Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A little more of the every day

Going back to some classic Kpop, let's listen to a little Jinusean: Phone Number.

Yesterday in Phonics 2 we had a problem with, guess who, Haram again. He wouldn't participate in class and just sat with his chair pushed back like a bump on a log. This happened after he had lost all his stamps for speaking too much Korean, so I think that was part of the deal, but finally he agreed to play our memory game if I gave him back one stamp. He lost it like 5 seconds later for speaking Korean again, but at least it got him to participate. I found out today that after that class, they fought in the car and Haram got so mad that he walked home. So, needless to say, today we had a big old RJ (restorative justice) meeting with the whole class to get to the bottom of it. I mostly just sat there and tried to understand as much Korean as possible, but I only got that Dongwon was either singing or listening to a song and Haram told him to be quiet/shut up rudely, and then Dongwon later kicked Haram. Not really sure what it was all about because it wasn't translated for me, but the great part is that after the meeting, the last 20 minutes of class went really well. Haram was really careful to write down the homework sentences and write "homework" above them so that he would remember, which is HUGE, so I was super encouraged. Maybe tomorrow will go well!

Yellow class was hilarious yesterday, because Jack, the one boy in the class was not there, so Eileen and Susan were extra silly. There is a song that goes with each unit in the Backpack curriculum, and when we sang it, they decided to create a dance that involved mostly chicken neck bobs and some pharoah-pharoah style hand motions. I wish I could have filmed it. I brought it back in class today, but Eileen wasn't there, so Susan felt too shy to join me. So, I chicken-bobbed and pharaohed it up by myself while Susan and Jack just laughed at me. The things I do to convince kids that I am a fun teacher.

Last night we all went over to Sunny's house for a little welcoming for Kate/goodbye to Janet meal. Sunny's family shares living space with their church, so we ate in their sanctuary area.

The table was long enough to fit all 14 of us, counting Sunny's children. Sunny's husband cooked the bulgogi on a small table in front of us, and we nibbled at the salad as we waited. Everyone ate communal style, none of that American "everyone get your own plate and portion" method. I embarrassed myself with my poor chopstick skills yet again...who knew cucumbers were so difficult to hold? In general I feel I've been getting worse. Even this morning Yoonhyung commented on how badly I was doing. Korean understanding success, chopsticks fail.

The way a meal here usually goes for me is that I attack the food with vigor at the beginning, maybe with too much vigor, and then feel like I ate an entire watermelon in about 15 minutes. Probably not the best plan, but the food is so delicious that you just kind of want to shove it in your mouth as fast as possible.

I just love sitting around talking...well, I guess I don't always contribute much to the conversation but it is just one of my favorite things to just listen, and kind of take in just being together. That's going to sound like cheeseball city to anyone reading this, but however hallmark-card-worthy that sentiment is, I enjoy it nonetheless.

We closed out the evening with singing round the piano and a group photo. It is probably one of the last big dinners we will have before Janet leaves on Sunday, so it was a little bittersweet.
But tonight we will have another girls night, watching the Bacherlorette, eating snacks and drinking wine, so we're still stuffing in the memories together.

I hope this doesn't all sound too much of the same to you all!
Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Grace and Peace and dinner party with students!

Here is a deliciously upbeat song from a band that is fast becoming a favorite: New (새로와) by Rooftop Moonlight (옥상달빛).

Grace and Peace is a church in Hongdae where Karen, Jae, Kaia, Yongjin and Yoonseo attend, so this sunday I decided to give it a visit. I'm so glad I did, because it was a great time! Kate and Deborah came along too for a first time visit.

As soon as we arrived in Hongdae near the area where the church meets, I could see the influences of the university art students. There is so much graffiti and street art that you just kind of want to walk around and look at the walls. It's like an outdoor exhibition. The church meets in a Greek restaurant, right across from a little outdoor market where artisans sell handmade wares. We saw them setting up as we arrived.

As soon as we walked in, I spotted the most adorable little dude ever sitting at a table, coloring a lady with massively long blue hair.  I am a super sucker for kids drawing, so I sat by him and tried to ask about his picture in Korean and color with him a little bit. Nothing like trying to talk to a preschooler to make you feel like your language skills are like poop. Still, I think we communicated pretty well. He called me Imo and drew a picture of me with bundles of red hair exploding all over the page, all while laughing like it was the best thing ever. He was quite fascinated with my hair too, which I found out later from his dad was because he loves the movie Rapunzel, so he likes ladies with long hair. Haha.

The service was neat too, instead of having a sermon, this week we heard the testimony of one of the members. Yoonseo translated for all of us foreigners, which was fantastic, because I actually felt like I could be a part of the service, instead of just kind of watching and catching a verb and noun here and there and the modal endings of sentences. Every service I attend though, it makes me more determined to learn Korean. Even with translation, I feel the distance that comes with language barriers. It's like listening to someone through a tin can.

After service, Yoonseo treated us all to some great iced coffee, and then we went out to check out the market. So many beautiful things! After Kate discovered it and bought one, I also bought a really neat leather bracelet which makes me feel totally chic. I also could have got a shirt that proclaimed that "I have the courage to touch the butt" for a mere 5,000 won, but somehow I felt like it's message wouldn't be appreciated anywhere but at home, so I held off on that. Maybe I will get it later if it's still there.

We checked out other shops in Hongdae as well, including the fantastic ArtBox, which I am glad does not exist in Deokso or I would be poor as potatoes in a week. This is not a good place to live for a person who has a hard time resisting cute notebooks. Also, everyone in Hongdae was stylin, let me tell you. I was dressed up for church and still felt like a bumpkin. Menswear here is also especially good--there were some fine specimens strolling about yesterday wink wink nudge nudge.

I rode back with Deborah to see her off at the subway station, probably the last I will see of here before she leaves Korea in July. A season of goodbyes is coming up, and I'm not looking forward to it.

We stopped at a fruit stand on our way back to get a watermelon for the dinner party with students last night, and bought probably the biggest watermelon I have ever seen. It was the size of a small child, so I buckled it in for safety. The fruit seller ahjumma also gave us two yellow melons no charge because I was pretty. Good to know my fabulous beauty is good for something: scoring free melons. I'll try it at Paul's Country Market when I get back to the U.S. Zowie!

The dinner with students was a rather grand occasion. It was to repay the kindness of the three families that took us to the Folk Village, though we were unable to match that level of generosity. In reality, I had nothing to do with anything--while we were at church the other teachers masterminded it all. I carried some watermelon and watched Sarah W. speak Korean. So I was pretty essential, if you know what I mean.

The kids helped Janet make hamburgers while we served bread and beer to the adults upstairs on the roof. When the burgers were finished, we all dug in, and then the kids went down with Janet again to make a blueberry cake, which I ate very deliciously later, to borrow the Korean expression.

The fathers were glad for an excuse to drink without their wives saying anything, but I've found it best to just pretend I don't drink around people I don't know well enough to say "I'm not drinking anymore," and them not think I'm rude. In truth, I've started to like wine a lot more, but not really recreationally, if you know what I mean. Alcohol I am convinced for me serves the same purpose as a good cup of tea, for settling down and having some nice friendly chat time or soothing alone time. None of this go crazy and drink into oblivion stuff. 내 스타일 아니야.

The evening ended nicely with some intense clean up and an equally intense game of Dutch Blitz. It was like a game with the Long sisters, with plenty of kind and considerate language. I was stomped by the other teachers, but they walked me to the bus stop so all is forgiven.

Today's teaching went really well, I thought, and I actually got around to taking some pictures of my classes! I got some pictures of all but the Phonics 1 class, so hopefully I'll upload those soon. I'm now just chilling at home, getting ready to do some Korean study. I want to start studying at least a half and hour a day, and challenging myself to ask and answer at least 1 question a day in Korean, slowly building it up so that I am speaking more and more. I hope I can stick to it.

Well, that's all for now!
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Visit to the DMZ

Since the DMZ is a little bit of a sobering subject, here's a less upbeat song: Expired by Tablo.

On Saturday I went with Anna, Annie and Janet on a tour of the DMZ, including a visit to one of the tunnels that North Korea made underneath South Korea as an attempt at infiltration in the 70's.

I'll start first with arriving at the tour center. Though I've been here only three weeks, it was still odd to see so many foreigners all on one place. Even weirder was being able to eavesdrop on the conversations of people you didn't know. It felt like everyone was talking so loudly, but it might have been just that I could actually understand it that it seemed so intrusive.

One of the most interesting parts of the tour for me, though probably the most tiresome to actually see was the tunnel. It would have been pretty boring I think, except that I just finished reading The Orphan Master's Son a week ago and so the images of Jun Do in the tunnels were still fresh in my mind. As I walked through in the cool underground air, hunched over to avoid the low hanging ceiling dripping with water, I could imagine the way the character describes his experiences in the book.  I wished that they could turn the lights off for just one short moment to feel what it was like down there in the dark. We could see the holes where dynamite was places to blast through, and also the black marks painted onto the solid granite walls by the North to make it seem as if they had been mining for coal.

The most intense part of the tour was when we arrived at the joint security area near the actual division line, the one that you see so often in BBC photos. The ROK soldiers stand around in the first stance of Taekwondo,  so still they look like wax figures, eyes fixed on the North Korean soldier watching us all from his side. We were repeatedly reminded that behind the windows of the large building facing us, other North Korean soldiers were monitoring us, so we should not gesture or wave or do anything that might be misinterpreted. It was almost eerie. The three short blue buildings along the center were divided in two, so that if you went inside and stood on one side, you were technically in North Korea. We did have the chance to do that, so I can say that I have stood on both South Korea and North Korea at once.

In some ways that was kind of symbolic of the underlying sentiment I got from a lot of these tour stops. There are definitely bad relations with the North, almost like a family member that is acting ridiculous enough that everyone is not sure if they will end up hurting themselves or others. There isn't much respect there, but there is still a bond. Every time the South and North were mentioned together, it was with the language of "when reunification happens," not "if." The difference in meaning in those two words is powerful, and it is a way to hold onto hope in a situation that seems pretty much stagnant, at least to the eyes of an American looking from the outside. I wonder if I will be alive to see it happen. I hope so.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Little memories

I don't have a big long blog post today, but have a listen to this Miss A song that I like to play when I'm feeling particularly Second Wave feministic: I Don't Need A Man.

So here are a few memories from today:

Phonics 2. I still felt pretty frustrated with Haram today, but today he did surprise me a little. We ask conversations questions at the beginning of class, and usually the Phonics 2 students always give the same memorized answers, but today Haram changed his answer and made a new one. He is the first one in the class to try doing that, so that was actually really encouraging. He still struggled a lot with writing and staying still, to the point of almost driving me nuts, but that one little improvement was exciting.

Yellow 2. I was bored of the same old conversation questions with Yellow, so I taught them the "would you rather" question format and they loved it! Even Susan, who usually doesn't love talking or thinking super creatively was excited to participate and make up hard questions for her classmates. I think we'll play again on another day too. I don't want to wear it out too fast though.

My Blue 6 was back to normal again! Well, I am still having a lot of Korean being spoken, so I think I need to start taking stamps for it, but everybody seems to be friends again after the Pancake Debacle was wrapped up. I was really impressed with their journals today too! Actually interesting, and not the same old same old that I keep getting with my Yellow class, who granted, have been writing their journals for much longer.

Tomorrow our new teacher is coming, which is super exciting! It will feel weird to not be the newest one anymore.

Well, I'm going to try to study Korean for a little while tonight, so that's all for now!

Monday, June 17, 2013


Today, have a listen to Scarecrow by Lee Hi...I still have a hard time believe she is only 16 years old. Super voice!

Sunday I went to church with my host family again, and it was a special sunday because the Jesus Heart church was meeting up with their mother congregation Jesus Village Church for a baptism service for two members. Kaia, one of the NARPI staff, came with us, and we were going to also see Deborah, the SALTer in Chuncheon. We drove out past Chuncheon, past the 38° Parallel, and close to the DMZ, about 40 minutes away, I think. Everyone gathered around a creek on the side of the road. There were probably around 40 people, 50 counting children.

We sang together, heard a message about the meaning of baptism, then heard testimonies from the mentors of the two people being baptized and finally their own personal testimonies. This was all in Korean of course, so unfortunately I didn't understand much at all, but it was still nice to be there at such a special moment and see everyone celebrate these two people and the step they were taking.

The church members brought flowers for the people being baptized, and even brought out a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday in honor of this "spiritual birthday" of sorts. It was really neat! We had a big "love feast" type meal of bibimbap all together outside under a tarp. The kids splashed in the stream and caught tadpoles and the adults chatted. Everyone who had good English took the time to chat with the foreigners too, which was really kind. It was just a really lovely time, enjoying the fellowship. As were were going to go, one of the members of Jesus Heart Church, Kyeongjoo, invited my host family and I and Kaia to come visit his mother's home, which was just an half hour away. We readily agreed and clambered into the borrowed Connexus van yet again.

The home was located in a pretty historic area, right in the middle of three hills where a big battle took place during the Korean war. I forget the exact number that Kyeongjoo's brother in law told us, but definitely many thousand. When walking around near the stream near the house with his son, he once found the rusty remains of a rifle. All the wood had rotten away, leaving just the metal barrel and trigger. He showed it to a friend who ran an army supply shop, who said that the type of trigger it had identified it as a Chinese weapon, so it must have been used by either Chinese or North Korean soldiers during the war. He showed it to us, and it was very sobering to think about how many bodies must have been laying all over the ground in that area 6 decades ago. The hills looked so beautiful, it was hard to believe they had once held so much death.

Kyeongjoo brother and law told us his family's history and how he had got involved with the Mennonite community. He shared with us the vision he had to one day, when the Koreas were reunited, help turn the group mentality of communism in North Korea to a community centered around the love of Christ and peace, rather than the state. It was really cool to hear, and made me realize that not matter how many jokes I hear about "North Korean refugees," there is still a deep desire here to be connected again with the other half of the peninsula.

We stayed there for around an hour or so, talking, seeing the property, taking pictures. After we said our goodbyes we drove to Chuncheon for some dalkkalbi, where I was stuffed to the rafters and badly wanted floss for like the millionth time here. I tell you, nothing gets stuck in your teeth like Korean food. It took a long time coming back because of Sunday traffice, and then we decided to stop for some patbingsoo because Kaia had never had any. We finally got back at about 10:15, and then I was up this morning at 7:30 to start the teaching week again.

I'm excited...on Thursday a new teacher is coming, and I'm looking forward to helping make her feel welcome!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Pancakes on Pancakes

Because today was super, have a listen to a song named "Good" or "I like it/Okay": Joah by Jay Park.

Today was activity day at Connexus, and it was cooking week, so we made pancakes with all of our classes. It was quite the undertaking, and towards the afternoon my small classroom was getting pretty roasty toasty, but it was still very fun. I think my favorite group were actually the Phonics groups,  starting with Phonics 1. The three little girls were just so delighted to be making pancakes at English school and were giggling at everything. It was also more just focused on having fun, because there wasn't a whole lot of English instruction to do besides teaching vocab. So I taught them the names of all the ingredients, but mostly we just had fun being together.

In Phonics 2, only the girls came, so again it was an all-girl class, which they LOVED. "Teacher, Dongwoo not come today....Haram not come?" "Yes, today it's only girls!" "Teacher YESSS!" and then giggles and squeals galore. Conversation time went like this:
"Sungyeon, how are you today?"
"I'm...excited..because today...GIRLS!"
"Can you ask Hyesu?"
"Hyesu how are you?"
"I'm excited because today GIRLS!"
Needless to say, they were pretty pumped.

The only downside to the day was that in my last class, the Blue 6 class that I love, there was an argument between two of the boys. I didn't know what about, but I could understand enough Korean to figure that the older of the two was upset about the way the younger boy was talking to him. It turns out it was over who got to eat more pancakes, which is totally dumb, but they had a meeting with our office fairy Minji who used her restorative discipline skills to get to the bottom of it. We might have a follow up on Monday about it, but I think everything was ok.

That might seem like a really dumb thing to address, a little fight over pancakes, but those things build up, and the learning atmosphere really is better when the students are friends, and aren't secretly annoyed or having chips on their shoulder or something. So, it's important to pay attention even to the little problems. It's a new way of thinking for me, because it was something that would have been impossible to do at the LIU afterschool because of lack of staff and training for it, but I can really see the value in it.

Well, that's all for now! I'm a little early on my blog writing this time, so enjoy!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Listening music today is some good old Big Bang, since I heard this song on the radio while riding the bus to the jjimjilbang: Haru Haru (Day by Day) Please enjoy the great English in it too :-)

Last night Anna, Annie, Janet and I all went to a jjimjilbang together. A jjimjilbang is a segregated public bath, which you can read more about here if you are curious, but suffice to say that it FANTASTIC. Here are the details:

When we first arrived, we paid our 10,000 won and then received our super stylish brown and baggy jjimjilbang clothes and 2 lovely orange face-sized towels each. We checked our shoes first in a tiny little shoe locker, and were given a key on a plastic bracelet, which opened a bigger locker in the women's bath area where we could stow clothes and purses and such. Just like you're supposed to do at the YMCA (but I never do oops), we showered off first before hitting the awesome baths!

They had shallow pools of all different temps, ranging from 38 to 25 degrees celsius. One bath even had little lounge chairs with water jets built in to the bottom of the pool. When we got bored of that, we could visit the two saunas, either the super hot dry one which make out faces burn and my lungs feel like I was breathing the hot air around a fire, or the super humid one, which was like standing inside a giant cloud. Both were hard to stay in for very long. The hot one made my lungs burn, the other was humid it almost felt suffocating. But it felt great to go in for around 30 seconds and come out. I felt a little bad since every time we went to a pool, the Korean women vacated it after a few minutes, or some cases, like 30 seconds. I'm not really sure if it was because they felt awkward because a foreigner was there, or because we were too loud or what. Truthfully, we were kind of the only ones talking, but it would have been a little dull and awkward to us to just sit around in complete silence, so we might have been too noisy. We sat around a chatted and played Contact (you can learn to play it here) until we were throughly pruny, then went and donned our jjimjilbang uniforms and wore some towels hats using the traditional sheep/rams horn/ princess leia fold. I researched how to make them before coming :-)

Of course, since it was a public bath, I have no pictures, but here is a still from a drama that illustrates the towel hat, if you're curious:
Their outfits are way cuter than ours were

Anyway, I would highly recommend the experience! There aren't really many in the U.S., but I have heard that there is one in the Philly area, so if you're dying to try it out, have a look!

We got home pretty late, since we started our journey at 8 pm and the jjimjilbang was around 40 minutes away, so I slept in as much as I could this morning (I have discovered that my host siblings are loud enough to pierce through earplugs...hooray) and skyped a little with the Gabster!

Classes went well today as well. Yellow class was especially fun. For review of what has happened in the last pages we have read in their current book, the lesson plan sometimes has us ask true/false questions to check comprehension. My yellow class started a tradition with their last teacher, Anna, that they would make one funny face to mean "true" and another to mean "false," and it is super fun, so I do it too. Today I suggested one raised eyebrow as the face to make when they thought the answer was true, and they thought it was hilarious. Jack, the one boy in that class gave it a try and it was one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen. It was half creeper man/half sauve guy and I just about lost it. Then Susan, one of two girls, said "Ooh Jack, so sexy!" and I just died. So funny.

My Phonics 2 class went better than usual today too. For the first time in a while, Haram had his homework finished and was able to focus a little better as well. We were also able to do an objects labeling activity out of the classroom in the kitchen today, and I think all the kids really enjoyed that. I am worried now that Sungyeon isn't getting enough attention, because she is a little lowe level as well, though definitely better than Haram and more hardworking to. I've had to give Haram so much attention that I'm afraid she's been sliding a little. Today she seemed to be having a little bit of a hard time. Tomorrow I want to make she is tracking as well.

After class I came home and Yoonsang challenged me to a game of chess, which I don't really know the rules for, and totally stink at. Needless to say, he was going easy on me, and we didn't quite finish game, but were pretty even toward the end. But now I think I'd like to try playing again sometime, since he taught me the rules and I have a better idea of which moves are good ideas and which are disastrous.

Tomorrow is cooking activity day...we will be making pancakes with all the classes, which should be a grand and messy adventure.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rainy Day

Here's another Busker Busker song, perfect for the weather in Deokso today: A Shower .

Yesterday was another usual, get up, eat breakfast with host family, rest in room or drink tea until time for work, then teach until 7:20.

Two memories from yesterday:

I accompanied Annie to the post office yesterday, so I finally know the way! I also have a brilliant hand drawn map of Deokso from Anna, so if I need to find another place I'm unsure of, I can use that. She made it in preparation of the new teacher who is coming on the 20th. We're all brainstorming ways to make her orientation the best possibly experience. It's kind of fun to be a part of that even though I'm so new myself. I guess I might be able to help her out a bit, since I know how it feels to be fresh off the plane.

My Blue 6 class was again fantastic. This time we had to do a practice dialogue, reading the speech bubbles of an illustration in the book. One of the characters was a girl, so one of my students, Joochan, decided that when it was his turn to read the girl's part, he would speak in falsetto. I tried to encourage that as much as possible :-) This class has started speaking Korean a little bit more in class though, so I need to be more firm about that. I hate taking stamps for speaking their native language, but it really is important because it's hard to speak English well when you're constantly switching between the two. I'll have to start that tomorrow, because today is grammar day for my non-phonics classes. Our head Korean teacher gives them a grammar lesson two times a month, and the rest of the classes, the ones I teach focus on speaking, listening, reading and writing.

Well, that's all for now! It's a short entry today!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Suwon fortress and then Hannagae beach!

Recently I discovered this song, Ocean of Light, which I love, and so I will be listening to Nell more. Have a listen while you read!

This past weekend I went on two adventures! Once to Suwon, and once to Mooui Island to Hannagae beach.
Suwon has a fortress, part of which is kind of right smack dab down town, and then stretches up the mountain. It's not a continuous building or anything, but there are several buildings considered a part of the fortress that you can walk to.

I'll be honest and say that there wasn't much to tell about the actual fortress sight. You can see exactly what I saw in my photos. It was quite lovely, but the fun of that trip was mostly in the journey and hanging out with each other. Nothing like going on a long walk with friends if there are pretty things to look at! It is especially a blessing to laugh. I don't laugh much yet at my host family's house, so I miss it.

The trip to Hannagae was much more a journey/destination combination. In the morning we attended Subway Methodist Church and also visited Bus stop Baptist, (the last one was very crowded and not all   of members the congregation could find a seat). These churches are similar to Bedside Baptist, if you've heard of that one. Hallelujah.

Once we arrived, we had to take a ferry to Mooui island, which was super fun, even if it was probably only a 7-minute ride. Probably better for me that it was short, anyway. I still have memories of being 10 years old and horribly sea sick on the ferry from Cape May to Lewes.

The bus from the ferry to the beach was packed to the gills, with an assortment of foreigners and hikers. The hikers never cease to make me kind of crack up because of their outfits. In Korea, you don't just "kind of" do something. You go all in, and get every last little thing you could need to accomplish the hobby you've chosen to take on. In the case of hiking, it means matching athletic pants and jacket that you wear even if the weather is scorching hot. You must have a metal walking stick and a hat, probably sunglasses and a backpack too, which matches your clothes. The other teachers have even seen a female hiker in a pink hiking suit with a dog wearing a matching dog jacket. All these groups seem to buy their gear at the same places too, because they all are the same style, just different colors. It it almost like seeing a dance troupe or something.

Hannagae was so lovely. It's famous for having a very wide beach, and we saw this right away when we arrived. The tide was out and the beach went on for almost as far as the eye could see, transitioning slowly from white dry sand to dark wet sand rippled into ridges by the retreating water. It felt amazing on my feet, like a combination massage and exfoliation. There were piles of huge rocks along the edge of the beach, so we made our way there to climb around and sit in the shade to eat our picnic of homemade kimbap, hard-boiled eggs and sliced carrots. Nothing could have been more delicious.

After lunch we made a rock tower, waded in the water, took photos while trying to escape the incoming tide. Once it starts to come in, it comes in fast because the sand is so flat. It only took about one minute to reach my feet from 20 feet away. Then we all went to pick our own spot to read for awhile, so I chose a rock higher than the water, but close enough to dangle my feet in the cool waves and got to some seriously relaxing. A couple time I had to move to a higher rock, and got splashed pretty well a couple time as the water smacked up against the surfaces in its way, but it felt delightful in the hot sun, and it never got my kindle wet, just me :-)

It was just simply the most relaxed I've been in a while. It will be tough to beat that trip. Best part is that I think it cost me maybe $20 or so total?

I definitely thought about it a couple times today in between classes (which went very well today, by the way!)

I don't want to go into extreme detail about every day teaching, so I will just share my favorite things from today:

1. It was my day to cook with my cooking day bud, Sarah, and we made some pretty bangin' kimchi jjigae. Well, Sarah did. I utilized my chopping skills pretty well :-) Secret? briefly fry the kimchi first and make the broth with anchovies and seaweed, then take them out. Makes it way more tasty! Add two spoonfuls of sugar and two spoonfuls of gochuchang (red pepper paste) too.

2. My Blue 6 class is reading a book called Peach Boy, and I've been trying to make it more fun for them. Today we practiced reading "This peach smells wonderful!" in an old woman voice, since in the story an old woman finds a huge peach in the river and catches it, then smells it and says that. One of the boys was too shy to try, but the other two did and we laughed a lot.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day of firsts!

Reading music today is : Fine, Thank you, and You? by 10cm

Yesterday's classes were very much like the day before, though a little worse maybe, because I forgot to copy a bunch of things, and being observed is always nervewracking. I'll have a meeting tomorrow morning to go over the things I should fix in my teaching, but I'm not going to think about that now because today was a simply FANTASTIC day.

Two of the students at Connexus invited the teachers to go with them to a Folk Village modeled after a village in the Joseon Dynasty. It was something that I had wanted to do while I was here, so it was pretty awesome to get the chance to go when I haven't even been here two weeks yet.
There is a lot to tell, so this might be a long one.

I spent the night at the other teacher's apartment and we headed out early in the morning today at around 8. The families picked us up, and we all split up and rode in different cars.  Let me tell you, that experience was enough for me to be completely floored by the English ability of those students. They were facilitating communication back and forth between us and their parents, and even though it wasn't perfect, we understood each other. The parents too, tried to use as much English as they knew. I felt like a complete bum for not practicing my Korean more when every one is so willing to try out any English they know to make communication easier. That's only one example of the generosity of these families, which I will tell more about later.

Once we got to the folk village, they fed us a delicious picnic with kimbap and tunafish sandwiches, which we assumed to be lunch. Then we headed out into the village to see the sights and the great performances. The first performance we watched was of a folk dance/drum performance, and it was incredible! The sense of rhythm and balance of those men was impressive, and it was a really neat to experience something from Korea's past. The pictures can't really do it justice, but please take a look at them and watch the video I uploaded to facebook!

After that, we watched a horseback riding performance and a tightrope walker. The horseback riders were so great at engaging at with the crowd too. They performed tricks like snapping the heads of flowers with a whip while riding, firing arrows at a target (and getting it very close to a bulls eyes) while riding at a full canter, and all kinds of flips and contortions. The best was last: they built a three-man high pyramid on the backs of two horse, while riding at a pretty decent pace. I got video of that one too :-)

I should mention that during that horseback riding performance, the families bought us all ice cream too, which was awesome because it was pretty hot (though I have been told that it was pretty mild compared to what the real-deal summer is like here, yikesies mikesies). Then after all these performances, they bought us a huge lunch of bibimbap and some cold noodle dish that tasted like cucumbers mostly and was delicious...perfect for a hot day. I also tried makgeolli (rice/wheat alcoholic drink) for the first time and surprisingly...I liked it! It has a very low alcohol content, so it wasn't very bitter. I recommend it to anyone wanting to try a drink they haven't had before. It tastes like it would be really good with something spicy or with a really nutty bread maybe? I'm not sure. Anyway, it was super.

The rest of the day we just walked around, looking at all the neat things in the village and taking pics with the absolutely adorable students. Then we drove back again to Deokso, and when we arrived, they families ordered pizza to be delivered to the teacher's apartment. They had wanted to take us out to eat, they said, but could see we were tired (truth) and so they wanted to order it to make sure we didn't have to cook anything. Seriously. They payed for the entrance fee, brought breakfast (not lunch), bought us ice cream, bought us lunch and acted like it was the hugest honor ever and no problem at all to lug us around all day. I am floored. If there is one thing I want to learn from Koreans so far, it is the way they honor people and offer hospitality.

Anyway, so after that, I just chilled with the other teachers at their apartment, and then came back home at about 8 ish. My host family wasn't home from their Grandmother's house yet, so I just watched another episode of the Korean Drama I'm currently watching and cleaned up around my room. When they came home, Yoonsang and Yoonhyung showed me the hermit crabs they found, and Yoonhyung watched my drama with me and we listened to some music together. Imobu said that they are planning to go back to the East Sea maybe tomorrow and go camping and then look for clams in the mud flat! They said I could come if I wanted, and you know I am jumping on that, no question. (Hope, Ev, and Le-le, can you say Family Outing? heheheh).

Tomorrow is activity day at Connexus, so I will be teaching card/board games to all my classes and thinking of ways to weave in English, so that should be fun.
Thanks for reading! be sure to check out the new photos and things on facebook once I get them up!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Number two

This is fun, so here's more reading music, this time a little jpop by a Korean artist: Sunny Hill by Daesung  or the whole album: D'SCOVER Yes I'm shamelessly promoting the Korean artists I like.

My P.G. Tips this morning is especially delicious....I put in half honey and half sugar this time, and I think that changed the flavor a little. Choco is sitting on my lap being a little lap warmer. He does this almost every morning, and cries until I let him up for a while. He was at the vet's yesterday because he ate a scallion and it made him sick. They also found that he had a lot of sugar in his blood, so it's possible that we have a diabetic poodle. Poor little dude.

Anyway, yesterday was the second day of teaching and new curriculum, the Backback books.
I'll begin with Phonics 1 class, because that was the biggest improvement from yesterday.
As I mentioned before, on Monday I wasn't able to get them to understand the whole "ask each other" with the what word is this, this is A etc question pattern. So today I made two little paper puppets, a fox and a frog, and made them talk to each other to help them get the idea. It worked!! One of the little girls, Sandy, still doesn't like to talk unless I'm talking with her, but I think she still understands the idea, and hopefully she will get a little braver in the future.

Phonics 2 still wasn't great. If anything, Haram was more distracted than yesterday. He also didn't do his homework, so I had to take a stamp away, and while I think that maybe that made him more fidgety, there has to be some kind of consequence for not doing work. I want to try to figure out maybe something that will be more hands-on/kinetic as an activity today, since I have a feeling that maybe he's just a kid who can't focus while sitting down. My classroom is a little small, so that might be more difficult, but I'll try to figure something out.

Yellow group did super well with backback. I think I could have made it more interesting though. The theme was community helpers, which involved talking about occupations, and I think it was super easy for them. I think I need to take more time thinking of more challenging activities for them.

Blue 1 group is so adorable I can't handle it. It's just the two kids, but they are really bright. Yoochan spoke louder today! I didn't prepare for that class as much as I should have, and so we ended up finishing the prescribed activities way ahead of schedule and I had 20 minutes of class left. So, we did some more review of the words on the board and then played with the bananagram tiles for a little while. This time I left time to talk about homework and had Minji and Sunny come in an explain it in Korean for them.

The last class, despite it being so stinking hot in my classroom, was probably the best of the day. The lesson was focused on animals, and I think they really understood everything and were actually pretty into it. We played a game on the board where we had to sort animals into where they were probably most likely to live: house, farm, or zoo. Even the song, (there is song that goes along with each Backpack unit) and not every class really cares for the song. The key is to be really into it yourself, because if you act like you think the song is dumb, they will too. Anyway, since in Blue 1 I didn't have enough activities, I planned another real fast in the 10 minute break between classes, so I had plenty to fill the time for Blue 6, and left enough to explain homework again, since they had a hard time understanding yesterday. I think I want to get this class speaking more, because I think they are capable of it.

As for family life, last night after waiting at the vet's for a while to pick up Choco, my host family took me to the little outdoor market/fair thing outside our apartment building. I had some great Korean chicken on a stick and met a lot of the parents of Yoonsang's friends. That's always a little awkward because I'm not really sure what to say...well, I can't say anything really. I really need to get a move on with my Korean study.

Today I am going to be observed by Karen, so that makes me a little nervous, because part of me doesn't want to do anything wrong, but at the same time, I think it's better if I just do it as I would usually, and then she can correct anything that I'm not doing well. It's not like it's a college class and I'm being graded, it's just to help me be a better teacher. At any rate I am going earlier today to make sure I have enough time to prepare everything.

Here's a photo that you've seen as my cover photo, drawn by Anna of the Connexus community. The names are in Korean, but I bet you know which one is me!
Thanks for your prayers!

Monday, June 3, 2013

First day teaching!

Here's some more reading music: Cherry Blossom Ending by Busker Busker

So how did my first day of teaching go? I want to hold onto little moments like this, because I know that the time is really going to fly now that teaching has started.
Before class yesterday, I was feeling pretty nervous, but not really the weird in-the-pit-of-your-stomach nervous, but the restless nervous. I kept getting up and walking around, not really sure what I was trying to do. I felt like I wasn't able to think of anything I needed to prepare until I started teaching, and then it would be too late to prepare it, so that was kind of a frustrating feeling.

But, 2:30 came around quite quickly, and suddenly there I was in my little classroom with three little girls staring up at me from the red swivel chairs. They wanted to be known as Love, Joy, and...Sandy. I thought we were on our way to being a fruits of the spirit type group, but last time I read that verse, Sandy wasn't an attribute listed there. Haha. So in I launched, with lots of animation and lots of mime. The results? I am pretty sure they learned A, but they did not understand the whole "ask your friend" concept when I was introducing the "What is this" "This is an Apple" shpeal. I'll try again today with that, and hopefully when we review, they will still know A.

The next class was a class that I took over from another teacher, the Phonics 2 class. They were more familiar with the pattern at Connexus, but we were starting a review month which was different from the other things they had been doing. This class is the most difficult, but mostly only because one student really does not participate much in class, and kind of just floats along with the other students. So that will be a battle, I think. I want to get him to participate more without calling him out all the time, because that makes a student feel even more unsure of themselves. But all in all, that went pretty well too.

Then came the Storybook classes and the day went much better after that. The Yellow group, which I took over, are pros at the Connexus style of things, so they were able to help me out when I messed up the order of something, and we just had a grand old time. We are reading the book "Peter and the Wolf" now, so we talked about Grandfather's rules for Peter and whether they had rules they had to follow at their houses. They were kind of so-so with that, not really into it, until I wrote one of my rules on the board: "Everyday I must eat candy." They thought that was hilarious, so we switched to thinking of rules that we wanted to have, like "Everyday I must play 3 hours."

The next two Storybook classes were higher level in English, but brand new to Connexus. One of the little boys in the Blue 1 class pretty much only whispers, so that will be something to get past too. I think he was just very nervous. They were able to do very well as well I think, although I forgot to give them their homework assignment sheet, I just told them what it was, so I am hoping they were able to do it...The Blue 6 class was a little more advanced, and I felt very good about how well they were doing and how much they knew, but then at the end when I tried to tell them what their homework was they were totally not getting it, and I ended up going over time, which was embarrassing because our president had to stick his head in the door and tell me that the van was waiting for my kids. But, then when our receptionist explained the homework in Korean, it still took a long time, so I think it wasn't just my fault, they were just not used to having homework given in that manner, I guess.

So it was a whirlwind of a day! My host family also had guests last night (in-laws, I think) so they asked if I could eat dinner with the other teachers, which I was more than happy to do. After an adventure at Lotte Mart with Anna (so many free samples, but why is toilet paper almost $25?), we went to the teacher's apartment and had a light supper and ate watermelon.

And today, I'll do it all again, this time with the Backpack curriculum...Second day teaching, go go go!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Vignettes from the past two days

Lots of of fun and interesting things have happened in the last two days, so instead of trying to write a captain's log style thing, let's go with episodes. Here's some music to go with it, because I rediscovered this song today and remembered how much I like it:

Episode 1: In Which Abby eats samgyupsal for the second night in a row and talks language with Imobu's Korean American friend

Well, as described, after work on Friday, Imo was again doing some reconciliation work, so this time me and Imobu and Yoonhyung and Imobu's Korean American friend from seminary (I didn't ever catch his name, not surprising here where everyone goes by titles mostly, so I only know him by Samcheon, which means Uncle) went to eat samgyupsal again. Just as delicious this time, if not more so. It was nice talking about about good old' 'Merica with Samcheon, who also gave me some hints about learning Korean, since he had to do the same thing when he came to Korean 15 years ago. He also wrote an English/Korean textbook, of which Imobu had a copy of, so after Samgyupsal, Smacheon came over and walked me through the textbook and how to use it, so I think I might use it to study now! The focus is on figuring out how to get down the use of relative clauses in Korean, which is one of the hardest thing to get, and until you do you are stuck with tons of little sentences. We talked about how language learning takes a lot of humility, and he pointed out that the way God addressed humanity's pride at the Tower of Babel was to make it so that we had to learn to speak other languages if we wanted to communicate, which I had never thought of. Feeling like a baby shouldn't be something to avoid here; it's someways it's almost an exercise in the spiritual discipline of humility. That was pretty encouraging to me.

Episode 2: In which Abby goes with the other Connexus teachers minus Sarah to Chuncheon for Dalkgalbi and Patbingsoo

On Saturday, after a delicious lunch of pancakes (cranberry and chocolate chip!) at the apartment complex where the other Connexus people live and a healthy dose of Lomie baby worship (seriously that baby is the cutest  thing ever), we headed off to Dosim subway station for the long ride to Chuncheon.
The nice thing about Deokso is that it is relatively easy to get anywhere you would like to go, and cheap too, but it just takes a while. The subway ride involved mostly reading, reading, reading, snagging seats like vultures to a carcass and then giving them up again to the old people (darn). Also involved trying not to laugh at a man eating a bottle cap and humming to himself right next to me, or the man trying to sell socks from a big plastic bag (illegal in the subway, but still done all the time. Selling in general that is, not socks in particular). Once arrived, we met up with their friends Deborah, who is currently working with KAC through SALT, and then went off for Dalkgalbi, a Chuncheon special. Basically, it's like spicy chicken with vegetables and rice cake all cooked together in a big flat pan on your table and is one of the best things I've eaten here...right up there with Samgyupsal. The restaurant was so nice too, the little floor cushions things were actually like little chairs, and had backs, which was nice for my weak Western back. We got some free service Pepsi and Ice cream too!
Then we taxied it to the other side of the town for Patbingsoo, a shaved ice and ice cream with red beans and fruit and whatever else you want to put on it (taxis here are MAJOR cheap, especially if you are sharing...basically as cheap as the bus). Think a mix between Ritas and a Sweet Frog. Basically heaven in my mouth. Also, all this was just super fantastic because I finally got a chance to hang with the other teachers and all my worries about getting along vanished in a flash. These of the race that knows Joseph. They would probably get that reference too. We are planning a book club woohoooo!

Episode 3: In which Anna Accidentally Gets on the ITX and it is hilarious
Coming back from Chuncheon was a little more of an adventure at first. I told my host family I would be home at 9:30, so we wanted to try to get the ITX (faster subway train) but usually you have to reserve seats on it. So Anna and I ran ahead to see if we could catch it. We got to the ticket machine only to find that unlike most others, this one had no English option and though we can both read Hangul, that doesn't really help with knowing what words mean. We wasted about a minute and then asked someone for help, who said that the train was leaving in one minute, but that we could buy tickets on the train. So up the stairs we dashed, taking them like three at time, and Anna stepped on board what looked like the ITX to ask and make sure it was going to Deokso. As she turned back around, the door slid shut, and off she went by herself to Deokso. It was one of those things you see happening dramatically in movies and what you're always afraid of happening to you when traveling with friends where you've never been before. But instead of being scared, I just burst out laughing because it was just so absurd. So I just walked back down into the main station and by then the other teachers and Deborah had caught up with us, so I just went back on the regular subway with them and only got home 15 minutes late and finished The Hobbit in the meantime.

Episode 4: In which Abby goes to Chuncheon again, this time for church

My host family and I loaded up into the car to go church this morning, and it had me smiling the whole time, because there were so many similarities to the crazy family life I've experienced. The kids of course dawdled and ate slowly and finally we pushed everyone out the door into the elevator, only to have Yoonhyung laugh and point, saying that Yoonsang was wearing her shirt. He was, and of course now he wouldn't wear it since it had been pointed out to be a girl's shirt even if it was blue, so at the bottom, Imobu and Yoonhyung and I got off and Imo and Yoonsang went back up to change. On the way, I mostly looked out the window at the beautiful scenery. The mountains are just gorgeous! they're always a little misty at the top, and go on for as far as you can see.
Church was a little tiring, mostly because it was all in Korean, although one member (actually one of the original founders of the KAC) fluent in English tried to translate as best as he could for me. But everyone was so friendly and tried speaking as much as they could to me in English. It was house church style, so the "congregation" was very small, but it just felt like a small group back home. We all ate together afterwards, a delicious and refreshing noodle and bean paste soup. Apparently it's a dish that even many Korean's don't care for, so everyone was surprised that I liked it. After church, they were going to meet to talk about churchy business, so one of the members took me, Yoonsang and Yoonhyung and her kids back to their lovely apartment. Her daughter had just graduated highschool in the U.S. so she had just come back from there about the same time I did.  On the way, we stopped to buy ice cream, and then more fun things happened, such as Yoonsang barfing on the supermarket floor (third time that day...he had some kind of food poisoning from something he ate at a friend's house). I was the one closest to him, so I asked a supermarket dude for help, but I felt so bad for him, because it was pretty gross. Thankfully that sort of thing doesn't phase me too much. Yoonsang was fine after that though. The rest of the afternoon was so relaxing. We just crashed on the couch and watched Laws of the Jungle, a Korean reality show, and I tried to understand as much as I could. The recently graduated daughter was home though, and she was pretty much fluent in English, so it was just kind of nice to sit and watch something and make comments about it in English and have someone respond to them. All in all though, the day made me want to hurry and learn Korean fast.
The ride back was even more pleasant. The kids fell asleep right away, Yoonhyung leaning on my shoulder and I settled back and read The Great Gatsby on my kindle. Imo and Imobu talked the whole ride back, taking breaks to sing along to old kpop songs (like from the 80s/90s) on the radio, and ask me questions about my upbringing in the church. I would just like to say that on the way to Chuncheon and back, Imo was holding the Oh Crap Strap in the car just like Mom does, so that's an intercultural mom phenomenon.
We stopped by Lotte Mart on the way home and bought food...more meat! Seriously people I am going to get so fat. But it was so delicious. We just finished eating a little while ago, actually. Now I'm just kind of putting off going to bed because I know I'm just going to lay there and worry about tomorrow and my first day teaching....please keep me in your prayers!

Hopefully I will have something good to report....eeek!