Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Survived Open Class!

Hello all!

I've been so busy over the past month(s) with school work, open class and exploring Korea that I haven't been blogging very faithfully - tisk, tisk.  However, now that open class is finished, I can finally relax.

Field Trip
Open class, in case I haven't explained it before, is a day where my Kindergarten student's parents come to school and watch us. Originally, I was supposed to go in May, but my open class got pushed back to June because I got some new students recently.  It seems like I am acquiring a new kindergarten student every month. In March I had only three students, then four, five and starting tomorrow I'll be up to six!  I love having more students in the class so my kids have more play partners.  BUT, it takes at least 1-2 weeks for a new student to adjust to the school.  It is a little inconvenient when a 4-year old student starts late.  Before they can even try catching up on the English expressions, numbers and letters we have already learned, they need to learn to share, not steal blocks, say please and thank you, and to not use their friends as punching bags or scratching posts.  I really wonder what goes on in some of these children's heads.

Anyways, so we practiced and practiced for open class.  The rehearsal we did the day before went really well and I was feeling pumped.  Unfortunately the real open class didn't go as well.  Half of my student's were really shy in front of the parents and the rest were just like crazy little bunny rabbits.  The girl who was scheduled for Show and Tell that day is the smartest girl in my class. I mean, this girl is reading English and Korean at 3 years old.  Alas, when it came turn for her Show and Tell, she was so nervous that she said nothing, absolutely nothing....gah! Luckily, the parents are all really understanding and know that young children can't always act on cue.  My director said that I did a really nice job in any case, so I am satisfied.  

staff party!
The real fun last week started with our celebratory Staff Party.  Our school director is so generous!  To thank us for our hard work on open classes, she took everyone out to eat beef kalbi with beer and soju.  Good times were had by all.  And, the party didn't really stop because the next day was a Korean holiday - Memorial Day - so there was NO SCHOOL! Whoo hoo! The night was filled with drinking, a little dancing and a lot of laughing at the bars in Suji.  We ended our celebration at McDonald's with some late night/early morning french fries, ice cream cones and even Big Macs for a few.  Plain ice cream cones are only 500 Won = 50 cents!  The chocolate dipped cone is only 700.  Yes, please!  Fun fact: did you know that in Korea McDonald's will deliver food for free.  Once I figure out how to give my address in Korean, I am definitely going to do it, just so I can say that I did (-:

The next day, most of the staff went to a baseball game in Seoul.  It was crazy fun!  The Korean fans get really into the games. Everyone comes dressed in team attire, bearing coordinating noise makers and ready with an arsenal of team cheers.

Hmmm...this post is getting long and boring.  Maybe I'll edit it later. lol.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Buddha's Birthday in Busan

View from Busan Tower
This past Monday marked an important day for me - my first day off from work.  In the states people were observing Memorial Day, and in Korea it was Buddha's birthday.  The other teachers and I decided to spend the extended weekend in Busan, South Korea.  Busan is a sunny, southern port city full of happy people and beautiful beaches!  Many others had the same ideas as us, foreigners and Koreans alike, because the trains and beaches were full of people from everywhere.  It was a glorious weekend! I cannot wait to go back!

Gwangan Bridge at Night
I didn't pack a swimsuit for my year in Korea because I didn't think I'd have the opportunity to go swimming.  How silly was I!  When we went to Haeundae beach on Saturday the sand was scorching and the water was cold.  I lasted for about 30 minutes watching everyone else sunbathe and jump in the water before I took off to find some swimwear myself.    Armed with a 9,000 won ($9)  pair of men's swim trunks, my tank top and a sports bra I embraced the Little Mermaid inside of me.  I was in paradise for the entire afternoon. Some of the highlights included: a leathery gentleman, wearing a blue thong on a jet ski, patrolling up and down the beach, multiple Koreans and foreigners asking to take pictures with one of my coworkers in her bikini (=, the Russain man wearing a speedo and posing next to us for over three hours, and talking to random Korean people swimming in the ocean.  My biggest regret from the weekend is not reapplying sunblock after changing into swim clothes.  I do not think I have ever burnt the back of my hands like this before!  And, now all my students ask me, "Why Teacher is red?" lol

Nasty pants !
The whole point of our weekend trip was to get a break from school and our students for a few days.  That would have been too easy though.  Thanks to my students, I spent most of the weekend with pink eye! Unable to find a doctor's office that was open on Saturday, I want to give a big THANK YOU to the elderly couple that owns a little pharmacy on Haeundae beach for hooking me up with some fantastic eye drops.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
We visited a really cool Buddhist temple right on the ocean.  Every inch of the place was covered in bright colored lanterns to celebrate Buddha's birthday.  What a beautiful place!

ttfn <3

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Happy Teacher's Day

Hiking Field Trip on Children's Day
May is already my favorite month of the year, and yet, Korea managed to make it even better. This month is chalk full of holidays. It's only the 15th and we have already celebrated Children's Day, Parent's Day and Teacher's Day.  These holidays are a great opportunity for families to spend more time together.

You may have guessed it - today was Teacher's Day!!! Student's are supposed to thank their teachers and wish them well.  It's the sweetest thing! Consequently, this also usually results in student's mom's buying presents (sometimes shockingly lavish ones) for teachers.  My school in particular sent out letters to families stating a no-gift policy. Apparently some schools now close on Teacher's Day because of bribery issues and mounting competition among parents to have the best gift.

Luckily though for me flowers, food, and little trinkets were okay to accept.  ^-^  Over Monday and Tuesday I received many little gifts from students and I feel so special!  I was especially excited to receive a new scarf, a bottle of white wine, and a cute new headband.  The gifts are very nice, but the best part is getting homemade cards from students - they're too adorable!

That's all for today! I've got some essays to grade and it's already after midnight (-:

Homemade card with Hello Kitty stamps
To Chris teacher
I'm Elly
I love you <3

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Snow in April?

How I imagine springtime (image from Google)
Korea - I love you, but can we stop with the cold/wet weather already?!?!  Normally I love Minnesota! Spring in Korea is supposed to be warm and gorgeous with little to no rain.  I am patiently waiting for all of the cherry blossoms to bloom!

Right now I am in the middle of correcting essays.  I had my fifth grade class write about their dream jobs and I am so happy that everyone took the assignment seriously!  Apparently I am teaching future archaeologists, robot scientists, MIT professors, psychologists and food scientists.  What an honor!  ^-^  I also had the students ask their parents about their jobs and if their parents love their jobs.  One of my students wrote (paraphrased) "My dad is a police officer and my mom is a housewife.  My dad loves his job and my mom says hers is so-so." Grading essays is always entertaining, it just takes a long time!

C is for Chris Teacher!

Uggg, now it's past midnight and I still have to prep for first grade.  Prepping for kindergarten is always my favorite.  Usually it is simply an excuse for me to color pictures and flashcards with my fancy new crayons.  My little ones have learned letters A-G, colors, numbers, shapes and classroom objects so far.  They are just like little sponges.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

Time for Class!

I've been in Suji for a month now and I think I am finally starting to get a hold on teaching.  I have to confess that I was secretly hoping Korean children would be really well behaved little angels, or at least much better than American students tend to be.  However, it turns out kids are kids no matter where you are - talkative and full of energy!

two of my darling kindergarten students on our field trip
The place where I work functions as a kindergarten school during the day and as an after-school academy (hagwon) in the afternoons/evenings.  Everyday I teach a kindergarten class from 10:00 to 2:30.  Right now I only have three students. Can you believe that?  However, on Friday I was told that starting this Monday we'll have a new student in our class! I'm excited!  Having a small class can be really nice because each of my students get a lot of individual attention.  However,  for the kids sake, a variety of students to play with would be a great thing.  Also, my kindergarten students are only five years old in Korean age.  That means they are really only three or four years old according to Western age. (Link to Wikipedia explaining the difference: )  Essentially, then, I am teaching preschool age children in an immersion setting.  All's I'll say for now is that it's a good thing they are so darn cute!  ^-^

Chris Teacher's Desk
I will also confess that I definitely cheat sometimes and sandwich Korean words in between English. For example, "That's the boy's bathroom.  Namja Hwajangshil ! Boy's bathroom!" when everyone tries to run and wash their hands together in the boy's bathroom.  I also think that my knowing some Korean helps a lot.   My students usually still talk to me and each other in Korean even though I almost always talk back to them in English. I think a few accidents were avoided because I understood "I have to pee!"  LOL!  Although one of my students still has issues with peeing their pants because she doesn't like going to the bathroom....

On M/W/F I teach first and second grade classes until 6:30.  Those days definitely feel the longest!  On T/Th I teach third, fourth and fifth grade until 6:45.  It's amazing how much English these kids can speak after just a few years.  I really like teaching elementary age students...if only they didn't talk so much ! (-;  Although, I suppose losing my voice for a week did not help much!

Also, I have to give major props to Korean students in general. They have so much homework everyday and jam-packed schedules. Starting in third grade the students usually bring a backpack with roller wheels because all of their books are too heavy to carry.  In one of my classes I had my students write about being stressed from school and what changes they would make if they could, etc.  It really helped me understand their schedules.  Most kids wake up early to study, go to elementary school, then come home and do homework for a couple of hours.  After that, Korean students usually go to some type of private academy (hagwon) that focuses on English or Math.  Sometimes they don't even get to eat dinner at home because they are at a hagwon.  When they finally do get home, they have to do their homework from the hagwon which may take a few hours as well.  Then, it's off to bed to start all over again the next day.  Although this is not the case for everyone, one of my students told me that her friend doesn't get to bed until 3 A.M. sometimes!  
Teacher's Room

Finally, I forget to explain why I am calling myself Chris Teacher.   There are already two other Christine's at LCI.  Story of my life (-;  I am getting much better at not turning around anytime someone calls the name 'Christine'.  Also, I've always wanted a nickname of some sort (Christiney-Beany does not count as I firmly believe a nickname needs to be shorter than the original!) so in the end I think it's win-win for Chris Teacher as well as the students.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shower In The Dark?

First off, I have to start by saying that I am very thankful to have my own (free) apartment in Korea.  My school provides me with an apartment and cellphone as a part of my contract! Woohoo!

That being said, I am still learning to love my bathroom.  My bathroom would be considered a 'half bath' back home as it's just a little room with a toilet and sink.  But hold on, what's that connected to the sink? That's right, it's my shower head!  When I want to shower I just have to turn a little knob so that the water comes out of the shower head instead of the sink and voila - a full bathroom.  I am trying to adjust to my new bathroom.

Tip #1 : Always remember to hide the toilet paper away in the cupboard before a shower or you will end up with paper mush.

Bathroom slippers!
Tip #2 : The faucets are very sensitive!  Turning the faucet one degree usually results in second degree burns (-;    I have yet to master this skill.

Tip #3: ALWAYS remember to turn the shower knob back to it's original place or the next time you try to wash your hands or brush your teeth, you get a cold shower.  You would think I'd have learned after the first time.  Of course not!  Four times and counting.  Old dog, new tricks?

Oh, I almost forgot the best part.  The light in my bathroom is completely broken, as in the fixture is hanging from the ceiling and the wall paper is scorched.  I heard tell that the bathroom light bulb actually exploded on the last teacher that lived here.  I should probably have someone from my school look at that.  Until then, morning showers it is!  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Welcome to my Korean "One-Room" Apartment!

Well, here it is, finally some pictures of my apartment.  As you have probably guessed, a 원룸 or a "one-room" means that I have one main room for sleeping and living.  In addition, there is a tiny kitchenette and bathroom.  Excuse the clutter, I was still unpacking and organizing when I took the picture.  Voila:
Cozy apartment, but the walls are so bare!
You may notice that I have a nice desk against the right wall.  The only problem is that the accompanying chair is completely broken.  It's currently hiding in the closet.  Instead, I do most of my work at the floor table with my warm and comfy floor cushion. More about that later!

L to R: Kitchenette, wardrobe, bathroom, washing machine/storage
What are some of the differences I've noticed so far, you may ask?  Heating systems, for starters, are very different in Korea than in the States.  Instead of using a central air system to control the temperature, Korean apartments and homes are often heated through the floor.  This is called Ondol heating.  Long ago fires/coal were actually used to circulate heat beneath the floors.  Nowadays, hot water pumps though water coils instead.  It's so nice and toasty!  Plus, heat rises, so I think this a pretty clever system.  No wonder some Korean people still sleep on the floor with thick blankets instead of using a Western style bed.  While working on lesson plans I am sometimes tempted to just curl up and nap on the floor instead. (=

One of the first hurdles I had to tackle in my new apartment was controlling the water thermostat.  All hot water is controlled by this little guy (below).  Whenever I want to use hot water for any reason (washing dishes, or a shower) I have to make sure the water heater is on and ready to go.  Cold showers are not fun!  The system is very efficient in terms of conserving energy and keeps the heating bill down.  However, I still like how back home all I have to do is turn the water faucet to the left and warm water comes out. (=  It's the little things.

Korean Thermostat - Ondol Heating

Thank you Google!
Thank goodness I can write and type in Korean because I just plugged all the labels into Google Translate and this is what I got :

Red Button = On/Off
Green Button = Warm water only
White and Grey Buttons = Set temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit
Blue Button = How often the heater runs (? )*

*I'm still not certain about the blue button. Youngeun - do you know what that means? lol

Anyways, it took me two days to completely figure out all the settings in my new apartment.  By then I was desperate for a hot shower.  But of course, I didn't have shampoo or conditioner yet. (planned on purchasing in Korea) For my first week, I washed my hair with body wash...weird, but it still got the job done.  hahaha. The body was left by the previous teacher.  The problem has since been rectified (=

It's dinner time - what to cook?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Walking Tour of Seoul

What an amazing weekend! I still can't believe that I am living in Korea, as a teacher, for an entire year!!! It doesn't seem real yet.

On Saturday afternoon, two of my co-teachers graciously offered to show all the new teachers around Seoul.  The weather was gorgeous. It had to be around 50 degrees for most of the day with bright blue skies.

Big Shopping Area
We did a walking tour of some of the popular sites in Seoul. We didn't spend much time at each place, but now I know how to get around by bus and subway by myself.  Some of the places we visited included: Myeongdong, Insadong, Itaewon, a Buddhist temple and the Palace! For now, I'll post some pictures on Facebook.  When I go back to spend more time at each location I'll tell more about it (=

This is only one wall - it's huge!
I think you will be surprised how heavily influenced Korea is by American culture.  I swear there are more Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and 7 Eleven's in Korea than I've ever seen in the States.  Would you believe that there are Taco Bells, Burger Kings and Pizza Huts as well?  There was a TGI Fridays in the supermarket near my apartment in Suji, for goodness sakes!  Korea is so dynamic I learn something new everyday.  Hopefully I'll stay on top of this blogging thing so I can share it with you all too!

Me in front of King Sejong and the palace in the background!

The city itself seems never ending. Just like the Energizer Bunny, it keeps going and going!  The Seoul metropolitan area has a population of almost 25 MILLION people!  To help put that into perspective, the Twin Cities metro area is home to only 5 MILLION.   Below is a photo a pretty stream that runs through the heart of the city.  One of coolest things about my tour is that I've seen a lot of these sites in Korean dramas before - but now I get to see them up close in person!!

Another fun fact, and don't you know I love to dish those out, the land area of North and South Korea combined is roughly the same size as Minnesota.

Quickly, I just have to say that I am loving the food here.  I'm am really enjoying myself despite my aversion to seafood. I suspect Korean food will do wonders for my figure as well (-; For lunch we stopped to have Dak Kalbi (spicy chicken),a stirfry-like dish.  Its was sooo yummy.  Here are two of my co-teachers Tristan and Rachel:

Next, I promise to share some pics and stories about my apartment !

Friday, March 2, 2012

LCI Kids Club in Suji

Just some quick info for those who are curious:

I am teaching at LCI Kids Club in Suji, South Korea this year.
Here is the website if you're curious.

Be warned almost everything on the website is in Korean.  Let's see what Google Images has to say...I found a random picture of the hallways.

And here is the location on Google Maps if you want to play around and see how far away from Seoul it is, etc.   My apartment is about a 10 minute walk from school and all the teachers live in the same block.  

View Larger Map

Never Ending Journey

Hello friends and family!

What a week it's been!  Last Friday I finally left Minnesota and made my way to South Korea.  After two sleepless days of packing and flying I just wanted to get to my new apartment and make myself at home. But, as luck would have it, my apartment wasn't ready yet.  Instead, myself and three other new teachers ended up in a motel for four days. This really wasn't the end of the world, but living out of a suitcase (or in my case three of them) isn't the most comfortable situation.

Last Minute Packing
The funny part is, that in Korea, some motels/hotels are a bit different than the states.  I think the best way to describe where I stayed is a "love motel".  Let me try to explain.  When Korean couples (unmarried) want to spend the night together they have to go a motel.  My understanding is that sex before marriage is a big no-no and most people live with their parents until they get married.  I think you can figure out the rest (-; Anyways, it was really funny (and awkward) to see random couples on their way in or out of the motel if you catch my drift. The parking lots are even indoors and placards are available to cover car license plates for privacy.  Here is a picture of my room. Fancy pants!

Love Motel <3

Now it's Friday again and I am finally in my very own apartment. I am appreciating it all the more!!!  More details to follow.