Monday, November 30, 2009

My Fat South African Boyfriend

                                                           Gardens at Changdeokgung

                                                  Tour at Changdeokgung

                                                           Tour at Changdeokgung

                                                        Tour at 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!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner in Korea=Live Octopus

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

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?" 


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


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.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009


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

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!