Saturday, August 27, 2011

But where has all the summer gone?

What I see every night on my way home from school :)
The past few months of summer have been absolute chaos. In a good way, of course - just full of all sorts of shenanigans. We started teaching summer intensives in mid-July, and just now completed them. I taught a Science class and two speaking "boot camps".

I had a lot of fun teaching the Science class - we did all manner of projects, ranging from paper airplanes races to making mayonnaise to testing foods for acids and bases. Preparing for the classes was pretty easy - most of the topics were things we learned all through school, so explaining things was a breeze. Halfway through the course, I realized that I like science a lot more than I thought. Shouldn't have been that much of a surprise!

The speaking classes, on the other hand, were torture. The books were dry and poorly written - I had to poke and prod and beg the students into participating during class. There were a few exceptions, of course. All the boys in my upper-level class loved to make speeches about "Zombie Teacher" (or as most students  say, "첨   비   Teacher"). It was a little annoying, especially when they said that one of the other teachers was Zombie Teacher, or that all the teachers at our school "kill Zombie Teacher", etc. etc., but I just kept telling myself that at least they were participating!

All in all, it's been a good semester - full of growth and learning, to be sure, but for my first semester teaching EVER? I'd have to say I've done pretty well!

As far as my school goes, I really do love it. My branch manager is incredibly competent (being a teacher himself really gave him an appreciation for us, I think) and the branch owner is so sweet! She's always bringing us coffee or snacks. She makes sure we have a staff meal at least once a month. AND she gave both me and my coworker $75 to spend in Thailand when we went on summer vacation. Not to mention the two VIP movie tickets that she gave me for teaching an open class last Saturday. How awesome is she?!

Oh yeah! I went to Thailand! I almost forgot about that. The food was amazing, the people were amazing, the views were amazing. Everything? Pretty much amazing. I wish I could be more descriptive, but after the debacle that was my return trip back to South Korea, I've blocked out almost all the good parts. Seriously, it was that bad. I've decided that Shanghai must be a gateway to hell, or at least another dimension, because I haven't seen incompetence that bad in my LIFE. And I like to think I've traveled a fair bit. 

Anyways, instead of trying to dig up words about Thailand, here are some pictures:

The view of Bangkok from the airport rail

Rush hour in the train station

The ocean on the way to Koh Chang - 7 AM and rainy, after 28 hours of traveling :(

My bungalow - for $7 a night!

The beach bar we hit up around noon

I wish I knew what this statue was protecting!

These topiaries were EVERYWHERE

Yes, parents travel like this with their children. All the time.

I don't know either. :D

Close encounter!

Pimped-out tuk-tuk (spelling?)

I wonder where they're going?


Yes, this was my sunset every night for 4 days.

This lovely little swimming hole inland on the island

The waterfall we hiked to on Koh Chang

Clear skies, beautiful beaches, perfect water -- the day we left. :(

Back in Bangkok - the view outside my hostel

Traffic all day, every day

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Oh my gas!

It's been a pretty mundane month so far - got my ARC card, got a bank account, got paid A LOT of money, transferred it home, got soaked many many times because of the random downpours, ate a lot of good food, signed up for Korean classes, watched some Tru Blood, etc. Great times!

I'm really excited about this month. I mean, I'm starting up summer intensive classes, where I'll be teaching two extra two-hour classes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I'm teaching a science project class (yay science!) and a really low level speaking class. It'll be a lot of extra preparation, but it'll be really interesting to see how the students improve, and definitely fun to teach.

AND, not to mention, I'm going to Boryeong next weekend for Mud Festival and Thailand the first week of August! So basically, I'm going to be spending a lot of money and having fun and it will be awesome. :D

I don't have time to say much more, since we're about to go shopping at the outlet malls in Migeum (a few stops away from us), but I do want to share this wonderful gem:

My students love to sing this song during class, and I'm only slightly ashamed that I sing with them... Whatever!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'm sorry, I just really have to share this amazingness with everyone!

Shame me later, just watch it!

Korea: A Month in Review

It's been over a month since I've come to South Korea, and seriously, this may have been the best decision I've made for myself in a very long time. It's such a different culture here - in a good way, of course! - and adapting is a challenge and a wonderful change from life in Texas.

I love so many things already about Korea. The food is amazing: samgyeopsal (barbeque), pajeon (Korean pancakes), kalmegi (seagull), all the seafood, dduk (rice cakes), bibimbop, and kimchi. Oh, I could write odes to kimchi, I love it that much! (On a side note, I'm definitely gaining weight, so maybe I should hold back on the rice...)

The people are incredibly gracious, industrious, and funny. I had an old woman stop me and a teacher friend on the street and ask us if we were teachers, then go on to tell us that we needed to "hurry up and learn Korean!" because we were so pretty. The other day, a lady in an elevator saw that I and the same teacher friend were holding muffins, and told us to "eat rice instead - you're in Korea!" The amount of advice and general help I've gotten since I've arrived is astounding. Honestly, if I were in another country, I might not have gotten it.

When I go out in public, I get a lot of attention, ranging from stares to comments, but I have never been accosted. I have never once felt uncomfortable - honestly, I'm tall, pale, female, and very obviously Western, so how else are people here supposed to react? It's when you start taking it personally that the attention starts seeming vindictive, and I refuse to look at it that way. I just meet their eyes and smile, and half of them look away, but the other half smiles back -- and it's that latter half that makes it worth it.

As a teacher, I feel like I get to see a slightly different side of Korean culture. I get to see children before the stress of school and general life start sapping the energy out of them. My kids are (for the most part) adorable, and they work their little heinies off to make me happy. Because I'm teaching at April (Chungdahm), I have to stick to the class structure and syllabi, but school is easy to prepare for, and I have some leeway in how I teach. I'm teaching a music and lyrics class currently, and it's pretty awesome - we sang Yellow Submarine last week. The kids ate it up with a spoon, especially when I added dance moves and we started dancing around the room singing at the top of our lungs. Good times!

I'll be starting a Science Project and Speaking summer intensive course in the next few weeks, which means more hours (and overtime!) BUT less free time. I'm already pretty exhausted, but that could be the remnants of Friday night's partying in Apujeong or just general malaise. It's the rainy season right now, which means rain every day. I'm trying to get used to it, but after living in Texas, where rain apparently is against the law or something, it's a little odd to keep waking up and seeing gray skies. Whatever! I'll adapt. :)

For bookkeeping purposes, I'm going to start a to-do list of places I want to visit and things I want to do:
  • Kyungbok-gung and Changduk-gung (palaces!)
  • Insadong
  • Eat live octopus
  • Dongdaemun
  • Jongmyo Shrine
  • COEX
  • Namsan Tower
  • National Museum
  • Korean Folk Village
  • Lotte World
  • Yongsan Electronics Market
  • Learn how to cook Korean food
  • Hike some mountains!
That's it for now! I have to go stock up on food now - apparently there's a tropical storm blowing in. Who'd have thunk? :D