok tomorrow."
Before I left school yesterday he told me to make sure I "look good" tomorrow "for photo."  Then he added to "do make-up."  I want to say I was offended, but he really means well, and I know he really likes me so I don't think he is being mean.  This is my life, haha.

I've started studying Korean in the afternoons.  It is not going anywhere fast, and although I can read Korean/Hangul, I have NO idea what 99% of it means.  I have no desire to be fluent, I really would just like to be functional.  When I speak with Koreans here who only know a little English, they all seem so impressed that I speak English.  It's weird- I want to say YOU are the one who is practically bilingual- I only speak my native language and a little French.  They need to give themselves more credit.  

Anyway, tomorrow I'm going to Seoul Fashion Week to see two designers.  I have no idea what to expect.  Then Friday I am debating on going on a hiking trip with my school that lasts until about 10pm.  I can't imagine this will be fun, but I'm thinking I should probably go anyway.  If I don't go, I have the day off and I'm going to put together a Halloween costume with my friend Sam.  I'll probably spend the rest of the weekend enjoying more of Seoul- shopping and exploring!

Miss you all!
Andie


Sunday, October 11, 2009

For my "mental health"

Happy Weekend!

First of all, Happy 90th birthday Grandma!  I know I'm a day late, but I hope you had a great weekend full of festivities.  Please send a picture of your birthday party!  

This past week was very low key for me.  Monday was part of my 4 day holiday, and the rest of the week just seemed to breeze right by me.  I went out for a wonderful Italian dinner on Tuesday with two good friends, spent a lot of time at the gym, and went jogging in Olympic Park with a friend on Thursday.  I escaped this week with almost no ridiculous incidents at school; however, Friday afternoon was my first day attending the newly implemented and weekly "school sports day" at Gil-Dong Elementary.  All teachers must join one of four clubs - badminton, table tennis, hiking, or yoga.  Once a week, your club spends an hour and a half doing the activity.  Because I'm embarrassingly bad at badminton and table tennis and I don't want to hike because it's only done by the men in school who speak no English, I joined the yoga club.  I did some yoga classes at my gym at school during spring semester, and although I'm not terrible at it, I am of the mindset that it's, for lack of a better term, a load of crap.  I usually want to giggle through most of the classes, and I think it's kind of a bad excuse for exercise.  Anyway, I digress.  

Friday afternoon, I got my yoga clothes on and got ready for the "class."  I entered the gymnasium where there was a huge projector with a yoga video on it.  The entire thing was in Korean and it only had badly translated English subtitles sometimes.  The name of the video was  "Diet Yoga."  Anyway, we did poses such as "The Awkward Pose," "The Pose that Twists Your Spine," and "The Baby Pose."  None of the poses were anything I had ever seen before- most of the time we just contorted our bodies into the most awkward positions possible and had to hold it for minutes at a time.  At one point I just started giggling.  Luckily, I survived "diet yoga" and made it to the gym Friday afternoon for some real exercise.  

The weekend was fun, but it was also kind of hard.  Saturday was Homecoming at Wake, and I knew that was going to be harder to miss than anything this year.  All week I got emails on the listserve I'm on with all my friends talking about flights into school and I watched as hundreds of facebook statuses changed into something like "Heading to the Dash" or "It's like Christmas!"  I'm definitely happy here, but I would have given anything to be in Winston-Salem for the weekend.  I almost cried a few times on Saturday, but I went shopping all weekend instead to console myself.

Shopping in Korea is amazing.  There are shoe stores and little boutiques everywhere.   As in, there are actually alleys that only have shoe vendors selling anything you could ever want on your feet. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have a terrible shopping problem (Dad I'm going to have to start sending you excel spreadsheets of every penny I spend again since I'm not mature enough to budget myself).  I've gotten into the bad habit of telling myself that what I buy is "for my mental health."  I always think, Oh, I'm far from home! This will make me happy! This is just what I need to stay sane!  For example, today I went all the way to Itaewon to an English bookstore and paid an absolutely obscene amount for a stack of English books and magazines.  I also broke down and bought two avocados that I found today.  So no one goes into shock I won't tell you how much they were, but, obviously, I needed them.  For my mental health.  I decided I'm going to have to start trying to stay sane in other ways.  Shopping here is going to be my downfall.

Anyway, I miss you all.  I hope everyone who spent the weekend at Wake had a great trip.  I want to hear about it!

Go Deacs,
Andie

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tokyo!

                 Imperial Palace grounds with Tokyo Tower in the background

Imperial Palace

                                                Hama-rikyu Gardens!

                                              View of Tokyo from the Mega Web!

                                                   The 5 story Pagoda.  My favorite!

                                                           Senso-ji

                                                              Ueno Park
                                                                   Ueno Park

Hi all,
I just returned home from a great weekend in Tokyo.  Before I begin to tell you about my adventures, I want to go ahead and apologize to anyone from my school who may eventually see this post.  I know I told you I had a great weekend camping with friends on Deokjeokdo like I did a couple weekends ago.  I hate lying to you, and I honestly do feel really bad about it.  However, since the principal told me I could not leave the country for fear of getting "the influenza" (despite the fact that I have a multiple entry visa, no stipulations about this in my contract, and most importantly that there were already 2 H1N1 cases at school the day I left), I decided that keeping my mouth shut was the best policy.  I do want you to know that I feel terrible about blatantly lying to you.  Since I am being honest, however, you should know that I will probably do this every long weekend and holiday for the next year if the same situation occurs.  I apologize in advance.

Anyway, Tokyo is an amazing city, and I had a great trip.  I arrived a little after lunch on Friday then got on a train to Ueno Station to meet my friend Rachel.  For those of you who don't know, Rachel is one of my best friends from Wake and my roommate senior year.  She is teaching English about two hours out of the city.  I finally met up with her (miraculously) about 3oclock, and we headed to our hotel.  Surprisingly, we found it really easily only a short walk away from the station.  After checking in to our hotel room (which was really tiny and looked something like the inside of a camper), we went exploring.  Unfortunately, it was raining, but we did stumble upon a cool temple in the neighborhood and a graveyard.  After this, we headed down to the area of Tokyo with the best restaurants and nightlife.  As you can imagine, there was an insane amount of people.  I honestly don't think I've ever seen more people in my life- to make it worse, it was still raining and everyone had umbrellas up.  We joked that you needed protective eyewear to safely navigate the streets.  I got poked and hit with so many umbrellas it is a wonder I am not all bruised in the face.  We took our time with our fantastic Japanese dinner then met up with some of Rachel's friends.  We didn't stay out too late though since we had so much sightseeing to do the next day.

Saturday morning we were up early and headed (still in the pouring rain) to Ueno Park.  The park was my favorite part of the weekend.  Around every path there was a cool temple, statue, garden, or fountain.  It all had an intensely Japanese feel to it- very simplistic and peaceful.  We meandered around for about two hours in the rain before deciding we better move on to other sights.  After a short sushi lunch and a quick tour of a large market, we headed over to see a great temple- Senso-ji.  The temple is at the back of a long shopping street.  The walk was beautiful despite the rain (and less crowded too!)  After exploring the temple and the nearby 5 story pagoda, we wandered around the area looking a few more smaller temples and some shopping streets.  Done with our plan for the day, we decided to head to a peaceful corner of the city where there were supposedly a lot of temples.  Unfortunately, our guidebook failed us and we ended up very confused, but we did find a lovely cemetery that had several important families in it (none of which I remember, but I remember being impressed at the time.  Fail, I know).  We looked at a few of the tombs and statues, and they were all really simple and beautiful.

Saturday night, we decided to take on the Mega Web- the largest ferris wheel in the world.  It took a little talking it up to get Rachel on board with this, but we finally decided to do it.  To get to the MegaWeb you have to take the newest subway line which is a monorail that goes around Tokyo Bay.  This may have been one of the highlights of my trip haha.  I actually recommend that if any of you go to Tokyo you need to just buy a monorail subway pass and ride from one end to the other at night.  I'm not even kidding.  Anyway, the ferris wheel was really cool- it takes about 16 minutes to go around one time then you have to get off.  We went to a late dinner after this- more good Japanese food!

Sunday morning we got up early, put our stuff in lockers at the train station, then headed to catch a boat which would take us down the river to the Imperial Palace.  After crossing under 16 bridges of varying shapes and colors, we got off our scenic boat ride and headed for Hama-rikyu Gardens.  The gardens are really simplistic- we explored the paths and a temple and looked around at some duck ponds.  Starving though, we headed out of the gardens pretty quickly.  Tired of Japanese food, we had lunch at "Oktoberfest"- stuffing ourselves with overpriced pretzels and sausages.  Later, we explored the palace grounds and gardens then rested in the park on the grounds.  I headed for the airport again about 4:30, and successfully made it back to Narita Airport right as my flight was boarding.  

Now I am back in Seoul ready to start a new week of teaching.  I even did my hair for tomorrow.  Last week my principal came over to me and said "Andie come here."  He then tells me in all seriousness (as serious as you can be in Konglish) that my hair looks better down.  I think it went something like this: "Andie, Uh, Andie, yo hair.  Yo hair.  It look better, I like better.  When it (make lots of gestures around shoulders).  What word? Down? Down.  Andie.  I like better yo hair.  Down.  Ok?  Ok Andie?  Down."  It was only the second time I'd pulled my hair back for school.  Now I'm self-conscious and will probably not do this again.  Ohhh Korea.

Miss you all!
Andie

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lemon Tree!

video

Today the kids worked on the chapter "What are you doing?" and they were just too cute not to film when we got to the part of the lesson where they sing "Lemon Tree."  What a great way to learn about verbs :)  

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just another week in Seoul

Konkuk University area on Saturday night
Hi all,
 
It's been another great week in Seoul, and I am looking forward to my upcoming long weekend.  Last week flew by - I stayed busy every day meeting up with friends after work and enjoying the city.  Thursday, FINALLY, was pay-day so I am now a millionaire.  Seriously though, after I got paid, I immediately bought a one year gym membership, worked out (FINALLLY!), and then I spent Thursday night celebrating the end of my poverty at a rooftop bar overlooking the city in Gangnam sipping chocolate martinis with my friends.  So this was probably excessive, but it was a good celebration for all we have been through together the last month.
 
To further my happiness, Friday was a school holiday at Gil-Dong Elementary.  The calender I got said it was a "Self-Control Day" which no one seemed able to explain to me.  I'm pretty sure something was very lost in translation, but I'm not one to complain for a paid day off.  I spent the day shopping in my neighborhood for necessary apartment items.  I'm now the proud owner of things like spoons, a collander, picture frames, cleaners of every type, and a squeegee mop so I can not hate my bathroom the following hours after I shower.  I also got my boxes from Mom and Dad on Friday- finally FedEx delivered them! Friday was pretty much the greatest day ever.... I now also have bedsheets!  Thanks Mom!
 
Friday night I went all the way across Seoul to On the Border for terrible, overpriced Mexican food for my friend's birthday.  Saturday, I got up early and met some girlfriends to shop at Myeong-Dong.  This area is amazing- its just tons of stores crammed into a few blocks where the streets are all walking streets with tons of vendors for food and junk on them.  They actually have one street that is all shoes.  It is completely overwhelming, but so much fun.  I got a few things, but we left around 3pm because the crowds just got too intense.  Saturday night I went to the Seoul drum festival (so cool!) then spent the rest of the night out in the Konkuk University area with friends.  It was really fun until five of us waited in line to get into a bar only to be told by the bouncer that we couldn't come inside.  When I asked why he said, "because of your skin. You can't come in because you white."  I've never been discriminated against, and it really made me angry.  
 
Monday morning I was back at school for another short week.  We have Friday and next Monday off for Chuseok (like Korean Thanksgiving).  This week I realized I have more kids with crazy English names.  Today I had one who had a nametag that said "Hell" and another that said "Black."  I still can't call on poor Transformer without cracking up inside.  I had the kids brainstorm words that relate to Chuseok for an activity the other day.  They had recently learned about utensils and some food items so I thought it would work.  Later, I was scanning one kid's sheet of paper and it read, "Game, Song, Money, Grandpa, Grandma, my Babymama" Babymama? Really?  You're 10...how did you get that word?
 
Yesterday, I got in trouble with the principal. I was trying to get off work a little early for an appointment.  I have a log I keep when I leave work and I have to get it signed by the principal. Unfortunately, yesterday, I wrote the one line entry in red pen.  I'm still not exactly sure of the cultural issues Korea has with red pen and marker, but I think it means something like blood, death or bad luck, and when I took the log to my principal you would have thought I came at him weilding a butcher knife.  He FREAKED out on me, and I had to redo my entire log and make a new one.   He was like "this is like blood! Andie! No! No!  Andie! Red pen! No! Andie, you go get new paper and redo this. This bad. This not good" I probably inappropriately responded, "can I use white out?" And he just took it from me and wouldn't give it back.  I think he thought I was trying to kill him or curse him.  I was so embarrassed haha.... he didn't speak to me the rest of the day.

Anyway, last night I had a great dinner with a friend at a korean barbeque place that was fantastic.  I am going out tonight and tomorrow night too - the food here is just so good!  Friday morning I am flying to Tokyo to visit Rachel- one of my roommates from senior year.  I am so excited!  I will let you all know how the trip goes when I get back next week!
 
Below is a video of Gil-Dong Elementary School's 3rd Grade Field Day.  These kids have been doing this for 2 days now and they line up like this all day.  It is hilarious!
video

Monday, September 21, 2009

Deokjeokdo Camping Trip!

         Our view from the tent in the morning!

Sitting on the beach watching the sunset

Another island we passed on the way to our island

Hi all,
 
It is a rainy Monday here in Seoul, and fall is definitely here.  I have finished teaching for today (I love Mondays- my 4th grader's are really good and so fun to work with!), and I wanted to give you all an update on my weekend in the great outdoors.  I stayed in Friday night to get some sleep, and I woke up early on Saturday and headed towards Incheon station (all the way on the west side of Seoul at the verrrry end of one subway line) to meet my friends Jason and Nick for camping.  We met up at the station then headed to the Incheon port to catch the ferry for Deokjeokdo Island.  A one hour ferry ride and a short bus ride later we were sitting on a beautiful beach looking out into the bay.  After some sunbathing on the beach, we swam out to a rustic metal boat out from shore.  The water was pretty chilly and once I climbed up on the boat I was freezing.  We only stayed on the boat a short time before heading back to the beach.  Starving, we headed to find some food.  Deokjeokdo, however, is pretty rural.  We found one restaurant and had a delicious meal that was incredibly overpriced/they totally saw us coming.  Following this, we headed back to the beach to set up camp.  The beach was small, but it had basketball nets, volleyball nets, 2 restrooms, and a wide stretch of sand that went back to the woods.  We chose a spot at the top of the sand in front of the trees.  The sunset was beautiful!  The beach, however, rapidly expands when the tide goes out.  We had never seen anything quite like it- the water went out for hundreds and hundreds of yards.  After it got dark, we walked out in the bay where the water had been over our heads only hours earlier.  It was really cool.  The metal boat and other fishing boats were just sitting on the sand.  We hung out and had some beers on the beach for awhile, but we went to bed pretty early, and all 3 of us crammed in the little tent.  One of my friends was nice enough to bring me a sleeping bag, and although the night was kind of chilly, in the sleeping bag all zipped in the tent, we were not cold at all.
 
We woke up early on Sunday and sat for a little while on the beach before heading to town.  Because we spent all of our cash on the outrageously expensive dinner Saturday night and the rural island didn't have any place that took debit cards, the man who owned the restaurant told us he would drive us to the ATM by the port at 9am.  After piling in the back of a truck with lots of fisherman, we finally got dropped off at Doekjoekdo's one ATM machine.  Finally with money, we found a restaurant and had a good brunch of rice and some sort of weird black sauce.  We had about five hours until the ferry left, so we hiked to a little beach we saw and laid out for a few hours.  Here, the tide also went out an extreme amount.  According to our calculations (aka Jason's footsteps), the tide went out 800 yards.  It was nuts, but it was also really cool.  The sand was more like mud and it was full of little critters - tons of crabs, snails, fish, etc.  We walked out across the flats to the water (which was dirty on this side of the island), then went back and got some sun before catching the ferry back to Incheon. 
 
Although I had a great weekend, I came back kind of pink.  It's only my face, and I don't think it is that bad.  Anyway, Koreans don't go in the sun -they constantly reapply sunscreen and apply skin whitening creams - tanning is a completely foreign concept to them- they avoid the sun at all cost.  All day the students stared at me, laughed and would say "Teacher, Your Face REDDDD."  Or they just per usual stare at me as if I am from outer space.  The other teachers keep asking me if I was ok.  The principal looked at me this morning and sincerely said "Is your health ok?  Uh, Andie, what happen your face?"  One vice principal goes, "Are you angry today?"  You red.  You look like fire engine," and the other vice-principal said, "what has happened to you?"  I reply, "sunburn," and he goes "NO, it CANNOT BE!" It cannot be! Cannot! Did you have a "cosmetic accident?"  No, I say, I am just a little sunburnt.  Five minutes later, the school secretary who doesn't speak a word of English tried to give me an icepack for my face.  So embarrassing.  Late afternoon, the principal walked by, handed me a tomato, laughed, and walked away.  I'm pretty sure he was making fun of me.  Now I have learned my lesson though, and will not be venturing out in the sun for the next year of my life. 
 
Miss you all!

Happy 21st Sarah!

video

These are my 4th grade extracurricular students learning to sing Happy Birthday!  Happy Birthday Sarah! Have a great day!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Because nothing says Korea like Obama in a speedo.

This lovely poster greets me every time I enter the subway, and I think it really says a lot about Korea.  I wish I could tell you what it says, what it is for, or why on earth they slapped President Obama's head on this body, but my Korean language skills are still nonexistent.  I giggle every time I see this, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  

I <3 Korean Baseball

The Gardens at Gyeongbokgung Palace - the best part of the grounds

                                                      Gyeongbokgung Palace

                                             Korean Baseball at Jamsil Stadium!

Hi all,
 
My time here is flying by so quickly!  I am staying busy all the time, and I am still having the time of my life.  I just got home from scoping out gyms with my coteacher (I finally found a good one!), and then she was nice enough to take me to a really good traditional Korean dinner.  Sometimes I still cannot believe how welcoming everyone has been to me the last few weeks! 

Last Thursday, I met up with about 15 people after work and headed to Jamsil stadium to watch a baseball game.  Unlike the States, in Korea, fans can bring their own beer into the stadium.  If you get there early, you can "tailgate" (sans actual tailgate) in the stands. I had no idea it would be so crazy.  Korean baseball fans are really intense- the entire time they are standing and yelling, singing, chanting, and banging these huge plastic tubes together.  Everyone follows the lead of one really goofy male cheerleader who stands in the front of the crowd with a whistle.  It was hilarious.  Unfortunately, none of us knew enough Korean to join in the singing and chanting, but a good time was had by all. 
 
Friday, I was invited out to dinner by my landlords.  They are an older couple that live on the top floor of my building, and they are making a sincere effort to help all 9 foreign teachers living in the building.  We went to a fantastic little restaurant around the corner from the building and I had a delicious roast duck for dinner.  After the meal, they invited us up to their apartment where we sat on the roof and chatted while we stuffed ourselves with fruit (specifically the grapes- they are really good here- unlike anything I've ever had), rice cakes (I'm obsessed with the rice cakes here.  The ones that have a red bean in the middle of the rice goo are delicious), peanuts, beer, and soju.  Anyway, the landlords (who insist we call them Mama Liz and Papa Kim) are really generous and helpful.  Although their English is not great (Papa Kim usually has no idea what's going on- he just nods and smiles a lot), they do their best to make us comfortable and welcome.  I am still working on getting my apartment like I want it.  I need a few more items (for example, a lamp.  I only have one big flourescent light on the ceiling so I asked for a lamp from my school out the budget they are given for me to use.  I received a very futuristic looking lamp thing that looks something akin to a security surveillance camera.  It is also flourescent.  And ugly. Great.)
 
Saturday I spent the day exploring Gyeongbokgung Palace with my friend Sam.  It was kind of bizarre - it looks quite like an ancient kingdom was dropped into the middle of a parking lot in the middle of an urban city.  The palace was also empty and although it was sprawling, most of it looked exactly the same to me.  I would love to say this was a great day trip, but I got bored pretty quickly.  Sunday we went to Seoul Forest (think Central Park).  Each weekend I am hoping to get at least one cultural item checked off.  Although I'm here for a year, Seoul is one of the biggest cities and the world, and if I'm not careful I'm going to miss out on really getting to know the city.  Saturday night I spent out in the Itaewon area of Seoul for a friend's birthday celebration.  Itaewon is fun because it's mostly foreign bars filled with ex-pats and everyone is speaking English.  I love the area, but I need to start seeing nightlife in other parts of the city.
 
Monday I officially became an Alien!  After teaching 5 classes on Monday, I headed to the immigration office where I picked up my Alien Registration Card.  This was immediately followed by a bank account (so I finally got paid!).   Tuesday, I got a cell phone! I have been without a phone since I left home in July, and I feel like my quality of life just increased dramatically with my new cell phone plan.  I'm slowly becoming a real person.  (Unfortunately this means I now have real bills to pay.)  Wednesday night I went to another baseball game with a friend.  One of my co-teachers gave me last minute tickets, so I got to see more crazy Korean baseball. 
 
Unfortunately, today is Thursday which is probably the worst day of my week.  On Thursday I teach 6 classes to, in the words of my coteacher "wicked" students.  I shouldn't even use the word teach - it's more like I do damage control, yell, and pray that no one dies in my classroom.  Some days I feel like I'm not even working at a school- more like an insane asylum.  All of my 6th graders are, well, probably typical 6th graders - really obnoxious.  Class 6-1, however, is just horrific.  Most of them speak no english- they don't even understand basic directions.  Today, besides confiscating every near and dear item to their little 6th grade hearts, I had to deal with a girl cutting one kid's clothes off with scissors and a kid sobbing because he was poked in the eye.  The students here are all very violent - even the 4th graders.  It's a huge cultural difference that I cannot seem to get over.  The teachers don't even flinch as the kids punch each other, pull each other's hair, and slap one another.  (Then again, the teachers will hit the students too sometimes).  It's painful to watch, and I find myself pointing and yelling "No touching!" way more than I should.  It's at times like this that I realize I'm really not qualified to be a teacher.  I have a degree in History which doesn't exactly translate well into classroom management. 
 
The kids I teach are also all on really different levels which is frustrating.  I have kids who literally can't say one word, and others who are practically fluent.  For example, the other day after class I had a 4th grader come up to me and say, "I hear you are from Atlanta.  I went once to Atlanta.  I was on the way to Florida.  I didn't leave the airport, but I found the Atlanta airport to be very satisfactory."  Satisfactory?  Where did he learn that?  The kids also are still fascinated by me.  I realize I'm American, but I might as well be from outer space.  A lot of times the kids will stare at me in the hall, and if I say Hello, they giggle and run away.  It's ridiculous.  I'm also realizing it is a mixed blessing to live so close to my school.  Every day I literally am escorted to school by a passle of Korean children who are all YELLING "HELLO TEACHER" repeatedly.  It's nuts. 
 
Anyway, I am looking forward to the weekend, and I will keep everyone updated on my adventures!