Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hello, Goodbye

What a long week! Having to work on a Saturday really cuts down on weekend time, and then the week just seems to never end! Whew....never been more glad to have alone time!

This week passed by super slow....but so much happened! We got two new teachers this week, one girl from California, and a guy from Atlanta. Both are very cool...Ryan (the girl) studied abroad in Barcelona the same time I was in Sevilla, so we have a lot to talk about. Matthew teacher is my new neighbor...since two of the teachers left this week there was some apartment rearranging. The girl that was living next to me( Miranda) moved to a bigger apartment, where a girl Brittany was living until she left yesterday....due to some last minute emergencies I am now catsitting for Brittanys cat until she returns from traveling on the 10th...its so fun to have a cat again! and my allergies arent bothering me at all.

The two teachers that I was in touch with before I came are both going back to the US after they go to Vietnam and Cambodia. They are the first people to leave since I've been here, and how sad it is! Even though it happes so much throughout the year, someone leaves, and a new person comes....I can't even imagine how hard it will be to leave my little students...and I've only had them for a month!

A month! I can't believe the first month of teaching has come and gone. It went pretty decent...besides a few minor setbacks with troublesome kids! I've been here for nearly 7 weeks now...and the time has passed so quickly! I've been so busy and don't doubt that the next 11 months will go by fast....gotta be sure to take advantage of all that time.

Yesterday we took our kindergarteners sledding...really fun but we didn't have a lot of time, so most went down only one or two times! I went down only once with was pretty fun. They line the kids up at the top of the "hill" and blow a whistle and everyone goes down all at once.

Today I went with a few others to see another was Cinderella, but not your everyday Disney story! haha it was kinda funny to try to follow the story, that included the father (who is dead in the disney version ) the fairy godmother (who is cinderellas dead mother!) and people who were referred to as the "pleasure superintendants". Still not sure where those people come in...but it was fun to watch anyways! After some dinner a couple girls and I did some subway shopping. In mny of the larger subway stations here there are like mini underground malls with super cheap clothes, shoes and jewelry. I bought five or six shirts for under 30$! Definitely one of the perks of Korea.

The weather has been great lately, still cold but pretty sunny. Tomorrow I'm planning on taking a walk around the "lake" here, not sure how much of a lake it is cause I haven't seen it yet....

Hope everyone is having/will have a great weekend! I'm drinking some Korean Raspberry wine that was left for me...perfect end to a busy week. Have a great one!

Friday, January 22, 2010

...and what day is tomorrow class? "Sunny and cold!"

Well at least they know how to talk about the weather!

This week has been the best so far. I have a feeling they will just keep getting better and better! My students are already improving so much! Most can ask "May I go to the bathroom" without having to be told to say it in English, as well as ask for "eraser please!" and are speaking in full sentences when I ask "What is it?" They say "It is a ball!" instead of just "ball!" Can't wait to see their improvement over the next year!

The two boys in apple class who are my biggest trouble makers are calming down a bit. I still have to tell Kenny to put on his shoes or sit down at least five times a class, but that is sooo much of an improvement from last week!

Last Friday we had a birthday party for one student, and today we had "cooking". Basically, we made a snack! A canape it is called, a cracker with ham, cheese, tomato and an apple. Delicious! They all looked super cute with their aprons and little hankercheifs over their hair!

I signed up for my korean lesson on Tuesday, and yesterday was my first lesson. It went well considering that I missed the first five lessons with the beginner class! However considering my background with languages, I don't think I will have much of a problem catching up. I know how to say my name, I'm a teacher, I'm from the US (or basically, just I'm American, which I don't like to say, because those of us from the US are NOT the only Americans in the world!). This part came in helpful last night around 1am, when I got a wrong number call from a Korean. He called three times before I was able to croak out "I'm American"! in broken Korean...he must have gotten the idea because he just hung up the phone!

Today a new teacher arrives! We are going to meet her in about half an hour. I am glad to no longer be the newbie in town! We also will have a boy teacher starting on Monday. Tomorrow (Sat) we have to go into school to make up for the snow day two weeks ago. Bummer...especially considering that the kindergarteners aren't coming, only elementary students, and since I won't start with them until February I will have no classes to teach! But my boss asked if I could go in and just prepare for next week, she felt it would be unfair if I was the only one that didn't have to go in. I understand, so I will be there for a couple hours in the morning.

Last Monday I met up with Yunjin, the Korean girl I met online for a language exchange. She is a really sweet girl, and seems really excited to practice Korean with me! Her English is decent, but there is a lot of room for improvement, so these days will really help both of us. We plan to meet on Mondays for awhile.

The other day Charlie (pretty much the cutest little kid ever) was coloring, and I was saying that I wanted "very beautiful pictures". I was crouched down next to him, encouraging him to color (for some reason he doesn't like to color!). He looked at me and said, teacher, beautiful. Now really, if that isn't the most heartwarming little comment ever! Haha it sure beat the question I got asked on the first day (or rather a student asked another teacher) "Why is betsy teacher ugly on her face?" as he pointed out some huge zit I had. "Why is it red"? Oh little, boy, I thought, don't you worry, another 6 years and you'll be blessed with zits too!! Little kids here have no problem pointing out our flaws....the biggest advice I've gotten is just to not let them see your weaknesses, or they will never let you live it down! Some kids (especially one little girl in my banana class) like to boob grab, and another popular game for kids is to put their fingers together like a gun, and poke you right in the butt! I got that the other day for the first time...most teachers don't get it so early on I guess! I turned around and the kid was hysterically laughing. It was quite a shock...but is common occurance here I guess.

Arite, I'm on my way out now....hope everyone enjoys their weekend!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Now really, of ALL the busses to get on!!!

Remember the guy I said I met on the way home from church two weeks ago? The one that asked my name (I said Sarah) asked if I was married (of course! husband back in the US) and asked for my phone number?(I made one up). Well, I was a little concerned I would run into him again, and he would have realized that I gave him a fake number. But, after church today, I went out to lunch, did a little shopping, so I was SURE, that there was no possible way he could be on the same bus going back again. I mean, what are the odds? And he wasn't on the bus, not at least, until the very last second right as the doors were closing! I spotted him all the way from the back...I quickly put in my headphones (even though my IPod was dead!) and tried to cover my face with my hair. His wife sat down right behind me....Neither of them said anything though, so I don't think they saw/ or recognized me. Whew! But really, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES!!???

Church was great today. It's a beautiful day out, which automatically puts anyone in a great mood. Even though it is an hour commute to church (I get on a bus then transfer to the subway, then have a 7 or so minute walk), it is worth it once I get there. The services are great, lots of singing and today we had a guest speaker from Kenya. I mean really, how cool is it that I am in South Korea, attending a Methodist church, where it is mostly Chinese, Phillipino and other ethnicities (very few North Americans), listening to a sermon led by a Kenyan, where the one language we all speak is English? I think it is very cool!!

After church a group of us went with Pastor Christina (who lived in Rockford for many years, and visited NIU several times!) for lunch. I talked quite a bit with a Chinese girl named Vivian, she is here studying Korean. Really sweet girl! She invited me to go skiing with her and some friends in the next few weeks.

After lunch I started the commute back home, (where the old man enters the picture). I am currently texting a Korean girl that I met online, we will hopefully meet up tomorrow for a language exchange! This is something that sooo many Koreans like to do, get together with foreigners to improve their English, and to help the foreigners learn Korean too! I am excited, and hope to meet more people this way!

Happy Sunday to you all!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thank goodness for weekends! Until now, I have never had a Monday to Friday, nine to five job. It makes you really really appreciate those two days off! This was the first week that I have taught my kids every day since I've been here. And now I know why it was that the first week I was here every single teacher was saying "TGIF!"

Classes are continuing to go well. After last week, I was ready for the weekend. Friday night was a friends birthday celebration, we went to a noreabong to sing some kareoke, and then to a bar afterwards. Saturday I took a trip into Seoul, the same area where I spent Christmas day. A co-worker from school named Sarah took me in. We went to a foreign book store, where I bought several used English books for super cheap, and also a foreign food store where I was able to buy some things to cook with! They have most things here in Dongbaek, but it is a matter of being able to actually read what I am buying. They have a quite a bit of foreign food at this store, and it was nice to know I have a place to go buy some REAL pickles if the need arises!

Sunday I had planned to go to church, but I was sooo tired from the week that I had to allow myself to sleep in. That afternoon though I met up with a girl who was an exchange student with me in Brasil. She has been here for almost a year, and it was so cool meeting up with her. This week I also randomly looked at another friends profile (who was an exchange student in brasil also) and saw that he is living here as well! Super close too, about half hour away. It is so funny that I met these people in Brasil, and will see them in Korea, but never have we met up in our own countries!

The school week started off well. I have been so concerned, however, with trying to get through all the bookwork, because that is what I though I was supposed to do. So the poor kids were beginning to hate me I'm sure, because I was pushing them so hard to get the work done, and we didn't have any time to have fun! My supervisor told me however, that I should focus not so much on finishing the books, but also making sure they have fun. Thank goodness! The last couple days of classes went much better. I think the kids are liking it a lot more! Friday we had a birthday celebration for Kevin. Once a month on Friday we will celebrate the kids who have bdays that month. There was a cake, lots of fruit, and all of the kids brought a present for Kevin! Quite the celebration. It was a lot of fun, and a nice break from regular classes!

Last night Molly and I went out for dinner, and today I am got invited to a church members house for a dinner party thing, even though I missed church last week! I am excited though, because going to church is such a good way to meet people and do fun things. I've always liked going to church, but all throughout college I worked at Parkway Sunday mornings, and that money was hard to give up! So it is nice now that I have the time and the desire to go to church on Sundays. Tomorrow is the actual church service too.

I am pretty sure that I will be registering for a Korean class next week. It will begin the first week in February, and will meet twice a week in the evenings. I absolutely HATE not knowing what people are saying, or not being able to communicate what I need or want! The other times I lived abroad I was able to speak the languages so easily, and so it is very frustruating not knowing anything here! However, I have met several people who have a good handle on the langauage, so I'm sure that if I work hard at it I will to eventally! My dad had asked if the kids teach me any Korean. In class, we have a "no korean" rule, but of course hardly any of the kids speak enough English to NOT talk in Korean. I think most still do not get that I don't understand Korean! So we have the English only rule "or Engrish only" as Charlie calls it, but pretty much all of the kids speak to each other in Korea, and when we play games they speak Korean. I have had several that count in English when we play games, and I make sure to praise them a lot for it! A few of the words I know in class are water (mul) eraser (chiugae) and bathroom (dont know how to write it out!). They taught me the word for foreigner too, well more like they said it to me, and when I asked what it was they giggled and said "English speaker" (oegokin?).

Thursday was the first time I felt really overwhelmed here. There was a huge lack of communication, and I was not informed that the helper teachers would not be with us at all that day. The helper teachers follow us when we go to the bathroom, helping kids wash their hands and zip up clothes, they also serve us our snack and lunches, then they clean out the kids lunch boxes. Also, at the end of the day, when the kids are ready to go home, they make sure each kid is in their assigned room, then take them down to the busses. So Thursday I was the one helping with bathroom and lunch, which was perfectly okay, but then at the end of the day I couldnt take the kids to their "bus rooms" cause there was no adult there to watch or take them downstairs, and no one really knew what to do with the kids. So I got upset afterwards and was able to vent it out to some co-workers, who have all gone through what I am! I know that it was a situation that will probably not happen again though, and at least if it does I will be more prepared!

Other than that incident though, everything else has been going very well! I'm looking forward to taking Korean lessons, and will keep you all updated on how its going.

Have a great day!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Apparently I CAN be a teacher!

Yulia (while trying to zip up her jacket)" Teacher, how to do?"
Me: Yulia, you say, "teacher, how do I do this?"

Five minutes later (while trying to put on her face mask) "Teacher, how to do? No no, teacher, how do I do this?"

My little kiddies are already learning!!!!!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


This is what I hear when these adorable little 4 and 5 year old Korean children talk to me with the most innocent looks on their faces. I point to my ears and say "I don't understand Korean, teacher doesn't speak Korean, what do you need?" Usually I get a response like "mul" (water, some will say it in english "watah") or something that sounds like choo choo followed by some crotch grabbing. I know at this point that it means bathroom, and I usher them into the hallway where a helper teacher takes them to the bathroom.

SCHOOL IS IN SESSION! My students came to school for the first day on Tuesday. We had a snow day on Monday, but it didn't affect me because the new classes were not starting until Tuesday. I had one last day to prepare. I was so nervous and excited! Mostly excited.

Tuesday came and went. After I taught my first class, the Apple class, (10 students, 5 years old American) a little piece of my heart was gone. We hadn't gotten through half of the material that we were supposed to for that day! Banana class was a breeze though. (6 students, mostly 4 year old American) We got through everything that day, this class is super smart, my two girls already speak English shockingly well! I will introduce a little about each.
Apple class:
Matthew-chubbier kid, likes to eat, always tries to pass out treats to everyone, cried the first day, but speaks the most English of all!
Morris-super tiny and quiet, but he understands when I ask his name, and loves to come to the board to write letters.
Kenny-ooooh Kenny. Doesn't understand any English, therefore he is my little troublemaker. Feet on the tables, constantly out of his chair, today during science he was tackling poor little Morris! I am working on him. He is my project for the year.
Brenda-The best listener in Apple class! Always raising her hand and shouting out letters and pictures.
Annie-one of the helper teachers daughters. She understands well, but is quiet. She was sad up until today because she was sitting by Carson (see below) but we moved her today so she is next to Brenda.
Carson-was at SLP for 6 months or so last year. His mom pulled him out because she apparently freaked out at the supervisors and was embarrassed. He speaks well, but does not listen when he is by the boys. I wish I could put him between two girls, but then the girls get upset.
Jane-A little slower. I usually have to push her several times to write her letters. She will do it with a little encouragement, but until I tell her, she just sits. I don't think she understands much.
Mikey-Cute little boy, talks with a bit of a lisp (My name ih Mi-ey). Was doing very well until he was sitting by Carson today! We need to do some rearranging.
Eddy-Cute too, listens well, doesn't understand much however. He was the first kid that came up to me and started speaking Korean, with the cutest little look on his face, asking something about his backpack which of course I didn't know what the heck he was saying!

Banana class:
Andrew-Understands, but doesn't like to listen to teacher!! He is smart though and is the first to finish writing his letters.
Yulia-Lived in the Phillipines for a few years, speaks English very well. "I, many many friends in the Pilipines!" Always finishes her letters quickly.
Philip-My banana class project. He, like Kenny, does not understand English at all. I have to sit by him and watch him write his letters one by one.
Charlie-The happiest boy in class! "My. name. is. Chal-lie!" Loves to sing the hello song and do the motions. Sings the loudest too! Understands and writes well.
Kevin-Very quiet, but listens and is always willing to write his letters.
Heather-a sister of one of the older girls. Today she was not feeling good. She speaks and understands very well. Told me the first day "I and my mom go skating in the snow". Can't wait to see where she will be a year from now!

After Tuesday classes went a little better. I have apple for 80 minutes, ten minute break (with a snack, dumplings, fruit, yogurt, rice cakes, something along those lines) then I have banana for another 80 minutes. Lunch is next, then they have half hour of free time, where they play blocks or watch movies. Then a special class for 50 minutes. Tuesday I taught a game to banana, same with apple yesterday, and then today we did a science "experiement". IIIII did a science experiment. I had to make the damn things myself of course, cause the kids had no clue. They were little wheel type things where you twist a stick around a rubberband, then put it on the floor and it spins around. It was fun to watch them play, not fun to make.

It has been super challenging. But these kids are so damn cute, and smart, that I can't be mad at them for too long. Kenny is my toughest. Today though, I found that when he is out of his seat, and I say One, Two very sternly and point to his chair, he gets the hint and sits down. I have been chanting "Look at me, Look at me" and clapping to get their attetion, which usually works, but today I did the peace sign above my head, most of them followed and were quiet. Little things like this that I can do!

As tough as it is (and mannnnn is it tough!) I can't wait each day to go into class. The school has a verrry heavy curriculum for the first few months, which are the months that they understand the least! We have a 75 page alphabet book to get through by the end of January. Usually we do 2 letters a day...four pages. This does not include the other phonics books we work in, or the stories that I read, or the time we spend going to the library and bathroom (library twice a week for now, then just once a week). However, the other teachers have done it, so I have complete confidence that I will too! Even if that means taking the kids away from play time to work individually on letter writing (little letter e is a tough one!). But they are catching on sooo fast, and I can't wait for the day the little lightbulbs go off in their heads!

TGIF. Tomorrow. Busy weekend ahead...tomorrow is Molly's birthday, Saturday I have plans to go into Seoul, and Sunday I will be going to church and then meeting up with a friend that was an exchange student with me in Brazil! cool huh?

Hope everyones 2010 has started off fantastically....Mine has!!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

God did NOT create the earth to kill time

This was one of the points in my sermon that I heard in church this morning. But I will get to that later!

Lots to tell...This break sure has gone by fast! I've done a lot of sightseeing in the past week. On Wednesday, I went with Molly and her sister to a cafe where you can sit and have tiny little fish nibble away at your feet! It is supposed to clear away the dead skin on your feet. Took me a few times, and some deep breaths to be able to keep my feet in the water, but after a few minutes I was able to do it! It tickled sooo much, but I found that if I swung my feet a bit it didn't tickle so much. We had some awesome lattes and cappucinos before we got to experience the
"Dr. Fish" for 15 minutes.

The next day was new years eve. We went into Seoul, along with Marissa, who is a friend of Molly's from the US who came to visit for a bit. Her boyfriend Luke is teaching in Korea, as well as Dustin, who is a friend of Marissa's and who teaches at the same school that Molly does. Saebomi (not sure of spelling) was an exchange student from Korea who lived with Marissa's family for a year in high school. She also joined us for the night! We checked into the hotel (that Molly and Karen's mom had so graciously rented for them, I tagged along!) and then set out for the evening. We went to this part of Seoul where there is a giant bell that they ring at midnight, and where there must have been thousands of people! There were news camaras and concerts and it was a lot of fun. I was a little afraid that I would get trampled, because we were all packed in so tightly, but luckily that did not happen! However after the bell rang and we celebrated, we were hopping a fence, and I kinda slowly fell to the ground, but my foot was stuck in the fence and I was sure that it was gonna snap in half! Lucky for me Molly was right there and was able to push it out before anything major happened. After leaving there we went to a bar for a bit, and the Marissa, Luke, Saebomi and I went to another part of Seoul. We met up with some friends of Lukes from the city that he teaches in, and after stopping at a restaurant for a bit we headed over to a noribong. These are really popular here, and are little kareoke rooms that you rent for just you and your friends, and we had an awesome time belting out songs for a couple hours. Around 7am we headed back to the hotel, where we crashed. It was a very fun New Year's!

Yesterday we went into a Korean Folk Village, a little area with lots of performers, vendors, food and etc. It was really cute and fun to see the performers dancing, a man walking on a tightrope, and an equestrian team doing tricks on their horses.

This morning I went with Dustin to a Methodist church, about an hour away from us. We first went to a childrens service that is taught in English. Dustin will be teaching a small group of the kids within the next few weeks. After that we went to the adult English service. That was a lot of fun, and there are a lot of different types of people that were there. Lots of Koreans, Philipinos, Chinese, with just a few Americans and British. Everyone was very excited to meet me because I was new, and they were also super excited to see Dustin, because he had been back in the States over Thanksgiving and Christmas. After the service we broke up into smaller groups for about 15 minutes to talk. I was asked if I wanted to joing the "singles" group haha. It's not like a singles network in the US, it is just for people who are unmarried, not necessarily looking for someone to date! Church was fun, and I'm sure that I will go back soon. During the children's lesson we learned though, that God did not in fact create the earth to kill time. I thought it was so funny that they used this phrase in this context, so I just had to add it in!

I was very proud of myself because I got back to Dongbaek by myself! I haven't taken the public transportation alone much at all, it can sometimes be confusing but Dustin explained it to me really well. While waiting for the bus an older man behind me started talking to me. His English wasn't that great, and he was kinda giving me a creepy vibe and kept hitting me on the butt with a notebook he had in his hand ( I think it was unintentional, but still creepy). When he asked my name I told him it was Sarah, I figured there was no need for me to try to repeat my name 8 times (it is hard for them to pronounce). Then he introduced me to his wife and he seemed a little less creepy. Still, when he asked if I was married I told him that I had a husband in the US. Then, we he asked for my phone number, I kinda sorta made one up, but I did enter his into my phone when he gave it to me. I feel a little bad to have lied to him, but I'm sure I'll never see him again, and I figured may as well just give him a wrong number than run the risk of him calling me all the time. After he invited me over to their house (today, you come now!) I politely declined, saying I was meeting with a friend, but maybe some other time. In Spain I had a man at a bus stop invite me to come live with him. "My wife died a long time ago, so you can come live with me if you want" he had said. Apparently, the older men love me! Haha oh well!

Can't believe break is already over, I'm glad I took advantage of it because it will be a loooong time before I have that long of work off again! Classes start up again tomorrow, but my students won't come until Tuesday, so we have one last day to prepare and get everything ready. I can't wait to start teaching!

Hope everyone is well!
Also for some reason this blog is being tricky, and after I attached the first picture(which I'm sure is sideways)I was not able to post anymore. Will try again soon though!