Monday, May 30, 2011

The Roar of the Cows

Remember how I kept talking about the howling cows? I got it on film. When you listen to the cow groans, keep in mind that I took this video on a camera and not on a legit video recorder. This was taken from the fifth floor window right outside the dream center. The cowshed is across the street. The initial noise? Not machinery or cars, but yes, a cow. Absurd.

This is my life now.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Woe is Me

Former co, Jenny, teaches an after school class in the Dream Center Friday afternoons. They're a bunch of adorable 4th-graders. Beyond.cute. Here's a sample of why I love them:

Students: "Teachah, teachah!"
(They point to a lone boy poking his head from around the corner, a satisfied grin on his face.)
Me: "Oh, you crazy boy?"
Students (applauding, cheering, and giggling): "Yes! Yes!"

Everything I do, they eat up. My kinda room. They're so eager, happy, and godhelpthem, they try. Some of them can read better than my sixth-graders. they're astounding. Ohmygod, one of them just gave me an example of Konglish. I'm dying.

Overall, teaching just one grade with just one co-teacher is amazing. I know which lesson each class is on, I know how they need to be dealt with, and I have a consistent rhythm with my co that never has to be retooled to fit someone else. It's great. If only it could be with fourth-graders instead... Sigh.

A little girl just said "Oh, my god," in that melodramatic way they do. My greatest weakness. Sob.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

...for something super important!

You may or may not know that I am not a runner. But I know some people who are! This includes my friend, Janet (I've plugged her blog  in previous posts), who is going to participate in an upcoming marathon for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Team In Training. Help support her run by donating!! Even the smallest bit would help.

Good causes, FTW!


The Anti-Climax

Here's how the open class went:

First Period-- one mother showed up for five minutes, got bored, and left. Ten minutes later, a second mother came, staying for the duration.

Second Period-- One mother had been lat for the open period, so we let her sit on on the second class.

That's it. We filmed the whole thing, though! Yay.


Open Sesame!

Tomorrow, first period, I have an Open Class scheduled. An Open Class is when parents, administrators, et cetera, are invited to sit in on a lesson. The day preceding the Open Class is a box full o'crazy.

Appearance is everything in Korea. If only one of my conclusions this year have been accurate, that's the one. This is never more true than right before an Open Class. You see, the parents wield all the power when it comes to public school. All the teachers and staff might fear the Principal, but he fears the parents. What they say goes. And I'm not just talking about bypassing GPA's to waive your child into the honors track. If there's anything a Korean parent doesn't like, it changes. Done and done.

For this reason, teachers really show up when the parents come to call. Decorations appear, along with makeup, perms, business suits, and dresses. When you work at an elementary school, things like cleanliness, attire, and aesthetics tend to become lax. Not on Open Class Day. For example:

The Open Class is during first period tomorrow, when I'm scheduled to have group 6-7 (grade-class), but class seven is a couple lessons behind, so we don't want to show them. Therefore, the schedule has been flipped so that the period 2 class, 6-1, will attend during Open Class time and class seven will come the next period. Furthermore, class 1 came during fifth period today to practice getting ready for tomorrow. Seriously. Jeong-In recited rules for behavior and participation. Too much.

I had an Open Class last semester. One parent came and the Vice Principal popped her head in for a second. That's it. As such, I'm not too concerned about tomorrow's class. Or so I thought. The attitude was infectious. I started wiping down remotes and the telephone set, making superfluous flashcards to impress anyone who might come, the works.

(Former) co-teacher Jenny had an after school class in my room. My frenzied scurrying gave her much joy. I told her about the Open Class and she said, "I think no one will come here tomorrow." Really? 'Cuz I just went all Hammurabi on those cleaning kids... Jenny was actually quite impressed at how I (man)handled the cleaners. Normally, I let them do a basic sweep and then they can go. Today, I made them sweep, vacuum, wet mop (jinja), and wipe. They did not like me today. Totally worth it if it made Jenny proud. Besides, the fourth-graders, waiting to start their after school class, thought it was a hoot. God, I miss fourth-graders.

Anyway, whether or not anyone comes tomorrow, the Dream Center will be ready.


Problematic Reactions

(During Dongcheon English Experience)

A section of girls crowd around me to listen to the instructions. I tell them they will be sending a box and they have to pick a gift, the correct size box, a destination, and choose either standard or express shipping. Only one girl at a time should be at the counter, the rest should sit down by the wall.

 "Ready? Let's go!"

The cloud of girls peals back, leaving but one in their wake. She looks around, confused. Perhaps a low-level student? I'm prepared for this. The lower-level students only have to sputter out a word or two. A flurry of movement catches my peripherals. I look over to see my co-teacher scurrying toward me.

"She is handicap," she says, catching her breath.

The mentally handicapped students present a unique dilemma. Former co-workers have advised ignoring them completely. This doesn't sit well with me. The entire situation fails to sit well with me. There are a handful of handicapped students peppered throughout my classes. In each class, it's advised that I avoid contact of any kind with these students. I shouldn't make sure they're on the same page in the book, try to speak to them, or even stop them from doing something that disrupts the class.

To say these students are taboo is an understatement. They are almost closer to an embarrassment. One time, I waved to a handicapped student and said hello. A coworker rushed over, grabbed my hand and whispered, "he slow." Now, I don't know which students are handicapped and which aren't, and maybe my coworkers are responding to that. Maybe they just want me to know. But I can't even say "hello," to them? Hmm.

Another time, a handicapped boy was clanging his metal pencil case against his desk. Since I was mid-lesson, this proved a distraction. I walked over, pressed the pencil case to the desk, and shook my head. Once again, a co-teacher shuffled over and, behind her hand, told me not to bother.

Seriously problematic. From a general greeting to keeping order in class, I'm not supposed to have any contact with these kids. And it's not just me. My coworkers (not just co-teachers) and other students avoid them as well. Does this seem like a glaring issue to anyone else? If we're all supposed to pretend like they don't exist, why are they in my classes?

This is not to say that I don't think handicapped students should go to school. Of course they should. Any kind of progression, academic or social, should be fostered and nurtured. Where better than school? It would be much more beneficial, however, if the handicapped students had their own classes. There are enough handicapped students in my school to make a small class. Instead of being utterly alone in a sea of teachers and students who refuse to acknowledge them, the handicapped children should form their on class. Their fellows would be more likely to interact with them and they would have individualized attention for academics.

 The funny thing is, I've actually met the teacher at my school who supposedly teaches the disabled kids. I'm not sure how the system works, but their is some kind of strategy in place. Maybe. But the handicapped kids still have to sit through regular classes...? Something's off.

My coworker looks flustered and embarrassed. My face immediately reddens. I don't know what to do. Should I let the girl skip the activity? What if she wants to do the activity? She might not understand what I'm saying, but she can see the props. Plus, she had to come here just like everyone else. I shake it off. 

"Parrot or ball?" I say, shaking the potential items to be sent in the box. They're bright and fun stuffed toys, surely she can appreciate that.

My co-teacher leans to the girl and whispers in Korean. The girl points to the parrot. We do the rest of the activity this way, then she sits on the bench, waiting for the other students to finish. 


Monday, May 23, 2011

Going Postal

With a solid weekend behind me, I finished up my final stint as a postal worker at Dongcheon English Experience. Boy, what a time. No wild abandon, but one of the students convinced me to let her spin and I would have to play Twister in her place. My performance would have benefited from pants a bit more giving than my business slacks. Good times.

Today also marked the first class to finish the final lesson on disk 1 of the CD-ROM that corresponds with the English textbook. I have only three more chapters to teach before summer break. Strangee.


Scene on the Train

Three young mothers drag a gaggle of giggling children to some unknown destination. The chosen method of transportation id the train. The mothers sit across from their rambunctious children, children intent on showing off their English.

"My name is Taekyeong!" one of them shouts.
"Yes," his mother says. "Shhhh."

Each child attempts to vocally overcome the last, until they're all screaming. The mothers give up, each pulling out a cool tallboy of light beer. The cracking of the cans signals the end of their motherly fussing. The women are content to sip crisp refreshment instead.

It's 11:30 AM, on a Sunday.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Good News is Good News

Big news! My name was officially submitted to the MOE for summer camp at Dongcheon! I'll be joining the likes of Shane, Canada Matt, Adam, and new guy Gerard! Possibly someone else?! I'm very excited and happy.

English Experience was fun today. When I wasn't a Post Office drone, I taught some kids Hot Hands. It's awesome because I get to smack kids in the guise of a child's game. Yahtzee!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Get Out of Jail Free

My previous post reminded me of a strand of thought I had yesterday. I was walking around a Family Mart, looking at the various alcohols and it occurred to me that when I go home, I can expect to be carded again. Bummer. Not being carded simply because I'm a foreigner is awesome. And strange.

Think about it. In America, would a foreigner be exempt from showcasing an ID? Some bars aren't vigilant about checking, but in those cases, every gets a free pass, not just the foreigners. Would foreigners have entrance fees waived? Hell, no. Admittedly, I don't know how often Koreans get carded, but it's way more often than the zero times I am. I can get in some places for free when they can't. Weird, right? If I were Korean, I'd definitely be harboring some resentment.

This led me to wonder the motivations behind such oversights. Why the special treatment? Despite the occasional moments of racism, Koreans have a fascination with Westerners. They have all kinds of surgeries and creams to look more Western, they try to adopt American policies, hell, they import Westerners to spread the English. In a way, they revere us. 

I don't mean to be incendiary with that statement, but let's face it, they idealize the shit out of Western culture. Their Korean pride is laced with admiration for the West. As such, there are certain liberties we foreign transplants are afforded. We can get caught up in the sharp-elbowing, the unabashed stares, and the like, but we forget about all the excuses made on our behalf. Have you heard of any foreigners getting in serious trouble? Seriously, if you have, I'd like to know. I haven't heard anything. There are foreigners who admittedly show up to work drunk, walk around the streets making fools of themselves, wreak all kinds of havoc without culpability.

This brings me to my next point. What the fuck? Why would Koreans possible idealize us? Their country is marbled with some of the most debaucherous, alcoholic, disrespectful, whiny representations of the Western world (I don't count myself out, here) and yet they admire us? Jinja? Don't get me wrong, I love the Western world, it's my jam, but the primary sources in Korea aren't exactly shining ambassadors. How the Koreans ignore all the bullshit is beyond me. Not that I mind. Foreigner Free Night? Hell yes!


So, so, so. Ju, ju, ju.

Last night, I decided to unwind after my disastrous day with a little soju... festival. If there's one thing to know about Korea, it's that they love them some festival. They celebrate things from all kinds of spheres. From important holidays/occasions to the ubiquitous and mundane. I.e. soju.

The festival spans from Wednesday to tonight and is held at Ulsan University. Let's take a brief moment to consider this. The festival for Korea's favorite alcoholic beverage is being held on the university's campus. Does that sound off to anyone else?

FYI, I was a responsible (sort of) teacher. I cut myself off early enough not to feel any ill-effects today. Go me.


Surrender Dorothy

Today was the day I've been dreading for... days. Taking 6–4 to Dongcheon. Grade Six, Class Four is easily the worst of all my classes. The girls aren't so bad, but the boys outnumber them 2:1. The boys run me and Jeong-In ragged.

I knew it was coming. I knew I'd have to take them to Dongcheon today. I could feel it. I had a regular lesson with them today, too. Silly as I am, I thought that maybe they wouldn't be so bad. I could gauge it during class. Maybe today they'd be calm. Who was I kidding?

During regular class, they were a slice of horror. All I needed to get through was a listen and repeat section. All they had to do was copy me, but noooooo. Withing ten minutes of class, I was fuming. Other classes have their moments. Sometimes they tick me off. 6–4? Every time. I don't know how they muster the energy. Today, I had kids lined up against the back wall of the classroom, I had to stop the lesson several times. I even got my rage.face on. For a bright, brief moment, they responded to my anger. They snapped to attention for almost a full five minutes. I was shocked, but tried not to let the fury slip from my face. It was the only thing reining them in.

The bus ride alone was harrowing. Kids were screaming, jumping, kicking, ripping off the protective covers on headrests, and literally throwing each other across the seats. Jeong-In and I barely sat down for that three minute ride.

I struggled through the Post Office duties. Kae Heon was annoyed when she saw some of the boys lying in the hallway. I was happy they were at least down. After Post Office and Twister, we had another bumpy ride back to Cheongok. Here's what Jeong-In had to say (and, let me remind you, she didn't even have to lecture at them at the Dongcheon Experience):

"They are so bad. They do not listen to me. I am exhausted. I felt two hours was two years."

One of the Dongcheon teachers rode the bus back to Cheongok with us. Jeong-In told me what that woman thought:

"They are the worst class."

Tell me about it. I still have one or two Experience trips to take, but I expect them to be a breeze by comparison.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Missed the Boat

We've been leaving my school at 1:00 PM to get to Dongcheon for English Experience. One section of sixth graders attends per day. There are seven groups in total. So, seven day to Dongchoen, right? Thursday was the first session. That would take us right on through to this Friday. You know, if these things were scheduled consecutively.

Normally, I leave my room right before one, then wait outside for the sixth-graders and my co to show. Today, I did much the same. Squinting my eyes against the sunlight, saying hello to all the students I no longer get to teach (assessment: third-graders are still the cutest). I really didn't want to do the Experience today. I had a hardass headache and knew I wasn't going to perform for today's kids. A shame for them, as I've been honestly trying to make this fun for the other groups. 

After a while, my co and the kids failed to present themselves. Hmm. It took about half a second for it to clikc. Right. We're not going to Dongcheon today. Someone forgot to tell the foreigner. Whoops. The funny thing is, it didn't bother me. I mentally shrugged and came back to the Dream Center. The information omissions don't unnerve me anymore. I automatically brush it off. Eh, that's how it goes. I never noticed the change in mentality, but it's welcome. Of course, this is one of those "Hey look, you have less work!" surprises. If I were suddenly to be burdened with extra work, my attitude might be less benevolent. Whatever. I don't care what you think. I've leveled up in Maturity.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Stitch in Time

And now we come to it, my nine-month anniversary with Korea. I'm three-quarters to the end. I want the time to be flying by and luckily, it is.

Okay, I need to break in here to reiterate the fact that there is an angry horde of cows about 100 yards from my school. Since it's nice out, all the school's windows are open, but these cows are howling with fury. They won't stop. Not even for a minute. I've never known cows to be so vocal. Then again, I've never been in such extended, close proximity to a small herd. Occasionally, the bellows sound a little like the cries of Godzilla. This thought amuses me immensely. Regardless, it's a bit distracting.

On a completely unrelated note, I never thought my blog would make it this far. This is not my first attempt at blogging, as some of you may recall. Any other attempts were ill-fated, despite my best intentions. I've been here something around 270 days and my current post total is something like 266. Solid effort.

I'll probably wax reflective later, but the cows are severely interrupting my stream of consciousness. Nine months; not just about gestation periods.


Fun Fact

The best way to immediately send a tiny Asian child into fits of uncontrollable laughter is by threatening homicide or serious bodily injury.

"Ah, teachah!"


Paper Lanterns!

In case you forgot I live in Asia.

Pet Names

Because Korea loves to be adorable, all the major cities (possibly the minor ones as well) come complete with cute little nicknames/catch phrases. There's Dynamic Busan, Hi Seoul, Colorful Daegu, and Ulsan For You! Wat to go Ulsan. Allegedly, Gimhae is also Gimhae For You. I predict a gang war in the near future.

It has recently come to my attention, however, that Ulsan has a bit of an identity crisis.

What's up with that, Ulsan? Get your shit together.


Monday, May 16, 2011


I may or may not have bitten a child today.

You had to be there.


Boot Camp

Yesterday marked the coming of the long-awaited training day. It wasn't as bad as I feared. There were word searches, light reading, a touch of pictionary, lollipops, snark, a pilfered peanut butter cup, and pizza!

Okay, most of that wasn't part of the training, but it's what I did. I knew the drill beforehand, so I cam prepared. I brought my Kindle (Byron), a doodle pad, lollipops, and a word search book And yeah, I brought the snark (in part). Take it as you will, but know that Laura bought one of the puzzles from me for a cool 500... won. Worth it.

The first lecturer was shocked to learn that most of us were not new recruits. My class, full of clowns as it was, quickly and systematically derailed that lecture. The lady didn't seem to mind much. The second lecturer was more engaging, but I certainly couldn't keep my mouth shut throughout. I used to be such a great student. Who knows what happened? The third class lecture started out a bit rough. People can get really involved in questions that ought to take about a minute of class time. Yes, I'm including myself. Look, if you're going to say there are only six countries whose main language is English, discounting South Africa because English isn't their official language, then you should expect someone (me) to vehemently point out that English isn't America's official language, either. Other people will, of course, chime in with their defenses and arguments, it'll be a mess. It reminded me of my honors classes in high school. Too smart for our own good. I think we amused ourselves a lot, though. It wasn't as bad as it sounds. We were just... lively.

The training wasn't such a bad day. There was useful information to be had, but most of the insights to be shared were things we've already learned on the job.

Afterwards, I had a sweet dinner/drinks combo with Brad, Nadia, and California Matt. Cheesy rice and makgeolli cocktail. Could it get any better? No. We're hilarious and amazing company. Rounded off the training quite well.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Gettin' Some Galbi, G-G-G-Gettin' Some Galbi

I went to dinner the other night with Shane and Renee (a Hogye friend I usually see at the bus stop. There's a whole 8-is bus stop crew. Me, Renee, Leana, and Chris. We don't always have the school pre-party, but when we do, it sure is something).  As the post title suggests, we had some galbi. That's not what's important.

Shane caught a fly in his goddamn fist. I didn't make a big deal about it because Shane didn't make a big deal, but it was pretty cool. He just snapped his hand in the air, then opened his fist to see if he really caught the thing. It floated up from his palm and away into the evening.

No flies were harmed in the making of this memory.


Englishee Experience: Take Two

Though yesterday's English Experience garnered less fanfare than its predecessor, there was still some. It was a good time and went quickly. As the Post Office Clerk, I start charging egregious rates to send a package. This includes, though is not limited to: jackets, glasses, hair, ears, eyes, teeth, eight billion dollars, puppies, a weekend in Busan, and the customer's head. The first round of customers were unwilling to pay the price, so their packages will remain in post office limbo. The other students were more than happy to give me their jackets, shoes, and even glasses. And if you were to mime slicing off a child's ear, they would love it. Seriously.

Who knew kids would respond to fun and imagination? I should blog about this new and original revelation.


(Im)Potent Quotables

Jeong-In: "You want to join summer camp Dongcheon?"
Me: "Yes, definitely."
Jeong-In: "But. There is camp our school."
Me: "Oh. Same time?"
Jeong-In: "Yes."
Me: "Oh."
Jeong-In: "I should check if you should join our camp."

=( My school's camp will be a one-week camp, which would mean I desk warm for two weeks. I'd much rather have three weeks of camp, for which I'll get paid more. Plus, DC's winter camp was a fun time, I'd like to end my tenure in Korea on a note like that. Fingers crossed.


A Bird in the Hand

After second period today, one student tumbled into the room and shouted something. All the kids eagerly filed out. Oh, god. What now? Jeong-In was there, but she didn't immediately rush out. Not a fight, then. I gave her a quizzical look. 

"There's a bird inside," she told me, before shuffling out of the room. 

I snap into action. I may or may not have a short history of rescuing birds that have been caught indoors. Again, hero. I pushed away the crush of children to see what's what. A small bird (sorry, Mom, I don't know what kind) is resting on the window frame. A poor, dejected, and clearly exhausted bird. 

This totally helps, right?
Now, here's the thing about the window frames: they're double-paned. Also, they're linked in pairs. I don't have a picture, so I'll use this highly technical photo I found to try to explain. So there are two sets of windows, red and purple. They're not actually offset as the graph shows. All four panes can move independent of each other when unlocked. All four windows can be pushed into one side. The red pair has a red lock, but the purple pair has no lock. In this scenario, the red windows were shut and locked. The purple windows were both pushed to the same side. The bird was resting against the exposed, but locked, red window. 

My first course of action was to slowly close the purple window, to capture the bird in the space. I wanted to close it enough to still have room to push the red window open a crack. Alas, the red windows were locked. The lock was blocked by the second purple window, but I couldn't move that window without crushing the bird. Okay, think.

I told Jeong-In to grab the bucket we keep our dry-erase markers in, along with a file folder. Meanwhile, I tried to fend off the student horde. To no avail. Jeong-In brought the materials and I commenced Plan B. I opened the purple window that kept the bird trapped, but pushed the bucket to block the bird's way. Gotta get that bird in the bucket. There was a lot of fluttering and jerking and a lot of shouts from Teacher Reedy, but the bird would not go into the bucket. I tried to coerce the bird by pushing on it with the file. The bird was unresponsive. Some student reached in a hand to physically move the bird, which was greeted by my frantic shouts. "DON'T TOUCH THE BIRD! NEVER TOUCH THE BIRD!" You know, diseases. Plus, you can never predict how a living creature is going to react. Beaks are sharp, man. Eventually, I managed to get the bird in the bucket, and I trapped it along the glass(red window). I moved the bird and bucket as far over as I could. Then, Jeong-In opened the purple windows just enough to squeeze her tiny arm in and unlock the red windows. Finally, I could open the window that was keeping the bird in the bucket. After a dazed couple of seconds, the bird finally realized it was free to the open skies and flew off. Without much injury, I hope.

Not even part of the job description.

The weird thing is, last night I had a dream where three birds got caught in my house and I had to free them. Uncanny, right? Heroand a psychic. Happy Friday the 13th, indeed.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Times, They are a' Changing

Assessment: I might have gone completely crazy

Punchline: I had fun at Dongcheon English Experience today.

The Scene: I board the bus bound for Dongcheon. I know the setup. I know what's to come. Still, the giggly kind of nerves start to build. Is it the short trip on the bus that gets me giddy? I don't know. The bus pulls up and the kids pour out onto the pavement. We get upstairs and settle into an introduction.

It feels nice to be back in Dongcheon. All the Winter Camp memories come flittering forth. Su Jeong gives me a brief hug and says, "Welcome back!" A gaggle of my sixth grade girls gush over Adam Teacher (from Hogye). One of them calls him "shiny" and we all giggle. The kids are split into groups and Adam tells them which teacher they'll go with first. The girls are upset that they won't immediately spend time with him, but when he says they'll be coming with me, they cheer. I flip my hair and wave away their praise, a smile blooming on my lips. If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.

I explain to the girls in a huddle what we have to do. Sure, reading dialogues can be a pill, but if they play along, it'll be over all the faster. I somehow manage to struggle through the dialogue with each girl, fending off every "You're beautiful," and "Voice pretty," they throw my way. Not every group slathers on the compliments, but they laugh at my little jokes, appreciate when I don't make them follow the dialogue if they can't read, and soon we're congregating all together in the main room. Time for games. Adam tells them once again which teacher they'll go with, and another group lets out a volley of verbal excitement when they get to go with me. Then the whole thing's over and we head back to Cheongok.

For one, I had no idea that I was that well-liked by even one section of my sixth-graders. Apparently, class 6–1 is down with the Reedz0r. Maybe it was their attitude that made the trip great. I can't and won't expect that from every class, but part of me thinks it might have been something more. Admittedly, I went into the first English Experience with a bad attitude. Maybe my own attitude has changed. I no longer dread each class (just the one. Oh god, if you knew the kids in 6–4.), I joke with the kids, I definitely smile more. Could be me, could be the kids, hell, it could even just be the day. Who knows what will happen when I do this tomorrow.

I'd also like to note the behavior of my co-teacher, Jeong-In. While I was busy aping a post office worker, she came by and helped keep the rest of the kids calm. When they wanted to run around and do all sorts of unruly things, she made them sit quietly. They never got to mutinous amounts of out-of-control, but it was nice knowing she had my back. Overall, an unexpectedly pleasant Experience.

Also, Kae Hyeon totally asked me to come back for the Summer Camp. The dates fit my timetable, so I told her I'd love to join. And I meant it.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

English Experience Update

As it turns out, my co is pretty much taking care of business on the Dongcheon English Experience front. She came into class today with dialogues for each section of the Experience. We went over the dialogues in class, with a whole Listen&Repeat deal. Sure, it's a dialogue that some can't read, but the kids should be pretty prepared.

I wonder if it was Jeong-In, my co, who came up with this, or Kae Hyeon (I never get her name right), the Dongcheon director. Probably the latter. This kind of uberstructure seems her style. I love it. I won't even have to explain anything while at the Experience. I just sit there and let kids yap at me for a couple hours.

Well, until the Twister part comes up. This didn't exist the first time around, but I know how to play the game. Shouldn't be too complicated. She said breezily, though a wriggling doubt burrowed in a corner of her mind. In this land, things aren't always what they seem.


Ding- Dongcheon

Ah, it's that time of year again. Time to travel to Dongcheon during afterschool hours to participate in the English Experience. That's where I pretend to be a postal worker as my students attempt to send a package overseas. Then I'll teach the rousing game of Twister.

I had to do the experience last semester and found it miserable. That was mainly because my coteacher last time gave me zero warning. She told me we were going to Dongchoen later that day, no reasoning, no explanation. Also, I was an idiot about it. I printed out a dialogue for each child to read at me. A quarter of those kids can't even read English. Frustrations abound.

This time, I know what's coming. And if I didn't, my new co at least told me about it a month in advance and tried to tell me, to the best of her knowledge, what it was. My new plan of action involves the minimization of tasking. Instead of a full-on dialogue, I'll be content with pointing, or at least some attempts at using one English word. You're welcome, sixth-graders.

The odd thing about this English Experience, aside from my informative co, is that my participation in the Experience leads me to have regular classes cancelled. This was not the case last time. I get two classes cancelled each day I do the experience (one day per sixth-grade section). I'm a little curious as to why I get classes cancelled this semester when I didn't the last time, but I'll chalk it up to my school's unwillingness to pay me overtime. Isn't money always the answer?

Sidenote- I may get to find out about my summer camp deal as a result of being physically present at Dongcheon. Yay?


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jumping the... Gun vs. Shark

When I hearthat someone I love and respect (Sweet Mama MomoBear) will likely be renewing their EPIK contracts, it gives me a slight second's pause. There's this admirable person doing a very respectable thing. I'd like to see more of this person in my life, also I'd like to be thought of as respectable. Hmm. And, let's face it, my working situation is pretty much Aces. My co-teacher is great, I'm earning a regular wage, and the work is a snap. The repetitive nature of the job doesn't even bother me anymore. I actually find myself thinking of ways to tweak the lesson for the next class instead of dreading the do-over. I mean, really, everything's coming up Milhouse Reedy.

Don't worry, eager family and friends, I'm still coming home in August. I'm explaining this to you because you look nervous. You can stop here if you want.

I like to revisit my already-made decision, just to make sure I'm doing what's right for me. Lately, my considerations are thus: are my current actions a "jumping the gun" situation, where my judgement is shrouded by excitement? If I changed my mind and stayed, would I run thew risk of jumping the shark? Let's explore.

How I Might be Jumping the Gun:

  • I already booked my flight
  • I've already embarked on a possessions triage to determine what materials I'll Keep, Leave, or Trash
  • The countdown has already been kicked off
  • I just finished composing a letter to whomsoever inherits my apartment/position


  • Booking the flight made good sense. I know I'm going home, paperwork of me declining to renew has already been submitted, and I saw the lowest flight price in months, jumping on the opportunity.
  • Triage also makes good sense. I have had some time off of late and the triage doubles as a kind of Spring cleaning. It has to be done.
  • You know I'm excited to go back, right?
  • I had notes from my predecessors, which were helpful, but I wanted more in my initial shellshockdom. I wanted to make sure that I had enough time to write everything the next person could possibly need for their initial stages in Korea, instead of putting it off and scribbling something inferior last-minute. I mean, I got down diagrams, numbers, contact info, maps, the works. Definitely more than was necessary. But, hey look, it's done!
Then there's the other side of the argument. You know how when a treasured television show goes on for too many seasons, inevitably taking a nosedive into utter camp? The show lives past its shelf-life, loses its unique and robust flavor. Once it's sunk so low, it will never again rise to its former glory and you'll forever wish it had ended before you watched it fade into banality.

Obviously, I can only be so concerned about becoming a redundancy in Ulsan. I'm shades of fabulous and make no mistake. My concern lies with the pattern of my Korean life thusfar. I like Korea. The people are usually nice and once you get the lay of it, life here is easy to navigate. Currently, I feel great about my whole situation. Yet, the duration of my stay has not been totally peachy. Living abroad is a tough gamble. It works the nerves in ways that aren't easy to predict. If I stay here, I'll either repeat the process entirely, cursing my decision during rough patches, or it could grow to be even worse. I've known a fair number of teachers who regretted their decision to renew within weeks of renewing. Some of those people end up cutting out of their re-signed contract early. I've also met people who've stayed here for years, never getting enough. I met one guy who's been here 14 years, with no intention to leave soon. Some people find a home here. It comes back to that situation I posed months ago; Sure, I could stay here and things would be fine, but do I want to?

And, lest we forget, I have prospects back in America. No job prospects as yet, but housing prospects, and the prospect of having so many friends all in one place. I got a half-baked plan and a dream, both of which require me to hop back over the Pacific. 

All these logical roadmaps are for justifying myself to other people, or for pondering when I can't sleep at night. I'm a follow-your-gut kinda girl. Sometimes, this leads me straight into disaster, but I could never give it up. The heart makes the decisions, the brain organizes the aftermath. And if the sheer excitement of going back to the USA compels me to book flights, dump excess baggage, and pen notes to whomsoever shall follow, well, I think these actions speak for themselves.


Feliz Dia de la Madre!

I don't know why I typed the title in Spanish. After six years of study, though, I reserve the right to mangle me some Spanish just as I do English. Right. Glad we cleared that up.

On a more important note, Happy Mother's Day! The dutiful daughter I am decided to make a Mother's Day card the same time I had my after schoolers making cards for their parents. Most of the after school activities are largely self-serving.

With a little construction paper, some glue, and god help me, glitter, I fashioned this greeting card for my dear, sweet mother:

I love to muck around in the filthy dregs of creative, artistic expression. I also like reasserting my favored position in my parents' eyes. I think this keeps my bases covered for a couple more months, at least. The only real threat to my reign comes from when my brother and his wife start popping out babies. Luckily, I think I still have a couple years to build up a solid contingency plan. Until then, read it and weep, Mikeybutt and Seesterface. (My brother absolutely does not read my blog. My sister occasionally tunes in, but I've essentially issued an empty threat.)

I forget, what is today about? Oh, yeah. moms. I love mine.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Reedy of the 100 Days

Today marks the beginning of my last 100 days in Korea. I'm going with an in toto calculation, not just working days.

100 days sounds like a good time to have some kind of record or streak or something, but I couldn't think of anything monumental to do for these last days. I do have all day to think about it. I f I come up with anything good, I'll be sure to report. Otherwise, you'll have to be content with a basic countdown.


Dangerous Minds

The other day, while deskwarming at school, I was tooling around in the cabinets of my English room. And what to my wondering eye did appear, but badass wireless microphone.

You know what happens next.

Like any good graduate from the SingStar school of rock, I immediately search for a way to make this mic fully operational. Burrowing deeper, I came across... another microphone.

The only thing better than a microphone
is TWO microphones, ah-ah-ah.

Then, I found it. The switch that turned on the connection between the mics and the speakers. I fumbled for one of the microphones. Damn it! Not working. Thank god for backups! I hummed into the second microphone and you know what I heard? The sweet, sweet resonance of my own voice projected from the speakers. Hot damn. It got so real in the Cheongok Dream Center.

Phase Two: The Youtube Playlist. I focused on Divas, Disney, and showtunes. The best songs with which to rock out. A very exciting, 2-hour block in my deskwarming repetoire.



I realize my blog is word-heavy and have made comments to that effect. This is unfortunate for you in that my vocal delivery is key to any story I tell. Unless you are already familiar with my speech patters and can recall them with deadly accuracy, this may contribute to some dry, dusty reading. Observation of fact. Thusly, I provide posts like this one, laden with miscellaneous photos. Enjoy.

So many buttons. I have to greet each individually.

Running buttons

This kid makes my day. 

Hogye Station.
For when I go places.

Petals on a wet, black bough?

One time, I went somewhere.

Sneak Peek: K-Boy Scout
1,000 x better than regular Boy Scout?
Be Prepared.

-- Fun Times!

Note: I just realized that I could disable the word verification bullshit for when you guys want to leave comments! This affects few of you, but if that's what put you off of commenting, the problem exists no longer! Woot.nation.

P.S. I heartily enjoy comments.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rumble in the K-ronx

Picture it: ten minutes before class and all the little students are milling in and out of the classroom. Suddenly, they line up like soldier ants and hustle out of the room.

Uh oh. There are very few things in life that quickly catch the attention of all persons present. 

Jenna shuffles toward me, a shamefully eager look on her face. "Teacher, fight!" 

Shit. I am the only teacher on the floor. This is my responsibility. I try to dart out of my room and into the hallway, but my path is obstructed by the fascinated horde. Luckily, I tower over the students and can see the object of their curiosity. The two boys squaring off were still solidly in the shoving phase. That, I can deal with.

After shoving several bystanders aside, I confront the two boys. I grab each by the shirt collar and drag them down the hall. With a flick of my hand, the other students go back into the room. My icy death glare settles on the culprits.

Okay, here's where things get complicated. Do these students speak English? Barely. What the hell am I going to say to them? This language barrier really undermines my authority. I tried to stick to simple words, but the situation brought laughter out of one of my targets. Bad move, kid.

I back the two of them further into the wall. I point to the kids smile, "No." I know my angry voice isn't something to be trifled with. It's already booming, and I detect what I think is a trace of fear. Still, there is only so much I can communicate. "Don't do that," I bark. I could've said it in Korean, but it seemed out of pace. The kids know that one phrase, anyway. I yelled at them for a bit in English, mostly for my own good. I mean, it doesn't matter that they don't know the words, they know what I'm trying to communicate. When my steam starts to flag, I point to the end of the hallway and shout "Go!"

There wasn't much else to do.


After School Eleganza

Let's recap. Every Tuesday, I teach one after school class from 3–3:40 PM. This class, I teach alone. A once-a-week class wherein the students understand little to none of what I'm saying is unlikely to accomplish much. Not that I mind. Usually, only eight students show and they're mostly girls. While little kids may prove to be the bane of my existence, the female versions are at least palatable. But let's be honest, this class is an exercise in how to waste 40 minutes with virtually no effort on my part.

I'm not trying to be a jerk. The class fits into my schedule and, if anything, helps while away some of my after class time at school. Still, let's be realistic. Last semester, I taught two groups of students in seodang everyday. The kids are mentally over the school day by that time and either refuse or are unable to focus. Additionally, their retention is low. From experience, I can say trying to force a serious lesson is a futile effort. And that was when I had the same kids every day.

So what do I do instead? Videos, bomb games, drawing activities, you name it. I sometimes try to make the game relevant to the chapter the kids are studying in regular class. Last week, however, I took a measure of pity. Last Tuesday was midterm day for the 6th-graders. They had to take exams all day. What kind of monster subjects them to more work after that? I struck a bargain with the kids. They could watch the movie Ponyo, but I would play the English soundtrack. The children eagerly took the deal. Sure, I couldn't actually find that movie in Korean or with Korean subtitles online, but who's counting? I'm a giver.

I should note that I make very vague plans for this class sometimes minutes beforehand. By the time all the kids file in (some of them have to clean classrooms at 3 PM), ten minutes have already been shaved off the lesson. There isn't even time for a regular lesson. Yesterday, while planning, I kinda fumbled. Everything I thought of just didn't seem like it would pan out. Either that, or I wouldn't be able to explain it well enough. Then a stroke of genius befell my weary head. I remembered that it was soon to be Parents' Day.

Parents' Day (May 8th) is a self-explanatory holiday in Korea. It embraces the idea that a mother and a father are, in fact, just one entity (as I always suspected), and so celebrates both lifebringers in just one day. How convenient.

Then, I recalled something my mother used to say about self-made gifts from someone with elementary-aged talent always being her most favorite gifts. (She loved the necklace I made for her, years ago, of a single, shiny bead strung upon a piece of shoddy string. <3) Yahtzee!

So the kids made cards for Parents' Day. I also had Ponyo playing in the background. In the beginning of the class, I gave them the option of movie or card-making. They wanted both. Who am I to deny them? I wonder if these kids understand that I'm the best teacher ever.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Three Day Week


This is a summary of today's cognitive functioning. Korea is chock full of holidays and time off. April was a bit of a pill for a lot of us native English because there were zero days off. Working five days a week for four straight weeks? Imagine the horror. A handful of people legit complained about this at me. Little did we know about the cancelled classes, science fair days, and sports days that would help ease the load.

Luckily, it's May and we already have a few immediate days off. My case is not the same as everyone's, but I get the 5th to the 10th off. Children's Day, Parents' Day, Buddha's Birthday (I think), all contribute to my five-day holiday. Can I get a Holl- Er? My plan is to do a whole lot of nothing. Maybe begin my Materials Triage, where I decide what things to leave behind when I go, what things to ship back beforehand (if necessary), and what to pack and carry myself. I should also consider this dire situation atop my scalp. After the special color-stripping experience several months ago, my natural has had a chance to grow in a bit. Deadly serious roots. Until then, think about how I'll have to go to work twice more this week. TWICE. You know, and have a couple classes, then plenty of time to spit out a few long-winded blog posts. My life is hard, is what I'm saying.


Potent Quotables

Today. "Let's Practice!" The point in my lessons reserved for fun and games. A Powerpoint review game. A picture of Brad Pitt and George Clooney pops up.

Precocious child: "Obama!"