Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Number 8 comes to a close

I'm just a few days away from completing my 8th month here! It's crazy to think that I am 2/3 of the way through my year teaching. I'm not really sure what kind of music that merits, but since I'm super grateful for the way God has been with me so far, how about He's Always Been Faithful by Sara Groves.

So what's up these days?
Lately, I have been feeling renewed in my desire to get better at Korean, but kind of bored of the methods I was following before, since I am really not in as much need of taking in tons of information, I need instead to be producing more. Particularly verbally.

Actually, I could really use some prayer about this. I sometimes feel like I have something physically keeping me from speaking, that's how nervous and self conscious I get before I try to say something besides two to three word answers. Don't get me started about talking to elders, like grandmother aged people. I am so afraid of not using the formal verbs and insulting the pants off them by accident that I have pretty much resorted to gestures.

One problem I have is that I keep having a lot of grammar/"does this sound natural" questions and I haven't been able to find someone that both can answer my questions in a way I can understand and who actually has time to do it. As is the same for English, if you haven't studied how your language works, it's hard to answer questions about it that a second-language learner might have. So, I've been feeling a little frustrated about that, but I don't really know how to fix it. I guess just keep trekking and trying my best.

On the Connexus side of things, it feels like the month has been flying by. Besides the projects I mentioned last time, I am starting to do something else new as well. During teachers' meeting this week, Heather gave the idea of having the more advanced classes self-correct their homework before turning it in, which I thought was an awesome idea. Otherwise, homework correction tends to be a time when the students are just waiting around and not learning anything. Also, I know for a fact that they often make the same mistakes over and over again, even if they know how to do it correctly, simply because they rush. So, I think that from now on I am going to have them try to self-correct before turning in their work. I might even try to have some of the higher Blue classes try it. They can at least try to fix things like spelling and using 's' on the end of simple present verbs in third person, which are often the most common mistakes I find.

We finally got some snow a few days ago, around 2.5-3 inches total I think. It was enough to make everything really beautiful, and so far it's been cold enough that is hasn't melted yet! I wish I could just stay inside and drink tea and admire it, but walking to work in it is pretty nice too.

Community news:

* Our newest idea of how to avoid the artic stairwell is cutting a hole in the desk between Sarah and Heather and creating a chamber pot/outhouse (inhouse?) area. There is already a sewer smell outside almost everywhere, so why not inside?

* Me and Sarah and some others are going to try some scripture memorization! It's been a while since the days of Bible quizzing, so we'll see how well it goes! I'm planning to re-memorize Romans chapter 12.

* Karen's parents are here from the U.S. until the end of January. So fun to meet some people who are special to some of our community members!

Quotes from the community:

"The New York strip is so good. When I eat it, I feel naked." -Yoonseo's thoughts about Outback Steakhouse.

Abby: "Lomie, is your monkey a boy monkey or a girl monkey?"
Lomie: : "방귀." (Fart).

"Hey! you can lick this envelope!" --Kaia has a miraculous experience.

Quotes from the classroom:

Rafael: "The mouse puts the dog in the girl."
Abby: "This sounds like 영양탕..."
Rafael: "Yes the girl eats the dog."

"My least favorite animal is a dead rat." --Yoochan

Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 13, 2014

We are the New Year

It has been a coon's age, everyone. It's hard to choose a blog song because there are so many I have been listening to lately, but here is one for the new year: This is the New Year by Ian Axel. This one will be a long post, so hang on tight!

Let's do some serious reminiscing. The Christmas party at Connexus on Dec 21 went super well. It was crowded though, let me tell you! with our students almost as full compacity, even when we split the day into two parties we still had at least 50 people or more in the building during each time slot. I manned the paper plate angels station with Kaia. Most kids did well, but we had a lot of wingless or dress-hacked angels too. We also had one Zombie angel and one of my students (now former) Jerry, decided he would make a dragon instead. What ever floats your canoe. One really fun part of the night was the auction we had to raise money for Save The Children. Basically the parents spent ridiculous amounts of money on little trinkets and some cool stuff, but it was all for a good cause. I knitted two ear warmers to donate, which two of my students bought in the end. So cute.

On December 22, my Christmas started early with a trip with Yoonseo to see a boy's choir from France perform. They were so excellent! I absolutely loved it. It was very Les Choristes -y. Never will I cease to be amazed at how high little boys can sing. If they were instruments, they would be piccolos.

Christmas eve and Christmas festivities in our community were super. I'll be honest and say that before hand I was just kind of viewing Christmas here as something to "try to make the best of" since Christmas is so special and fun at home in the U.S. But I was happily surprised that it was nearly as special, just in different ways. We all met together on Christmas Eve after work and had lot of finger foods and a gift exchange. Then we sang carols together until it was quite late. I think singing together was one of my most favorite things. There is something so warm in sharing in such a familiar thing together. We all knew the songs, we all knew the tunes. There have been many times here where I am more aware of difference between us than the things that are the same, so it was such a blessing for all our commonalities to show up so clearly. A few of us finished up Christmas Eve by watching The Grinch, Jim Carrey version, which was different from the usual Muppet Christmas Carol in the Long family, but was still fun. I burned the midnight, er, 1 a.m., candle baking some scones for our Christmas breakfast.

Christmas morning we had breakfast at 8:30 to make time for another new tradition to try out: In Korea, Christmas is traditionally a time to go to church. So, Grace and Peace was also having a service at 11 with a lunch at the Greek restaurant following. A few of us went to different churches or just stayed home to rest, but I went with Yoonseo to the service. It was really neat! We read some scripture and sang carols, and then some church members shared some songs as special music. It was nice to see so many people on such a special day. I was a little zonked from lack of sleep, but I still really enjoyed it. I think my favorite part of the day however was skyping my family with Yoonseo for a while. It felt like I was really there with them! It definitely got me in the mood to see some family in person, which was great because two days later, Sie arrived!

It will be hard to detail all the things we did, so I will highlight some favorites: visiting Chuncheon and seeing Yoonseo's university, then taking a quick hike up a snowy mountain. It was really fun to hear Yoonseo's stories from being in university, and I was so happy that Sie got to be there too. Sometimes it's difficult when you realize that the most important people in your life don't really know each other, so it was awesome that Sie could be with us and help bridge that divide. We had many other awesome adventures, like Jump (my second time: can't get enough of martial arts comedy), visiting the Two Waters park in Yangpyeong, walking through the middle of protests, playing Killer Bunnies, drinking lots of tea and lots of great chats. Best Christmas present ever!

It was definitely sad to say goodbye. I suppose it will sound depressing to say that it was so nice to truly be myself, because it's not that I can't be myself here, it's that I am a different self here than I am in the U.S....I don't relate to people the same way here as I do there because we don't have the same shared personal history/inside jokes/interests what have you. It's not bad, it's just different. I'm sure I will miss being my Korea self when I leave. This Christmas, I was especially missing being my U.S/Pennsylvania self, so it was a really special time to reminisce and just hang out with somebody that knows me pretty much as well as I know myself. Miss you, Sie!

After he left, it was time to get down to business to defeat the huns. The huns in this case were Yoonseo's papers for his master's program. He had written them in Korean, and he was going to translate them into English outloud while I typed them and tweaked some grammar. We had one day to do it, so we skipped church on January 5th and worked from 11:15 am to 11:15 pm to get them finished. It was actually pretty fun for me; I loved being able to do some academic writing again, even if was only editing. And, I ended up learning a lot about Restorative justice methods and theories. I felt like a student again, how fantastic!

Speaking of students, there's been some major changes with classes here at Connexus. I lost my beloved Green class, the students went to other teachers. But, thankfully, they all seem to be doing really well in their new classes. In place of them, I've started teaching a phonics 2/ Blue 1 combo class with two new little guys, Raphael and Daniel. Yup. Raphael. Gotta love some of the English names kids come to Connexus with. They are really quick, which is a nice change, since most of my classes are a little on the slower side. Also, they have really good ears for pronounciation and intonation, so already they have great expression when reading their storybook! I think it's going to be a great class.

I've also been doing some fun projects with my classes! This past friday I made sock puppets with all my lower level classes and they loved it! I had them draw pictures of what they wanted their puppet to look like before they started, so it was cool to see how they acutalized those ideas, or how they changed as they got their hands on the materials. I wish I had taken more pictures, but because I was so busy helping kids glue things, I only took pictures in one class. However, I will do it again with my more advanced class (who learned knitting on Friday) because they are doing a puppet unit this month! We're working on shadow puppets right now, but we will finish those this week. Teaching that advanced class knitting went well! Eileen actually came back on Monday and had finished her scarf! I was so surprised. I knew she had learned once before how to knit, so she was quicker to pick it up, but I was amazed at how fast she had finished it. Projects are so fun!

Recently Read/Watched/Listened:
Read: The Fellowship of the Ring--still in progress...I have become a really undiligent reader.
Watched: About Time, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Frozen. All were super! I was actually a bit surprised by how much I liked The Hobbit because I used to be such a book purist. I think now I am just such a sucker for anything Middle Earth related that I'm ok if it is basically just a well-written fan fiction version of The Hobbit..though still not really down with the whole dwarf/elf romance. If you're going to take the audience out on a limb, it has to at least have precidence in the history of Middle Earth. As for About Time and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, they are some of the most beautiful non-artsy films I've seen in a really long time. About Time made me cry and Walter Mitty not only had a really neat story line, it was just lovely to look at because of the cinematography. Frozen was FANTASTIC. It reminded me of the older Disney films with how much music was in it, and all the songs were great and I just loved the storyline--true love for once wasn't a prince doing something to save the princess, but instead was a sister giving up her life to save a sister. Totally neat. Also Olaf. Loved that guy.

Listened: These days I am loving the soundtrack of About Time, Rooftop Moonlight (옥상달빛), and Sara Groves.

Quotes from the community:

Sarah: Yongjin, when is your lecture?
Yongjin: 2:30
Sarah: Good, you can help with dishes!
Yongjin: Sounds good....but tastes bitter.

"I hate saliva from people I'm not in love with." --Sarah

Anna: "Does my hair look as good as I think it does?"
Kaia: "It reminds me of the 90s."
Anna: "I'm at peace with that."

"If it's chunky, is that fun?" --Kaia's question about deviled egg filling.

"All the moms here are babes!"--Heather

"I can't believe our holiday is this fruitful. Usually we are just lying down and scratching our legs."

"I don't think Jesus would turn down waffles." --Josiah

"Have you guys seen our new couch? Come and touch." --Jae

Quotes from the classroom:

"'Oh no! the princess is beautiful' says the prince.
Prince goes to the princess. He talks 'do you want a boyfriend?'
'Yes I want a boyfriend'
'It's me, boyfriend'
 --Joy's homework sentences. The prince is one smooth cookie.

Abby: "Do you like silkworms?"
Joy: "No I don't because silkworms are yucky." PREACH IT SISTER. Grossest snack in Korea.