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!