Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nearing the end of the week!

Well, it's been 5 days already (well four, I guess, since I time traveled). Doesn't feel like that long at all...I have a feeling that for a while time is just going to be whipping by.
         Yesterday I observed the Storybook lessons, which are vastly more easy to teach than the Backpack lessons, because they follow the same format every time. I also was able to look more closely at the lesson plans for Storybook and see exactly what I'll be doing. I'm feeling less nervous about those classes now. Today one of the other teachers will show me how to work with the lesson plans for the Backpack series, and then I'll begin planning everything for Monday! I already have copied a bunch of things, so the main thing to accomplish today is to write a script for my first Phonics 1 class.

Because the Phonics one class is the very lowest level we have, they will not understand anything really, so it is really important to use the same phrases all the time for things like classroom commands. So if I say "open your books to page such and such" next time I shouldn't say "Let's look at page such and such." That sort of variety in language won't be something that is helpful until they are much more advanced. So, I need to script myself until I remember which phrases I've used without having to read off the paper, so that they learn those commands really well.

It's kind of like when you're learning the lines for a play; until you learn your lines perfectly and some of the other actor's lines who speak before and after you, it can be hard to do any kind of improv, because you don't know where the scene is supposed to be heading. Same basic idea.

Some exciting things are coming up too! Tomorrow I will go and visit the other teacher's apartment building for lunch, and after I'm going with them to Chuncheon, and area in Seoul where my host family goes to church. I believe we are going to do some bike riding thing, though I'm not sure exactly what it is. Basically I'm trying to seize every opportunity I have to get to know everybody better.

On June 6, there is a national holiday, so we have the day off. One of the student's mother's invited all the teachers to go have a tour of a folk village, so I will do that as well, which is something that I really wanted to do while I was here.

Last night Imo was late because she was working on mediating a reconciliation meeting between some took almost 8 hours to come to a conclusion that both parties agreed to, and she finally arrived at about 10 pm. She works so hard! Anyway, because she was doing that and wasn't able to make dinner, Imobu took me to eat samgyupsal! It is basically like very thick bacon and is the best thing I've eaten here so far...oh my word so delicious. It was so fun to eat at a samgyupsal place too, since I've seen them in all the dramas I've watched. It was a little surreal.

When we came back from samgyupsal we had some watermelon, and I worked a little on some online flashcards for Korean. Yoonhyun was watching, so I decided to pull out my Korean vocab sketchbook where I had been writing words and drawing pictures to accompany them. She loved that, and turned into a little teacher, correcting all my spelling. Imobu liked it too, and said I should copy the pages if I could. I think I'll bring the book to Connexus today and see if it's all right if I do that.

I don't have as much to write today, so I'll include a little from my Language Learning Journal that I kept before I came to Korea. It's just kind of a documentation of what it was like to be learning a language and my experiences with it. Here's a little snippet from it:

"Learning Korean is different from the other language learning experiences I’ve had, mostly because of the difference in alphabet. Even when I was learning French, it didn’t feel so awfully “different” from English. They both used the roman alphabet, there were words had that similarities, words that were even the same. The grammar was different of course, but it was moving in the same direction, Subject Verb Object or sometimes Subject Object Verb.
As for Korean, the alphabet didn’t take long to learn, a few days of casual study. So, soon on I could, for the most part, slowly sound out Korean words, even if I didn’t understand them....
Reflecting on what it is like to learn a language so different from my mother tongue, I feel like it is the closest I am going to get to learning language in general for the first time again. The alphabet, the sounds, the grammar, all of them were unfamiliar, new. After studying a year, these things are not quite so foreign anymore. Sometimes I feel like a baby, frustrated with how familiar things sound yet I can’t make out the meaning; feeling stifled when I sit down to write a journal entry in Korean because I don’t know the words I want and feels like an unwanted training wheel. But then I watch a drama and realize that though I looked away from the screen for a moment and missed the subtitles, I understood everything the character just said. Perhaps the next sentence is completely unintelligible, but that brief moment spurs me on."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fun at home with Yoonhyun and Yoonsang

Orientation went very well yesterday! I learned how to do the Phonics 2 review that I will be taking over, and also watched a lower level class close to the level I will be teaching in June. The way things work here is that there are two Phonics levels, and once students pass these levels they can move on to the official curriculum, which is organized by colors according to level. Blue level is lowest, and Red level is highest. There are also levels within levels, so you could have a Blue level one, or a blue level 2, etc. The order is Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red.

 I will be teaching a Phonics 1, a Phonics 2, Blue level 1, Blue level 6, and Yellow level 2. The Yellow level 2 is going to be the most fun class I think, because the students are pretty functional in English and so interactions can be more varied and fun instead of the repetitions that are necessary in lower levels.

Yesterday I also got to experience a little Korean-style birthday party. It was our head Korean teacher Sunny's birthday, so our office helper Minji bought a sweet potato cake (seriously like the best thing ever) and we all sang to her. How you eat cake at a party is that everybody just grabs a fork and chopsticks and eats off the whole cake together. So much better than getting a bunch of plates dirty.

When I came home in the evening, my family had bought some milk so finally FINALLY I had some tea!!!!! I made a cup of Earl Grey with honey and it was like heaven. I gave some to Imo too, and she liked it! We drank it together while Imobu and Yoonhyun took Choco for a walk. I tried to speak some Korean with her, but of course I did badly. Still, it was really nice to connect a little more with her. We talked a little about the paintings she had showed me yesterday, done by her cousin Hong Kyoungtack. My favorite is one called Pens 3. It looks like this:

Later I brought out all my jewelry to try to disentangle it, and Yoonhyun was enthralled. She tried on all my bracelets and insisted on putting on earrings for me. She even tried on my lizard ear cuff. We put all the earrings in sets, and she pretended the pairs were getting married. It reminded me of when Mercy would play with embroidery thread families when she was about Yoonhyun's age. 

When Yoonsang came home from playing somewhere, we were still sorting jewelry, so he ate dinner and then was playing a game with cards. I don't know what the name of it is, but it reminds me a little bit of pogs, except the stiff cardboard card things are hexagons or squares. You have to slam one card down on another and try to make the one on the ground flip over. If you do, you win that card. He showed me how to do it, but I pretty much sucked at it. However, I finally flipped one over though after many tries! Yoonhyun was super excited for me: "언니 됐어!" In Korean, younger girls call older girls "Unni" which means "older sister" and younger boys call older girls "Noona" which means the same thing. So Yoonhyun calls me Unni or Ebby (that A sound is hard hehe) but so far Yoonsang has only called me Ebby or Teacher, even though I'm not really his teacher. But, I work at Connexus, which is where he used to be a student, so I understand why he would call me that. He is still a little stand-offish, but I think he is just shy.

Yoonhyun asked if she could sleep with me, so we had a little slumber party. Yes, she asked me in Korean and yes I understood!! Moments like that are super exciting for me. I read her some of The Little Prince and tried to translate some of it into super simple Korean. She fell asleep after two minutes though. Hehe.

Last night, I did not wake up at 2:45! I did wake up at 3:30, but went right back to sleep. I woke up at 6 ish, but considering that I went to bed at 9:30, I think that was pretty much 8 full hours! I am feeling almost peppy! Also, I'm drinking P.G. Tips which makes any morning great.

This just in: Yoonsang came into my room just now for the first time, to look at my earrings! He actually does know some simple English, so he uses it when he talks to me :-)

So, today I will observe three more classes, this time modeling the storybook lessons. I will also get to meet with Minji and find out about all the work she does, which I am looking forward to because she seems like such a cool person and I want to get to know her more.

Prayer requests for today:
1. As always, that I will be more awake! I have high hopes for today though, since I got some good sleep.
2. That I would be able to remember and internalize all the information about teaching that I've been getting
3. That I would be braver with speaking Korean, especially with adults. It's easy to talk with Yoonhyun and Yoonsang, but I get scared when I'm going to say something to an adult.

Thanks everybody! I think today if I have time I will try to take some pictures of the office so you can see what it looks like.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In which Abby eats many chocolate covered coffee beans and drinks coffee without milk

Yes, you read that correctly. I actually drank something without milk. That was because I did regret waking up at 2:45 later in the afternoon...and here we are again. I hope 2:45 and I do not become friends. I fell asleep right at like 9:15 pm though, so it's been a good 5 hours, which isn't bad at all.

So what happened yesterday, my first day of orientation?

My family heads off pretty early in the morning, so we ate breakfast at 7:30, the same time we'll have it today. I'll admit that when I woke up for the second time yesterday at 6:30, it took some courage to get out of bed.

Just kind of lying there in the blue-ish early morning light, I realized that Imobu (host father) would have already gone to work by breakfast time and that would mean I would have to speak Korean when I came out of the room. It sounds silly, but you kind of have this feeling of, "here comes a test and I didn't study for it!"
But, turns out it was not such a test after all. I can't speak Korean well yet, but I was able to do a little chatting with Yoonhyun and we drew some pictures together. I drew a picture of a lady and then a picture of the poodle Choco. She labeled the lady as me and added some poop to the picture of Choco for me, then drew a portrait of me, a koala, and a finally picture of her brother Yoonsang with poop on his head. Good news, I think we're going to get along great.
I told my fellow teachers about this fun drawing time, and they responded with "yeah, they're kind of obsessed with poop here..."

In the words of, "I'm feelin' right at home, feelin'  right at home."

Yoonsang is also likes to draw and he is GOOD. He showed me a picture of an eagle that he drew on black paper with a white pen and it's amazing. I really hope I can connect with them by drawing together.

After everyone went off to work or school, I hung about the house and did some emailing and reading and took a delicious shower after 24 hours. They don't use shower curtains here, you just kind of get the whole bathroom wet, but it's normal and expected. If you put your clothes far enough away from the water spout they won't get wet, but there isn't always a place to hang them, so I am not sure what you do in that situation.

Then I walked to work for the first time! I only made a few steps in the wrong direction before I remembered the right way and headed off. I did well until I got to the office building and forgot which floor connexus was on,so I just walked up the flights of stairs till I found it. 5th floor. I was puffing a little at the end...I should do some exercise.

The schedule for the day was as follows:
Meet with Karen for run down of which classes I would observe, and the general plan of the day

Teachers meeting to go over June schedule and questions/concerns/updates on all classes

Eat lunch with everyone, this time cooked by Jae's mother who comes on tuesdays to help out.

Tour of cool things around the office area

Observe two phonics classes

Observe my high level class

Meeting with Jae about the bigger picture of connexus

The teachers meeting was a great way to get a feel for how things are run at connexus and being there made me feel like part of the team. Everybody shares any troubles they have with their classes and gets advice or makes a plan of how they're going to address it. Jae and our receptionist/all around cool person Minji are trained in restorative discipline, so sometimes they will meet with students that are especially being a problem and get to the bottom of it. I would love to learn more about what they do, because I think it is a great way to keep peace in the classroom.

Three things I learned from eating lunch with everyone
1. Homemade Bibimbap is absolutely delicious. Also, it's traditional to eat it with a spoon instead of chopsticks. Also, if the cook thinks you don't have enough rice in your bowl, she will let you know. People, I am eating so much food. After every meal I feel like I'm going to pop.

2. If you're left handed you should sit on the end because you're going to cramp your neighbor. But she'll be cool about it because she is awesome.

3. When everyone breaks out in a prayer-song in Korean before eating, check the wall because the lyrics might just be posted right in front of your face and you won't notice until the end. Whoops. haha.

The tour around the area was great, even though it was raining. Janet, one of the teachers who is unfortunately leaving in a month took me around to the little convenience store right across the way. I bought some awesome gummy candy that was like a cross between a peachy-o and a welches fruit gummy flavor-wise. We visited the hallowed 'basement store' which is basically like a bed bath and beyond with the beyond being basically everything else you could ever want. It's the place where we shop for things to stock the Stamp Store. Students are rewarded for coming on time and following the rules with stamps, which they can cash in at the end of the month for cool goodies.

Then Janet showed me the little supermarket where fresh food can be bought, a couple great bread stores and where the post office was. Then she took me to Papearl, the treasure at the end.

It was a stationary store on steroids. Think of Papyrus but infinitely cuter and you can also buy drawing supplies, awesome pens, coin purses and little zippered pouches...basically I want to buy all of it. I will most likely try to go there today and get some cool stationary to send letters on.

Walking the streets was interesting. It felt a little closed in, but I think that was because so many people were walking with umbrellas. I successfully used Ruth and Nathan's umbrella etiquette techniques and did not hit anyone with my bumbershoot.

I'm not sure I'll remember the way to all of these places, but I think maybe I will try to draw myself a map.
Any way, back we went to the office so that I could observe the classes that I am going to take over.

Four things I learned from observation
1. These kids are stinking adorable. Also even in the phonics classes, many of them speak the little English they know with great pronunciation and diction.

2. I am going to have to recalibrate my disrupt-o-meter, because the class that everyone was apologizing that I would have to take over because it was so rowdy is like a gentle breeze in the wind compared to the hurricane that was afterschool. However, we need do need to cut down on that kind of thing more here, because parents are paying to have their children learn English, so we want to make sure they are getting their money's worth and that their child's learning isn't being inhibited either by their own self-distraction of the distraction of others. I will really need to be sure that I am firm about this, because I think I've just gotten used to talking over noise and focusing on the kids who are paying attention from working at afterschool. That's not really an option here.

3. The teachers I observed are fantastic. I don't really know how I'm going to fill their shoes, because they were pretty much flawless in their lesson presentation and dealing with classroom management. But, I guess I will find out on Monday!

4. The higher level class is going to be amazing! The kids are angels and also funny. The teachers decided to give me one of the best classes because I have to work with the rowdy crew too, and I feel kind of bad because seriously I think it's going to be the easiest and most fun of all of them.

Then, I went home and had dinner with my family...spicy rice cakes and an assortment of delicious side dishes...the food here is so good people you have no idea. Imobu showed me these great Korean learning flashcards and gave me a little lesson. He said he would give me some lessons from time to time too.
I am so thankful for this homestay!

Prayer requests for today:
1. That I would be able to speak a little more Korean
2. That I would be able to again stay away in the afternoon
3. That skyping with my lovely Momma would work out!! I am going to try to tell my family about my plan to skype at 8 in Korean, so wish me luck!


Monday, May 27, 2013

Jet-lag productivity

I will regret being up at this time later this afternoon while I am observing classes for my teacher orientation, but I figure better to be writing than lying in bed pretending to be sleepy.

I have arrived!

Three things I learned from 32 hours of travel, 16-17 of it in a plane:

1. Bring a water bottle, because flying turns you into a desert. Not that I needed one more thing to put in my carry on luggage, or as I refer to it, my shoulder anvils. One flight attendant even commented, "You need a suitcase to roll!" Next time, next time.

2. Long chats don't really happen when you're kind of shy and your seat mate is shyer. But here's a shout out to the nice Korean girl I sat next to on the plane who said that I had nice handwriting and then slept for most of the flight. Sorry I was such a bore and I feel bad that you didn't ask me to get out of the way very often for you to get out and stretch.

3. Ice cream should be served on planes all the time. That was the best snack ever United.

When I got to the airport, I went through boring customs and such, and found my bags right away. After handing over my immigration card, out I walked into the arrivals area where I was greeted by a crowd of people with signs. When I saw it from a distance I was worried about finding the placard with my name on it, but I saw it right away: my name in big bold black letters with the school's name on the bottom. Sangbom and Sarah, two workers with the Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute who share office space at Connexus with us came to pick me up. They were lovely, and Sarah right away asked me if I wanted some water, which was exactly what I wanted. Then we headed off to Connexus to meet everyone for dinner, including my host family.

Four things I learned from the trip from Incheon to Deokso:
1. So those crazy crashes in Korean dramas? not just film fodder. Totally saw a car just lying upright on its side. Sangbom was a good driver though, and was driving much slower than a lot of people were around him despite the very heavy rain.

2. The Korean small-city in some ways reminds me a lot of places like Blantyre, except perhaps a few more buildings and more green. Everything is very close together, tiny shops pressed against each other so tightly that I feel like you might miss one if you walked by too quickly.

3. If you try to read all the road signs you will learn the work for exit (나가는 곳), but mostly you will just make yourself tired.

4. I can't speak to how well Koreans drive yet, but they can parallel park like bosses. Sangbom skated in an out of a parking area that looked like a half finished Rush Hour game like he was spreading butter on toast.

Connexus is an awesome place. It is rather small, but in a cozy sort of way. The restroom is down the stairs, and you have to take your tp with you, but that is really the only downside. My classroom is very snug, but very adorable, with great English posters on the wall and a bright red table and chairs. And it's a space I will get to use myself, you know? I kind of feel like Laura Ingalls when she firsts walks into the school where she only had three students. I'm nervous to begin, but very excited too. After hanging out a bit, emailing home and greeting some students, we headed off to dinner. The first place we tried was closed, so we did a u-turn in the middle of a busy intersection (driving is going to take some getting used to), and headed to a chicken restaurant on the second floor of a building.

Five things I learned from eating at the Chicken Restaurant
1. You have to be tricky taking your shoes off if it's been raining and you're wearing socks. Also, it's hard to sit on your knees after an 11.5 hour flight. But probably your new friends will notice that you're squirming like an octopus and kindly suggest you sit against the wall so you have some support on your back.

2. You can all eat out of the same pot, and reach across the table to awkwardly try to pick up chopped veggies with metal chopsticks which are surprisingly harder than wooden ones, and it's completely fine. I liked that. I'm not a germaphobe, so it made the meal feel nice and family like.

3. Korean food is spicy and you might get a work out from all your sideways water drinking because an elder is sitting across from you. Spicy but delicious.

4. All your Korean will escape you as you try to concentrate on not dropping food all over yourself. You will speak formally to an 8 year old and forget how to say "I understand."

5. You will find out that Abby sounds almost exactly the way one Korean satoori (dialect) says "father" so everyone will chuckle a little at it. But oddly, it was comforting, because my name really does have something to do with father (Abigail means Joy of the Father) so it was nice to know that my name kind of still means the same thing in English and Korean. 

After dinner, I went home with my host family, who live literally a 2 minute Evi-shuffle or a 45 sec British Walk from the office. So nice. They live on the 12th floor of an apartment building in a nice little two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with kitchen, pantry area and dining area. I will take pictures when I officially get up this morning. I am to address the wife as 이모 and the husband as 이모부, which mean 'aunt' and 'aunt's spouse,' I believe.

Three things I learned from my first evening with my host family
1. In case anyone is wondering, I am tall, (though not as tall as one of the teachers at Connexus!) so much so that my host family was worried that I would feel cramped in my room. What they should have been worried about was all of my luggage, which leads me to number 2:

2. I brought a lot of stuff. I'm not sure if it was too much yet or not, but it certainly packed this little place up. Also, if you take spices in your bag, during the flight they may burst in the plastic ziploc you intelligently put them in and make your whole bag and room smell like nutmeg and cinnamon. Happy accident!

3. It's ok if I don't speak Korean very well, because my host sister 윤현 helped me unpack and talked to me in Korean anyway, and I understood most of it, and was so, so very thankful that there are little people in the house because I was missing Mercy. She tried on my fuzzy grey hat and taught me the word for belt and helped me practice my colors and told me that all my clothes were pretty. 

4. Choco the brown poodle is absolutely adorable and looks like a little bear with plushy lamb legs. Also he likes me. He tinkled a little on the floor in excitement when I first arrived, but then came in an out  of my room while I was unpacking, and even brought me a package of floss that he stole from somewhere. We shall be good friends I think.

5. You should eat oranges with cute little forks instead of just grabbing them like an uncouth American.  Also, just ask about anything, because they are so willing to help me to settle in. 이모 and 이모부 even made up my bed on the floor for me themselves since I was dumb and couldn't figure out which blanket was to be put down first.

So that's a run down of the first day! very long, I know, but just get used to it, because I don't see myself getting any less long winded. 

I am so looking forward to getting to know my family better, especially the kids. My host brother apparently likes to draw, so I am really excited to get to draw with him, and show him Mercy's pictures too. His name is 윤상  but sometimes goes by Tim, since that was his English name while he was a student at Connexus.

So, prayer requests for today:
1. That I won't be feeling too horribly sleepy later this afternoon.
2. That I will be able to remember the Korean I know and pick it up quickly.
3. That I will get closer to my fellow teachers and my host family.

I love you all, thanks for reading!
God is good.